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Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion
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Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  417 ratings  ·  36 reviews
This guide helps readers who have rejected rigid religious upbringings find new independence and self-love. Learn to accept conflicted feelings and choose a healthy reality. Learn to live in the here and now.
Paperback, 312 pages
Published December 1st 1993 by New Harbinger Publications
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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Start your review of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion
Here goes: On June 19, 2011, I stopped believing in God. I had been a Christian for seventeen years, and one evening I just started contemplating the placebo effect ("If my faith were real, but God were not, could I say with certainty that my life would be any different, or would I just have different interpretations of the same events?") and wasn't convinced anymore. My experience leaving the fold was difficult - I had been a leader in multiple churches over the years, and my closest (geographi ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I left fundamentalism a long time ago, but there's no leaving my fundamentalist family. This was an interesting book to read through as I prepare to make another visit home, a journey which is always stress-laden! I found the first part to be the most beneficial, because it allowed me to make some connections I hadn't made. It took me weeks to get the courage to read the last chapter in that section, about where family intersects with fundamentalism. Maybe someday I can write about what it was l ...more
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
As a former Christian Fundamentalist this book really helped me put my feelings into words. The author describes exactly what it feels like to be trapped in a religious group that is overbearing, dysfunctional, and psychologically damaging and she gives good advice for the healing process once the reader walks away from "the fold." Although born-again Christians are known for promoting a "personal relationship with God," once inside, your relationship is no longer personal, but critiqued by othe ...more
Brett Bavar
Jan 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Worth reading for Chapter 4 (Recognizing Manipulations) alone, though Part II and Part III were very boring for me. Part I was helpful for processing my past experiences with fundamentalist Christianity from a new perspective. Part II and Part III are written for those who are struggling to deal with psychological issues after their departure from fundamentalist Christianity. If you left fundamentalist Christianity and still feel well-adjusted, the latter parts of this book are probably not for ...more
ShanTil Yell
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality, nonfic
Wow. What an insightful resource.

The chapters on recognizing manipulations and breaking away were especially helpful to me. Lots of note-taking occurred on my end. It’s been hard to verbalize what happened to me and what exactly I went through since I left my own fundamentalist group earlier this year. Winell, along with those who shared their stories, put it into words beautifully. The experience of “leaving the fold” is often isolating and confusing, among many other things. After reading the
Ivan Campos
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is of value to those either leaving, considering leaving, understanding those leaving, and for those not leaving -to ask themselves why they are not leaving.
Kristen Hovet
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Necessary reading for anyone who has left (or is considering leaving) fundamentalist, rigid, dogmatic religious groups.
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very useful for anyone who has been "caught" by fundamentalist religion, whether in childhood as a received worldview or later as a charismatic answer to every question that cannot, in fact, deliver. My main reservations with the book have to do with the order of the chapters; I would not have placed the author's story so early in the book, as it contains a number of events and conversations the descriptions of which might give a person struggling to be free of fundamentalist conditioning a diff ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book contains many insights I wish I had considered when I first moved beyond religion--things I ended up reclaiming and facing over time on my own (the hard way). I would recommend this book to anyone who has unwittingly stumbled out of a fundamentalist religion. It's a good primer for the rest of your recovery.

"The word that frequently comes to my mind is courage. Anyone can live by a formula. It's much harder to leave the straight and narrow. Yet many of us have found that we must leave.
Heather Yockey
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even as this book is over 25 years old, it is aging well. It has the capacity engage a broad audience. From those who are dipping their toe, to those who are several miles down the road of new beginnings.
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, psychology
Extremely insightful. I wish I had read this book years ago. I think everyone who has grown up in and/or struggled with the Christian tradition should read it.
Leslie Rewis
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
I found the first half of the book incredibly useful when thinking about why people leave religion and/or cling to it. The second half was not really relevant to me, and I think that is because I've been deconstructing for probably 10 years already. I think I am further along in my journey that I don't need to speak to my "inner child." I do think this book is a good starting point for deconstructing Christians. And she does give citations for further reading. ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am truly grateful for Dr. Winell's pioneering and important work on Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), in which she boldly and convincingly outlines the road to recovery for survivors of legalistic evangelicalism. The first half of the book addresses the symptoms of emotional harm that emerge from an upbringing in a tradition that teaches you that you are meaningless without a relationship with God as defined by your church's strict theology, and while I have not been a member of the fold for a ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a psychologist trying to evaluate and understand the journey of leaving the evangelical/mostly fundamentalist christianity and going into normal society. The first half, the descriptive half is PHENOMENAL. I am one of the ones who has left the evangelical/mostly fundamentalist bubble and I identify with so many of the things she said. I finally found words to describe what was going on inside of me because I read this book. I would recommend that first half to anyone experiencing difficu ...more
Apr 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you, like I, grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church, and you no longer attend or have "left the fold", this book is for you. Very well-written and insightful -- as only one of the "chosen few" could craft -- I found many novel ideas, and questions raised which I have long pondered myself.

Dr. Winell combines her own personal story with that of many of her counselees, and uses these experiences and stories to illuminate and illustrate her own conclusions. Not for the faint-of-heart if yo
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is extremely hard to leave Mormonism for two reasons: most if not all my family and friends are Mormons, and the cultured doctrine is 100% fear based. This book was and is crucial to mine and my husband's recovery in healing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not exaggerating when I say this book is life changing.

Obviously this is not a book for everyone, but rather a guide for those, like me, who are trying to rediscover what their life looks like without Fundamentalism. This book is my guru, moving me through the different stages of realization, acceptance, and healing that are necessary when working through any kind of trauma.

This book took me well over 2 months to read, a snails pace when I'm usually through a book a week. It demands that y
David Teachout
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
There are ways in which this could be looked at as a self-help book, but that would be missing the scope of the problem being addressed. From within religious fundamentalism there is not merely a loss of self but the systematic destruction of the ability to think and feel authentically in a lived-in reality. Being taught to doubt and identify as evil every human aspect of one's existence does not support the ability later to seek self-help. What Winell endeavors to do here is rather a process fo ...more
Patricia Cherry
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind blowing

The moment I began to read this book I was in it. I identified with everything that the author says about fundamental Christianity.

I have recently written a book about my life and the problems that ensued from my upbringing. Leaving the Fold echos everything I experienced and I felt validated at last.

My book is the journey of how I freed myself up from those terrible beliefs about myself. So I had already healed from most of it. But there were still some powerful exercises in this
Alice Greczyn
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Must-read for anyone who has left their religion! This book may have saved my life. Learning about Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) was the turning point of my suicidal depression. I am deeply, beyond grateful to Dr. Winell for giving name to the trauma that affected me and so many others. This is the first book I recommend to anyone in the throes of leaving a belief system, whether it's Christianity, Islam, or Scientology. Its value is immeasurable. I hope more mental health care providers read ...more
Jason A Young
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helpful book for former Fundamentalist

I was raised as a Christian fundamentalist. I've been deconverted for a decade now. Some of the exercises were helpful for me. I wish that I had known about this book sooner. I've been going through an existentialist life crisis for the past couple of years. The book helped me to better organise my thoughts and regain perspective.
Luke Shea
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most helpful things I have ever read. Took me months to get through because every time I picked it up I knew I would have some kind of revelation and start crying. Highly recommended to anyone going through any kind of doubt or deconversion process. Just seeing all these things named and discussed and and treated like real problems was so incredibly powerful to me. Love love love it.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-influential
If you used to be a fundamentalist, read this. Even if you think you’ve recovered, you might not really fully comprehend the damage of indoctrination in your life. I didn’t get much from the exercises (I don’t know what to make of all the “inner child” work) but the text really put a lot of shit into context for me. The reading list at the end is very comprehensive. Also, get a therapist.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book helped me to understand and deal with the stress of growing up with a fundamentalist background-- the long lasting damages and how to heal.
Nate Jordon
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I needed this book twenty-seven years ago.
Ben Schnell
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lots of catharsis and insight. It surprised me how helpful it was.
Lee Osborne
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I started reading this book after I saw it referenced in "You Are Your Own" by Jamie Lee Finch, an excellent short work on the damage that can be done by fundamentalist strains of Christianity. This is a much, much longer book, and the reason it took me so long to work through is its interactive nature - there's plenty of exercises to complete as you make your way through it, and they really help you to work out what effect your faith has had. This is very useful as you plot a course towards rec ...more
Dalaina May
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: trauma, psychology
The first half was absolutely fantastic. The last half was really boring. It's worth the read for the first half for anyone who is leaving the religion of their youth (particularly fundamentalism) or those who love people who are. The author is a therapist and has a lot of guided practices in the chapters which could be really helpful for someone without the luxury of a therapist of their own. ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Part 1 was interesting, although it would be less boring to read if it gave examples from religions other than Christianity. Part 2 and 3 didn't feel very applicable to me so I read bits and pieces and then gave up. ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Definitely validated a lot of my feelings surrounding my fundamentalist experience; offered some good insights. Slightly redundant.
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“In fundamentalist families, there is a core belief that people are basically bad. Therefore, human errors are interpreted as sins instead of as innocent mistakes. Children are seen as small adults, with the same sinful tendencies and the same need to be saved. There is little recognition of child development, that children are different from adults and that they progress through various stages of cognitive, emotional, and moral development. From a fundamentalist point of view, issues such as egocentrism, aggression, sexuality, and teenage rebellion are treated as problems instead of natural processes.” 3 likes
“Neurotic guilt,” like that often fostered by religion, is a different matter. It tends to be excessive and inappropriate, based on the expectations of others instead of personal values or dwelling on the error rather than using the guilt feelings to make a change. In your religious experience, committing a sin made you a sinner, a bad deed made a bad person. This global condemnation creates low self-worth and more neurotic guilt and misery.” 1 likes
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