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Leaving Fundamentalism

Personal Stories

edited by G. Elijah Dann

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religious, fundamentalism, social issues
list price: $14.95
also available: Paperback
category: Religion
published: 2009
  • Commended, Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books
  • Short-listed, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category
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In a time when religious conservatives have placed their faith and values at the forefront of the so-called “culture wars,” this book is extremely relevant. The stories in Leaving Fundamentalism provide a personal and intimate look behind sermons, religious services, and church life, and promote an understanding of those who have been deeply involved in the conservative Christian church. These autobiographies come from within the congregations and homes of religious fundamentalists, where their highly idealized faith, in all its complexities and problems, meets the reality of everyday life. Told from the perspective of distance gained by leaving fundamentalism, each story gives the reader a snapshot of what it is like to go through the experiences, thoughts, feelings, passions, and pains that, for many of the writers, are still raw. Explaining how their lives might continue after fundamentalism, these writers offer a spiritual lifeline for others who may be questioning their faith.

Foreword by Thomas Moore

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Editorial Reviews

''This book will enlighten ex-fundamentalists along with those having no experience in the movement.... [It] will give non-fundamentalists some astonishing insight into how otherwise rational, humane people might plunge into such an anti-rational, harsh world view, and why its so hard for them to escape. But for former fundamentalists, reliving their our own traumatic experiences through these stories, the understanding will go much deeper. We will think to ourselves, in relief and empathy, I was not alone.''

— Confessions of a Cultural Idiot Blog, February 2, 2009

''Who'd have thought a collection of stories about fundamentalism could be such a good read? Elijah Dann is not only a fine writer himself, but his ability to select compelling narratives by other ex-fundamentalists shows the acumen of a splendid editor.''

— Eric McCormack

''Thoughtful essays about the experiences of those who have abandoned conservative Christianity.... Do not skip Dann's introductory essay, an excellent definition of contemporary Christian fundamentalism. It also summarizes the movement's political context--this is particularly useful as we approach a U.S. election. Why should you read this book? It will ... help us reach out to those whose religious experience has not included open discussions of faith issues.''

— United Church Observer, August 2008

''Fundamentalism, in its anxious search for inviolate truth, commands submission to a supposed objective and unmovable power outside of the mysteries of human fragility, struggle and wisdom. It is no friend of the poetry of authentic human story which searches the ways of truth through deep engagement within the realities of life. ''Leaving fundamentalism'' gives witness to the hard work of uncovering and embracing the mysterious and vulnerable truth of human story. The both frightening and lovely thing about ''leaving fundamentalism'' whatever the direction of the human and spiritual journey afterward, is that the leaving is an awakening to the pain, challenge and joy that comes as though one has finally been given permission to be fully human. This collection draws us into the beautiful complexities of individual journeys united in their liberating encounter with the mystery, ambiguity and poetry of life itself and is to be commended for the courage of its authors.''

— Eileen Scully (PhD)

''The repulsion expressed in some of these riveting accounts is strong. Yet several authors speak of happy childhoods, of loving parents and church friends, of great evangelical singing, and more; and they say that they miss elements in their fundamentalist pasts, while not missing those pasts. A major contribution of this collection is its evidence of diverse post-fundamentalist spiritual journeys. One author thinks that Jesus may have actually lived, but ‘he has long since been fashioned into an ideal by those seeking ideological tools’ (38). Another became a Roman Catholic theologican, another a philosophy professor, another a ‘liberal Anglican’ who is ‘an openly and unashamedly gay man’ (68). Several affirm a Christianity to complicated to explain briefly, and some are still seeking. For anyone interested in the nature of religious experience, these are fascinating accounts. Thought they do not tell us what keeps others in fundamentalism, they are frank, forthright, and often painful in explaining why some cannot do so.’

— Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 81 (1), March 2012

''Leaving Fundamentalism is relevant to religious right alert readers for a couple of reasons. Dr. Dann's introduction to the first person stories of people who have left fundamentalism is a crisp and clear look at Evangelical and Catholic conservatism as we see it unfolding today. Linguistically and historically the reader is introduced to how we have arrived to where we are. Constantine, The Great Schism, the Reformation, Inquisition, colonization of the New World, naturalism, materialism, modernism, culture wars, and 9/11 are deftly explained. Dann throws light on how the term fundamentalism came to be seen in the late 20th century early 21st century as derogatory. He explains how the Scopes trial brought about a mid-century retreat of fundamentalists into a sub-culture of blue laws and how they re-emerged and re-branded themselves into the movements we see today. You don't need a natural curiousity of the history Christian faith to find yourself captivated.... This is not a scornful look at faith, it is an intensely human and respectful one. We are introduced to individuals who tell their own story, be they Catholic or Protestant. Their narratives have been blessed by a courteous and open editor. Complexity is not an enemy. I found myself struck by the emotions of the 11 authors.... Common themes of search, belonging, need, anxiety, loss, guilt and discomfort are expressed with raw honesty and I am left humbled, surprised, happy, sorrowful, more informed and wanting to learn more.''

— Religious Right Alert blog, March 7, 2010
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About the Author

G. Elijah Dann

G. Elijah Dann has taught in departments of philosophy, religion, and health studies at various universities in southern Ontario, and most recently was Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria. He is the author of After Rorty: Possibilities for Ethics and Religion (2006) and co-editor of Philosophy: A New Introduction (2004). He is presently completing a book on the role of religious values in the public square.
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