What follows below is an annotated list of resources and recommended reading for ex-Evangelicals, other ex-fundamentalists, and survivors of spiritual abuse and religious trauma, categorized as “Recommended Websites and Blogs,” “Podcasts and Performances,” “Online Discussion Groups, Support Groups, and Forums,” “Advocacy Groups and Conferences,” and “Resources for Evangelicals in Your Life Facing Domestic or Extreme Spiritual Abuse.”
I launched this page on June 15, 2017, and I will continue to update it as possible. At the moment, it is mostly geared toward ex-Evangelicals and progressive Christians (with some resources meant to help those still in Evangelicalism to take steps out of highly abusive situations). I would like to add more resources related to leaving traditionalist Catholicism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism (currently I am able to recommend Footsteps), conservative Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and perhaps other religions as well, but I have not personally lived them and so am less familiar with what’s available. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with suggestions, but do also understand that it may take me some time to vet them.
I also hope to add a section for local in-person ex-Evangelical and ex-fundamentalist support groups, as I think having such groups would be valuable and meet a need not served by atheist and “freethinking” groups. Those who have survived religious fundamentalism have a unique set of experiences that those who have not lived fundamentalism generally do not understand or relate to. Connecting with other ex-fundamentalists can thus be healing, whether or not those others have left religion altogether or found a way forward in a progressive religious group.
Recommended Websites and Blogs
MarleneWinell.Net and ValerieTarico.com – Dr. Marlene Winell literally wrote the book on religious trauma, and also coined the term. Many survivors of abusive forms of religion emerge with a type of PTSD specific to our experience of leaving fundamentalism. Winell’s work is immensely helpful for those of us in this situation. Dr. Valerie Tarico, who has written for the popular press about Winell’s work, is another important advocate for those who have abandoned conservative religion and who has written a book about her current take on her old Evangelical beliefs. Her approach might be described as close to that of New Atheism (an approach I have issues with, and yet I find Tarico’s work valuable). Tarico frequently focuses on women’s issues.
Love, Joy, Feminism – This blog by Libby Anne, “a twenty-something writer, mother, academic, and activist living in the Midwest” who “grew up in a large conservative evangelical homeschool family,” is full of keen observations and insightful analysis, including the best debunking of “pro-life” ideology I have ever seen anywhere.
No Longer Quivering – Vyckie Garrison tells her story of surviving Quiverfull, exposing the toxic lifestyle and providing a wealth of information for survivors and those who want to learn about the extreme Christian Right. Garrison also provides instructions for joining a closed Facebook support group she describes as “a gathering place for those escaping and healing from spiritual abuse.”
Slacktivist – This is the Patheos blog of Fred Clark, a progressive Baptist (I don’t understand it either, but yes, really) and Christian school alum who writes very smart commentary on Evangelical subculture.
Why I Still Talk to Jesus – In Spite of Everything – Frank Schaeffer, son of deceased Evangelical heavyweights Francis and Edith Schaeffer, is a man who does not mince words, and this is his blog. A former Christian Right activist (as he relates in this wonderful and informative memoir), Frank has become one of its harshest critics.
Mackenzian – The website of Keisha E. McKenzie, Ph.D., hosts a blog in which McKenzie, who grew up in the fundamentalist version of Seventh-day Adventism in England and Jamaica, frequently discusses matters of interest to ex-fundamentalists and members of the LGBTQ community. She describes both abusive and healthy religious dynamics very clearly in a way that can help foster personal growth.
Homeschoolers Anonymous – A project of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO), HA focuses primarily on stories and informative posts by and for survivors of Christian Right ideological homeschooling. HA is not opposed to all homeschooling.
Bilgrimage – This is the blog of lay theologian William D. Lindsey, whose sharp critiques of the Christian Right and keen observations relative to religion and society are well worth reading. As a gay man, Lindsey often focuses on issues related to Christianity and the LGBTQ community, paying considerable attention to the Catholic Church (his background), but not neglecting right-wing Protestants.
Rhetoric, Race, & Religion (R3) – This is a multi-author Patheos blog run by Dr. Andre Johnson, curator of The Henry McNeal Turner Project. As described on its about page, the blog “examines the intersection of rhetoric, race and religion in society.” Americans of all background, but perhaps especially those of us from white conservative Christian backgrounds, need to come to terms with the realities of race in the United States and the continuing complicity of conservative Christianity in white supremacism. See also Dr. Johnson’s hashtag #WhiteChurchQuiet.
Unfundamentalist Parenting – If you grew up in some form of fundamentalist Christianity and now want to break the cycle of fundamentalist abuse and avoid passing religious trauma to your own children, Unfundamentalist Parenting is for you. With its engaging writing and unusual subject matter, there’s nothing else like this Patheos blog. The author, Cindy W. Brandt, also runs a very active Facebook group (see below) that hosts discussions of related issues.
Online Discussion Groups, Support Groups, and Forums:
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (and their Supporters) – A closed Facebook group for those dealing with issues specifically related to leaving Independent Fundamentalist Baptist backgrounds.
Exvangelical – In addition to the podcast listed above, Blake Chastain runs a related discussion group on Facebook (I’m a mod as well). Membership used to be limited to prior podcast guests and those who donate $1 per month to the show via Patreon, but the group is now open to all ex-Evangelicals who want a safe space to discuss our issues. If you can afford to support the podcast, however, please do so.
Raising Children UnFundamentalist – This is the active Facebook group associated with Cindy Brandt’s blog, listed above.
Free Jinger – FJ is a forum that exists primarily to discuss fundamentalism and the harm it does to individuals and to US society. A very large proportion of the discussions revolve around Quiverfull, with the Duggars being a frequent theme. If you need help escaping from an abusive situation or are contemplating suicide, see the hotline numbers listed on the site.
Advocacy Groups and Conferences
Safety Net – In recent years, quasi-underground LGBTQ-affirming organizations consisting of queer alumni and students and their allies have formed around Evangelical colleges that are unsafe for members of the LGBTQ community. Safety Net is an umbrella organization that links them together. If you are a queer student at an unsafe Christian college, please reach out to Safety Net (on Twitter here).
Recovering from Religion – Recovering from Religion offers resources, a chatline and phone hotline for those who are doubting or going through deconversion, and a network of local support groups. The organization also keeps a database of secular mental health professionals who will not prescribe or engage in religious or spiritual practices in therapy with their patients.
Footsteps – This organization assists those who are leaving, or who have left, ultra-Orthodox Judaism. As its website notes, “These courageous individuals struggle to redefine their lives despite punitive reactions from family and friends, little if any secular education, a lack of experience with modern gender roles, and, in some cases, a limited command of English.” Follow Footsteps on Twitter here.
The Courage Conference – Organized by spiritual abuse survivor and advocate Ashley Easter, The Courage Conference is an annual non-denominational event to help equip and advocate for survivors of spiritual abuse. While its emphasis is mostly on those who have remained within Christianity, the event is meant to affirm all survivors of spiritual abuse, including those who leave religion altogether.
Podcasts, Performances, Art
Exvangelical – hosted by the thoughtful and soft-spoken Blake Chastain, a fellow Hoosier and alumnus of the Evangelical college Indiana Wesleyan University, Exvangelical has been described as a safe space for those “living in, leaving, or coming to terms with Evangelicalism.” Chastain and his guests, who share their stories in the course of each intimate episode, discuss topics of concern to ex-Evangelicals including purity culture, homophobia, transphobia, and the erasure of queerness and LGBTQ individuals in Evangelicalism, spiritual abuse, what’s wrong with Evangelical educational institutions, etc.
Emily Joy Poetry – Emily Joy’s spoken word poetry and YouTube Videos express powerful critiques of everything wrong with conservative Evangelicalism, which she once described as a “complete and total mindfuck” (a description I 100% endorse). Emily Joy often highlights women’s and LGBTQ issues, is an essential ex-Evangelical follow on Twitter, and is available to book for live performances.
Dumbing of Age – This semi-autobiographical webcomic by David M. Willis stars Joyce, a first-year at Indiana University who was homeschooled for conservative Christian ideological reasons, using young earth creationist and otherwise skewed Evangelical/fundamentalist curricula and materials. The story of her deconstruction, which Willis lovingly weaves through the comic, is relatable to many ex-Evangelicals.
Curse Your Branches – Former Pentecostal and Christian indie artist David Bazan’s powerful 2009 album is centered around criticism of conservative Christianity and the deconstruction necessitated by leaving it behind. While I’m aware of a number of songs dealing with similar themes, this is the only concept album around them that I’m aware of. Many ex-Evangelicals will find many of the lyrics relatable.
For Evangelicals in Your Life Facing Domestic or Extreme Spiritual Abuse
The sites listed in this section are not sites I endorse. Nevertheless, you may know Evangelicals who, for example, feel trapped in abusive marriages or are caught up in extremely controlling churches or ‘ministries,’ but for whom any outright rejection of Biblical inerrancy or complementarianism would be a non-starter. Internal critiques may be exactly what people in these situations need in order to take steps toward healthier living, and that is what these sites offer, within limitations that speak to why I cannot outright endorse them. I am firmly convinced that complementarianism and Biblical inerrancy are both inherently abusive doctrines. Some of the language used on these sties makes me cringe. And yet, in this messy, gray world in which we live, I see enough potential value in these sites to include them here with the above caveats.
A Cry for Justice – While the team at this site consists of Evangelicals who refrain from officially taking a position in the debate between complementarianism and egalitarianism, they do provide information to help abused spouses recognize abuse and teach that they can and should get divorced. Someone in your life may need to hear this from within a conservative Christian theological framework.
Under Much Grace – On this site, Cynthia Kunsman provides much useful information about spiritual abuse and the manipulative techniques used in many Evangelical church services in order to control people. Kunsman writes from a purported orthodox stance of “Biblical Christianity” (a term that raises major red flags for me) against the supposed heterodoxy of especially extreme forms of Christian patriarchy such as those associated with Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard. Despite her problematic and conservative-ish claim to represent “Biblical Christianity,” there is much of value in Kunsman’s work for survivors of spiritual abuse. See, for example, this post on the psychological impact of manipulative techniques that are widespread in Evangelical worship services.