I’m working my way through Leaving the Fold so that I can heal my RTS. And it is guiding me through an exercise that helps me gauge the benefits I received from being part of organised religion in the past. It is important to understand those benefits so that, if there is a void, I can allow Spirit to fill that void. I created the Wyld Godde Tarot Hierophant with this in mind.
Not all religion is bad. And exoteric Christianity does not wound all who are part of it. To many, it adds meaning, safety and a sense of belonging/purpose.
A New Family
For me personally, a sense of community was definitely one of the main benefits for a while. Coming from a broken home and feeling like an outsider in my own family, this filled a big void. But salvation from eternal death or hell was also a big bonus, as was feeling safe in this life. I still feel like God has my back. Sadly, I quite quickly lost the feeling that my church family had my back. Betrayal from other people started early in my church career. But I can see now that this was also a pattern I invited based on my own expectations.
I think another major benefit to me was the sense of order that came from the moral structure provided by religion. This was so important because my early years were full of chaos and random beatings. I never knew when my dad would lose it or what I did that triggered it.
More than anything, I craved structure. So one of the things I started doing as a teenager not long after I got saved was to create weekly schedules and to-do lists. This further emphasised that I was now (finally!) free to lead an orderly life. A benevolent and orderly deity who handed out a clear moral code to live by was now in charge. Woohoo!
Depending on what church one is in, some also reap the benefit of having mystical experiences within the fold. That part was definitely missing in the cessationist, fundamentalist Baptist church that (re-)baptised me into their faith when I was 17. I did get a taste of it in some other settings later on but not in a consistent or permanent way. It was something I always felt was missing and one of the main contributing factors to seeking it out outside the fold.
Protection from Myself
Finally, if I’m honest, I have to admit that exoteric religion provided protection from myself. A couple of years before my salvation, I was a wayward teenager doing all the things that could get me in trouble and harm my health. I cannot deny that religion is sometimes how God helps us survive rough patches.
7 Questions from the Wyld Godde Tarot Hierophant
- What are the main benefits you have reaped from organised religion?
- Are there any aspects of exoteric faith you want to keep? Which ones?
- How do you feel religion has let you down or wounded you?
- What is the most damaging aspect of the faith you belong to/used to belong to?
- What is your relationship with your church family?
- What in your childhood did you manage to compensate for through religion?
- How could you give yourself what you compensated for in other ways if you have decided your religion is toxic and you need to leave the fold?