The world’s most enlightened religions have evolved in such a way as to express the highest forms of human compassion, dignity, intelligence, and love. From Episcopalianism to Unitarianism, from North American Anglicanism to Buddhism, if you’re searching for the purest, safest place to nourish your soul, chances are it’s among one of these institutions or one similar. Sadly, however, there are branches of religion in this world which are far from safe, and even further from purity.
Whether it’s the viciously homophobic postions of the Evangelicals, the devastating history of child rape in the Catholic Church, or the tragic subjugation of women under extreme Islam and orthodox Judaism, it seems the world is filled with fear- and shame-based religious extremism that continues to destroy the lives of men, women, and children around the globe. In a recent episode of her talk show, host Katie Couric profiled a range of people who managed to escape some of the most dangerous sects where religious practices are so restrictive that they tell you what to do, how to think, what to wear and even who to marry.
Among Couric’s guests is Leah Vincent, who after being abandoned by her parents and while living on her own, experienced a heartbreaking and terrifying situation. Lauren Drain felt like a stranger in the family and the faith in which she was raised — The Westboro Baptist Church. She says that when she spoke out against some of their teachings, the group and her parents turned against her. And Flora Jessop was a a follower of the FLDS, or the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints, until she escaped when she was 16-years-old.
These people courageously left the fold and found their voice, and you can watch their stories in full below. For more information on how to break free from an ultra-conservative environment you can visit Footsteps™, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational, vocational, and emotional support to those seeking to enter or explore a world beyond the insular, ultra-religious environments in which they were raised. You can visit their website at FootstepsOrg.org and follow Footsteps™ on Facebook and Twitter. And if you have not yet heard the extraordinary story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her escape from Islam you can watch it below, and check out Sam Harris’s brilliant TED Talk on science and morality as well.
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