by Marlene Winell

This one-of-a-kind self-help book is for people recovering from the harmful effects of religious indoctrination. It provides insight into the psychological manipulations involved in authoritarian religion, and Christian fundamentalism in particular. Drawing from her own personal experience as well as clinical expertise, the author gives step-by-step guidance for healing from confusion, fear, guilt, anger, and grief. Readers will learn to reclaim their right to think for themselves, experience freedom and self-love, develop inner resources and personal skills, and celebrate living in the here-and-now.

Leaving the Fold accompanies the author’s workshops and retreats.

You can purchase Leaving the Fold from Powell’s Books, Amazon, or request it through your local bookstore. The Kindle version is available through Amazon.


Dr. Marlene Winell was among the first (if not the first) to address the issue of leaving religion. Her book is not only a classic, it is the main book we recommend to the leaders of Recovering from Religion. There is no stone left unturned in Leaving the Fold. If you are dealing with the emotional, psychological or physical effects of leaving religious indoctrination, you should read this book first. Short of being in her office or one of her workshops, there is nothing that will give you more tools for living a faith free life.

       – Dr. Darrel W. Ray, author of Sex and God, The God Virus, and Chairman of the board of

I heartily recommend Dr. Winell’s book, “Leaving the Fold,” which I have read and been recommending for years. Many people born into mainstream fundamentalist churches will benefit from reading this book. Not just disaffected Christians. It is important to understand what healthy patterns are within religion and when they get more and more extreme- till they become outright cultic in nature. Freedom to choose, freedom to think for oneself, the ability to question authority and not just become blindly obedient. That is what true spiritual freedom is all about. Not heavenly brainwashing (like the Moonies, the cult I was in). Not a focus on fear, rather than Love. Read this book! It is especially a great support for those who have grown up in a controlling religious group and wish to move one with their lives.

    – Steven Hassan, M.Ed. LMHC, NCC, author of  Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs, and Director of

Marlene is a writer who understands the inner torment experienced by those who take the journey from all forms of fundamentalism to a place where they look upon their former certainties — often inherited from parents — more as of an illness to be recovered from than a way of life they ever would have freely chosen if they knew then what they know now. Marlene’s path is one of self-forgiveness and hope offered to those who need a guide to lead them through the process of recovery.

    – Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

 For someone leaving a marriage with an abusive, controlling spouse, there is plenty of help available: books, articles, counseling, and friends. But for someone leaving an abusive and controlling religion, help is scarce, even though the emotional damage and scars can be just as painful and slow to heal as from a divorce.  Leaving the Fold will help victims of destructive religious groups to get out, get over it, and get on. Dr. Winell’s practical advice provides the techniques for healing that any cult victim can use.

Richard Packham, founder and first president of the Exmormon Foundation

 We love it! . . . Freedom From Religion Foundation is planning to carry your book. You have a firm grasp of the problems and needs of those who are breaking away from the fundamentalist mindset. I wish I had had your book 15 years ago! 

     -Dan Barker, author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, and co-director of Freedom From Religion Foundation.

>>>More Professional Reviews

>>>Reviews from Readers

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Leaving the Fold will help you if:

  • You have become uncomfortable with your religion and are in the process of leaving.
  • You want to understand more about Christian fundamentalism.
  • You have left the faith that was meaningful to you as a child, and you need to sort out the aftereffects.
  • You need to heal from growing up in a dysfunctional religious family.
  • You became “born again” as an adult, but you are now disenchanted with the belief system.
  • You are experiencing fear and anxiety, anger, or grief because you have left the fold.
  • You struggle with depression and confusion because you have lost your structure of meaning.
  • You have a family member or friend who is recovering from religious indoctrination.
  • You are a helping professional and want to improve your ability to help clients who are recovering from their religious experience.


Part I of the book, “Sorting it Out,” is about understanding the issues of religious indoctrination. The chapters in this section include inventories and writing exercises to help readers assess there own experience. Chapter 1 gives an overview of the areas of impact and typical phases people go through in recovery. Chapter 2 is my story, offered as an extended example of one person”s journey who has reflected on these issues. Chapters 3 and 4 outline the attractions of religion and how those attractions are manipulated to ensure adherence to dogma. Chapter 5 discusses the major reasons people leave fundamentalism and what the leaving process can be like. Chapter 6 lists the many possible strengths that may also be gained from religious involvement. Chapter 7 explores the characteristics of a rigidly religious family and the alternative traits of healthy family functioning.

Part II covers the healing process. Chapters 8 through 10 offer an approach to healing that involves the concept of an “inner child,” a care-taking “adult,” and the negative inner voice that undermines a person”s happiness, here called the “idea monster.” Chapters 11 and 12 deal with the need to reclaim one”s feelings and work through phases of fear, anger, and grief. Guidelines are also provided for emergency self-care.

Part III concerns further areas of personal development. Chapter 13 concentrates on identity and self-love. Chapter 14 deals with learning to live in the present, instead of by and by. There are attitudes and skills involved for being at home in this world and finding pleasure now. In Chapter 15, readers are encouraged to think for themselves. In Chapter 16, the exciting but enormous human responsibility for choice is addressed. We can and must accept the challenge of co-creating our lives.