Special notice:  A Journey Free Retreat is coming up September 9-12 in Berkeley, CA.

Contact us to save your spot.  More info here.


Thank-you for visiting this website.  If you are recovering from religious harm, I have great respect for your strength and courage. Please know that you are not alone and things can get better.  This introduction contains a number of options for getting support from Journey Free.

Please feel free to schedule an appointment with me to have a more specific chat about what you are going through, what you need, and possible directions to take. I am happy to provide this 20-minute phone consultation with no obligation. You can easily make an appointment here.

Our work at Journey Free is developing and growing all the time. At present we offer several paths for support:

•  My self-help book, Leaving the Fold:  A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion, has guidance and step-by-step exercises for recovery. This is a good starting point because it is more than intellectual analysis or personal stories.  You can order the book here and you can download the companion Workbook for free here at the Journey Free website. 

•  One option is to consult with me individually over Skype or phone.   For more information about this, go here.

•  Another option is to join the Release and Reclaim Online Support Group, which has ongoing discussions that I facilitate, as well as regular conference calls.

•  We also have weekend retreats periodically and in-person support groups.  The next retreat is SEPTEMBER 9 – 12, in Berkeley, CA.

There are fees for these services which are clarified on the links provided.  Affordable options are available including a sliding scale and other plans.

We are in the process of developing volunteer opportunities, educational programs, and training for mental health professionals and lay helpers.  Just let us know if any of these interest you.

A good way to receive support and information going forward is to subscribe to our newsletter. It goes out a few times a year so your inbox won’t get crowded. In addition, we will be updating the Journey Free website with additional resources. So check back with us!

Please continue having courage and remember there are steps you can take in recovery. If it is a loved one you are concerned about or a family difficulty, again there is hope. Many others have been this way before and can understand. Others have overcome similar challenges and gone on to live joyful, self-chosen lives. We are here to support you too.


Breaking away from a dogmatic religion can take some time because there is a lot of recovery and personal growth required.  Here are some aspects of the journey.  They are not exactly steps, but they more or less go in this order.  Read them and see how far along you are in each area.  – Marlene

1.  Get real.

This is when you start to get it that your religion is not really working for you.  It’s not making sense intellectually, it’s not paying off emotionally, or you see moral problems with it.  This early stage is hard because dogmatic systems do not let go easily and there is a cycle of abuse as you get blamed for the problems.   Your doubts and questions feel dangerous because you haven’t been allowed to think for yourself.  Yet you have to start getting honest.

2.  Get a grip.

Finally, the problems get to be too much and you want to stop forcing everything to fit.  It’s important not to panic and understand that the fear is just part of the phobia indoctrination, a self-serving part of the religion telling you terrible things will happen to you if you leave.  So read some deconversion stories and calm down, you will be fine.  When you look at the world as it really is, facing reality will help you get your life on track.

3.  Get informed.

Do everything you can to educate yourself.  You are free to read, watch videos, and expose yourself to all the knowledge in the world – history, philosophy, science, psychology, and other religions.  In particular, learn about the origins of your religion and scripture, such as how the Bible was put together and early church history.  Having a look from an unbiased viewpoint can be pretty eye-opening.   And enjoy letting your brain breathe.

4.  Get well.

Healing from toxic religion is not just intellectual.  It goes deep into your emotional and psychological make-up, especially if you were indoctrinated as a child.  So don’t be surprised if you have a gap between what you know in your head and what you feel in your gut.   Give yourself time to process your feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, loneliness, and grief.  Be sure to get support in any way you can – from online forums, groups, or therapists that understand.   Eventually your wounds will heal as you learn to love and take care of yourself.   You will also need to regain trust in your thinking abilities, and practice expressing your own views.

5.  Get a life.

Letting go of a religious worldview means you have to rethink who you are and what life is about.  You also have to rebuild most of your life structure such as social networks, work, and family relationships.  In general, you will have to take responsibility for your own choices instead of depending on the religion or God’s will for guiding your life.   This is also exciting of course, because you are now in the world with many options, but it may be a little daunting as well.  But it is up to you to reclaim your life, construct your identity, and make commitments to new values.

6.  Get clear with others. 

At some stage, you will need to let other people know about your change in views.  For many this feels like coming out of the closet and has serious implications.  Family and friends who are still believers may react in negative ways, especially at first.  You may go through some challenging adjustments in your relationships.  But for most people, this honesty is eventually necessary in order to have personal integrity.  It can be hard to let other people go through their own feelings and to deal with all the issues, but in the end, it’s worth it.

7.  Get on board.

This is where you accept that this world is your home, that you are part of the earth.  Humanity is your family and you can take part in the human drama.  Instead of waiting for the hereafter, you can derive meaning from being involved in larger concerns such as caring for the environment or social change.  As you let go of expecting God to take care of all the problems, you can join others to make the world a better place here and now.  You can see that we are all interconnected and you can enjoy relationships with other people without the need to judge.

8.  Get your groove on.

As you relax about being part of this earth, you learn to enjoy pleasure and being present.  You realize you don’t have to earn the right to exist — you are just like other animals.  Your sensory experiences are delightful, your body is great, and sex is good.  You find all the ways to appreciate nature.   Joyful living also comes from being creative, and this is exciting to discover.  God is not the only creator, so you can sing and dance and paint and do whatever you like to simply express yourself.  It’s ok to simply enjoy being alive.


Reclaimers1, you are the pioneers. Reclaimers discard their confining religions and free their minds from the cages made in churches. I support you, I help you, but most of all, I salute you. Because it is clear to me after many years of bearing witness to the soul-wrenching work that you do, when I have seen and heard tears and sobs and anger and fear, that you are the ones among us in our world that are birthing yourselves. Most of it is quietly achieved, because you are so ahead of the times that there are not enough words to describe what you are accomplishing. You yourself do not really know.

To understand what you are achieving, let’s try to grasp the context. We live in a world that is only partially scientific, only partially rational. Zealous believers are still performing exorcisms. Faith healing is commonplace, along with other “signs and wonders.” People believe in the “power of prayer” or that an entity called God will change the laws of nature if asked properly. A majority think that they have souls that will continue after they die despite no evidence. They cling to visions of a blissful existence and fear eternal punishment. The legal system is a simplistic treatment of people as guilty or not, which deals out retribution. A shocking number of people are comfortable with ignoring the findings of science and willing to risk the future of the species because they trust in a supernatural solution for the earth. The most powerful nation on earth deals death from the sky unprovoked on other peoples and makes claims about “just war.”

That is, our culture still has one foot firmly planted in the Dark Ages. Most of the unchurched are also unquestioning. It may be true that they have escaped the nightmare indoctrinations of hellfire and basic depravity, and they may have “self-esteem” and sleep well. But they have also not been forced awake. They have not been like reclaimers, jolted rudely and painfully awake and torn away from everything safe and familiar. No, people do not do the hard work that you are doing if it is not required. It is too taxing, too terrifying, too all-encompassing. No one would willingly enter this wind tunnel that seems to have no end.

We live in a world that is only partially scientific, only partially rational. Zealous believers are still performing exorcisms. Faith healing is commonplace, along with other “signs and wonders.” Reclaimers, you who devoted yourselves or were children in the folds of a religion that owned your soul and governed your very breath, will know about this transformation. It is no gentle thing to have the ground give way until there is no where to stand. You have lost yourself, lost the others you thought you knew, and lost your way. It is not exactly the same for everyone. But this much is true: each of you must create your life. You have had much taken from you and it must all be reclaimed: your identity, your will, your thinking ability, your feelings, your trust, your intuition, your sexuality, your creativity, and much more.

The creation of your new life is large, and more than you expected. You are giving birth and you are the parent. There is overwhelming joy along with the responsibility. There is no more outsourcing to “god” and no more talk of being dependent or helpless or bad. There is struggle and there is wonderful discovery. There are questions that are basic and big and tough: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? What is life all about? All of the questions humans have ever asked.

I respect you because I see you rethinking everything and rebuilding everything. You used to have all the answers because they were handed to you and then enforced until you could recite them in your sleep. Now you are working on getting them out of your head. You are stripping away everything familiar even though it hurts because it’s worth it. You have opted for integrity over false safety. There is so much stripped away you are not only naked, your skin is raw.

What a grand endeavor! What heroes! How great it would be if everyone did this complete questioning of everything they ever knew and started over. Perhaps our culture would make more progress inching out of the Dark Ages. And you, reclaimers, are doing this radical transformation with little help and sometimes with real opposition from the surrounding culture. It would be nice, but you are not escaping from a harmful religion into a healthy, evolved, nurturing society. The personal revolution and evolution that you are accomplishing (if you go all the way) will put you ahead of many who have never needed to question.

And that means that you will have wisdom to share. It will take some time, but you will find your place, and others will benefit from your hard-won life experience. You will be an “elder” in the best sense of the word. You live here now, on Planet Earth, and we need you.

1″Reclaimers” are those who have deconverted from religion and are reclaiming their lives.

Here are some “testimonies” to give assurance to those wondering if it is a safe and good thing to leave one’s religion.  Enjoy, and please add your own!


“Re-examine all you have been told… Dismiss what insults your Soul.”

– Walt Whitman

In the South Pacific, “cargo cults” sprang up as religions with people longing for the return of white gods in their ships with amazing stuff – their cargo.  It sounds quaint and innocent enough, just as hoping for Jesus to come back after 2000 years is quirky but “whatever gets you through the night,” right?  But what is the real cost of having millions of people holding to a belief system with a decidedly magical view of the universe?  The consequences may be hidden and far-reaching, personal and societal, even global.  Certainly we have increasing evidence that individuals are harmed by mental and emotional trauma often unrecognized.

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A GRAPH Childhood Indoctrination color

Factors in Childhood Indoctrination in Fundamentalist Christianity

From this graphic, it should be clear that a child in a fundamentalist Christian environment faces a powerful array of factors influencing indoctrination. Many of these techniques are quite deliberate, such as keeping children at home for their schooling to control what they learn and don’t learn.  The primary goal of sincere Christian parents is to pass on their faith, not help their child develop critical thinking to make a fully informed decision about religion.  Christians do not present their offspring with literature on all the religions of the world and make field trips to temples, churches and mosques to help them decide.  Yet in their theology they claim that “accepting Jesus” is a personal choice of free will and only those who reject God’s free gift of salvation will go to hell.

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Julia is a reclaimer who lives in London.   She is contributing poems to an upcoming anthology called “Happy Heretics:  Tips for Recovering from Harmful Religion.”   She is writing a memoir about growing up in a strict evangelical family and also a novel.  She recently performed a number of poems, including the one below, and sent me this link.  She is a great writer and you can get her humor even more when you watch the video.  And be sure not to miss the poem about Lot’s wife at 6.22.

                                                               “The Visiting Speaker”

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me serve alone? Luke 10:40

Typical. The minute there’s a man about the house

she’s off, leaving me to get on

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Ever really thought about what the doctrine of original sin does to a person’s sense of self-worth and capability?  I collected these Christian sayings and letters and made this video.  Have a look. (Click on title)

Christian slogans and degraded self-worth

I deserve nothing


“Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health ProblemsHands holding cross

Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth.

Continue HERE for the article from March 25, 2013.


Based on the new Journey Free 2013 Calendar, a new virtual group dedicated to personal development is forming.  This will be especially relevant to folks recovering from religious indoctrination, but will not be limited to “reclaimers” or focused on religious material.  Rather, we will be addressing important and liberating ideas each month, and practicing alternative ways of being. 

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