One of the best things that happened to me right after I left the cult was that I discovered Doctor Who.
I had seen some science fiction, but they were mostly movies and a few random episodes of various shows. I hadn’t watched anything consistently. Most of the science fiction I did see had a strange grounding in reality: Logan’s Run was a dystopia about a computer running the nanny state, The Forbidden Planet was a remake of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The X-Files were basically G-men who met aliens, The Prisoner was more about psychological manipulation than extreme science, etc.
Most of the science fiction also had a strong “us vs. them” mentality, which was something the cult taught. I related most to the dystopias where the world was ending and the strong (and often self-righteous) few were the only ones that survived.
After I left, my entertainment tastes started to change. Suddenly I didn’t care if what I watched offended other people or if it didn’t agree with their morals or not. And when someone recommended Doctor Who, I watched every episode of the new series.
The show helped break a lot of attitudes I didn’t realize that I’d carried with me outside the cult. The show wasn’t loaded with sex, despite the romantic tension between the Doctor and some of his companions. The girls weren’t chaperoned and had no male family members to keep them safe, oftentimes jumped into situations where they were in a lot of danger, and still didn’t get ravaged by some worldly, sensual male that wasn’t “saved”.
The whole premise of the show is the fact that people of differing ages and genders can get along, be good friends and trust each other in difficult circumstances. Which is exactly the opposite of what the cult taught. Younger people were always wrong and young women could never be trusted with older men. When I tried to have simple conversations with men in the church, their wives were always at their elbow giving me me looks and watching my slightest move.
That mentality is a hard one to break, even if you know it’s paranoid and wrong. It really helped me to see an example, even if it was a TV show from across the pond. The emphasis on friendship and trust was a much welcome change from the normal doomsday stuff that I was used to.