Everyone's Agnostic Podcast
Cass & Bob interview people you don't know about a subject no one wants to talk about--losing faith in the supernatural.

Welcome everyone to episode 204 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Dr. Bob Pondillo  I interview Raymond Gilford. Raymond Gilford was born in Austin, Texas and lived there until age 11 when he moved with his parents to Fallbrook, California in 1974 at age 11. His grandfather was a Baptist preacher but his parents didn't force it on him as a child. Like some of us who took Christianity more serious than our parents, Raymond converted to Christianity in 1983 as a college sophomore and stayed in the faith for over thirty years, studying Greek and Hebrew and teaching Sunday School. But it was Christianity that oversold itself and Raymond slowly saw through its preposterous claims. Today he works as a proofreader and copy editor in Austin, Texas.

We taped this conversation on May 6th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits: "Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU 
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is "Release It" by Afro Celt Sound System, one of Raymond's favorite bands.

Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Blog:  www.galacticwanderlust.com
Design site:  raymondgilford.com

For Raymond, the beginning of wisdom wasn’t faith, or the fear of God. It was concrete thinking. Growing up, and for just about all his life he’s looked for the world to make sense, and he’s been disappointed when it hasn’t, perhaps this is why he looked for a source of justice or purpose in the universe. Like pretty much everyone he just wanted to get paid. He wanted to get laid. And he always found the church to be a frustrating mesh through which he was expected to filter his desires.

In this conversation, we hear that Raymond always had a problem with the concept of Jesus dying for his sins. He couldn't square that with the logic and reason that plagued his intelligent mind. Eventually that square peg just couldn't be forced into the round hole, the alleged god-shaped-hole in his heart and he walked away.

I want to do something here that may be triggering for some of you. I typed into the search of YouTube "the best presentation of the gospel" and the first one to come up was John Piper. Now, when I was a Christian, I loved me some John Piper. I had cassette tapes of John Piper. Piper is a brilliant man. Which is good because I want the gospel to be represented by the best in this little experiement. The second video to come up was Matt Chandler, the third was Ravi Zacharias; both of whom are smart, well-versed preachers. Chandlers was a little too emotional; Ravi's was too cerebral. Piper's is good blend of both. So I"m going to play a 4 minute presentation of the gospel by John Piper, followed by a 4 minute refute of the gospel by Christopher Hitchens. Hitch is so dear to my heart. Hitch is truly one of the top 5 heroes on my lifelong list of heroes. And Piper used to be.

But I wanted to show the juxtaposition that Raymond faced, then tension he experienced for 30 years.  Here it is: first John Piper, then Christopher Hitchens.

So that was Pastor John Piper, certainly not a spokesman for all the hundreds of Christianities but he's one of their big shots, especially with a Calvinistic leaning. Up next is a man I hold very dear to my heart and miss him greatly, Christopher Hitchens with a critique of the Christian gospel.

 

Many of us hung onto the gospel that didn't make sense to a deeply hidden part of us. Why? Because of the community. I think that's foremost over the fear of Hell. Deep down, we didn't believe in Hell because we couldn't fathom it. Nobody believes in Hell. No one can fathom eternal anything, let alone eternal suffering. Our brains just can't go there. What we do believe in...what we do understand is the friends and community that we experience right in front of us, each week. The third reason we clung to an absurd, even immoral gospel, was probably our deep need for the world to make sense, for our fear of death and meaninglessness to be silenced by a master narrative that gave us the peace we so desperately craved.

And so here we find ourselves. Especially those of us who walked right into Christianity before our adult minds could scrutinize it. It latched onto us until, as awakening adults, we scraped it out of our bones with knives and chisels. And began our pilgrimage back to our lost self, rebuilt our personal agency, said yes to our reality and what it means to be ourselves and carved out a path forward to find an honest  meaning to our existence and a morality that came from within shaped by our values we forged from our own hearts.

This is what Raymond did...and is doing. It's a life's work, really, and many of us are hard at it. But we've found that there's freedom and joy and strength--true strength--in ourselves. A strength that Piper denied existed and said, out loud mind you, couched in the presentation of good news that we would never, never, never, outgrow the need to preach to ourselves our wretchedness apart from Christ's redemptive work on the cross to vicariously make us loveable to a supposedly loving god.  In a moment where one of Christianity's best is presenting Christianity's best news and the point he drove home the hardest and raised his voice the most was when he chose to emphasize the absolute hopeless impotence of being a human being, never out from under the need of a savior, day in and day out for eternity. No thank you. As one who devoted my life to Christianity, the first 40 years, and now on the outside, no promise of eternal bliss or threat of eternal torture would move me to give up my hard earned self-love, my acceptance of reality, and the restoration of my personal agency. Like our guest Raymond, I wanted Christianity to be true but in the end it just didn't hold water or even pass the laugh test. Now we're free, empowered, responsible, back on a path of maturation, and happy as one might be in a meaningless universe.

Direct download: Ep_204_Raymond.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05pm CDT
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Cass Midgley interviews Jenny Q. Unfortunately Bob's not with us on today's episode.  Jenny Q was born in Southern California to Palestinian immigrants. Her love of herbs began in her teens while on the road following the Grateful Dead. She has set her roots in Joshua Tree, California, where she opened Grateful Desert, a local apothecary. In 2014, Jenny suddenly became seriously ill and rapidly descended into a coma with slender chance of survival.  She has quite a story and put it in a book entitled "Held Together" which incorporates many of her friends who bore witness to the experience. The book releases June 1st.

Here's what one reviewer said of Jenny's book: “Held Together” tells a villages account of a personal tragedy. While seemingly detailing the medical marvel that left Jenny with both of her legs and five fingers amputated, the book truly centers around the power of community and the strength people find in a time of tragedy."

This is what drew my interest in Jenny's story: it's testament to the power of community and the determination of the human spirit. So often when tragedy strikes, people either blame god or spin it around to make god look good in spite of it. As humanists and atheists, we avoid both of those silly explanations and just get busy helping remedy it. How Jenny's friends rallied around her to mitigate the suffering and hardship of the tragedy, while beautiful in it's own way, is not unique to Jenny's situation. Many, if not all, of us have witnessed friends and family descend on a problem with love and care when one of our own goes down.  And yes, I have an agenda to assign credit where it belongs--even when it happens in church settings--the credit, and glory, if you will, goes to humans. Loving, caring, compassionate, and godless human beings.

Spoiler alert, Jenny survived the sepsis that nearly took her life, and today she joyously shares her life with her tight-knit desert community, her beloveds Yazzy, her daughter and Myshkin, her wife.

Jenny's story raises the question, "what is spirituality?" I recently read a book that I highly recommend titled Living the Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey, by James Hollis. And before we get into my talk with Jenny I'd like to play a clip from it.

So here's my talk with Jenny Q. If you connect with her and would like to correspond with her, get the book, or talk about herbs and essential oils, her email is connect@heldtogetherbook.com , her website is www.heldtogetherbook.com, and the website for her herbal business is gratefuldesert.com

We taped this conversation on April 29th, 2018.We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is portions of "Shades of Grey" by Grateful Dead.

Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.



Direct download: Ep_203_Jenny_Q.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:10pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 202 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Bob Pondillo and I interview Elisa. Elisa was one of four women featured on Episode 200, the Sexpisode as she called it. We taped both conversations on April 15th, 2018.

We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro background music is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The bumper music on this episode is a jam on the end of "Closure" by Maroon 5

Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Elisa was raised in the Gulf Coast of South Texas in a large Hispanic Catholic family.  As a runaway teen, troubled about treatment at home, she became involved with the Praise Chapel/Potters House evangelical church and became born again at 17. She found herself in the Southern Baptist Church when she fell in love with a Baptist boy and remained there until she met her husband. They married nearly 19 years ago and have two children. Elisa was a teacher  but remained home after having children and she homeschooled for many years. Elisa almost left her husband when he came out as an atheist 8 years ago. She had been struggling with her own doubts but was holding on tightly to her faith. When the black lives movement came on the scene she had a hard time understanding the hate from Christians. This opened her eyes to the Christian political machine that actively oppressed minorities, immigrants, women, and the lgbtq communities. When Trump became the Republican presidential nominee with huge evangelical support, she finally felt comfortable calling herself an atheist. Her life has changed from a life of fear to a life of peace, a life of homeschooling to a life of pole dancing. She has let go of god and has embraced herself and is having the time of her life.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow first developed his famous theory of individual development and motivation in the 1940’s. He suggested that human beings have a hierarchy of needs. That all humans act in a way which will address basic needs, before moving on to satisfy other, so-called higher level needs. Maslow represented this theory as a hierarchical triangle. It shows how basic needs are met before one can “climb” the hierarchy, to address more complex needs. 
The Maslow motivation theory is typically represented by 5 steps:

Physiological needs – such as hunger, thirst and sleep
Safety needs – such as security, protection from danger and freedom from pain.
Social needs – sometimes also referred to as love needs such as friendship, giving and receiving love, engaging in social activities and group membership.
Esteem needs – these include both self-respect and the esteem of others. For example, the desire for self-confidence and achievement, and recognition and appreciation.
Self-actualization – This is about the desire to develop and realize your full potential. To become everything you can be.
Maslow’s contention was that one’s sense of well-being. i.e. the ‘feelgood factor’ increases as the higher level needs are met.

I want to merge this needs study with a few of David Richo's declarations of healthy adulthood. Keep in mind that one of the things that fundamental Christianity did to us was stunt our growth. Even Maslo's needs reveal that within Christianity, we weren't responsible for meeting our needs! God was! We were to ignore our needs. It would be selfish to think of our own needs--the very self we were trying to die to.

But in this deconversion process, along with acknowledging our own needs, the absence of a supernatural being to meet them, and resurrecting our own agency to meet them, we might do well to combine this line of thinking with our arrested maturation development. Richo teaches that a healthy adult can say the following things:
I accept full responsibility for the shape my life has taken.
I accept that I may never feel I am receiving – or have received – all the attention I seek.
I acknowledge that reality is not obligated to me; it remains unaffected by my wishes or rights.
One by one, I drop every expectation of people and things.
I reconcile myself to the limits on others’ giving to me and on my giving to them.

In these declarations, we can hear a powerful agent taking responsibility for ourselves. So there's two very important things going on here, especially for us ex-Christians:

  1. we discover our selves, our power, our voice, our thoughts and feelings. Self-awareness, or as Maslo puts it, self actualization is a big first step once we acknowledge the delusion of an imaginary god to whom we had surrendered our selves, power and voice.
  2. we acknowledge that we can't just transfer our dependence on god to another person in our lives. It's up to us to secure our place in this world, our footing, our grounding, our needs.

I would think that the intent, or at least the hope, would be that we could be fully present, fully engaged in our relationships because we're bringing our full selves, un-needy, and interdependent. Feeling neither inferiority nor superiority to those in our lives. Comfortable in our own skin, no delighted in our skin, AND responsible for the emotional health of the soul encased in our own skin, that we might find ourselves, ideally, in community with others exercising the same level of power and agency, and thus fully free to enjoy and be enjoyed by one another. Delivered from the insecurity, fear, and competition fostered by Christian gatherings where we're all trying impress each other with how advanced we are in our devotion to and relations with Abba.

Because we've been trained co-depency by and with God, we have our work cut out for us to find what must be a wonderful balance between wanting other's company, yet not needing it. Wouldn't that be something?

 

 


Direct download: Ep_202_Elisa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 201 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Bob Pondillo and I interview David Burns. David is now 50, but was a lifelong Mormon. He unpacks his passion for Mormonism, how it was his life, his tribe, his identity. He served his two year door to door mission and it was there that his faith in Mormonism experienced its first crack. I fell in love with David during this talk. He's a really sharp and gentle man and it comes through here. He's on the Asburger/Autism spectrum and his tendency to interpret everything literally contributed to his devotion to the whacky foundations of Mormonism AND eventually his departure.

We taped this conversation on April 14th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits: 
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is "Wake Me Up" by Dirty Loops

I wonder if the need for human beings to find a tribe isn't a primary motivator behind the formation of and devotion to religions. We need to belong. Loneliness is so scary. And communities are one of the most beautiful things that humans form. There's hardly anything more fulfilling and life-enriching than finding yourself at a party, or in a circle of friends to which you truly belong, are genuinely celebrated, loved, and supported, in your truest form. When you're celebrating a promotion at work, or a new house, or a new baby, or marriage, or a birthday and you have a community of people around you that organize a celebration and/or send you cards in the mail, or bring you gifts, what better feeling is there?

As a human being, we are aware of so much that the animal kingdom is not. We know that the universe is big, dark, and impersonal. We know that the world is a difficult place, with it's unpredictable weather and tragic happenstances. Animals don't get overwhelmed. We alone feel alone on this dirt clod hurling through space. We can feel adrift with nothing solid to hold onto. We can even be surrounded by people and feel totally alone. We can live in a city and feel no roots or connection to it. We look to our spouses and our children for some grounding and belonging, but can end up putting too much burden on them to validate and rescue our drowning, bankrupt self-esteem. We ache for friendships. Without them, we can feel lost, that the world is closing in on us, that nobody understands us, we can become disgusted with humanity, and quickly lose any desire to remain on this selfish, exclusionary planet.

But when suicide is not an option, we re-enter the world, but in an angry, scared survival mode. We become racked with suspicion and distrust of others, further isolating ourselves. Our default is to blame others for our problems, and then we turn that blame inward spiraling us deeper downward into self-loathing (unconscious of course, nothing about this type of person is conscious). Pretty quick we see ourselves as victims and thus martyrs for our tail-chasing cause. So what do we do? Our tribal instincts kick in and we find other disenfranchised people, lost and lonely. Misery loves company, right? Safety in numbers. We rally with pitchforks to avenge our insulted egos against our enemies and the mere fact that we've formed a common enemy endears us to each other and the next thing you know, we've formed a tribe. But it's not a healthy tribe. It brings out the worst in us. It fosters resentment, contempt, and bitterness. It appeals to and compounds the lower angels of our nature--fearful, insecure, hateful, and our hatred for ourselves gets projected onto our unknowing enemies. On April 24th, Alek Minassian, the 25 year old Canadian man who killed ten and injured 15 as he drove a van down a one-mile stretch of sidewalk in Toronto, was allegedly a part of a tribe called the Incel Rebellion. Incel is short for involuntarily celibate. In other words, men who can't form relationships, or more crudely, can't get laid. And because of the internet, the group is said to be 5,000 members strong. Their common denominator is that they're furious at constantly being rejected by women.

In the following conversation with our guest, your going to hear David talk about the strength of the Mormon community and the excruciating pain of detaching himself from his lifelong tribe that was precious to him, especially as one who'd felt excluded all his life. He, like many of us, threw himself headlong into the ministry he loved. It gave him purpose and identity and community. Life was good, and somewhat easy. What on earth would pry us out of those deep loving relationships with our Heavenly Father, our dear friend Jesus, our constant companion the Holy Spirit, and, most of all, our fellow human sojourners? The undeniable eye-opening discovery that its a delusional way of living? The corruption, the under-belly, the greed, the exclusivity?

I watched the movie "Come Sunday" about the withering of Carlton Pearson's ministry as he came out as a universalist and began preaching what he called the Gospel of Inclusion. It's on Netflix; it was produced by Ira Glass and the This American Life staff. I recommend it but with a warning. You'll see the excruciating pain of Carlton praying and praying and crying out to God as his life was falling apart, but the heavens were silent. You'll see the tug of war on his heart as his giant ministry dwindled to a handful of people, all because he wouldn't recant or back-peddle from his convictions that no one was in Hell. At times, he can't believe the indignation he witnesses just because he believed Jesus saved everyone. How is this bad news? Brennan Manning, an author I loved when I was a Christian, gave this definition of Phariseeism: when you see love and grow indignant. But, like some of us, he lost everything--his income and career, his friends, even family. And this is why this podcast exists.

I believe the power and pull and magnetism of community is at the core of why people unfriend us as soon as they perceive that we're saying something outside the beliefs that the community holds to. In their minds they have to make a choice...between you and the giant construct in which their entire lives are held together (they call it God). I'm sure it breaks their heart, but deciding to ditch us is probably much less difficult a decision than the one we're making. People have no idea...and they SO don't want to have that idea that they scoot us out of their lives as quickly as they can lest they begin to entertain it. The music stops and all the children scramble to plant their ass in a chair so they're not the ones left standing without one.

People who gather under the banner of mutual hate get their identity from without. Their actions are reactive. They are hollow.  They are defined by what they hate, not by what they love. They don't even know what they love because they lack the self-awareness and agency to ask themselves, to go within. They are all-around no-sayers. They pout in self-pitiful tantrums that nothing is they way it should be. No to the persons, bodies and psyches in which they find themselves. No to people who are different. No to the harsh realities of existence. No to the abyss of random chaos in which they find themselves. They are ill-equipped to be overcomers, to find true meaning in this meaningless life. They fall under the trance of some fairy tale that keeps them childish.  And they're lazy. Making lemonade is hard work.

0ur proneness to tribalism can be used to elevate ourselves at others expense. We can take so much pride in our community that we move into feeling superior to other communities. We can live our lives fueled by comparing ourselves to others and competing with other tribes for power. Even healthy communities can fall prey to this.

Perhaps you've been a part of a book club or a small group house church small group where the members bond and look forward to seeing each other every week or month. Then someone invites a friend and you can feel the elementary school resentment wrinkle it's nose at the invader. Now this isn't entirely evil or immature. I personally reserve the right to pick my friends and close the door on new seekers because the current chemistry is good and might be disrupted by introducing new blood. I think everybody' free to do that without shame. And the point is that relationships and communities are complicated and nuanced and even a bit fragile and have always been that way. The magic is so intense and the dynamics so delicate that friendships and communities that last a lifetime are extremely rare and thus you're very lucky if you pull that off. Even marriages have a much higher chance of losing their luster than remaining vibrant for the long haul.  So here we find ourselves...looking for love, for connectivity, for our tribe, our people. These magical relationships don't just happen. They form because we foster it intentionality. We set out to find friends, schedule get togethers, keep in contact, constantly navigating the feelings. Are they mutual? Do they like me as much as I like them? Am I smothering? Can I be myself and they still like me? Is there a breaking point on the horizon? A deal breaker? And if years go by, with dozens of dinners, engagements, parties under your belt and the intimacy is only deepening, you've won the lottery. You've hit the jackpot. Because 2 or 3 or 7 hominids getting together, enjoying each other for a long period of time is a rare and precious thing.

Direct download: Ep_201_David_Burns.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46pm CDT
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On this special occasion of celebrating 200 episodes, we talk about the greatest, most alluring topic known to humankind: SEX. Specifically after leaving a faith this is negatively obsessed with it. We're featuring 4 different interviews, each about 40 minutes long: Two conducted by only Cass Midgley, one with Cass and Bob, and one with guest co-hosts Dave Warnock and Bryan Maynard. All guests are anonymous so they could be as honest as possible.  

As a heads up, these talks today are all about cisgender hetero sex. I had a trans man and a gay man scheduled to come on but they both ended up not being able to do the taping. And all four guests are women. One could argue that male sexuality is less damaged by Christianity. And sex is an entirely different experience for men as it is women. Listen to this paragraph by (Ah-nay-ees Neen) Anaïs Nin, a 20th century American diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories and erotica. Notice how she contrasts the man's sexual experience with the woman's. “Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her.”

First up is Sierra. Her first marriage was riddled with sexual problems that she largely attributed to their inability to restrain themselves from having sex before marriage. Thinking, "if we'd just obeyed God, our sex life wouldn't be so messed up." Ironically, their sex life was ill-affected by their premarital sexual tension. As happens so often with Christian marriages, lovers have trouble shaking all the guilt, shame, and ugliness that shrouds sexuality in that context. Sierra's first husband passed away and she began a journey of self-discovery and sexual awareness that is a work in progress, of course. But it's a work that she's proud of, and well she should, because it's hard work and requires tremendous courage and honesty. Listen as her story goes from sexual shame to sexual pride.

Sierra touched on learning to listen to her own body. This is a theme throughout all these talks. Bad Christian doctrine puts a wedge between us and our bodies as something to distrust on one hand and something that belongs to God on the other--his temple, in fact. We were to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Some of us our reclaiming our bodies as the beautiful, intuitive, sexy treasures they are. Up next, Bob and I talk with Elisa. As a part of getting in touch with her body and suppressed sexuality, Elisa took up pole dancing or pole fitness. She has posted many videos on her Facebook of her pole dancing and it's very sensuous. Think about the types of reactions that could stir in people: the exhibitionistic, she must need attention, that's inappropriate, I hope my husband doesn't see this, etc. But once you get to know Elisa and hear her motivation behind doing it, all judgement will dissipate in your love and understanding for this fellow human trying find herself and her way in the new, godless world in which she finds herself.  About 20 minutes into this talk, she gets very real. She's candid the whole time, but she accesses some deep emotions that I believe a lot of women feel.

Up next is Ruby Leigh and she's getting in touch with her own body and what it takes for her to achieve orgasm, which she didn't reach until her late 20s. Also, she's in the middle of her second divorce so we talk about relationship dynamics. She was deeply involved in Campus Crusade and the culture there to either marry or be single; anything in between was slutty.

Our last guest is Lacey. With Lacey's permission, I invited my friends, Dave Warnock and Bryan Maynard to co-host. We're all three ex-pastors and Bryan is a licensed therapist. Like many of us in the Christian faith, Lacey and we three men got married partially because Paul taught it was better to marry than burn in lust. A HORRIBLE reason to get married!  That's really bad advice. More bad advice from Paul comes from 1 Corinthians chapter 7. He writes, "The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband." This is a verse that has caused immeasurable damage in the world. It caused tremendous damage in Lacey's life.

So that's our 200th episode. I'm glad you made it this far with us. I hope we expanded the talkaboutable by talking candidly about human sexuality. Yet another area of our lives that we benefit from saying yes to it. I want to recommend two podcasts that are focused on sex every episode: Dan Savage's "Savage Lovecast," and Dr. Darrell Ray's "Secular Sexuality."  Thanks again for listening. We'll talk next week.

We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The bumper music on this episode is the karaoke version of "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye

Thanks for listening and be a Yes-sayer to your own sexuality! 

Direct download: Ep_200_Post-Christian_Sexuality.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo converse with Daniel. Daniel is a teacher, coach of a robotics team, and overall computer nerd. He grew up in a small suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended a Southern Baptist church until he transitioned to a Charismatic, Non-denominational church in High School. He married his wife of sixteen years, a high-school friend, when he was 21 and has two daughters (13 and 10), two cats, and 1 Bearded Dragon. In college, he pursued a number of different degrees before finally graduating with a degree in English and Social Studies Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and obtaining a Masters Degree from Louisiana State University in Higher Education Administration with a focus on Student Affairs. His career as a teacher and coach has allowed him to work with students on developing their ability to think critically and to lead effectively. The fact that Daniel is robotic coach is appropo because from a young age his approach to his faith was mostly cerebral--more brain and less heart--so when his faith eventually unraveled it was not as traumatic as it is for those whose hearts are truly in it. I'm not saying he wasn't devout. He was militant in his devotion to the gospel, prayer, worship, advancing the kingdom on earth. And yet, he had a relatively soft landing after jettisoning Christianity. In this conversation, Daniel describes his desire to be in God's inner circle. He wanted more than just casual Christianity. His high school experience of Christianity borrowed military jargon, assembled and marched down the halls in prayer, waving the Christian flag and blowing the shofar, shod in matching fatigues and combat boots. Spurred on by Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk, and Caedmon's Call, they sought the face of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that song "More Love, More Power?" Power seems to be what modern evangelicals want more than love. Power is addictive. I personally attended a lot of conferences...to be with the people who were serious, to ascend the hill of the Lord with others who desperately wanted God to show up and establish his kingdom on earth as in heaven. We wanted Jesus to be Lord of All, even politics if necessary. Jesus for President was just another way of seeing him as Lord or King of Kings. Jesus and God were so good at running things, we wanted them to run everything. And it's what they wanted to do, but they were gentlemen and thus needed an invitation...and for righteous behavior to increase. So abortions and homosexuality were keeping good things from coming to America. A commonly quoted scripture was 2 Chronicles 7:14 which placed the focus on God's people repenting rather than those not considered to be God's people. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." There are pockets of Christianity today that focus on themselves getting right with God as a means to achieving God's favor on the earth. They see themselves as a remnant, like Lot's family, that would stay God's wrathful hand from destroying the nation. I used to believe that our worship was a pleasing aroma to God, like a burning cow, it was a sacrifice of praise and it counteracted the stench of sin rising up in his nostrils. We were saving people from God's wrath by worshiping. After all, He look for people to stand in the gap and fend him off. That was me.

About 50 years ago, there began a shift in Christian thinking. They decided that praying in your closet was getting the job done. That minding their own business within the four walls of the church wasn't being true Ambassadors for Christ. They felt that remaining the sweet, loving insular community was a form of being ashamed of Jesus before humankind, for which Jesus threatened to be ashamed of them before his Father in heaven. So they began their campaign to be Salt and Light in the public square. They formed a powerful voting block upon whom corporations capitalized. Fox News hijacked what little agency they had left after decades of Bible-worship.  They now fill our senates, congresses and courthouses. George W. Bush prayed for direction on major decisions. Wisdom, science and scholarship are disparaged.

So God's people have looked within, searched their own hearts, repented, prayed longer, fasted, worshipped more passionately, beat their breasts harder to get God to move. Another pocket of Christianity has blamed all the sinners, the gays, the baby-killing. THIS is why God is angry. This is why He doesn't do signs and wonders like he did in biblical times. He's angry and waiting on his people to run for more political offices.

Everyone's trying to solve the problem of God's silence. We were too, when we believed. How many times did we notice that life was happening exactly as it would if there were no God and then commence to perform theological gymnastics to make excuses for his absence. We've heard that a lot in the four years we've been interviewing ex-Christians: "I stopped making excuses for God." Believers for centuries have pulled Jesus down off the cross, propped him up, carried him around like the movie "Weekend at Bernies," even tried CPR on him, for years in fact. 1 2 3 breathe, 123 breathe, over and over again for decades. We've pressed the shock paddles on his chest, yelled "clear" and zapped him, over and over again. It's like Bob always says on this show, "C'mon! it's been 2,000 years! he's not coming back."

Some of us have pulled the plug, taken him off the ventilator and walked away lost and confused wondering what the fuck did I just spend the last 20 years doing. It was a lie so big and so repeated...by so many people over so many centuries of which countless cathedrals have been erected, billions of dollars have been spent that we believed it, and millions still do.  Even now, some of our nearest and dearest still believe it and actually want us to return to it. To pick up the silent god again and drag him into every aspect of our lives, crown him lord of lords and president of presidents. I think we're witnessing the type of chaos and absurdity that hoisting up a hollow shelled corpse into leadership produces. It's for the same reason why our universe is chaotic and absurd--no one's watching the shop. It's just us here. We're the only hope for solving our problems, taking care of our world, our societies, each other. Imaginary gods have distracted us too long.  We're the ones in need of resuscitation.

We taped this conversation on April 7th, 2018.

We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The bumper music on this episode is "One Love" by Danny E. B. Tracks on YouTube

Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is. 

Direct download: Ep_199_Daniel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:54pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Jennifer Kates interview Nicole, who wishes to remain anonymous. Bob was out of town for this one. Nicole was raised as a devout, non-denominational Christian and home-schooled for most of her youth. She gave her life to the lord as a young teen and became involved in the “apostolic church” movement. In her early 20’s, she served as a deacon in a charismatic, evangelical church and led a home group for several years. She has worked as a nurse for 15 years in pediatric oncology and pediatric critical care at a university hospital in California. She also facilitates courses for health-care workers on self-compassion and self-care. In learning about the neurobiology of self-compassion, and seeing the healthiness, joy and peace of the “un-believers” she worked with, she began to question the health of some of the Christian teachings. A journey of seeking health above all slowly changed her view of what “righteousness” was and changed how she saw the world around her. Valuing health over righteousness led to leaving her church and she is now slowly dismantling the beliefs and experiences that have shaped her identity and worldview. She is replacing what once was “a beautiful faith” with personal agency and a freedom to be healthy, no matter what.

I want to share something from Gretta Vosper. She's our Canadian friend whose been on the show twice, episodes 67 and 188. She's developed a conference as a fundraiser for their refugee family. Sobak Pakhi is one of the most threatened secular bloggers in Bangladesh and has been in hiding since September 2015. I was in Chattanooga TN this weekend speaking to the Humanist Assembly with my friend Tad Beatty and someone asked me if I knew about the persecution and even execution of atheists in that country. We Gretta's church, West Hill United has been approved as Sobak's resettlement sponsor. They are trying to get his processing expedited. It is a long and dangerous time for him, his two small children, and his wife. I cannot even imagine. So she's doing this conference up there in Canada for you Canadian listeners to raise money for this cause.

What: Lives in the Balance Conference
Where: Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street,Toronto
When: Saturday 2 June 2018, Registration at 08:00 am. Events 8:45 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Cost: Early registration - $125 until the end of April; $150 following.

Here is the website: livesinthebalance.ca. Here is the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/livesinthebalance2018/

The second thing I want to talk about that came in our talk with Nicole was the word "supposed." We learned early on that we were supposed to behave certains ways, talk in certains ways, and, conversely don't behave or talk in certain ways. NOW, as free moral agents, we get to decide who we are and how we show up, without any wagging fingers shaming us for following our own moral compasses. So, in summary, the only thing we're SUPPOSED to be is US! Here's your freedom, your licence, my admonition: DO YOU. That's it: DO YOU. And trust yourself. You don't need any external laws, rules, or parameters to guide your heart. It's not impure; it's good. You're good. Unless you're a psychopath or sociopath, you know what's right and wrong for you and the way you treat others. That should go without saying, but for those of us who left the faith, it's music to our ears and empowerment to our integrated selves, welcoming our bodies into our minds into our hearts and ourselves into reality. It's beautiful. Come on in, the waters warm.  

We taped this conversation on March 25th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits: "Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The bumper music on this episode is by The Best Deep House Chill Out Music

Thanks for listening! And be a yes-sayer to what is. 



Direct download: Ep_198_Nicole.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31pm CDT
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Cass Midgley talks with Marissa Alexa McCool. Bob was out of town for this taping. This episode is a bit of detour from our regular format. Marissa doesn't have a personal deconversion from faith story, but she does have a gender conversion story that religions generally oppose. I call this episode, much like episode 60 with Callie Wright, back in the summer of 2015, a beginner class in Trans 101. I support this kind of education because in order to be a part of the solution and not the problem we need to seek to understand, stretch out our imaginations, and expose our blind spots regarding these our fellow human beings, and of course, say yes to what is. Also, we ex-Christians can relate to this: one can only lie about who one is for so long before going crazy.

Author Ellen Wittlinger is quoted as saying, “People change lots of other personal things all the time. They dye their hair and diet themselves to near death. They take steroids to build muscles and get breast implants and nose jobs so they resemble their favorite movie stars. They change names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They change religions and political parties. They move across the country or the world — even change nationalities. Why is gender the one sacred thing we aren't supposed to change? Who made that rule?”

Our guest today, Marissa Alexa McCool, is 32, a podcaster, author, performer, speaker, ​and an LGBT rights/atheist activist. She's a trans woman, married, partnered, and a parent. Born in Akron, Ohio and currently residing in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her family, she graduated the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with 3 degrees: English, Cinema and Media Studies, and Anthropology, while also studying theatre, Shakespeare, and communication theory. Within the atheist community, she's spoken at Lehigh Valley Humanists, Minnesota Atheists, Skepticon 10, NaNoCon 3, and several others.

Marissa won a 2014 Keystone Award for Excellence in Journalism, a 2015 audience choice award at the Hershey Student Film Festival for a short film, and co-founded The Trans Podcaster Visibility Initiative with Callie Wright in 2017. She blends her theatrical background and fiery passion for atheism, humanist and secular values, and intersectionality. Marissa mentions a video by Steve Shives on this trans subject and I feature a 5 minute excerpt within the conversation. We taped this conversation on March 24th, 2018.

 

We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson

Thank you for listening. And be a Yes-Sayer to what is. 

Steve Shive's video: Pluto's Not a Planet and Trans Women Are Women

 

Direct download: Ep_197_Marissa_Alexa_McCool.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:45pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo talk with Jennifer Cates. She's a Middle Tennessee State professor here in Murfreesboro where Bob used to teach. She was raised entrenched in Nazarene and Church of Christ southern fried Christianity but found her way out. Jennifer will be helping out here on the show as one of two co-hosts that will jump in when Bob leaves.

At the top of the conversation, we make a brief reference to a film that Bob made while there at MTSU called, "The Miracles of Honey Bee Hill." If you search for it on YouTube it comes up and you can see some of Bob's excellent work. It's only 23 minutes long. Stop what you're doing, which is listening to this podcast and go watch it. It's a great piece and you'll get a little window into Bob's head.

I also insert a brief YouTuber named Paul Dalton who talks about the difference in empathy and compassion. Jen starts one of her classes by playing David Foster Wallace's famous commencement address at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005.Wallace was one of those humans who manifested an extreme version of what all humans are--quirky, sad, confused, imaginative, fun, hedonistic, narcissistic and self-debasing...all at the same time. He committed suicide 3 years after this speech. His novels are so huge, both in length and in swath that it can be like drinking from a fire-hose. His footnotes were almost as long as his books. He had lots of voices and personalities firing in his brain at all times. He was exceptional in a way that is just bigger than the exception we each are.  What people like Wallace give me is the permission to be weird, to be my authentic self, to realize that life is really just a fucking game, a video game, or a movie in which we find ourselves and that taking one's self serious is the poison that one drinks to slowly die a fake life. We Americans have got it all wrong. We are shaped by comparison and competition which only robs the creative, playful joy-monger out of us. Life is just too short and precious to give a fuck about what people think. Wallace makes me want to live wild and carefree and jubilant. I wonder if my depression and melancholy isn't me being crazy, it's my most sane and healthy self getting sick by breathing this American air. Life is SO hard and unfair that to place expectations on it to be anything otherwise is setting oneself up for disappointment. I recommend lower the bar so low that is you have a moment of pleasantness or laughter or orgasm or intrigue or contemplation of something original, consider yourself damn lucky. The American air we breathe is paranoid and scared and cowardly and it pumps out of the exhaust pipes of money-loving factories pushing out self-hating schizoids afraid to be seen or known or understood. The world I find myself in is afraid of all others unlike ourselves because we're so afraid to be unique we only find safety in the safe homogenous world we've created by exclusion--boring and meaningless instead of having the guts to admit it. We lipstick the pig and compartmentalize daunting truths so deeply in the dungeons of our minds. Like Trump, we walk around trying to convince ourselves that we still matter, when embracing that fact the we don't matter is the first step to true freedom and love and playfulness and hope. I recommend the movie, "The End of the Tour," which is about the life of David Foster Wallace. Truly a great soul of a human being. Rest in peace.

 

Anyway, I play Wallace's speech at the end of our talk with Jennifer. I love Jen. She's quick and sharp and learned and she, like all of us, is deep in the throes of learning how to say yes to what is and no to that which is robbing us of self-love.

We taped this conversation with Janet and Chad on March 18th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson

Bob's Movie: The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill

Paul Dalton's video podcast on Compassion vs. Empathy

 

Direct download: Ep_196_Jennifer_Cates.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:24pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo talk with married couple Janet and Chad. They both are optometrists, they both deconverted but at different times and the calibration of that kind of dissonance is no easy task, but they've done and they share how they negotiated that and stayed married, in fact very happily married. This an emotional story with a happy ending, or as Rosie from episode 193 called it, a happy beginning.

I want to talk about Michelle Obama's admonition, "when they go low, we go high." Two huge contingencies to understanding yes-saying is 1) more often than not, it must be followed by an "and." And secondly, it only applies to things and circumstances that are beyond our control. I kinda thought it went without saying, but if something bad is happening to you and you can do something about it, Yes-saying is the wrong application. Say no to to things that damage, diminish or debase your person. You must be a person with boundaries, agency and assertion of your will and feelings. And often that means saying no.

So on point one, "and" most often should follow "yes." Yes this weather sucks, And I don't have to let it ruin my day. That's also agency and assertion. I'm hurt by what my daughter said to me. I can't control her so I'm saying yes to her humanity, her emotions, and whatever else is going on in her life to evoke such anger. AND I can respond with understanding and compassion and empathy. I can resist the temptation to put on my armor, grab my sword and let myself be vulnerable to her in hopes that a restorative dialogue can occur between us, as opposed to escalating the animosity by doubling down on my pride or insecurity. When they go low, we go high.

People are prime example of that which we can't control. And because they are more valuable than anything, a prime opportunity to say yes to them--their being, their person, their body, their feelings...even when they go low. No-saying is always wishing things were different and entering the ring with a brick wall. No-saying is throwing a tantrum. Saying no is what 2 year olds do when they don't get their way. When the weather, the world, our jobs, the people in our lives go low, we can say YES, this is real, this is happening, AND I can engage in a way that is remedial and fosters an environment that will stop the downward spiral that going low in turn will allow. This may have been what Jesus was trying to say in "turn the other cheek," but that's a horrible example and one in which, if taken literally, enables abuse and mistreatment. Which is often mistaken for yes-saying.

Those with agency and dignity discern wisely when to say no and when to say yes. If your friend has behaved below their true character. When they've done something that themselves are ashamed of, that is a moment when they need you to see past their raging eyes or impassioned over-reaction and know that they know they've just gone low and await your next move. Going high is not joining them in those depths, and throwing them a lifeline that will restore them to the values and virtues you know they really hold. Now, if this is a pattern and they don't seem to have any self-awareness, remorse and take no action to correct the behavior? It might be time to say no. Again, this takes discernment and wisdom and strong heart. Both our yeses and our nos can come from the same place if played well--and that is love. Love is the high road. Love of self, in that you respect yourself enough to say no when your boundaries have been violated, and yes to leaning in to the rain, to those you love and believe in when they're at their worst, and ultimately all that you can't control.

Our guests today are a married couple with two homeschooled children approaching teenage. Chad deconverted first and kept it to himself for a couple of years. When Janet found out, her first reaction was driven by fear. Psychologist Tara Brach says that we can get in a fear trance, where we are walking around, going through the motions of daily life, but we can't see, hear or feel those we love most. It's hard to reach people while they're in a fear trance; they have erected a force-field around themselves for protection. But if you'll wait patiently, maybe even stand guard around them, their solitude might serve as a cocoon that buys them the time they need to truly ponder what they've experienced. They may be watching through the glass bubble to see if it's safe. It may seem unfortunate that both parties must be yes-sayers in order for any restoration or even revolution to heal their relationship. But then we'd be saying that our freedom is unfortunate. Chad said yes to Janet's initial no-saying and waited. Janet bravely mustered the courage to come out from behind the force field and say-yes to Chad's evolution. and a new thing emerged, far better than what they had before. It doesn't always happen this way. In fact, yes-saying may mean that parting ways is the best thing for one or both people. But those that adopt the position that there's no God protecting them, realize that it's up to them to protect themselves, do what's right for them, and say yes-and to that which is out of their control, and live on.

We taped this conversation with Janet and Chad on March 4th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast,  or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode "The Road" by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Janet's Blog

Richard Dawkin video

 

Direct download: Ep_195_Janet__Chad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09am CDT
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