Jan 2, 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Blake Coleman. Blake is a local friend who works in a restaurant with my children. This is a bit of a detour from our regular format. We normally focus on our guest’s deconversion from Christianity and the pains and difficulties of that journey. Today, because Blake decided all man-made religions (which is all there is) were false at age 12, we end up talking about culture, religion and politics in broad, general terms and the three of us really enjoyed ourselves. I hope you do too.
As one who has adopted what I consider to be healthy dose of nihilism, and by that I mean an embracing of the meaninglessness of life, I’m often confronted with just how harsh life is and how difficult it is to be a yes-sayer. This motto has a boldness to it that musters the courage to look absurdity in the face and refuse to look away…or bury one’s head in the sand. However, life is so hard that I have chosen to use opiates as a means of taking the edge off, not unlike people use religion. I am one who thinks a little depression now and then is apropos given the harshness of life. Hell I’m a white straight male with a beautiful wife and kids living in a 3 bedroom house in suburbia; what do I know about the hardness of life? What about Syrian refugees trying to find food, shelter, and warmth for their crying babies? What about people right up the street from me who live in the projects and try to keep the lights on with a McDonald’s salary. I complain about my shitty cars but at least I have one. Obviously suffering is relative but make no mistake, everyone suffers. Even the guy with the mansion, private jet, and the 200 ft yacht. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. I often say how miraculous it that we’re even conscious. It’s amazing that we’re here and sensing these emotions at all. But that doesn’t always cut it. Often unconsciousness sounds better than consciousness. This is why we like to sleep a lot when we’re depressed, or worse yet, consider suicide. Sometimes we just have to ride out the dark night of the soul hoping that elusive euphoria that comes around now and then is just around the corner. Saying yes to this existence and whatever form it’s showing up as at any given moment is challenged by fatigue and cowardice and apathy. And yet we stay. As Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote, “We are humanity, Kant says. Humanity needs us because we are it. Kant believes in duty and considers remaining alive a primary human duty. For him one is not permitted to “renounce his personality,” and while he states living as a duty, it also conveys a kind of freedom: we are not burdened with the obligation of judging whether our personality is worth maintaining, whether our life is worth living. Because living it is a duty, we are performing a good moral act just by persevering.”
But being a yes-sayer is most applicable to the uber-mensch. To a powerful person who knows who they are and carries a power that affords them the luxury of being a yes-sayer to the real circumstances in which they find themselves. This is not to be confused with the positive effects of also knowing when to say no. If you ever read the Boundaries book, you know that saying “no” to people making demands on your life that you did not sanction is also a bold and brave thing to do.
For someone who has lived a servile life, always thinking of others, protecting and serving all those near and dear in their life, it may be time to say no. As John C. Maxwell wrote, “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.” Listen to this testimony by Paige Burks, on her blog “Simple Mindfulness.”
“I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life. I’ve done what I think I’m supposed to do to make the people around me happy. Needless to say, my own happiness was pretty low on my list of priorities. My thinking was that I would be happy when everyone around me was happy. Funny thing is that this time never comes. Making everyone around me happy is completely impossible. For decades I didn’t understand the core tenant of happiness: no one and nothing outside of you can make you happy. Happiness comes from within. It’s a choice.
We’re programmed to believe that pursuing our own happiness is selfish. Like we’re not supposed to be happy until we make everyone else around us happy first. This comes from the same warped thinking that keeps us from doing things we enjoy because we have to finish all the un-fun work that never ends first. I’m here to tell you that those rules are total BS. They’ve created nothing but misery for millions of people. It’s time to wake up to your new, happier way of being. It all starts by putting yourself first. Go ahead. Be selfish. You’ll also be happy.
For years I said yes to everything, thinking that I was invincible and could take on more than anyone else. Even being very organized and efficient, it’s crazy for me to think I could handle this level of stuff – especially other people’s stuff. When I started saying no to requests (in a diplomatic way) or not volunteering by assistance, I felt bad. I thought I was letting people down. The more I said no, the more clearly I could see my healthy boundaries – that imaginary line between helping because it makes me feel good and helping because others expect it of me. The more I worked my ‘no’ muscle, the more people started to respect my decisions. I say no to things that don’t support my values so I can focus my time on things that do.
If we’re a doormat and say yes to everything, people will continue to expect us to say yes to everything. When we make our boundaries clear by saying no because that’s the healthy choice for us, we teach others to respect our choices. Saying no to something that doesn’t serve you opens the space to allow you to say yes to something that makes your heart sing.”
So in summary, the Nietzschean yes-saying motto is talking about life and the brut harshness of it. And even then, life can be so relentless, merciless, and extreme that sometimes saying yes allowing yourself to be depressed, take more naps, maybe even cope with some moderate opiate use, so that you can ride that storm out and survive to see better days.
On the other hand, the healthy no-saying that is prescribed by those wanting to achieve a more-Nietzschesk power status, is about saying no to external demands being placed on you by others. Both practices—yes-saying and no-saying--are working toward the same goal: the empowerment of yourself that comes from knowing, loving and caring for one’s self.
My admonition is to 1) believe in yourself and 2) put yourself in a community of others who also believe in themselves and where you each can believe in each other. Another great quote from Jennifer Michael Hecht is “We believe each other into being.”
Say yes to life and your ability to stay in it despite its brutality, and say no to people trying keep in you enslaved in powerless servitude so that you can grow the strength to say yes to what is.
We taped this conversation with Blake on November 20th, 2016. 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode through Patreon; that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.
"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 is on this episode performed by Sam Maher on a handpan in the NYC subway.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
So that’s our talk w/ Blake Coleman from here in Murfreesboro TN. Great guy. Feels like he’s navigating his life and picking his battles well.
In closing I want to read an email from a listener who has an
interesting twist on her faith journey. Her name is Jennifer
Hi Mr. Midgley,
I have been listening to your podcast for about seven or eight months now and have become a huge fan. While I'm not like many of your guests who've de-converted, I struggled for many years trying to "become" a christian, and suffered a lot of anger and confusion about why it just wouldn't "click" for me and make sense like it does for so many others.
I wasn't raised particularly religious, but we did attend church pretty regularly until I was a teenager. When I was a young adult I went back to church trying to become "Christian". I didn't throw myself into it, honestly believing I would naturally have some kind of epiphany and suddenly feel all the certainty that many of my Christian friends felt about the bible.
My best friend is a Christian who's heavily involved in her church. She had always been the image of what I expected I would be like once my "epiphany" came. I envied her complete trust in god - despite the discordance I felt about the bible and god's influence in the world.
Well, it all started unraveling when trying to start a family revealed that I had some medical issues that would prevent conception. So we prayed... a lot. In the end, god didn't answer our prayer, science did. We had a successful IVF cycle and achieved pregnancy. And although we stood up in church and thanked god for our miracle, I became bitter, angry, and confused afterward. I carried around this bitterness toward god for not giving me a pregnancy naturally. I paid thousands of dollars and underwent uncomfortable medical procedures in order to have my babies. I felt like god had cheated me.
Finally though, I had my epiphany. I let go of trying to make sense of a senseless god. The transformation has been revitalizing! Finding your show has added to the peace I feel with my newfound non-belief. One of my biggest conflicts about giving up the search for god was, "What am I if I'm not a believer?" The word atheist sounded scary and like something I didn't want to be labeled as. This is something that your show has really helped me with. Hearing the stories of your guests has shown me that atheist is not a dirty word, goodness and kindness are not dependent on belief in god, and I'm not alone in my non-belief.
Thank you so much for the work you do. Your podcast is bringing some good to the world.
Sincerely, Jennifer Casey