Thu, 20 April 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Josey Woltersdorf. Josey is 24 years old, the eldest of 12 children, homeschooled and raised on a farm til he was 18. I think you’re gonna love his genuineness, and his simple yet intuitive engagement with the reality in which he now finds himself.
Josey's insular Christian upbringing did not prepare him for the real world and as he entered it, his enthusiastic devotion to the love of his young life—Jesus—diminished under the scrutiny of his inquiring mind and it's access to the internet. Imagine the confusion when his internal compass for identifying love, integrity, and truth steered him away from the corruption and dishonesty he saw within his own dearest world-view: Christianity. The Christian obsession with sexual purity and shaming locked Josey in a gerbil wheel of guilt and self-hatred with no hope of victory. The taboo forbidding that religions place on sex produces the opposite result through psychological reactance and it can backfire on those wearing a self-imposed spiritual chastity belt. The epidemic sexual pathology within the Catholic priesthood is a perfect example of this. Human sexuality is a river that cannot be stopped and only overflows in improper ways when dammed.
During our talk, Josey refers to a court case involving charges against him that could have landed him in prison but didn’t; the details of which he was not at liberty to discuss publicly for legal reasons. But the significant impact it had on his personal formation he does talk about.
I received an email this week from former guest of the show on episode 110 named Aaron. Like our guest today, Josey, Aaron is a young man at 21 years of age, but unlike any of our guests he is blind and dependent on his Christian parents, who don’t know he’s an atheist nor that he’s gay. He’s working towards a college degree while earning income as a computer programmer. He sent me a song he’d written and produced which I’ll play at the end and a link to the YouTube is in the show notes. It’s also available on iTunes and Spotify. In his words, “Its a punk-rock type song about a Christian who's desperately trying to hold on to their beliefs, but ultimately doesn't and is happier without Christianity.”
I asked Aaron for an update on his circumstances and he wrote back, “Unfortunately little has changed in my life, so the situation is pretty much exactly the same as when we last spoke. I'm very good at playing it safe so there usually aren't any holy shit moments where I've slipped up big time. I've got a part time job working with a company overseas in addition to my own development work and part time college so that could, in the long term, further my independence. The problem is, and this is why I wanted to go on your show back in August, and its also why I published this song, is that I want to be out there in circles of atheism. I can't help my current situation, but I want to be able to get my voice out in the sense that, maybe I can't be open to the people around me about the damage that Christianity has dealt me, but I can hopefully enlighten other people who aren't as sure about their religion or maybe encourage atheists to be more passionate, because its the lack of passion that causes bad things like the Trump election. It can equally be said that passion's what got us into this mess, both presidentially and religiously, but passion is essential to get someone out to vote and to encourage other people to vote, as well as encourage people to speak up about atheism in their communities. If it were about logic, Clinton would have won the presidential race by a landslide. Its hard to look into the future and live for 2 or 3 years from now when I could be more free, if it indeed could be that soon. So I've often said that its what little activism I can do from my corner that keeps me going when I inevitably ask the question, "Why the hell do I even bother?" I'm sure you can understand that.
If you’d like to correspond with Aaron, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org
One last thing, I’m trying out a little experiment where I commit to do nothing I don’t want to do. Because when I do something I don’t want to do, I become susceptible to resentment. In the spirit of “honesty is the best policy” and establishing boundaries, I want to be honest with people when I don’t want to do something, whether it's hang out, or if I don't want to continue this conversation. I think we avoid this level of honesty in order to avoid hurting people. But in so doing, we miss the opportunity to teach them what agency looks like. How much personal maturation and evolution could take place if we all practiced this? People might stop taking it personal when you say, “I don’t want to do this or that” if they themselves practiced that same level of honesty and self-determination with you? And what intimacy is to be fostered here? Could we not say that all level of complaining is rooted in doing things we don’t want to do? So perhaps to cease complaining, criticizing, and condemning starts here. To purge one’s life of bitterness and resentment, should we not stop looking for others to change and instead, change ourselves? Does this not empower us to navigate our world as one who knows what they want.
One of the chores we have to do as ex-Christians is get our identity back from Jesus. This starts by getting to know one’s self, liking one’s self, and showing up as one’s self. In so doing, we would be introducing ourselves to the communities we orbit. People would know us, and trust us, and gain clarity of our strengths and weaknesses, that we've spent most our lives trying to hide from people.
In order to stop doing what you don’t want to do, it may be helpful to get answers to the following questions when facing choices:
Gaining personal agency and identity can seem selfish...in an ugly way. And even though selfishness is not at all what we’re going for here, there’s no way around focusing on yourself while you’re establishing your place in the world. In setting such a goal--to not do anything you don’t want to do--we have to acknowledge that it’s complicated and you will have to compromise, or should I say, get to compromise. For example, you probably don’t want to go to work, but you also don’t want to be without income, so you compromise. You may not have the time or energy to sit by your loved one's bedside in the hospital, but if you do it, and you've become of powerful volitional person, you and everyone else who knows you will understand just by the mere fact that you're there, it's because you want to, in spite of the toll its taking. People will start to learn that wherever you are, you're 100% there. That's a desirable reputation. Hell, that's a desirable life. To be known? To be seen? Isn't that one of the greatest human desires?
I have to add here some pitfalls to avoid in this exercise: Entitlement and Disconnection.
By entitlement, I mean overdoing the sense that the world owes you anything, or that you deserve certain things just because you want them, which is the mistake of placing conditions or expectations on your own happiness. As a good friend posted on FB this week, “Happiness is an outlook not an outcome.” If you haven’t discovered contentment with your life as it is, no amount of circumstantial change is going to appease the human appetite for hedonism. My admonition today is don’t do anything you don’t want to. That is not to be confused with do everything you want to.
The second pitfall is disconnection, and by that I mean from others. In your pursuit of self, don’t forget that no man is an island. You don’t exist in a vacuum, and you won’t develop maturity in a vacuum. Real emotional health is fostered best within a community. Don’t close yourself off from the feedback of trusted, loving friends, or better yet, professional therapists.
To guard your heart from resenting circumstances and people, especially the people nearest and dearest to you, you owe it to them to not do anything you don't want to do.
We taped these conversations on March 25th, 2017. 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.