Sep 21, 2018
Cass Midgley talks with Casper Rigsby. I had Casper on back on episode 153 and being how he lives right here in Murfreesboro, I invited him over for a little chat about the state of the union and the subject of Identity.
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.
We taped this conversation on
August 19th, 2018.
The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
The segue music on this episode is "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More.
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Casper is a prolific blogger and has personally published 7 books, including his best-selling title, "The Bible in a Nutshell." His work ranges from comedic blasphemy to philosophical inquiry and discourse. He was also nominated in 2015 for the Hitchens Prize which recognizes “an author or journalist whose work reflects a commitment to free expression and inquiry, a range and depth of intellect, and a willingness to pursue the truth without regard to personal or professional consequence.”
To me, he's a young man, probably around 30, with a strong mind, a big heart, and a feral determination to thrive. He and I have very different histories. I don't know much about this because he doesn't talk about it much, but he served time in prison and was involved in white supremacy. Perhaps that's why he's so vehement now against it. I love him and I think you'll gain something from being with him for 45 minutes.
Message from listener: "Hi Cass, I really loved and appreciated the episode with David Hayward. My deconstruction began almost two years ago when I lost my 21-year-old daughter in a tragic UTV accident in which she was a passenger. She was home for the weekend from her Air Force duty station in SC. I lost a husband at 24 that was very difficult, but losing my daughter has destroyed my foundation and all that I knew. I was a student pastor at the time and had been an active devout christian for 3 years. A short time, but I was all in. I went from being a believer to a disciple very quickly. I had grown up "knowing" there was a god and I was supposed to get right with him one day. And so I finally did. Joined the church and served with all that I had to give...three years later on a Sunday, my best friend, part of my everything, was taken from me. The night we lost Morgan, my faith began to collapse. Where was god when I prayed for my child to survive. Where was he when I was lying on the floor day in and day out in agony wishing for my breath to escape my body and never return? Where was he when all the people abandoned me and my family? Where was he in all of my questions and pleadings? Nowhere, I learned. I learned the night of the accident that prayer doesn't work. It's nothing but mere words to a sky. Soon after, within weeks, the pastor informed me "I needed to be at church, so people could love me." I guess meeting me in my brokenness at my home was too much. I needed to be in their comfort zone. I couldn't comply. The church, the people were soon gone...before the casseroles could get cold actually. It was then that I learned that the holy spirit was a lie. People aren't changed by anything. They are the same selfish people they've always been. That was step two in my deconstruction. Step three was realizing that when I stopped brainwashing myself with singing, bible reading and teaching, and Sunday services suddenly god was gone. I never felt him after I lost my child. Not one time in my pleading, begging, and praying for something, anything, did I get a reassurance that my child was in Heaven, he didn't do this, he was good...or any of the stuff I needed. I learned it was because he was never there. It was all in my head.....Step four was when I enrolled at university to pursue the undergraduate degree my daughter was in the process of getting. I had my children young so I put off getting my degree to raise them and work. I wanted to do this to honor her. As I began taking classes, at a christian university of all things, I began to learn about the early church and its beginnings in a western civilization class.....this added to my newly formed belief that the church and religion were nothing more than man-created ways to handle the existential issues of life. Well, that and a way to rob men of their money and time. I also began exploring on the internet and in books all the things I had closed my mind to to keep from being of the world when I was a believer. Books, articles, websites, etc that were filled with rational information helped me see that what I was learning and feeling was legitimate. I soon left the christian university and transferred to the university my daughter attended before joining the air force. I'm in my sophomore year there now. I say all this just to give some background as to why I related to this episode with David so much. In addition to my husband and I losing our daughter, we lost our faith. Our complete beings were attacked and therefore so was our marriage. It has definitely been hard with both of those combined weights attacking it from all angles. We are fighting though. We have 16 years together and we both believe its worth the uphill climb. Some days are really hard. Neither of us is the same person, and we are having to relearn each other, grieve, help the other grieve, help our surviving daughter (who was at the accident that took her sister) deal with PTSD, and create new meaning, all while doing the necessary tasks that life demands. I have related to many of your guests and I'm thankful for the echo chamber and think tank that you provide with this podcast. Validation is a very important thing for humans in order to not feel alone and isolated, which is very easy to do in a situation such as ours. I need it in the loss of my child and grief, and I need it in the loss of god and the grief that that brings. Thank you for your wisdom and for sharing your own journey, as well as those of your guests. What a great way to create meaning in your life, helping us who are new on this journey. Much love to you Cass. (I added her to the private support group on FB - ep207 death, ep216 Grief)
Leisha: Thank you for adding me to the group and for
sharing those episodes. I will most definitely be listening. I am
grateful for this community. Damn this is a lonely place.
Especially where I live: Rural, bible-loving, preacher-growing,
conservative sweet home Alabama. Ugh... I love the place but
finding like minded people is extremely difficult. Online
communities and support are all I have with the exception of my
support group for bereaved parents, which is full of people who
believe they will see their child in heaven.
My daughter lived life fully and on the edge, never scared of anything... I was always fearful of losing her and then I did. And the Christian's wanted me to believe it was god's plan. Well the hell with that and their god... what an asshole. I'd rather accept that hes not there than think he chose, caused, or planned this for her or I. 🙂
Cass: Yep. THAT god can't exist and even if he did, I'd never bow the knee to him. I've believed for some time now that atheism is the best practice of theism, bc by ignoring him/her/it, I find myself looking at my fellow humans instead of heavenward. I find I care more, feel more, trust more, live more and that's what a good god would be pleased with. Besides, he/she/it has to be ineffable, unfathomable, and unimaginable, so the fool says "I know God. What He likes, dislikes, approves, disapproves, etc." I know immediately, I'm dealing with an arrogant, power-loving, insecure, scared, delusional person, and I turn tail and run. 🙂 Agnostic atheism produces the best human being, morally and ethically. In my opinion. 🙂
Leisha: And I agree. I find myself more caring and compassionate without religion. I'm a good person and I want to do good and be altruistic in nature because I know other humans love/suffer/hurt as I do. I dont need a crutch or a moral law-giving god to make me do or be good and I have realized that I haven't turned into a new person so much but really just rediscovered who I was the whole time. I am my own agent, my own judge and forgiver, my own support, and my own means creator. It's very freeing. I've had a couple of people see a few tweets I've shared that had atheistic ideas or views reply with, "this makes me sad." I reply back with, "dont be sad, if there is any area of my life that I actually feel good about, it's this one. I'm good there." Yes it's been a process and a difficult one but one that's grown and stretched me so much. Sometimes my brain is just like, holy shit, stop with the information." And my husband and daughter probably say the same thing 🤣 I just wish I could have discovered it all without losing my daughter. 😞 I am alot like you, I think, in the fact that my wheels are always turning, my mind is always inquiring, digging, grasping, pondering, contemplating, and philosophizing. Its exhausting but I think I would go crazy if I never got any of it out.
I've been fascinated with
identity recently, in a dialectic way. On one hand, the search for
"who am I" type identity crisis is often over-played. Friend and
former guest on this podcast, Tony Woodall writes, "99% of becoming
who you really are...is turning loose of who you think you are
supposed to be." Mark Manson, the author of "The Subtle Art of Not
Giving a F*ck“ writes, "My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t
be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose
to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius.
Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal
failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a
student, a partner, a friend, a creator. The narrower and rarer the
identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to
threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and
most ordinary ways possible.This often means giving up some
grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent,
or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or
especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine.
This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that
you’re somehow owed something by this world.”
But what if you're Hispanic in
America. What if you're Arab-American or African-American. What if
your gay or trans? why does the culture simultaneously hold those
identities in contempt while claiming to not see them? People have
claimed to be colorblind when it comes to race, but what if people
of color don't want to be invisible?
Here's some James Baldwin quotes on the subject: "An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience. If you're treated a certain way, you become a certain kind of person." I'm a firm believer in like breeds like when it comes to treatment of others. If a teacher conveys respect to his/her students, the students are more likely to return that respect. When parent's confer love to their children, those children are more likely to be loving to their peers. And the opposite is true of hateful or judgmental parents--the children will turn out hateful and judgmental. Again, James Baldwin, "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." And the sneaky thing about bigotry, judgment, racism, or hatred is that often the people that wield these attitudes don't think of themselves as such. Baldwin says, "We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours."
All this to say that, in this world, we're all trying to find our place. Where do we contribute? Where do my gifts shine and help others? How do I contribute to the betterment of things? But if those very things which make me ME are stigmatized negatively, how will I ever be given a chance to prove myself virtuous? Pigeon-holing people as such-and-such because of something about them is SO goddamn presumptuous, narrow and ignorant of how complicated we are as humans. Atheists must be immoral, polyamorists must be slutty, Christians must be judgmental, blacks must be lazy free-loaders of welfare, rednecks must be stupid, Arabs must be anti-freedom, women must be over-sensitive, etc. How fucking lazy is it for someone to assume because someone is "blank" they must be "blank?" We might have to think, we might have to give each person we meet a clean slate, we might have to honor the identity of their ethnicity, orientation, religion, or occupation while stopping before broad-brushing all people who share those identities. Goddamnit, we're complicated. NOTHING about this is simple! Nothing about sharing space with other human beings is easy, even if you're family.
Agent Smith is an artificial intelligence character in the Matrix films who is the primary antagonist. He hates humans. He reminds me of the Biblical mindset that hates humanity and wants something better. It's not the only biblical mindset, but it is the primary in my opinion. It also resembles racism or any other bigotry that elevates itself to superiority over reality. These are no-sayers, mind you, wishing that things were different. (play clip)
In this next clip, Agent Smith is fighting Neo, the protagonist in the series, and does not understand why he cares. Like my guest today, and myself, and many of you, if not all, we care. You wouldn't be listening to this if you didn't. You get out of bed everyday because you HAVE found meaning and purpose in a godless world. You haven't let naturalism infect you with complete nihilism. Why? Well that's the question Agent Smith poses. (play clip)
My interview today is political in nature. You may wonder how that fits into the deconversion theme of this podcast. Well it doesn't, really. But I'm concerned about the future of this country because I know that all empires eventually fall. And they've fallen for the very reasons that are happening today. And you know, what the fuck, why not try to stop that? why not resist? and this is my small way of resisting. I'm going to play a clip from the 1970 movie, "Catch 22." The history of that phrase comes from the military. The novel looks into the experiences of airmen who attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they may return home. While most crews are rotated out after twenty-five missions, the minimum number of missions for this base is eventually raised to an unobtainable eighty missions. Compliance with this insane number invokes regulation 22 for which there is a catch: An airman would have to be crazy to fly more missions, and if he were crazy he would be unfit to fly and he get sent home. Yet, if an airman would refuse to fly more missions, this would indicate that he is sane, which would mean that he would be fit to fly the missions. Hence the name, Catch-22. In this scene, an American soldier gets into a talk with an old Italian owner of a whorehouse about the future of America. (play clip)
Here's the rub: by wanting America to be great again, we have to believe that we're superior. We know Trump believes in eugenics, which is the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.But it sounds like something Agent Smith would endorse, does it not?
The catch is, wishing things were better is a trap. In some ways, those of us who are opposing Trump and this racist agenda toward "greatness," we are espousing normalness, humaness, reality. Saying yes to what is. What Casper and I talk about today is not wishing things were different, but the opposite. It's calling down those who do wish things were different. Christians wish it. Nazis wish it. Trump wishes it. Uber-wealthy one-percenters wish they had more stuff. People want to live forever. People want life with no pain. They want a skinnier waist, a sharper nose, for things out of their control to be different. Contrast that with people who want to stop unnecessary shit, like cancer, or starvation, or climate change. They've said, "yes, cancer is upon us, AND we can stop it, or die trying."
If you want to make the world a better place while embracing the realities of our complexities as a species, namely our different skin colors, our different cultures, beliefs and religions, then you are simultaneiously a yes-sayer and a world-changer. If you want to make things better by denying reality and the complexities of being human, then you're a lazy, fearful coward in the line of Agent Smith and Donald Trump.