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.
Episode 131 Amber Cantorna

Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Amber Cantorna.  Amber was raised evangelical Christian and home schooled. Her father works for Focus on the Family and has for 30+ years. At age 27 she came out to her parents as gay and they disowned her, regarding her as dead—sounds like a practice they borrowed from Sharia Law. Today she is 32, married to her wife, and they both are Christian.  Amber’s book, “Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God” is set to release in early 2017.

As an ex-Christian myself, I find that my sense of how comfortable I am being around Christians has a lot to do with the doctrines they personally hold to. It’s been said that Progressive or Liberal Christians have more in common with us atheists than they do with fundamentalist Evangelicals, and I think that’s true. Many of us who have rejected Christianity are able to look back at the damage it did to us. I see many damaging effects of Christian doctrines on society, to name a few:

  • The concept of eternal life diminishes a person’s ability to be present and concerned with reality
  • The concept of reward and punishment in the afterlife inhibits people’s ability to grow up, to think for one’s self, to determine one’s own personal ethics, and contributes to a divisive sectarian view of others, thus enhancing the potential for judgment, superiority, violence and an “us versus them” mentality. In other words, an asshole.
  • Hell forces one to suppress and compartmentalize one’s natural sense of connectedness to all things in order to be okay with human beings being tortured forever. This hardens the heart and numbs one’s innate sense of compassion. It narrows one’s capacity to empathize with all humans by removing empathy from those outside one’s tribe. It promotes in-group loyalty and out-group derogation.
  • The concepts of Heaven and Hell falsely satisfy the innate human need for justice, inoculating one’s ability to acknowledge that, in reality, life is not fair; it is random chaos, and justice rarely happens. This harsh reality is too much for some to bear and they hide under the delusion that God is someday going to right every wrong, further postponing their maturation.
  • To quote Psychologist, Scott McGreal, “…belief in Hell at a national level is probably associated with greater support for retributive policies such as capital punishment and torture, as well as with prejudice against people who violate religious norms such as gays. Aside from being an extremely cruel thing to believe in, the idea of Hell may have done more harm to society than good.

So perhaps you can understand why I am apprehensive to build a friendship with a person who believes in Heaven and Hell. They can admire the teachings of Jesus, hold loosely to the Christian doctrines and I find I’m not as suspicious or nervous around them than if I know that deep down they’re okay with a God who tortures those who reject him and trains his followers to be servile, infantile, and void of agency.

Not all Christian doctrines are toxic, but some of the most fundamental core tenants are deeply damaging to the individual who buys into them and to the societies where a majority of the population adhere to them. The most violent countries are the most religious, and the least violent countries are the least religious. These jealous god’s abhor the goodness and freedom of humans to find their own path without the aid of a celestial dictator, thus their followers distrust and deny their own innate sense of morality and thereby turn morality on it’s head—calling evil that which natural humans regard as good, and calling good such things as ignorance, stupidity, and servility.  

Knowing this about Christianity can be the difference in religiously-mixed couples staying together or divorcing.  A couple like the Thompsons, featured on episode 111, get along because neither are radical fundamentalists of their own beliefs. This is one reason I like to elevate the agnosticism that all humans share. Certainty, rigidity, and fear are destroyers of relationships. If one or both parties are, as Peter Montoya put it in episode 130, “0% capitulation and 100% capitalization,” then they are at an impasse.

Sometimes the Christian accuses their Atheist partner of being intolerant of their Faith, and this may in fact be happening when the atheist attacks their partner’s Christianity on purely judgmental terms, like, “you have to be stupid to believe.” However, if the atheist is positing that the beliefs their Christian partner hold to are immoral and have lowered the character and integrity of that partner, that’s a much more robust argument for establishing irreconcilable differences. Remember, one thing that it’s okay to be intolerant of is intolerance itself. Meaning we’re all free to believe what we want, but if one or both parties deem the other’s beliefs as depreciating the value of the relationship or in fact disgusts one or both of them, then no covenant or promise we made at an altar years ago should lock anyone into a situation that is draining the life out of them. Here again, though, Christianity can foster a lack the agency on the part of the Christian to protect their own pursuit of happiness and oblige them to a higher power to stay in a toxic environment. Not so with the free-thinker.

So there’s my thoughts on whether or not I can respect or be friends with a Christian. Rigid, immutable beliefs in toxic ideologies limit, if not eliminate, my desire to spend time with that person. If they believe in a literal Hell or are even hesitant to take a stand on it, that’s a deal-breaker for me.  

Okay, back to our interview with Amber. Amber is an activist, author and speaker with a heart for people who find themselves at the intersection of their faith and their sexuality. She strives to bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing communities. She has been featured in Huffington Post’s Religion column, as well as on Liberal America and other writing mediums.

We taped this conversation on November 21st, 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, give it 5 stars, and/or 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.

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 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.

Amber’s website

Belief in Hell: Does it Benefit or Harm Society?

"Untangling the Mess" by Kathy Baldock

https://www.facebook.com/Beyond.AmberCantorna/

 

 

Direct download: Ep_131_Amber_Cantorna.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am CST
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