Wed, 26 April 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Henry & Charlie Smith from Colorado. They’re in their 70s, married 47 years. Henry is a former minister, now atheist, Charlie has retained some of her faith, and we witness how they remain respectful and loving in spite of their religious differences.
What comes up for me this week, and in light of this interview, is how each of us, as stewards of our own happiness, choose the paths that we see fit for us. Some might look at the relationship of our guests today and say, “no thank you.” Others might envy it and say, “I wish I could have that.” And of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this. You do you.
A question was posed this week on the secret Life After God Facebook site by Brian Peck, he wrote: “What does your heart long for?” I just immediately started writing my answer with no forethought. I was a bit surprised by what rose up out of my own heart in response. I wrote, “It seems in all this talk of agency of individuation and differentiation that the most mature version of my "heart" would "long for" nothing, ideally. That I would be self-sufficient, self-soothing, etc. That I would marry myself because anything less would be expecting too much of others or being needy would apply too much pressure on another. That no one could or should be trusted with my "heart." That love is too risky and may, in fact, be a myth. After all, we're just animals and only here for a brief time and relatively meaningless. But if I'm honest, my heart longs for love and if that's a weakness then color me weak. Somewhat hopelessly weak. FML.” Which is short for fuck my life.
What I mean by that is that, as ex-Christians, we’re having to rediscover what it means to be human, but more specifically, what it means to be us. Ourselves. We were taught to not trust our heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” So we were led to distrust the core of our beings. That it lies to us. That there’s good in it, no redemptive value, it is sick and it cannot be cured. And besides, no one can understand or decipher it’s message. It’s the source of confusion. It’s led around by emotions. Don’t listen to it. And so some of us stopped listening to it. But as we know now, it went on talking, and we struggled to differentiate, as Josey said on last week’s episode, between what is God’s voice, what is Satan’s and what is ours—only one of which was to be trusted—God’s. In our work to dig our souls out from under the rubble of our demolitioned Christianity and reconnect with our truest selves, we’ve borrowed some techniques from science, namely differentiation which has to do with identifying ourselves apart from that which we have unhealthily relied on as an authority over us—our parents, our domineering friends, our lovers, and most of all, God. But the thing about LOVE, is that neither religion nor science has the first clue how to understand love. We see little signs of it in a few animal species, but it is a big, fucking deal to us home sapiens sapiens. It makes us do crazy things, experience surreal elation and gut-wrenching pain. The sense I got from all my exposure to the psychology of agency and differentiation was that in order to be mature, evolved, healthy, I had to not need anyone. And perhaps semantics cannot capture the nuance of this elusive thing called love, but I began to say, “I don’t need this person or these friends, but I want them. I choose them from a place of strength with more to give and receive in the relationship because I’m strong, independent, and detached. But it’s a fine line b/w need and want. Perhaps Jeremiah was onto something when he said, who can really understand the heart? But when the question was posed, “what does your heart want?” it didn’t say power, independence, detachment, it said to love and be loved, it said intimacy, it said other people, who I can be myself around, with whom I can share my secrets and my sunsets, someone with whom I am struck and with whom I can fuck, where trust and respect are mutual and love is reciprocated, where laughter is shared over comedy few others could appreciate, to know and be known, to share our common interests and be stretched by our differences. A friend, a lover, and I’m taking back this word—soulmate. Because for me, at the end of the day, this life is so fucking hard, and so fucking meaningless, that the last bastion for sustainable joy, the safe space from stupidity and absurdity is a small, select community of friends—and everyone would profile what that looks like—but most importantly, and dare I say desperately, without sounding too weak, ONE person with whom which I am the most intimate I can possibly be and not be alone, by myself. When I was a Christian, this was summed up best by Rich Mullins, a lonely, single, soul-searching man, RIP, “when you find someone who’s tender, when you find someone who’s true, then thank the Lord, He’s been doubly good to you.” Even a Christian, and a very honest one at that, had to admit, that you’re damn lucky, I mean you’ve won the lottery, when you find someone who’s tender and true and will put up with your shit. Henry and Charlie personify this today. And as a cynical, melancholy, global-perspective thinker who has no hope for the future of humanity, I personally regard this love, this companionship, this partnership, as the pinnacle of existence, the chief redeeming value of being alive, and as complex and painful as it’s maintenance is, and as the inevitable loss of our that loved one is, as the famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson goes, “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
We taped these conversations on March 19th, 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.
Smitty’s business: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MountainViewWood?ref=shop_sugg
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.
Mon, 10 April 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Colleen Jousma. She was raised 7th Day Adventist and attended their flagship university to be a minister or missionary. She had (and still has) a big heart and wanted to help people. She didn't care much for trying to convert people. She taught English as a second language for a summer in Ukraine and over a year in South Korea. Her deconstruction was slow and in gentle stages, with stops at Unity Church and John Shelby Spong. Today she lives in Southern California with her partner, volunteers at animal non-profits, and Recovering From Religion. She's a blogger and has written specifically about her deconversion and the personal development she has pursued post-Christianity. And she educates Bob and I on exactly what the mark of the Beast is.
We taped this conversation 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.
Credits: "Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
https://myjourneythrlife.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/sunny-day/ brief post about how I was seeing myself after I got some clarity on how I was perceived by others (I feel this really relates to my anxiety even though at the time I didn’t realize it)
https://myjourneythrlife.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/discussing-things-that-people-often-dont-discuss/ post about my depression
https://myjourneythrlife.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/9/ my journey out of christianity
Their podcast: http://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/podcast/
Key Words: Bart Campolo HumanizeMe podcast Michael Dowd EA podcast episode 25 Climate Change prophets, seers inconvenient truth post-truth out of integrity with myself Karl Marx “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.” doomsday YOLO Ernest Becker Denial of Death Worm at the Core “The real world is simply too terrible to admit. it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die. Culture changes all of this, makes man seem important, vital to the universe, immortal in some ways” Tracy McMillan "I feel that as long as you're honest, you have the opportunity to grow. It's when you shut down, go into denial, and try to start hiding things from yourself and others, that's when you lock in certain behaviors and attitudes that keep you stuck."
Sat, 8 April 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview a couple by the names of Silvia and Ken Hays in California. This is an ex-pastor and his wife being very real and honest about the dysfunction of the Christian patriarchal culture and in their individual upbringings.
Ken is 60 years old and served as a pastor for 25 years after finding Jesus in the military as a 19 years of age. Silvia is 58 and is fresh out of her Shawshank Redemption from Christian patriarchy, out from under the microscope of being a pastor’s wife, and discovering her personal agency for the first time in her life. They met in a cult-like missionary training group, where their courtship was forbidden by the leadership. They snuck away in the night to be together in 1979. They’ve been married 37 years but recently had to redefine their post-Christian partnership and their marriage almost didn’t survive the transition. But today their happily moving through these metamorphic changes, however retarded by Christianity and their damaging childhoods. Like all our guest, they are overcomers, but it’s hard work to get through it, as you’ll hear in this conversation.
We talk a lot about agency on this podcast. An agent is defined as a person or thing that acts or has the power to act. Personal agency refers to one's capability to originate and direct actions for given purposes. It is influenced by how much a person believes in their self, in two ways: 1) their effectiveness in performing specific tasks, which is also known as self-efficacy, and 2) by their actual skills. In other words, can you do it? and when you do it, is it effective? does it produce the desired results?
In the context of this podcast, specifically conversations around the various hardships of leaving one's faith, when we're talking about agency we're talking about undoing the damage caused by religious doctrines that are designed to neutralize the will of it's practitioners. Scriptures like, "you are not your own, you were bought with a price," and Jesus said, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." . In Phillipians 2, Paul admonishes the people to emulate Jesus who "emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave...He humbled himself, by becoming obedient...how obedient?...to the point of death – even death on a cross!" So at what point will you wise up and say no to the bossy people in your life? Til they tell you to die? is that when you say enough's enough? NOPE. You do even that. That's the level or your emptiness, the level of your devotion to what other people want you to do. They want you to die? then you die. This is Paul's advice...and it's regarded as a good thing. A strength. Did you get that? in this world, this subculture, they think this is good, that you're a "STRONG" Christians if you have so little agency that if the person you're dependent on for everything--purpose, direction, ideas, where we're going to dinner tonight? how many times you should give your body sexually to them? the person that basically dictates your life and does ALL your thinking for you. If you're that much of a push-over, spineless, you have no original thoughts, you have no skills that could get you out of bind, you can't solve a riddle, you don't ever know what your next move is, and if they asked you to kill yourself you would do it. THIS. IS. STRENGTH in that world?
This is the breaking of the will. This is castrating the gelding. This is Stockholm syndrome. It doesn't matter whether or not Paul or Jesus intended to create such evil psychological tools to control people, it doesn't matter because many, thousands of people who've come after them have co-opted their words and empowered their words simply by calling them God's words to use them to control people, for over 2,000 years and even as I speak.
The movie, "Birth of a Nation" tells the true story of a literate Christian slave named Nat Turner, who, in 1831, was toted around from plantation to plantation so he could preach Christianity to as many of his fellow slaves as possible because the slave owners had noticed that Christian slaves were the best kind--more submissive, subservient and obedient.
So...some of us who have escaped the bondage of Christianity have found ourselves at a loss when we wake up to a godless world and we have to think for ourselves. We realize there's no god watching over us, protecting us, guiding us, faithfully providing money for us (and he never was), advising us. It's as if the natural agency that is supposed to hit young adults when they move out of their parent's house is hijacked, and suspended, and handed like a baton to God. Maturity, responsibility, independence, freedom are stunted by Christianity (and all authoritarian regimes for that matter). Ex-Christians, especially the more submissive devout types, have to figure who they are, what they like and dislike, learn the ability to take action, to be effective, to influence their own lives, and assume responsibility for their behavior.
These same ex-Christians can also unknowingly try to continue the process of transferring their dependence to an outside source, from their parents, to their God, and what's next after both your parents and god are gone? their lovers. The parents are out of their life, oh there's God, I'll get under his leadership. Ohh, safe and warm. Oh wait, there's no God? Where do I turn for guidance? What do I do? Someone tell me what to do? I must find a help-mate. that's what we call them. Help-mates. But the pitfalls of dependency and co-dendency are coming. It's not fair to put that much pressure and responsibility on another and the chickens are gonna come home to roust, mother fuckers. With a vengeance. These are nice cute fuzzy soft chicks. These are Tasmanian devil chickens. These siber-tooth tiger chickens. And you're gonna wish that you knew how take care of yourself real bad. You're gonna wish that you knew how to reign in your own anxiety and stress and fear. You're gonna wish you knew how to self comfort. But you don't know how, so now at age 30 or 40 or 50 or in the case of our guests today 60, you're gonna have to learn. And it's some serious hard work to teach on old dog these new tricks that you should’ve been learned decades ago before your agency, given to you by evolution, was trained and educated to do it for yourself.
One of our guests today, Ken Hays, wrote this to me in a recent email. "Facing the reality of life, post mythical safety net Jesus, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Telling fear to remain in it's place in the corner of my mind has been a daily exercise that I think I am getting stronger at. I love the freedom of (at least the concept of) agency but it is no easy custom fit garment that slips right on. I have to fight for every piece of the pattern, taking if off and putting it back on a million times a day, or so it seems. Still, regardless of how it all ends up, at least I am choosing to try...to try freedom from fear and victimization."
Ironically, the path to obtaining bravery requires bravery. We make the path by walking it. There is no refuge from the harshness of reality to hide except death. So if you're choosing to stay alive, and you’re choosing not to look outside yourself for strength--to mommy and daddy, or god, or your lover, these are the reactions of no-sayers. you're going to have to learn to be a yes-sayer to what is.
We taped these conversations on March 11th, 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.
Fri, 31 March 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview an anonymous guest that we’ll call Joan. Joan was physically and psychologically abused by her Christian missionary father. She survived a gunshot wound to abdomen. She’s a marathon runner and a professional therapist.
This talk with Joan was a good one and there’s a few interjections here that I want to explain. At one point Joan describes a close friendship with a Christian and how that’s possible because they both appeal to higher love, which I couldn’t resist throwing in some Steve Winwood and a little nod to Hitchens who had expressed his love for that song. Then, Joan references something I said in a prior podcast, episode 131 w/ Amber Cantorna, the rejected lesbian Focus on the Family daughter, so I insert a bit of it in there. And lastly, Joan recommends a song at the end with which we close out her interview; but I was so confused by the song that I called Joan back up to have her unpack it and we talked another 40 minutes at the end. So this is a long one, but as usual you can turn it off anytime you want; we’re free-thinking agents and stewards of our own happiness, after all. Or as we like to say, you do you.
I’ve pointed out many times how Christianity flips morality on its head—calling good evil, and evil good. I was chatting with a former guest this week who’s atheism has caused a painful rift in his marriage and family, especially the inlaws. I thought about how they wish he was still a “man of god” leading his family in the ways of the Lord. And I saw yet another example of how they esteem something destructive and resent something healthy and honest. How is it that we live in a society that esteems people who claim to talk to and hear from their invisible friend? How is that rape, incest, murder, hatred, fear, debasing of what it means to be human, denying of facts, distrust of science, discrimination of out-groups, and an overall judgment and disdain for this world is virtuous? These are the ways of the Lord, after all. This week a conservative, Christian congressman in the Oklahoma state house was forced to admit that God must support rape because it happens and he could not relinquish God’s sovereign control over all the events on earth. Why can’t we celebrate a person’s conclusion that there is no interventionary God watching over our lives? Why can’t we celebrate a person getting honest with the facts and embracing reality? Why can’t we celebrate the elevation of morals and ethics apart from religious texts? Because to these people, the fear of God is the source of wisdom. That serfdom is the highest form of living. And foolishness and ignorance is preferable to education and knowledge. This is another way that Christianity has turned morality upside down.
We taped these conversations on March 5th, 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.
Credits: "Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
The song at the end is by the band “Brand New” a song called “The Archers Bows have Broken.”
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.