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.

Cass Midgley and guest co-host and fellow ex-pastor Dave Warnock interview Shanna in Canada. After a portent encounter with "god" that left her searching for answers and doubting god's goodness, Shanna set out on a three year search to discover how the God she loved and devoted her life to could hunger for his own glory in the face of her suffering. In the process, she dismantled the scaffolding her Christian faith and dogma had built around life and love, deforming what it means to be human. She discovered that "God" is really the god of our imagination. It is in faith that we craft the god we need to meet the unmet needs of our lives. Shanna is a contemplative atheist on the journey of coming back to her self and the world - body and mind--after years of disembodied living perpetuated by belief and faith. In letting go of faith, she began discovering the gifts of being human by finding new life-giving rhythms to center her life inside the body and in trusting the lived experience. Shanna holds an M.A. in Counselling and a certification in play therapy. She is a licensed clinical counselor and has been working in the field of trauma and child development for 11 years.

The underlying theme of Shanna's story is disembodiment. She probably uses that word 20 times before I figure out what she's talking about. There are a few epiphanies in this talk, had by all, but Shanna, like many ex-Christians, found herself in a natural world, not a supernatural world, the real world. And she found it beautiful in its raw form. Religion tries to put clothes on reality to hide its ugly, shameful parts. But many of us peaked behind the covering and saw that it wasn't scary. The process of peaking was scary, but underneath was a beautiful body. Yeah, there's blemishes and irregularities and even loneliness. But those of us that left faith embrace life's blemishes including our own. Everything just is what it is and the clothing is a way of saying "no" to it.

Often the reason that the grand narrative of "God is in control" and is "working all things together for your good," is so appealing is that life apart from that comforting narrative life bangs with chaos and injustice; it rattles and throbs with unease and lack of settled significance or even hope sometimes, but it's the world in which we find ourselves. And saying "no" to it doesn't make it go away, it just hides it from our immature eyes. The real world is sometimes unnerving or banal; it is tactile and unpredictable like the wind. The physical world, which includes our bodies, is foreign, at first, to the human who's been steeped in the metaphysical world.  But our lives become art, not dogma. Dynamic, not static. Wild, not controllable. Physical , not metaphysical. Samuel Beckett, the 20th century Irish poet contrasted poetry and metaphysics like this: "Poetry is essentially the antithesis of Metaphysics: Metaphysics purge the mind of the senses and cultivate the disembodiment of the spiritual; Poetry is all passionate and feeling and animates the inanimate; Metaphysics are most perfect when concerned with universals; Poetry, when most concerned with particulars." For me, Art is my religion. The only world I want to live in is one seen through the lens of Art and the freedom of Art. The freedom to make mistakes and they become part of the creation and are in fact absorbed and welcomed as that which gives the piece character and honestly.  

Also, on this subject of embodiment, when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' book, Between the World and Me, which is framed as a letter to his teenage son on how to live in a black body in America, I was immediately struck with ample his use of the word "body" throughout and how often he identified himself as his body. He calls disembodiment of form of terrorism. Perhaps you can see where a black person shunned and shamed for his skin color his whole life could be tempted to resent his own body and want to detach from it. But Coates defies the devaluation of his body and the mistake of disembodiment.

Adolescent teenagers or even adults can look in the mirror, maybe naked in front of a full body mirror and dislike with they see and engage in a form of disembodiment. Christianity seems to only convey that the human body is only good when God dwells there. In fact, that's it's main purpose--to be a temple, a vessel for the seemingly greedy dictator that wants to own all the bodies all and control them all. "You are not your own, you've been bought with a price." They do know that's the definition of slavery, right? They'll say, "it's because he knows best." Well, it's a good thing God doesn't exist because this is my body and although I may not always know or practice what's best for it, it is a precious thing and the only thing I truly own on the earth. So politically speaking, I'm a body anarchist, and I insist on my freedom. All the amazing functions of the body--eating, digestion, looking at things, feeling things, sex--are not ugly or sinful; they're amazing machines that took billions of years to evolve into what they are today.

We taped this conversation on September 23rd, 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 or more 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 on this episode is by Oh Hello, "Dear Wormwood"

Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Shanna's Blogsite

Krista Tippet's interview with Joanna Macy

Sex Therapist Esther Perel's Podcast

Krista Tippet's interview with Bessel van der Kolk about how trauma lodges in the body

Carrie Newcomer's "May We Be Released"

 

Direct download: Ep_174_Shanna.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46am CST
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo converse with Elliot, an expert in sexual misconduct in the workplace, and a second guest, Lauren Martin Day, a woman who has experienced unethical sexual and relational misconduct.  Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” This episode is about sex. It is a detour from our regular format of interviewing people who have deconverted from Christianity. Both guests did deconvert from their childhood faiths, but we don't discuss that today. Instead, we're discussing what I think is a pivotal time in American culture when we, as a society and especially women are drawing a line in the sand and saying enough is enough with this patriarchal, misogynistic treatment of women and sexuality.

Our hope in putting out this particular episode is to increase awareness, understanding and empathy for the mistreatment of women that is so entrenched in our culture. Female objectivity and inferiority is a norm we have to change and one way we can do that is educate ourselves. For men, we would do well to be understand what it's like to be a woman in this male-dominant world. Like a fish doesn't know what water is, men don't know what patriarchy is. Like whites don't understand what the big deal is with racism. These are blind-spots afforded to those who, often by no doing on their part, are members of the empowered, hegemonic demography. I think I was in my 20's when someone pointed out the absurdity that every president of the United States were men. Ani Defranco wrote, "Patriarchy is like the elephant in the room that we don't talk about, but how could it not affect the planet radically when it's the superstructure of human society."

 

This touches on a subject that is a big deal to me--conflict resolution.In the world we find ourselves, often the primary task of every aspect of human relations is conflict resolution. It's parenting, it's managerial in the workplace, it's marital, it's global politics, it's in friendships. Connectivity is what every human longs for whether they know it or not. Even peace, it's what we all want. Not that peace is the absence of conflict, but if disagreement takes place in a context where mutual love and respect are in place, then that's fun and a part of learning and growing up. Conflict or competition that takes place in the context of hatred, disrespect, or resentment is not fun and in the end will be the demise of our species. The phrase "It takes to tango" is an idiom that insinuates blame on both sides--the offended and the offender. In the context of sex and gender, we blame the victim FAR too often. Even when reporting statistics of sex offenses, as Jackson Katz points out in a Tweet that went viral this week, “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect. It shifts the focus off men and onto women.” When it comes to human beings being the sovereign steward of their own space, safety, and comfort, we do not get to place judgement on their boundaries. I repeat, neither men nor women, get to judge another human being's boundaries as good or bad, too sensitive, snowflake, thin-skinned or fragile. That's just basic human rights and human dignity. That said, when we're outside the realm of abuse or inflicting harm, there are circumstances when a person can be hyper-sensitivity to the degree in which it is unhealthy for them, and is the primary contributor to the destruction of the healthy relationship. This might happen when one's sense of entitlement, or one's fears are completely unwarranted and their thin-skin is the primary cause of the conflict. Either way, both parties should always be free to exercise their right to remove themselves from any relationship they deem unhealthy, which can be created by aggression or passive aggression. Obviously the battle of the sexes has been with us a long time and will take a long time to align with reality and truth. And this episode is our little attempt to help out such progress. Ani DiMarco said, "Patriarchy is a fundamental imbalance underlying society And it's one we rarely address because it's so universal. But as I get older, I see that peace is a product of balance." The power struggle is always a dead end. True power is that which comes from love and self-confidence. Healthy power is available to all without having to diminish someone else's. It is not a zero-sum environment. If one feels they must take away someone else's power in order to feel powerful, that is counterfeit power and actually cowardice.


We taped these conversations on October 14th, 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 or more 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 on this episode is by Explosions in the Sky, "Your Hand in Mine" 

Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Samantha B's Full Frontal "Listen Up, Creeps"

Rebecca Watson Elevatorgate Video

Jackson Katz's TED Talk

 

Direct download: Ep_173_Sexual_Misconduct.mp3
Category:sex -- posted at: 9:27pm CST
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo converse with Thomas Amun. Thomas grew up in the heart of Memphis until he was 18 years of age. A young Christian boy who was on his way to Nashville to attend a Private Christian College and play his favorite sport, basketball. While things were working on the court, Thomas found himself having moments in the classrooms, where he started questioning the Christian belief. During his sophomore year, at the time just 20 years old, Thomas was kicked out of school for violating a school rule. Already questioning his Christian beliefs, Thomas saw the perfect opportunity to join the journey of a free thinker. He's continuing his higher education, now a junior at Belmont University in Nashville studying journalism, Thomas finds himself struggling with the outside world and how the figment of God probably doesn't exist in this chaos. Thomas is a poet and he recites one during the interview and we feature a spoken word song that he wrote at the end.

 

We taped this conversation on September 17th, 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 or more 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 on this episode is by Ludwig Goransson from the movie soundtrack for Fruitville station.

Thanks for listening and try to cooperate with reality while making effective changes to improve it. In other words, be a yes-sayer to what is.





Direct download: Ep_172_Thomas_Amun.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56pm CST
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo converse with Rusty Shackleford. That's not his real name. Like many of our guests, they're not completely out as non-religious to everyone and for their own personal reasons wish to keep it that way.

Rusty is a 31 year old mental health counselor. He holds two Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Development/Education and Counseling. He's lived in TN his entire life, and church was always a part of his upbringing.  He grew up in the Church of Christ (with music) and Freewill Baptist. He played drums on the worship team and was involved in the children’s ministry and driving the church vans to pick up the children in the housing developments for the Wednesday night program. Rusty began chipping away at parts of his belief in his 20s, first dropping the literal interpretation, then realizing that the story of the Christ was a repackaged story from folklore of many other religions and belief systems that pre-dated Christianity. He tried attending a church that was a “Progressive" Christian Community, and found a lot of peace within this congregation, but also found that I simply could not align himself with even the most liberal of Christian beliefs.  

After interviewing people every week for over three years, most of the guests have told me that it proved to be a catalystic event in their lives. Something shifts. It can have a rattling effect or it wakes them up in a way or emboldens them to do something significant. People have gone on to start their own podcasts or write that book or come out to their parents, etc. Bob and I forget how nervous guests can be when they come on and almost everyone is at first. And I think that's perfectly normal and even right, since their story is now available to the world for the rest of time, or at least as long the electrical grid stays intact. Either way, people will be able to access it long after we're all dead. I just think its cool how many ways the show is changing lives. Who knew? that Bob and I started this thing that it would create such a beautiful community of people. I've never been a part of something so beautiful. If you'd like to be more involved, add me on FB, private message me that you'd like to be in the private support community of this podcast. If you're middle TN, there's a group, and there's also an international group, and the conversations that take place there (completely private) are so beautiful. I'm grateful for the courage of all the guests who have come on here and shared their story so that thousands of others could be encouraged and feel less alone, less crazy, less afraid.

One more thing I'd like to share. Back in January, I was diagnosed at Vanderbilt Psychiatric with clinical depression. I ended up in the hospital because I was suicidal. I was suicidal because I was thinking crazy thoughts, believed crazy thoughts, and as a result my anxiety and depression came unhinged from reality. I was prescribed medication and things started to get better. So much better that I thought I was fine, that my anxiety was sparked by circumstances and when the behavioral medicine doctor I was seeing was charging me $60 co-pay every two weeks to see him, I took the liberty to stop going and eventually ran out of meds. Well they didn't tell me that this kind of medicine has to be taken for a year or it'll drop you back down like a rock to the state that got me there. And this last month, it did just that. The way it manifests is that if I'm alone in my thoughts for more than 30 minutes, I start to get anxious. I get a tension in my abdomen area, my thoughts race into a vortex of panic and fear and rage and resentment and I start hating. Myself and people in my life. I start distrusting everyone and I marvel at their ignorance. Why can't they see what's happening. Well I'll tell you why. Because it's not happening. It's in my imagination. And if you don't think mental illness is real, then it's only because you haven't experienced that particular disfunction personally. I remember counseling a young man, as his pastor, about his fear of dying in his sleep. It was really debilitating. He fought sleep, he had anxiety attacks, he drank heavilly to cope. I didn't relate. I wanted to tell him, "Dude, you're not going to die in your sleep. You're 30. You're healthy. The odds are astronomical." Essentially I was saying, "stop thinking that way." And that was naive. He needed real help. He eventually got it and he's fine today. But no thanks to me.  

I was sharing with someone this week that I was excited to get back on my meds. I don't want to put too much hope in things but it may be why I drink as much as I do. It may be why I smoke. I may be why I'm unmotivated in life. Why I can't write the books I know I have inside me. Basically, I've been just trying to stay alive AND slowly killing myself at the same time. I told her, "help is on the way." Now I used to be a big Bryan Duncan fan and we were reminded of an old song of his called Help is on the Way.  So just for kicks we found it online and played it. But notice that he blames Lucifer--the author of confusion--for the suicidal thoughts.

The way my brain plays tricks on me can feel like a separate entity. We've talked a few times on this podcast about Sam Harris' question, what is the self? So the fact that our brain is firing constantly, feeding us thoughts with or without our permission can feel like we're possessed by another thinker. Secular people reference this metaphorically as "he's fighting his own demons" which is apt metaphor but within most forms of Christianity, Satan is real. Is it so that we can blame something outside of ourselves? So we're not responsible? so God's not responsible for giving us such fucked up brains? who knows why people throughout history have ascribed mental illness to demons, but I no longer have that luxury. I have to get help--real, scientific help. And I'm glad to so and certainly unashamed to do so. I go back to my prescription this week and I'm sure it takes weeks for the effects to start remapping my neural pathways, but it'll be interesting to see how it changes how I show up as an interviewer, but more importantly as a human being, a husband, father, co-worker and friend. I'm excited to find out.  

We taped this conversation on September 10th, 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 or more 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 on this episode is a song that was influential in Rusty's deconversion: The Pig by Showbread.

Thanks for listening and try to cooperate with reality.

Direct download: Ep_171_Rusty_Shackleford.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44pm CST
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