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's guest is Kai (anonymous). Kai left home when she was 19 moving to Australia to study art. She counts this as a pivotal time in her life that created the space to begin examining her upbringing in the Seventh-Day Adventist church.  

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 June 30th, 2018. 
The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
The segue music is "I'm Coming Up" the 1980 hit by Dianna Ross
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Having grown up in an almost cult-like Adventist community, Kai struggled for many years with the knowledge that she was gay and what this meant for her salvation according to the church doctrine. Ultimately, this caused her to leave the Seventh-Day Adventist church, and by leave I mean she kinda went out with a bang, didn't just slink away, which is fine too, but that's not Kai. Kai, despite her small frame, is a force to be reckoned with. Rugged and tenacious. Today Kai is an ER and ICU nurse, published author and photographer, as well as an officer in the United States Navy, having served in Afghanistan and aboard a ship in the South Pacific. She insist that above all else, she is an artist.     

I really enjoyed this conversation. One theme came up that I've said for years and that is that atheism is the best practice of theism. I think at one point Kai identifies as a Idon'tcareist or apatheist. People think that by buying into a religion they're hedging their bets, but I think the best way to be ready for there to be a possible God in an afterlife is to make him proud by weaning one's self of him. Maybe 2 ounces of my 190 pound frame believes gods exist, but I just can't because it smacks SO loud of human concoction (and there's no evidence).

Think about 2 really deep human conditions: the fear of loneliness and abandonment. From the time we're babies, we think that when mama leaves the room, we don't exist. As toddlers, we scream when they leave us with a babysitter or at school. As children we are taking in everything and how the people in our lives and, especially our parents behave and we simply mimic it. Our identity is informed and shaped by what we see and hear. It comes from the outside. As we lose our naive innocence and realize the world is a scary place, we take comfort in the fact that there's a roof over our head and mom and dad are in the next room, AND they've got a plan. They make our lives work. I don't have to worry about a thing.  Yet. The older I get the more I start to develop my own agency--my own ability to develop my OWN identity that is not merely a reflection of my parents and siblings. I form my own values, tastes, and priorities. Some don't develop agency. The more devout a Christian one is, the less one will learn to listen to and trust their own heart and body. If the parents or friends or boyfriends are controlling, this to might stunt their personal maturation. Then when they move out of their childhood home, they're comforted by having God, their portable parent who will never leave or abandon them as they embark into the real world. And in some ways, the don't get to grow up. I'm one of them. I like to think that my inner self, gagged and bound in the dungeon of my soul escaped, came bursting out of the basement and went on his own heroes journey, which he is still on, of course. To our surprise some of us found the scary, chaotic, parentless world was scary at all. We were more scared in the bosom our parents than we are in this godless snake-infested jungle.  Irony!

Kai mentions the movie, the Village, in which a small cult-like community lives cut off from the outside world by the woods, in which they believe dangerous creatures exist. They have an uneasy truce with the creatures - if they stay out of the woods, they are left unharmed. So they are fenced in by a scary forest.

Fences are a theme in this talk. There was a fence around her compound in Afghanistan, a fence that kept her from coming out gay for so many years, and the electric fence of the church. Just about the time she thought she was gaining freedom and agency, Saturday would roll around and a one hour sermon would crush her spirit, and throw her back down the very pit of confusion and despair from which she'd spent the week climbing out. This crazy-making cycle eventually forced her hand to take some really brave steps to climb the goddamn fence and begin her journey toward wholeness.

 

 

Direct download: Ep_210_Kai.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:25am CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 209 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. I'm going to die. A big thanks to each and every one of our Patreon and Paypal supporters.  Today my guest is Devin Andre Woodard. Devin is a young professional living and working in Austin, TX. Devin is a passionate man, who, after being burnt out of spending years pouring his entire being into Christian fundamentalism, is attempting to discover the freedom that comes with embracing life as it is, and making the most of the time we're given.

We taped this conversation on June 9th, 2018. The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me" The segue music is "Ghost II" by Corey Kilgannon, a favorite of my guest.
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.

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

You've probably received a pop-up warning on your computer or your phone saying you've been infected by a virus, click here to have it removed. But if you do click it, it will give you a virus. Just this week my son got a call from Apple Tech Support telling him his phone had been hacked and that all the phones in his family plan would soon be hacked accessing all their personal info, passwords and use their friend list to invade all their friends info. He naively fell for it and proceeded to do whatever the person on the phone told him to do, including download an app on daddy's desktop computer. Which almost completed the hack for which they were warning against. It reminded me of Trump's weak, lazy, cowardly, insecure tactic of warning people about fake news, when in fact every time he opens his mouth, its fake news. An accusation is made against someone that is not true of the accused, but IS true of the accuser. There's a quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels that says, "Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty" and although there's no proof that Goebbels ever said it, it is a common tactic throughout history. Sometimes in full knowledge of its genius; sometimes from stupidity and pure survival mode of insecure bullies. But as weak as the accuser is, this tactic is not; it is highly powerful in wreaking destruction and creates a vicious vortex that entraps any victims who fall prey to it. How does one fall prey to it? If the accused get defensive and say "no I'm not" it plays right into the hand of the accuser. As in this 10 year old scene from a SNL Weekend Update episode where Amy Poehler subtly accuses Seth Myers of having a small penis. Immediately after she jabs him with the joke she holds her hand up for a high five and says "up top." Listen to Seth's reaction.  

So it's a trap to fight against the accusation but it's also a trap to agree with the accuser. When we agree with their accuser, we can fall into a trap of shame and even look to our accuser for a solution, like my son did with the fraudulent Apple Tech support guy. Either way, too much attention is given to the accuser. The best thing is to just hang up. Because both the accuser and the accused can become what they hate.

You know the phrase, "it takes one to know one?" This is a phrase of empathy, which can be good. But even empathy has its pitfalls. Many say that compassion is better because, in the metaphor of someone falling in a pit, empathy gets down in the pit and both are now worse off, whereas compassion throws the fallen a rope. Now, in this age of Jordan Peterson mania, that sounds like something he would say (and I believe he does) and so I just threw up in mouth a little bit, but as with all truth, sometimes you find it in places that make it hard to swallow.  When we hate our enemies, we are apt to swing wide in the opposite direction and merely mirror the poor emotional health of our enemy. But consider a modification of that adage "it takes one to know one": It takes one to hate one. How much of my own intolerances are a result of my ‘dislike’ of my own weaknesses or past weaknesses in any particular area? Often my impatience manifests when I feel ignored or invisible. In traffic it appears. Often I see everyone as trying to block my progress or ignoring me or being insensitive or even thoughtless. At the same time, they're probably driving slow in the fast lane because they're compensating for years of having no power or voice or have been oppressed by others and this moment of power feels good to them, whether they know why or not. So our life-long developed pathologies are clashing on I-24. And if we hate or resent certain people its often because we either see their actions reflecting back to us what we don't like about ourselves OR the opposite: we're not like them at all and thus don't relate to their weaknesses and thus can feel superior and judge them, thereby hating them, and thereby becoming like them. Judgement of others and self keeps us in this fucking cyclical pit of stupidity and immorality.

Take the shanty call center of scam hackers calling my son. They're trying to get rich and they can justify it because they resent other rich people. They may never admit this but the thinking is "They’re crooked, so we’re justified in being crooked too." Victims often become victimizers. And this is all about people acting, behaving, thinking in RE-action to others, only mirroring their adversaries, as opposed to acting, behaving and thinking from one's own core. To stay above the fray of insecure bullies and accusers and jealousy and resentment. To avoid such traps and swirling eddies that pull us into that muck and mire. We can and should assess and evaluate our circumstances and relationships all day long without falling into the trap of judgement. Blame, no matter where it lands, helps the situation. Honestly, keep in mind that every fucking human being on this planet is fighting the same battles-- with their history, their abuse, their shortcomings and insufficiencies, and most will never have the wherewithal or self-awareness to understands what's happening to them in real time, but you can! Listeners of EA podcast have such a huge advantage over the rest of the unevolved world because those people are losers and we're winners and if they only knew as much or had as much knowledge as we do, they too could be as cool and healthy as us. They probably don't even read books or go to therapy. It must really suck to be them...oh wait. I've become what i hate. Ground me William Shakespeare. "Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind." What? Say that again. "Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind." So by seeing myself as guilty, as bad, as evil, I'm more prone to be suspicious of everyone else? "Something like that." And by lifting myself out of guilt, by giving myself a break, by giving myself the grace and forgiveness that I would give my own loved ones, I help alleviate the suspicious lens through which I see others? When I assume that people driving slow in the fast lane, or people that over groom their lawns, or people that scam little old ladies out of their money, or people that are ignorantly afraid of people different than them, when I assume that they are bad people, I'm letting suspicion stifle what might otherwise be curiosity. Hell even apathy would be healthier than suspicion. "I don't care why that person's being a dick" is no less moral than, "I wonder why that person's being a dick?" One is slightly more mature than the other, but requires more energy than I might have at the time. As long as I don't let myself feel too superior to their assholery, because I certainly display my share of it in other contexts. It's kinda "live and let live" with just a tad more care than that, but not much. At the end of the day, it's saying yes to what is. This place, this planet, this human race is MAJORLY fucked up, and we don't help it get well by responding in ways that are either the same type fucked up or the opposite type fucked up, we're still adding to the fucked upness of the planet when we react in kind. Nietzsche wrote, "My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati--a love of fate: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past. Not just to bear what is reality, much less hide myself from it, for all idealism is just dishonesty in the face of what is, but to love it. I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is the reality of things; then I will be one who helps make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be the only thing I say no to. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer."  Now Nietzsche was a white, straight European male in the early 20th century, so he may be afforded privileges that allow him to apply and practice that more thoroughly than others, but it is at least a virtue and value to which to aspire. Hatred is the easiest of emotions to invoke. Love requires self-awareness and intention. At minimal, we would do well to select our enemies carefully, for more often than not, we will become like them. Thus, if your enemies are people, those people will often define you. If you are not defined from without, you will be defined from within. My hunch is that we humans kinda need enemies and will create them if that role is vacant. I suspect the enemy is within all of us and thus can have the uniting effect of a common enemy, and yet, an enemy that we will not emulate. My tattoo defines my enemies as Fear, Pity, Resentment, Victimhood, and Insecurity. If we'd all resist these enemies within, without an ounce of shame for having them, we might be able to laugh and drink and eat and cry together with those we formerly identified as enemies. That's a tall order. But I've got a short life.

In summary, there are two paths of weakness, small creativity, and short-sightedness: 1) accuses others of the same behavior the accuser is doing, and the second judges others for the same behavior the judge ends up mirroring. Both are afraid, as we all are. The high road is refusing to let fear evoke a reaction we'll later regret. Just close the false virus pop-up, hang up on the scamming caller, journalists ignore our baby-president and keep reporting the news, stop judging yourself and thus others who reflect back to you what you either don't like about yourself or don't like about them, live with a clear conscience so you'll be less suspicious of others, and don't take yourself or the size of your penis too seriously.

Corey Kilgannon Ghost II video

http://www.thepaepae.com/self-hate-as-a-metric-of-intolerance/23098/

http://www.thepaepae.com/the-paradox-of-animosity/258/

https://www.fhu.com/articles/hate1.html

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/enemy



 

Direct download: Ep_209_Devin_Woodard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:17pm CDT
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Cass Midgley features two audio clips from talks that Tara Brach and Noah Lugeons gave on their podcast. I love the Hegelian Dialectic, contrasting two seemingly opposite things and forming a third, entirely different thing out of the clash, not unlike mammalian reproduction. Tara Brach and Noah Lugeons are necessarily opposites, but they contrast starkly. She's an American psychologist, a proponent of Buddhist meditation, and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. Noah is the founder and co-host of the Scathing Atheist Podcast. Each week he begins the episode with The Diatribe--a solo rant he writes himself and they are genius, whether you agree with him or not, his writing is amazing as is his intellect. We play his diatribe from episode 179 of the Scathing Atheist where he addresses Attorney General Jeff Sessions getting up and quoting the Bible to justify separating children from their parents. That's 7 minutes. And then a 45 minute talk by Dr. Tara Brach. I pulled this description off her website: "This talk explores how we can undo the identification with thoughts, emotions and feelings that keeps us landlocked and unable to trust and live from our naturally loving and radiant essence." In other words, we are less artificial and more authentic versions of ourselves when we stop trusting what our thoughts, emotions, and other people tell us we are. She's a bit woo-woo, new-agey, and buddhisty. But I love her. And remember, she has a Phd. in Clinical Psychology from the Fielding Institute, so not too shabby, right? Her talk is 45 minutes.

 

The segue music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"

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

Scathing Atheist Podcast - Diatribe on Jeff Sessions by Noah Lugeons

Tara Brach's podcast





 

Direct download: Ep_208_Brach_and_Lugeons.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:50pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo bring you a very special episode. This is Bob's last show as co-host. Bob chose the theme of today's episode: death--the most awkward subject and conversation there is. Bob and Cass discuss the Seneca book for about an hour and a half then a 4 minute clip by Caleb Wilde's Tedtalk followed by a 30 minute reading of an article by Eric Puchner, then Bob and I interview Anne-Marie Zanzal, a Hospice worker with end of life experience, and end with a 6 minute playing of your voice mail farewells to Bob.

For Bob's last episode, he wanted to talk about death and I think it's appropo. For weeks prior to the taping of this episode he'd been reading a book titled, "How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life." It's the ponderings of the 1st century philosopher, Seneca, edited, translated, and introduced by James S. Romm. "It takes an entire lifetime to learn how to die," wrote the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC–65 AD). He counseled readers to "study death always," and took his own advice, returning to the subject again and again in all his writings. Seneca believed that life is only a journey toward death and that one must rehearse for death throughout life. In his writings, he tells us how to practice for death, how to die well, and how to understand the role of a good death in a good life. He stresses the universality of death, its importance as life's final rite of passage, and its ability to liberate us from pain, slavery, or political oppression.

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death “The irony of the human condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.” Seneca admonishes us to study how to die. 6th generation mortician, Caleb Wilde infers that we are death amateurs, and Ernest Becker says we kick and scratch to subdue the notion that we're ever going to die. Perhaps the greatest application of the adage, "say yes to what is" applies to this--the great leveler, that which we all have in common, and that is our impending, unavoidable death.

We taped this conversation on May 26th, 2018. 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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is "Moonlight on the River" by Mac Demarco
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Caleb Wilde's Tedtalk on Death

Emily Levine's Tedtalk on Death

Eric Puchner's article about Caleb Wilde


 

Direct download: Ep_207_Bobs_Last_Show_-_On_Death.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:34am CDT
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Today, Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Alan Witmer, also known as his alter ego, Rex Jamesson on Facebook. Alan is a software designer in Lebanon, NH.  He's been married 34 years to his second wife which puts him about Bob's age. He has two adult children and one 3-year-old grandchild.  He and his wife enjoy motorcycling together, swing dance, and reading books together. He's an avid runner, a musician, a philosophical naturalist but not a nihilist: he believes there is awesome purpose and meaning to be found in this life. Alan grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, surrounded by Conservative Christian values, billboards, and memes.  He “accepted Christ” at age 9. In his mid-20s he left the church for 5 years following the tumultuous breakup of his first marriage.  But went back to faith again, and stayed the second time for almost three decades. He was happy and active in his faith. When he ventured into Christian apologetics, he unwittingly swallowed the “red pill” – his investigation led down a path of reason which, had I known where it would lead, I would never have chosen. Today, he is happily out of the faith.  Although he discredits fundamentalism as an evil, immoral system that entraps and enslaves people, his own narrow escape from the illusion taught him respect and love his family and friends who remain, including his Christian wife.

We taped this conversation on May 20th, 2018. 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.

Credits: 
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU 
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Before we get into our talk with Alan, I want to share a little about our recent trip to Barcellona. Without talking to much about Barcellona, as amazing as it was and is a fantastic city, I want to emphasize the benefit of travelling in general. Because the truth is, that this planet has countless cool cities and amazing destinations that no one (not even Anthony Bardeau, RIP) could see them all in one lifetime. But I want to focus on the word "orientation." And especially the value of disorientation. Getting out of our homes, our home towns, our cultures, our routines can be disorienting. Travel pushes us out of our comfort zones and we're forced into disorientation. When traveling, the way you wake up is different, the expectations of the day are full of unknowns, when you're walking around, you're taking in the scenery with heightened awareness. You're woke to the new surroundings and excited and a bit scared. Thus you are present. Much more present than back home.

Orientation has to do with identifying where I am in relation to something immovable. I'm moving around, but I know where I am because I know where I am in relation to home base, ground zero, headquarters, something stationary, central and unchanging. How do we orient our North, South, East, and West compass points? In relation to the Sun--a non-moving object. Directions that are not relative to something else are 100% and absolutely arbitrary. If you ask me to “point up,” I’m going to orient myself to the ground and point away from it. If, however, I were to travel to the opposite side of the world, the “up” I was just pointing at would be the “down” in the new orientation.The same basic principle applies for ideas like the compass points. There is no scientific reason why the Northern Hemisphere is “on top,” or why London is higher than Miami, instead of the other way around. In truth, the reason is entirely political. Our current map-orientation comes from the European map makers of a few centuries ago. That orientation of the globe is the one that the entire world uses today. But it is no less true or legitimate to turn the map upside down and find yourself on it. While helpful to our existence, our sense of direction and thus our orientation are man-made constructs. Like language they are tools and symbols that help us relate to one another. Which brings me to the second word I want to highlight, "relationship." Our orientation is entirely based on where we are in relation to something else.

Before you think I'm being critical of these constructs, have you ever tried driving down the road with your head tilted 90 degrees to the right? Just by changing your orientation a little, you seriously throw off your ability to drive straight, to avoid other cars, to stay in your lane. We need order, structure and reliability in our lives just to function. These constructs save our lives every day. Disorientation may be a good exercise or even fun, but it is not a sustainable way of life. Vacations are cool because they take us out of our comfort zones AND because we get to come back to them.  

I say all this in relation to our talk with Alan because he is extremely graceful towards people that need faith. Faith in God and/or the scriptures and/or the weekly community gatherings give people something with which their relationship orients their lives. Like turning my head sideways while driving scares me and in fact threatens my life, for some people, giving up God scares them and threatens their lives. I know I've inferred before that people who need faith have stunted their maturity by clinging to it, and I know that was my experience, but I'm loath to become nothing more than an inverse rendition of judgmental Christians. Alan models this. He says at one point that if his wife goes to her grave believing in Christianity, he won't think any less of her. Wow, that's something to think about.

If we're going to be yes-sayers to reality, we might do well to disorient ourselves from false stationary standards by which we measure and judge things. To stop measuring people and circumstances against a pre-existing idea of how things SHOULD go or how we want people to be, including ourselves. Remove measurements like north south east and west in relation to the sun and the presumed map of the world and let ourselves float in space. Let people be what they'll be, circumstances be what they'll be...and have the presence and heightened awareness of one on vacation, away from home out of one's comfort zone, disoriented and ready for the un-normal, the spontaneous, and the unpredictable. We live on a three-dimensional orb, not a one-dimensional plane. There's no pattern to the numerical sequence of pi. We think we understand things. We think we know how people should be? or what they should believe? People are free and we are free to leave them that way. This is the beauty of agnosticism, of humility, and of saying yes to what is.


 

Direct download: Ep_206_Alan_Witmer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25pm CDT
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Direct download: Ep_205_Anne-Marie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:03pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 204 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Dr. Bob Pondillo  I interview Raymond Gilford. Raymond Gilford was born in Austin, Texas and lived there until age 11 when he moved with his parents to Fallbrook, California in 1974 at age 11. His grandfather was a Baptist preacher but his parents didn't force it on him as a child. Like some of us who took Christianity more serious than our parents, Raymond converted to Christianity in 1983 as a college sophomore and stayed in the faith for over thirty years, studying Greek and Hebrew and teaching Sunday School. But it was Christianity that oversold itself and Raymond slowly saw through its preposterous claims. Today he works as a proofreader and copy editor in Austin, Texas.

We taped this conversation on May 6th, 2018. 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.

Credits: "Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU 
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is "Release It" by Afro Celt Sound System, one of Raymond's favorite bands.

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

Blog:  www.galacticwanderlust.com
Design site:  raymondgilford.com

For Raymond, the beginning of wisdom wasn’t faith, or the fear of God. It was concrete thinking. Growing up, and for just about all his life he’s looked for the world to make sense, and he’s been disappointed when it hasn’t, perhaps this is why he looked for a source of justice or purpose in the universe. Like pretty much everyone he just wanted to get paid. He wanted to get laid. And he always found the church to be a frustrating mesh through which he was expected to filter his desires.

In this conversation, we hear that Raymond always had a problem with the concept of Jesus dying for his sins. He couldn't square that with the logic and reason that plagued his intelligent mind. Eventually that square peg just couldn't be forced into the round hole, the alleged god-shaped-hole in his heart and he walked away.

I want to do something here that may be triggering for some of you. I typed into the search of YouTube "the best presentation of the gospel" and the first one to come up was John Piper. Now, when I was a Christian, I loved me some John Piper. I had cassette tapes of John Piper. Piper is a brilliant man. Which is good because I want the gospel to be represented by the best in this little experiement. The second video to come up was Matt Chandler, the third was Ravi Zacharias; both of whom are smart, well-versed preachers. Chandlers was a little too emotional; Ravi's was too cerebral. Piper's is good blend of both. So I"m going to play a 4 minute presentation of the gospel by John Piper, followed by a 4 minute refute of the gospel by Christopher Hitchens. Hitch is so dear to my heart. Hitch is truly one of the top 5 heroes on my lifelong list of heroes. And Piper used to be.

But I wanted to show the juxtaposition that Raymond faced, then tension he experienced for 30 years.  Here it is: first John Piper, then Christopher Hitchens.

So that was Pastor John Piper, certainly not a spokesman for all the hundreds of Christianities but he's one of their big shots, especially with a Calvinistic leaning. Up next is a man I hold very dear to my heart and miss him greatly, Christopher Hitchens with a critique of the Christian gospel.

 

Many of us hung onto the gospel that didn't make sense to a deeply hidden part of us. Why? Because of the community. I think that's foremost over the fear of Hell. Deep down, we didn't believe in Hell because we couldn't fathom it. Nobody believes in Hell. No one can fathom eternal anything, let alone eternal suffering. Our brains just can't go there. What we do believe in...what we do understand is the friends and community that we experience right in front of us, each week. The third reason we clung to an absurd, even immoral gospel, was probably our deep need for the world to make sense, for our fear of death and meaninglessness to be silenced by a master narrative that gave us the peace we so desperately craved.

And so here we find ourselves. Especially those of us who walked right into Christianity before our adult minds could scrutinize it. It latched onto us until, as awakening adults, we scraped it out of our bones with knives and chisels. And began our pilgrimage back to our lost self, rebuilt our personal agency, said yes to our reality and what it means to be ourselves and carved out a path forward to find an honest  meaning to our existence and a morality that came from within shaped by our values we forged from our own hearts.

This is what Raymond did...and is doing. It's a life's work, really, and many of us are hard at it. But we've found that there's freedom and joy and strength--true strength--in ourselves. A strength that Piper denied existed and said, out loud mind you, couched in the presentation of good news that we would never, never, never, outgrow the need to preach to ourselves our wretchedness apart from Christ's redemptive work on the cross to vicariously make us loveable to a supposedly loving god.  In a moment where one of Christianity's best is presenting Christianity's best news and the point he drove home the hardest and raised his voice the most was when he chose to emphasize the absolute hopeless impotence of being a human being, never out from under the need of a savior, day in and day out for eternity. No thank you. As one who devoted my life to Christianity, the first 40 years, and now on the outside, no promise of eternal bliss or threat of eternal torture would move me to give up my hard earned self-love, my acceptance of reality, and the restoration of my personal agency. Like our guest Raymond, I wanted Christianity to be true but in the end it just didn't hold water or even pass the laugh test. Now we're free, empowered, responsible, back on a path of maturation, and happy as one might be in a meaningless universe.

Direct download: Ep_204_Raymond.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05pm CDT
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Cass Midgley interviews Jenny Q. Unfortunately Bob's not with us on today's episode.  Jenny Q was born in Southern California to Palestinian immigrants. Her love of herbs began in her teens while on the road following the Grateful Dead. She has set her roots in Joshua Tree, California, where she opened Grateful Desert, a local apothecary. In 2014, Jenny suddenly became seriously ill and rapidly descended into a coma with slender chance of survival.  She has quite a story and put it in a book entitled "Held Together" which incorporates many of her friends who bore witness to the experience. The book releases June 1st.

Here's what one reviewer said of Jenny's book: “Held Together” tells a villages account of a personal tragedy. While seemingly detailing the medical marvel that left Jenny with both of her legs and five fingers amputated, the book truly centers around the power of community and the strength people find in a time of tragedy."

This is what drew my interest in Jenny's story: it's testament to the power of community and the determination of the human spirit. So often when tragedy strikes, people either blame god or spin it around to make god look good in spite of it. As humanists and atheists, we avoid both of those silly explanations and just get busy helping remedy it. How Jenny's friends rallied around her to mitigate the suffering and hardship of the tragedy, while beautiful in it's own way, is not unique to Jenny's situation. Many, if not all, of us have witnessed friends and family descend on a problem with love and care when one of our own goes down.  And yes, I have an agenda to assign credit where it belongs--even when it happens in church settings--the credit, and glory, if you will, goes to humans. Loving, caring, compassionate, and godless human beings.

Spoiler alert, Jenny survived the sepsis that nearly took her life, and today she joyously shares her life with her tight-knit desert community, her beloveds Yazzy, her daughter and Myshkin, her wife.

Jenny's story raises the question, "what is spirituality?" I recently read a book that I highly recommend titled Living the Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey, by James Hollis. And before we get into my talk with Jenny I'd like to play a clip from it.

So here's my talk with Jenny Q. If you connect with her and would like to correspond with her, get the book, or talk about herbs and essential oils, her email is connect@heldtogetherbook.com , her website is www.heldtogetherbook.com, and the website for her herbal business is gratefuldesert.com

We taped this conversation on April 29th, 2018.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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
The music behind it is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is portions of "Shades of Grey" by Grateful Dead.

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



Direct download: Ep_203_Jenny_Q.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:10pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 202 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Bob Pondillo and I interview Elisa. Elisa was one of four women featured on Episode 200, the Sexpisode as she called it. We taped both conversations on April 15th, 2018.

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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro background music is "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The bumper music on this episode is a jam on the end of "Closure" by Maroon 5

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

Elisa was raised in the Gulf Coast of South Texas in a large Hispanic Catholic family.  As a runaway teen, troubled about treatment at home, she became involved with the Praise Chapel/Potters House evangelical church and became born again at 17. She found herself in the Southern Baptist Church when she fell in love with a Baptist boy and remained there until she met her husband. They married nearly 19 years ago and have two children. Elisa was a teacher  but remained home after having children and she homeschooled for many years. Elisa almost left her husband when he came out as an atheist 8 years ago. She had been struggling with her own doubts but was holding on tightly to her faith. When the black lives movement came on the scene she had a hard time understanding the hate from Christians. This opened her eyes to the Christian political machine that actively oppressed minorities, immigrants, women, and the lgbtq communities. When Trump became the Republican presidential nominee with huge evangelical support, she finally felt comfortable calling herself an atheist. Her life has changed from a life of fear to a life of peace, a life of homeschooling to a life of pole dancing. She has let go of god and has embraced herself and is having the time of her life.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow first developed his famous theory of individual development and motivation in the 1940’s. He suggested that human beings have a hierarchy of needs. That all humans act in a way which will address basic needs, before moving on to satisfy other, so-called higher level needs. Maslow represented this theory as a hierarchical triangle. It shows how basic needs are met before one can “climb” the hierarchy, to address more complex needs. 
The Maslow motivation theory is typically represented by 5 steps:

Physiological needs – such as hunger, thirst and sleep
Safety needs – such as security, protection from danger and freedom from pain.
Social needs – sometimes also referred to as love needs such as friendship, giving and receiving love, engaging in social activities and group membership.
Esteem needs – these include both self-respect and the esteem of others. For example, the desire for self-confidence and achievement, and recognition and appreciation.
Self-actualization – This is about the desire to develop and realize your full potential. To become everything you can be.
Maslow’s contention was that one’s sense of well-being. i.e. the ‘feelgood factor’ increases as the higher level needs are met.

I want to merge this needs study with a few of David Richo's declarations of healthy adulthood. Keep in mind that one of the things that fundamental Christianity did to us was stunt our growth. Even Maslo's needs reveal that within Christianity, we weren't responsible for meeting our needs! God was! We were to ignore our needs. It would be selfish to think of our own needs--the very self we were trying to die to.

But in this deconversion process, along with acknowledging our own needs, the absence of a supernatural being to meet them, and resurrecting our own agency to meet them, we might do well to combine this line of thinking with our arrested maturation development. Richo teaches that a healthy adult can say the following things:
I accept full responsibility for the shape my life has taken.
I accept that I may never feel I am receiving – or have received – all the attention I seek.
I acknowledge that reality is not obligated to me; it remains unaffected by my wishes or rights.
One by one, I drop every expectation of people and things.
I reconcile myself to the limits on others’ giving to me and on my giving to them.

In these declarations, we can hear a powerful agent taking responsibility for ourselves. So there's two very important things going on here, especially for us ex-Christians:

  1. we discover our selves, our power, our voice, our thoughts and feelings. Self-awareness, or as Maslo puts it, self actualization is a big first step once we acknowledge the delusion of an imaginary god to whom we had surrendered our selves, power and voice.
  2. we acknowledge that we can't just transfer our dependence on god to another person in our lives. It's up to us to secure our place in this world, our footing, our grounding, our needs.

I would think that the intent, or at least the hope, would be that we could be fully present, fully engaged in our relationships because we're bringing our full selves, un-needy, and interdependent. Feeling neither inferiority nor superiority to those in our lives. Comfortable in our own skin, no delighted in our skin, AND responsible for the emotional health of the soul encased in our own skin, that we might find ourselves, ideally, in community with others exercising the same level of power and agency, and thus fully free to enjoy and be enjoyed by one another. Delivered from the insecurity, fear, and competition fostered by Christian gatherings where we're all trying impress each other with how advanced we are in our devotion to and relations with Abba.

Because we've been trained co-depency by and with God, we have our work cut out for us to find what must be a wonderful balance between wanting other's company, yet not needing it. Wouldn't that be something?

 

 


Direct download: Ep_202_Elisa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 201 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Bob Pondillo and I interview David Burns. David is now 50, but was a lifelong Mormon. He unpacks his passion for Mormonism, how it was his life, his tribe, his identity. He served his two year door to door mission and it was there that his faith in Mormonism experienced its first crack. I fell in love with David during this talk. He's a really sharp and gentle man and it comes through here. He's on the Asburger/Autism spectrum and his tendency to interpret everything literally contributed to his devotion to the whacky foundations of Mormonism AND eventually his departure.

We taped this conversation on April 14th, 2018. 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.

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 "Wake Me Up" by Dirty Loops

I wonder if the need for human beings to find a tribe isn't a primary motivator behind the formation of and devotion to religions. We need to belong. Loneliness is so scary. And communities are one of the most beautiful things that humans form. There's hardly anything more fulfilling and life-enriching than finding yourself at a party, or in a circle of friends to which you truly belong, are genuinely celebrated, loved, and supported, in your truest form. When you're celebrating a promotion at work, or a new house, or a new baby, or marriage, or a birthday and you have a community of people around you that organize a celebration and/or send you cards in the mail, or bring you gifts, what better feeling is there?

As a human being, we are aware of so much that the animal kingdom is not. We know that the universe is big, dark, and impersonal. We know that the world is a difficult place, with it's unpredictable weather and tragic happenstances. Animals don't get overwhelmed. We alone feel alone on this dirt clod hurling through space. We can feel adrift with nothing solid to hold onto. We can even be surrounded by people and feel totally alone. We can live in a city and feel no roots or connection to it. We look to our spouses and our children for some grounding and belonging, but can end up putting too much burden on them to validate and rescue our drowning, bankrupt self-esteem. We ache for friendships. Without them, we can feel lost, that the world is closing in on us, that nobody understands us, we can become disgusted with humanity, and quickly lose any desire to remain on this selfish, exclusionary planet.

But when suicide is not an option, we re-enter the world, but in an angry, scared survival mode. We become racked with suspicion and distrust of others, further isolating ourselves. Our default is to blame others for our problems, and then we turn that blame inward spiraling us deeper downward into self-loathing (unconscious of course, nothing about this type of person is conscious). Pretty quick we see ourselves as victims and thus martyrs for our tail-chasing cause. So what do we do? Our tribal instincts kick in and we find other disenfranchised people, lost and lonely. Misery loves company, right? Safety in numbers. We rally with pitchforks to avenge our insulted egos against our enemies and the mere fact that we've formed a common enemy endears us to each other and the next thing you know, we've formed a tribe. But it's not a healthy tribe. It brings out the worst in us. It fosters resentment, contempt, and bitterness. It appeals to and compounds the lower angels of our nature--fearful, insecure, hateful, and our hatred for ourselves gets projected onto our unknowing enemies. On April 24th, Alek Minassian, the 25 year old Canadian man who killed ten and injured 15 as he drove a van down a one-mile stretch of sidewalk in Toronto, was allegedly a part of a tribe called the Incel Rebellion. Incel is short for involuntarily celibate. In other words, men who can't form relationships, or more crudely, can't get laid. And because of the internet, the group is said to be 5,000 members strong. Their common denominator is that they're furious at constantly being rejected by women.

In the following conversation with our guest, your going to hear David talk about the strength of the Mormon community and the excruciating pain of detaching himself from his lifelong tribe that was precious to him, especially as one who'd felt excluded all his life. He, like many of us, threw himself headlong into the ministry he loved. It gave him purpose and identity and community. Life was good, and somewhat easy. What on earth would pry us out of those deep loving relationships with our Heavenly Father, our dear friend Jesus, our constant companion the Holy Spirit, and, most of all, our fellow human sojourners? The undeniable eye-opening discovery that its a delusional way of living? The corruption, the under-belly, the greed, the exclusivity?

I watched the movie "Come Sunday" about the withering of Carlton Pearson's ministry as he came out as a universalist and began preaching what he called the Gospel of Inclusion. It's on Netflix; it was produced by Ira Glass and the This American Life staff. I recommend it but with a warning. You'll see the excruciating pain of Carlton praying and praying and crying out to God as his life was falling apart, but the heavens were silent. You'll see the tug of war on his heart as his giant ministry dwindled to a handful of people, all because he wouldn't recant or back-peddle from his convictions that no one was in Hell. At times, he can't believe the indignation he witnesses just because he believed Jesus saved everyone. How is this bad news? Brennan Manning, an author I loved when I was a Christian, gave this definition of Phariseeism: when you see love and grow indignant. But, like some of us, he lost everything--his income and career, his friends, even family. And this is why this podcast exists.

I believe the power and pull and magnetism of community is at the core of why people unfriend us as soon as they perceive that we're saying something outside the beliefs that the community holds to. In their minds they have to make a choice...between you and the giant construct in which their entire lives are held together (they call it God). I'm sure it breaks their heart, but deciding to ditch us is probably much less difficult a decision than the one we're making. People have no idea...and they SO don't want to have that idea that they scoot us out of their lives as quickly as they can lest they begin to entertain it. The music stops and all the children scramble to plant their ass in a chair so they're not the ones left standing without one.

People who gather under the banner of mutual hate get their identity from without. Their actions are reactive. They are hollow.  They are defined by what they hate, not by what they love. They don't even know what they love because they lack the self-awareness and agency to ask themselves, to go within. They are all-around no-sayers. They pout in self-pitiful tantrums that nothing is they way it should be. No to the persons, bodies and psyches in which they find themselves. No to people who are different. No to the harsh realities of existence. No to the abyss of random chaos in which they find themselves. They are ill-equipped to be overcomers, to find true meaning in this meaningless life. They fall under the trance of some fairy tale that keeps them childish.  And they're lazy. Making lemonade is hard work.

0ur proneness to tribalism can be used to elevate ourselves at others expense. We can take so much pride in our community that we move into feeling superior to other communities. We can live our lives fueled by comparing ourselves to others and competing with other tribes for power. Even healthy communities can fall prey to this.

Perhaps you've been a part of a book club or a small group house church small group where the members bond and look forward to seeing each other every week or month. Then someone invites a friend and you can feel the elementary school resentment wrinkle it's nose at the invader. Now this isn't entirely evil or immature. I personally reserve the right to pick my friends and close the door on new seekers because the current chemistry is good and might be disrupted by introducing new blood. I think everybody' free to do that without shame. And the point is that relationships and communities are complicated and nuanced and even a bit fragile and have always been that way. The magic is so intense and the dynamics so delicate that friendships and communities that last a lifetime are extremely rare and thus you're very lucky if you pull that off. Even marriages have a much higher chance of losing their luster than remaining vibrant for the long haul.  So here we find ourselves...looking for love, for connectivity, for our tribe, our people. These magical relationships don't just happen. They form because we foster it intentionality. We set out to find friends, schedule get togethers, keep in contact, constantly navigating the feelings. Are they mutual? Do they like me as much as I like them? Am I smothering? Can I be myself and they still like me? Is there a breaking point on the horizon? A deal breaker? And if years go by, with dozens of dinners, engagements, parties under your belt and the intimacy is only deepening, you've won the lottery. You've hit the jackpot. Because 2 or 3 or 7 hominids getting together, enjoying each other for a long period of time is a rare and precious thing.

Direct download: Ep_201_David_Burns.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:46pm CDT
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