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 Jennifer Kates interview Nicole, who wishes to remain anonymous. Bob was out of town for this one. Nicole was raised as a devout, non-denominational Christian and home-schooled for most of her youth. She gave her life to the lord as a young teen and became involved in the “apostolic church” movement. In her early 20’s, she served as a deacon in a charismatic, evangelical church and led a home group for several years. She has worked as a nurse for 15 years in pediatric oncology and pediatric critical care at a university hospital in California. She also facilitates courses for health-care workers on self-compassion and self-care. In learning about the neurobiology of self-compassion, and seeing the healthiness, joy and peace of the “un-believers” she worked with, she began to question the health of some of the Christian teachings. A journey of seeking health above all slowly changed her view of what “righteousness” was and changed how she saw the world around her. Valuing health over righteousness led to leaving her church and she is now slowly dismantling the beliefs and experiences that have shaped her identity and worldview. She is replacing what once was “a beautiful faith” with personal agency and a freedom to be healthy, no matter what.

I want to share something from Gretta Vosper. She's our Canadian friend whose been on the show twice, episodes 67 and 188. She's developed a conference as a fundraiser for their refugee family. Sobak Pakhi is one of the most threatened secular bloggers in Bangladesh and has been in hiding since September 2015. I was in Chattanooga TN this weekend speaking to the Humanist Assembly with my friend Tad Beatty and someone asked me if I knew about the persecution and even execution of atheists in that country. We Gretta's church, West Hill United has been approved as Sobak's resettlement sponsor. They are trying to get his processing expedited. It is a long and dangerous time for him, his two small children, and his wife. I cannot even imagine. So she's doing this conference up there in Canada for you Canadian listeners to raise money for this cause.

What: Lives in the Balance Conference
Where: Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street,Toronto
When: Saturday 2 June 2018, Registration at 08:00 am. Events 8:45 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Cost: Early registration - $125 until the end of April; $150 following.

Here is the website: livesinthebalance.ca. Here is the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/livesinthebalance2018/

The second thing I want to talk about that came in our talk with Nicole was the word "supposed." We learned early on that we were supposed to behave certains ways, talk in certains ways, and, conversely don't behave or talk in certain ways. NOW, as free moral agents, we get to decide who we are and how we show up, without any wagging fingers shaming us for following our own moral compasses. So, in summary, the only thing we're SUPPOSED to be is US! Here's your freedom, your licence, my admonition: DO YOU. That's it: DO YOU. And trust yourself. You don't need any external laws, rules, or parameters to guide your heart. It's not impure; it's good. You're good. Unless you're a psychopath or sociopath, you know what's right and wrong for you and the way you treat others. That should go without saying, but for those of us who left the faith, it's music to our ears and empowerment to our integrated selves, welcoming our bodies into our minds into our hearts and ourselves into reality. It's beautiful. Come on in, the waters warm.  

We taped this conversation on March 25th, 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 bumper music on this episode is by The Best Deep House Chill Out Music

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



Direct download: Ep_198_Nicole.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31pm CDT
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Cass Midgley talks with Marissa Alexa McCool. Bob was out of town for this taping. This episode is a bit of detour from our regular format. Marissa doesn't have a personal deconversion from faith story, but she does have a gender conversion story that religions generally oppose. I call this episode, much like episode 60 with Callie Wright, back in the summer of 2015, a beginner class in Trans 101. I support this kind of education because in order to be a part of the solution and not the problem we need to seek to understand, stretch out our imaginations, and expose our blind spots regarding these our fellow human beings, and of course, say yes to what is. Also, we ex-Christians can relate to this: one can only lie about who one is for so long before going crazy.

Author Ellen Wittlinger is quoted as saying, “People change lots of other personal things all the time. They dye their hair and diet themselves to near death. They take steroids to build muscles and get breast implants and nose jobs so they resemble their favorite movie stars. They change names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They change religions and political parties. They move across the country or the world — even change nationalities. Why is gender the one sacred thing we aren't supposed to change? Who made that rule?”

Our guest today, Marissa Alexa McCool, is 32, a podcaster, author, performer, speaker, ​and an LGBT rights/atheist activist. She's a trans woman, married, partnered, and a parent. Born in Akron, Ohio and currently residing in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her family, she graduated the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with 3 degrees: English, Cinema and Media Studies, and Anthropology, while also studying theatre, Shakespeare, and communication theory. Within the atheist community, she's spoken at Lehigh Valley Humanists, Minnesota Atheists, Skepticon 10, NaNoCon 3, and several others.

Marissa won a 2014 Keystone Award for Excellence in Journalism, a 2015 audience choice award at the Hershey Student Film Festival for a short film, and co-founded The Trans Podcaster Visibility Initiative with Callie Wright in 2017. She blends her theatrical background and fiery passion for atheism, humanist and secular values, and intersectionality. Marissa mentions a video by Steve Shives on this trans subject and I feature a 5 minute excerpt within the conversation. We taped this conversation on March 24th, 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

Thank you for listening. And be a Yes-Sayer to what is. 

Steve Shive's video: Pluto's Not a Planet and Trans Women Are Women

 

Direct download: Ep_197_Marissa_Alexa_McCool.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:45pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo talk with Jennifer Cates. She's a Middle Tennessee State professor here in Murfreesboro where Bob used to teach. She was raised entrenched in Nazarene and Church of Christ southern fried Christianity but found her way out. Jennifer will be helping out here on the show as one of two co-hosts that will jump in when Bob leaves.

At the top of the conversation, we make a brief reference to a film that Bob made while there at MTSU called, "The Miracles of Honey Bee Hill." If you search for it on YouTube it comes up and you can see some of Bob's excellent work. It's only 23 minutes long. Stop what you're doing, which is listening to this podcast and go watch it. It's a great piece and you'll get a little window into Bob's head.

I also insert a brief YouTuber named Paul Dalton who talks about the difference in empathy and compassion. Jen starts one of her classes by playing David Foster Wallace's famous commencement address at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005.Wallace was one of those humans who manifested an extreme version of what all humans are--quirky, sad, confused, imaginative, fun, hedonistic, narcissistic and self-debasing...all at the same time. He committed suicide 3 years after this speech. His novels are so huge, both in length and in swath that it can be like drinking from a fire-hose. His footnotes were almost as long as his books. He had lots of voices and personalities firing in his brain at all times. He was exceptional in a way that is just bigger than the exception we each are.  What people like Wallace give me is the permission to be weird, to be my authentic self, to realize that life is really just a fucking game, a video game, or a movie in which we find ourselves and that taking one's self serious is the poison that one drinks to slowly die a fake life. We Americans have got it all wrong. We are shaped by comparison and competition which only robs the creative, playful joy-monger out of us. Life is just too short and precious to give a fuck about what people think. Wallace makes me want to live wild and carefree and jubilant. I wonder if my depression and melancholy isn't me being crazy, it's my most sane and healthy self getting sick by breathing this American air. Life is SO hard and unfair that to place expectations on it to be anything otherwise is setting oneself up for disappointment. I recommend lower the bar so low that is you have a moment of pleasantness or laughter or orgasm or intrigue or contemplation of something original, consider yourself damn lucky. The American air we breathe is paranoid and scared and cowardly and it pumps out of the exhaust pipes of money-loving factories pushing out self-hating schizoids afraid to be seen or known or understood. The world I find myself in is afraid of all others unlike ourselves because we're so afraid to be unique we only find safety in the safe homogenous world we've created by exclusion--boring and meaningless instead of having the guts to admit it. We lipstick the pig and compartmentalize daunting truths so deeply in the dungeons of our minds. Like Trump, we walk around trying to convince ourselves that we still matter, when embracing that fact the we don't matter is the first step to true freedom and love and playfulness and hope. I recommend the movie, "The End of the Tour," which is about the life of David Foster Wallace. Truly a great soul of a human being. Rest in peace.

 

Anyway, I play Wallace's speech at the end of our talk with Jennifer. I love Jen. She's quick and sharp and learned and she, like all of us, is deep in the throes of learning how to say yes to what is and no to that which is robbing us of self-love.

We taped this conversation with Janet and Chad on March 18th, 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

Bob's Movie: The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill

Paul Dalton's video podcast on Compassion vs. Empathy

 

Direct download: Ep_196_Jennifer_Cates.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:24pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo talk with married couple Janet and Chad. They both are optometrists, they both deconverted but at different times and the calibration of that kind of dissonance is no easy task, but they've done and they share how they negotiated that and stayed married, in fact very happily married. This an emotional story with a happy ending, or as Rosie from episode 193 called it, a happy beginning.

I want to talk about Michelle Obama's admonition, "when they go low, we go high." Two huge contingencies to understanding yes-saying is 1) more often than not, it must be followed by an "and." And secondly, it only applies to things and circumstances that are beyond our control. I kinda thought it went without saying, but if something bad is happening to you and you can do something about it, Yes-saying is the wrong application. Say no to to things that damage, diminish or debase your person. You must be a person with boundaries, agency and assertion of your will and feelings. And often that means saying no.

So on point one, "and" most often should follow "yes." Yes this weather sucks, And I don't have to let it ruin my day. That's also agency and assertion. I'm hurt by what my daughter said to me. I can't control her so I'm saying yes to her humanity, her emotions, and whatever else is going on in her life to evoke such anger. AND I can respond with understanding and compassion and empathy. I can resist the temptation to put on my armor, grab my sword and let myself be vulnerable to her in hopes that a restorative dialogue can occur between us, as opposed to escalating the animosity by doubling down on my pride or insecurity. When they go low, we go high.

People are prime example of that which we can't control. And because they are more valuable than anything, a prime opportunity to say yes to them--their being, their person, their body, their feelings...even when they go low. No-saying is always wishing things were different and entering the ring with a brick wall. No-saying is throwing a tantrum. Saying no is what 2 year olds do when they don't get their way. When the weather, the world, our jobs, the people in our lives go low, we can say YES, this is real, this is happening, AND I can engage in a way that is remedial and fosters an environment that will stop the downward spiral that going low in turn will allow. This may have been what Jesus was trying to say in "turn the other cheek," but that's a horrible example and one in which, if taken literally, enables abuse and mistreatment. Which is often mistaken for yes-saying.

Those with agency and dignity discern wisely when to say no and when to say yes. If your friend has behaved below their true character. When they've done something that themselves are ashamed of, that is a moment when they need you to see past their raging eyes or impassioned over-reaction and know that they know they've just gone low and await your next move. Going high is not joining them in those depths, and throwing them a lifeline that will restore them to the values and virtues you know they really hold. Now, if this is a pattern and they don't seem to have any self-awareness, remorse and take no action to correct the behavior? It might be time to say no. Again, this takes discernment and wisdom and strong heart. Both our yeses and our nos can come from the same place if played well--and that is love. Love is the high road. Love of self, in that you respect yourself enough to say no when your boundaries have been violated, and yes to leaning in to the rain, to those you love and believe in when they're at their worst, and ultimately all that you can't control.

Our guests today are a married couple with two homeschooled children approaching teenage. Chad deconverted first and kept it to himself for a couple of years. When Janet found out, her first reaction was driven by fear. Psychologist Tara Brach says that we can get in a fear trance, where we are walking around, going through the motions of daily life, but we can't see, hear or feel those we love most. It's hard to reach people while they're in a fear trance; they have erected a force-field around themselves for protection. But if you'll wait patiently, maybe even stand guard around them, their solitude might serve as a cocoon that buys them the time they need to truly ponder what they've experienced. They may be watching through the glass bubble to see if it's safe. It may seem unfortunate that both parties must be yes-sayers in order for any restoration or even revolution to heal their relationship. But then we'd be saying that our freedom is unfortunate. Chad said yes to Janet's initial no-saying and waited. Janet bravely mustered the courage to come out from behind the force field and say-yes to Chad's evolution. and a new thing emerged, far better than what they had before. It doesn't always happen this way. In fact, yes-saying may mean that parting ways is the best thing for one or both people. But those that adopt the position that there's no God protecting them, realize that it's up to them to protect themselves, do what's right for them, and say yes-and to that which is out of their control, and live on.

We taped this conversation with Janet and Chad on March 4th, 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 "The Road" by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Janet's Blog

Richard Dawkin video

 

Direct download: Ep_195_Janet__Chad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:09am CDT
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Cass Midgley talks with Ryan Connell. Cohost Bob Pondillo was not able to be there for the conversation. Ryan is an Assembly of God pastor's son and himself was in ministry and aspiring to be a pastor like his father. But his pursuit of truth and love took him to some unexpected places.

Ryan is the homeschooled son of a pentecostal pastor and was himself a traveling preacher and inner city missionary. His crisis of faith caused him to dig deeper into philosophy of religion and church history, where he has spent the last thirteen years or so trying to make sense of what we were raised to believe. He is now a nomadic religious scholar and journalist, traveling the country sleeping on people's couches and guest rooms, documenting the American religious experience. He also jokingly refers to himself as a "missionary to evangelicals" as he writes a weekly contemplative blog directed to them about how to move past the more damaging aspects of their belief system while still holding on to their faith. You can check out his essays on his website theholyapostate.com that help explain his background and what he's up to now. I loved this talk and I love Ryan. He's truly a brother of a different mother. We could hang. It's all I'm saying.

At one point, Ryan refers to the theodicy of divine silence and I want to address this for a second. Theodicy means the vindication or the insistence of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil, in this case, the fact that God is silent and rather cryptic in revealing himself to his creation. The seeking and finding of a hidden God. This serves as a way for humans to feel superior to those that have not found God because of this very promise--that if you had truly sought God then you would find God. You're not humble enough. You're not desperate enough. Your pride is keeping you from seeing God. It flips upside down the old adage, "you have to see it to believe it," to "you have believe it to see it." Which conveniently puts the blame of not being able to see a non-existent god onto the unbeliever, creating guilt and deep distrust of one's self as inadequate to see the invisible. And the temptation for people in that tribe to keep pretending has little to do with their true beliefs, but rather the safety the feel in numbers. All these people can't be wrong! It's the prime environment to fake it til you make it. After all, what would we do outside this tribe? The chaotic world full of unexplainable injustices and daunting emptiness awaits us outside this tribe. At least here we all know what's going on, don't we? Please keep preaching to me week after week! Please let's go see all our friends in the tribe because we all wouldn't be coming here if it wasn't true. We wouldn't build this building or the local police wouldn't direct traffic outside our parking lot. Handel, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven wouldn't have written about God if it weren't true. Billy Graham wouldn't be invited to the White House by 11 Presidents from Truman in 1945 to George W. Bush in 2007 if it weren't true. Look at all the cathedrals around the world. Look at all the seminaries and books written about our God. Look how many times we remind ourselves, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good." Because God is silent, because life happens exactly as it would if there were no god, we fill the silence and replace the chaos with the sounds of praises and the grand narratives of meaning, lest we lapse for just long enough to catch a glimpse of the meaninglessness, to hear the deafening silence, and actually consider that all these people and buildings and books and music and popes and general hoopla says more about our childish fears and  insecurities and our need to hide the man behind the curtain and protect God from his own scriptures than it does about the actual existence of God. Believers need things to be simple. They can't handle chaos. Life is complex. Humans are complex. The cosmos is complex. And all are chaotic. They like order and neat, clearly divided compartments where everything fits and makes sense. It's why the homophobic authors couldn't understand gayness, and why today's homophobes are fighting LGBTQ and transgender humans. We're messing up their sandcastle. Stephen Hawking, may he rest in peace, threw a wrench in their perfect, divine plan.

Now, for those of us who, like the Truman show, found the edge of the soundstage and stepped through the door to the real world, found the world to be much less scary than we were told or imagined. We discovered real humans and real art and real sex and the amazing creativity and determination of science and curing diseases and understanding our universe and cultures that worshipped other gods. That our little indoctrinations were so clearly man-made. Just this week I explored a couple of YouTubers called nerdwriter1 and Casey Neistat. I celebrated the music of Joe Bonamassa and The Kinks and brilliant artists that make us think and laugh like the Coen Brothers, David Letterman, Wes Anderson, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders, the Netflix series Seven Seconds and all the streaming shows that stretch us like Black Mirror or documentaries that challenge us to think about what we're doing to destroy the planet. Life is happening outside the Christian bubble in depths and breadths I wouldn't allow myself to consider inside the tribal walls.

 

And my guest today, Ryan Connell did just that--he not only left Christianity but he loaded up his car and went on the road to better understand why humans need religion, especially Christianity. His curiousity and lack of judgment is a breath of fresh air. I believe you're going to benefit from this conversation. We taped it on March 3rd, 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 "Hard to Be," by David Bazan

Ryan's Patreon site

 

Direct download: Ep_194_Ryan_Connell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:39am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Rosie in Great Britain. Rosie's dad was a pastor and in the late 70s co-founded the apostolic, pentecostal church called Newfrontiers International. Today it has hundreds of churches worldwide. At age 12 Rosie was subjected to a traumatizing exorcism for an eating disorder, which of course didn't work but the pastors and congregation claimed it did which only intensified Rosie's need to keep it a secret. She was taught that it was the end times, Jesus was coming back at any moment. They emphasized spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons.  The World is a scary place, but the church is safe. Today she has a private counselling practice and works with teenagers in school. She has emerged from the horrors of her childhood and feels she's got her happy ending, but prefers to think of it as her happy beginning. 

Last week I talked my histrionic tendencies. That I have a profound felt need for attention and affection that turned out to be something of a black hole of needs. My parents loved me but I discounted it because they were prejudiced and parents are hard-wired to love their children. My friends loved me but I thought they hated me, and actually my distrust of their friendship made more all the harder to earn what they'd already given me and did in fact become a self-fulfilling because my antics to gain their attention and adoration only drove them to dislike me, which only confirmed my suspicions. When the Gospel was presented to, the unconditional love of a God from whom I could not hide or fool into thinking I was cool by being funny or cute or smart or handsome. At last a love I could believe in and trust. After all the Bible said so.

But after the initial high of getting saved wore off, which was about 3 months I suppose, my black hole opened up again and sought the limelight. Becoming a worship leader, youth pastor, and eventual founding pastor of a non-denominational church put me on the stage where I could wow people with my wisdom, charisma, and powerful homiletics. Standing in front of a hundred teenagers and eventually adults with all their eyes on me, hanging on my every word, and afterword a line forming of those wanting to talk to me. The esteem, the exaltation made my black feel good. But much like an opiate, when the drugs wore off, I was lonely and depressed, needed back in the limelight. I suspect that histrionic personality disorder could also be called with Pastor's Syndrome.

This cycle, much like the experience with my youthful friends, over time, drove people away from me, confirming all my fears that I was unlovable, enticing me to try harder to make them love, driving them further away, including those nearest and dearest to me.

Leaving faith was the beginning of me joining the human race, learning to relax and be at home in my own body, to actually like myself apart from outside accolades, say yes to what is, and begin to establish myself and and my view of the world in which I find myself with the meaning I give it. Now, this is a life's work and as most of you know who listen to this show, I've got a long way to go, be even that I'm okay with. I also acknowledge that my black hole, while much smaller and less insatiable, derives some pleasure from being the honcho of this podcast and having thousands of listeners. And I'm hoping that being aware of that will assist me in resisting the temptation to get my validation from it. To illustrate this line of thinking in another way, here's a clip from someone I've learned a great deal from, Dr. Sheldon Solomon, a scholar on Ernest Becker's book, "The Denial of Death."  

(clip)

In a text conversation I had this week with a dear friend of mine that I met through this podcast, Kyle Buckles. I wrote: I want to love myself (say YES) such that I don't need anyone's affection or affirmation to feel good about myself AND enough to desire to develop myself into a better and better version of myself, not for anyone but myself and not because I'm inadequate right now. It's saying YES AND. I know it sounds like common sense, but I need to keep it in mind.

To which Kyle replied: ""That is excellent advice. And hard to accomplish but recognizing is a huge step. The one thing I will say is be compassionate with yourself on this journey of awareness. As you intuit how you feel and respond more and more, you may get frustrated. Allow yourself the space to fuck up. It's just like meditating, when you recognize your thoughts have wandered you note it and come back to the breath...not bashing yourself for fucking up. Keep in mind, as humans, we evolved to crave and need attention from others because it contributed to our survival, so until we fully ditch that as a species I don't think anyone can ever reach 100% non-dependency on others for affirmation and affection but it is good to attenuate it. Maybe keep that in perspective."

Our guest today, Rosie, models this endeavor with considerable success. As ex-Christians, stunted by the Christian debasement of what it means to be human and the relinquishing our wills and agency in submissive serfdom to a sovereign dictator, we find ourselves re-entering the world that's been going on without us, and the instinctive, natural intent to develop ourselves in a beautiful and often confusing maturation, natural to our species ensues. We are shedding the co-dependence to which our fears and insecurities enslaved us, and learning to be our authentic selves, in public, needing less and less from those around us, growing independent and eventually interdependent in a community of people also learning to stand on their own two feet.

We taped this conversation on February 11th, 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 "Deeper" by Delirious

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

Sheldon Solomon's talk on Self Esteem

Direct download: Ep_193_Rosie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:37pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Mary D. She's right here in the Nashville area so she was here in the studio. She has quite a journey through Catholicism, alcoholism, various protestant and evangelical churches and strangely (and unique to any other guest on this podcast) hypnosis.

Even though Mary has been involved in many churches over the years, she was never compelled to worship a god, so in some ways she's not our typical guest who had a traumatic departure from faith, but rather has a very generous regard for people who need religion. Sometimes we ex-Christians need a break from the veracious animosity we feel towards religion and maybe even those that adhere to it and give our fellow humans some slack as they fight their own battles and navigate their own storms.

I had an epiphany this week and it's a little embarrassing to admit it, 'cause it's going to sound like common sense to most of you. It has to do with something that happened to me when I left the faith. God's grace toward me was appealing to me because I had come to dislike myself and the message of someone forgiving me and giving me a clean slate and empower me to change was extremely appealing. I think this is why the Gospel appeals so strongly to people in alcohol and drug addiction or convicts in prison. But on a smaller scale, I had acted out in elementary school and middle school in ways that were inappropriate and shameful and by high school, I was a prime candidate for God's antidote to self-hatred. After all, in His holiness, he had all the right to hate me (and in fact without Christ's sacrifice he would) and here He is offering his unconditional love to me and eternal, blissful life with a new body and a perfect nature. Sign me up!  

Paul, in the scriptures (also a self-loather) prescribes emptying myself, becoming less so He could become more, casting off the old nature and fleshly desires for a new nature and a renewed mind. Throw in a powerful plan for my life that he would guide me through and WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?

Well, as we now know, that was all bullshit and we ended up giving our agency and personal accountability over to an imaginary, non-existent deity. SO, as a result, we often swing wide, like a pendulum to an opposite pathology. You may have heard me say many times on this podcast, "I will never apologize again for being human!" or "...being Cass Midgley," and I set out to embrace myself and love myself so thoroughly. And as usual, the healthy place is somewhere in the middle, where I acknowledge I'm imperfect and in fact capable of some pretty damaging behavior--damaging to myself and to my relationships. And unchecked, can truly fuck things up. So what is the truth here?

Well, stay with me for a sec. We all have personalities and these are the deeply ingrained patterns of behavior and the lens through which we perceive, relate to, and think about ourselves and their world in which we find ourselves. All personalities are flawed. Mental health professionals have defined 10 personality disorders as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. They are paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive. I invite you to investigate your own personality and these disorders to see where your imperfect personality errs on the side of one or more of these. Keep in mind that a full-blown diagnosis from a professional is far, far different and more extreme than simply recognizing that you find that you are mildly influenced by some of these, and of course you are. No one is immune to their influence because no one is perfect. And we all would benefit from some self-awareness of our own cryptonites. If we'er aware that we have this or that tendency, then we would benefit, especially those near and dear to us, if we could clue in to what they already know and that is we're all a little bit crazy. Being sensitive to your potential pathology could save a lot of pain and heartache, because you can reign it in when you start to feel it creeping up in you.

For example, my therapist told me this week that I'm not so much narcissistic as I am histrionic. Well I'd never heard the word "histrionic." The word itself means: an actor, overly theatrical or melodramatic in character or style, exaggerated dramatic behavior designed to attract attention.

For a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder to be given, five or more of the following symptoms must be present:

1 Self-centeredness, uncomfortable when not the center of attention. Me.
2 Constantly seeking reassurance or approval. Not constant so I'll give it a half point.
3 Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior. not me
4 Rapidly shifting emotional states that appear shallow to others. yeah, pretty much me. So that's 2.5
5 Overly concerned with physical appearance, and using physical appearance to draw attention to self. that's opposite of me, so I'm deducting a point.
6 Opinions are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details. not so much. I could be wrong, but I'm sticking with not me.
7 Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotion. OUch, pretty much me. back up to 2.5.
8 Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are. totally me. 3.5.
9 Is highly suggestible (easily influenced by others). Nope.

So 3.5 at worst 4.5 so I'm not at the level of "disorder" but close enough to arouse some self-awareness and some presence of mind to reign it in when I feel it arising, huh? Keep in mind, for these symptoms to be considered a disorder, they must cause significant impairment or distress in the individual.

Now, something that is not on that list of pathologies is lying. I've known some pathological liars in my years. Maybe you have too. They seem to get a rush from wowing people with their life stories and embellishing a little to get their listeners to that over-the-top place of gasps and awe. Today's guest, Mary D's story is like that at times. It's so brutal at times that I couldn't help but think, "is she embellishing?" But I only met her the day of this taping so I don't know, but I know this: we're all a little crazy, we're all needy, we're all insecure, and if we're aware of our own shadow side, we're much more likely to sense when we're tempted to resort to these lower demons of our nature, which will only end up hurting those we love and ourselves, and unlike our past religious lives where we'd either try to cast out the demon or try to get closer to God to dispell the darkness, or pray harder, we now know that it's up to us to be good, to do the right thing, to take the high ground, to say yes to our yin/yang nature and thus be empowered to say no to that which disconnects us from our fellow, flawed human neighbors.

We taped this conversation on February 11th, 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 was created Hans Zimmer from the movie Interstellar

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

 

Direct download: Ep_192_Mary_D.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:16pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Rogier Bos, Skyped in from the Netherlands. Raised by YWAM parents (and he himself YWAMer). He eventually got an M.A. in World-evangelization and worked in church planting for over 20 years. A Behavioral Science class in college started a slow-motion earthquake underneath his evangelical worldview. It all came crashing down in the summer of 2014 when he decided to do a three month experiment of not praying. He thought to himself, "If what I believe is true, than my life should take a serious turn for the worse". Only, it didn't. He realized he was doing better. He resigned his position as Europe Director of the church planting agency he was with, and is now in the process of trying to rebuild his life.

Those close to Rogier call him Ro, so that's what Bob and I call him. He's definitely one of the most devout Christians we've ever interviewed on this podcast. I totally related to his journey.  It didn't bring me to tears in the live interview but as I listened back to it during the edit, it hit me pretty hard in some moments and aroused some very tender... bittersweet memories about those years that Jesus and I were deeply intimate. For some of us...Everything, and I mean everything...every moment of everyday was in communion with Father God through the Holy Spirit and my master-teacher, Jesus. Even as recent as this week I was taking a late night walk in my neighborhood and I kid you not, I reflexively began praying in tongues. And I'm almost 10 years out from believing. Ro's memory of those years is so fresh and his retelling of his story, his bearing of his heart, that he still wishes that God was real is extremely moving. So much so that it could be triggering OR it could be healing to hear another dear, dear soul like Ro's share his heart-breaking story of deconstruction and reconstruction after the dark, confusing backpedaling of one's faith. One of the best quotes from Ro is, he said, "In the end, we are best served by believing in what is true and real, and not holding on to a myth or a fantasy — however nice they are." Today he's professional photographer, he's 48, he and his wife have both left ministry and left their faith, they have three young adult children and we talked to him there in Holland on February 10th, 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 Clair de Lune performed the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

Thanks for listening, and be Yes-Sayer to what is. 

Rogier's photography website

Karen Garst's new book: Women vs Religion 

 


Direct download: Ep_191_Rogier_Bos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:05pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dave Warnock interview Del and Jess from Australia. Del is a lifelong atheist raised by atheist parents. Jess is her daughter in law who was raised Mormon, trained in the track of female subservient wifehood , and forced to marry in the church at age 18 or be excommunicated out of the only community she'd known, including her immediate family. She got out of Mormonism, out of the marriage and is rebuilding her life and identity with the support of Del's son and her newfound community.

This is a story that involves the suppression of women in religion that intentionally and systemically keeps them dependent on men via religious doctrine and threats of dis-belonging.  They're prevented from learning life-skills that don't involve serving their man. And here's a hard fact: there have been countless couples over the years who went to their graves having lived these roles, and I reckon many of them died happy. Now their bliss was due to ignorance, but I'm just saying. My own mother turns 90 next month. She lost her husband, my father, 35 years ago and never dated once because of her love and devotion to my dad. They played their roles willingly, and to best knowledge and my father's credit he never lorded over her. My observation was that he would've celebrated her liberation and power and independence, had she ever wanted it, but she'd grown up dirt poor during the depression. She discovered her dead father's body when she was 17. She and her 5 siblings worked hard to make ends meet for their widowed mother. Sewed their own clothes, stretched every dollar for groceries and bills. She raised us kids and never worked a day the rest of her life because of my father's hard work and smart planning. And the sad part is that she never really knew what to do with herself when he died. She lacked confidence and drive and imagination and grit and even presence of mind, or what we call "agency" to reinvent herself.

I guess my point is that life happened. And by "life" I don't mean anything grandiose or fun or sad or any adjective or modifier. Just life. Human life. Out of a million sperm, the only one with your characteristics made it to ovum. Compound those odd with those by which your parents even met and ended up together. Compound that with the odds that your grandparents on both sides ever met and ended up in bed. And the millions of  sperm out of those three men that became that one that hit paydirt. What are the odds that you exist at all? And I've just gone back two generations. How the fuck do we get off judging our lives at all? Where did we lose the awe and wonder of just fucking existing? And once we exist we find ourselves in these bodies, with these personalities, traits, dispositions and flaws. We find these parents, possibly siblings, eventual friends, houses, towns, circumstances, etc. And we do the fucking best we can every fucking moment of every day just to find life, laughter, meaning, love.

Doesn't the god stuff come and steal our curiosity? our wonder? our awe? Doesn't it cheapen the miracle of life and our very existence? in it's feeble, cowardly attempt to give meaning and comfort? in this way is it not the worst opiate on the planet? we get high, stoned out, lost. Our up becomes down. Good becomes bad. Bad becomes good. Or we could good and bad get introduced to us at all.  In light of the massive odds that we exist at all, isn't judgment evil? Isn't the knowledge of good and evil, evil? I mean that. Our evolutionary survival and adaptation equips us to make wise decisions just fine without the piling on of god-pleasing nonsense.

As our guest today, Jess, sets out to discover, like many of us post-religious people, who the fuck we are and what do want or need from this miraculous, random existence. And at the risk of totally over-simplifying it, could it be that who we are is right under our nose? Not something we have to discover, but rather just be? Yeah, we'll "discover" who we are as we're BEING in real time, but I suspect that it's not something out there we have to discover. It's acknowledging that we're a great big fucking accident, random as fuck, and rare as fuck, and it's perfectly okay to just show up in real time, act on our values, which hopefully include that innate love and connection we all have. Listening to Brene Brown on Krista Tippet's On Being this week she said, and I paraphrase, "it is undeniably true that we're all connected in that we're all these human accidents who find ourselves here without any consent or permission on our part, and the divisions we feel and create are the lies." She said, "we forget that we're connected. And only when Re-Member that are we getting to the truth that has always been there."

Religion, fear, insecurity--all make us try to "fit in," when in fact we already belong. Brown said that when we "fit in" as opposed to "belong," we acclimate to the situation instead of standing for our authentic self." We discover ourselves by being ourselves. We find the path by walking it. Hopefully we have the good sense to surround ourselves with people who get this, who get "me," who have no time for judgment or misgivings of superiority or sense of entitlement or privilege to want more than the already magnanimous fucking miracle that is our very existence. We are what is. This is us. Be. Be. Be. Be. Pease be. Be you with me. Let me be me with you. Stop complicating it with shit that only robs us of the natural awe and wonder we would live with if acknowledge the random chaotic absurdity of this thing we call life. And said yes to what is.

We taped the following conversation on January 28th, 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, If you've pledged a dollar per episode in the past because it was within your budget to pledge 4 or 5 dollars per month, please go on patreon and change your pledge from one dollar to to 4 or 5 because Patreon forced us to changed to a monthly pledge and you're now pledging a dollar per month, which might be why our monthly check was half of what it's been for over a year, which is around $400. Thank you for your support. it helps my family resent the amount of time I spend on the show less. 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 "Closure" by Maroon 5


Direct download: Ep_190_Del_and_Jess.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:38pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Matt Vollmer, a former Vineyard church worship leader, and a gay man. I've never included a straight guest's sexual orientation during the introduction, but I highlight Matt's because it's a big part of his deconversion story. He didn't allow himself to be himself til he was 44. His departure from faith followed his coming out gay by 6 months. Matt grew up in the church, devoted to his faith and active in music ministry from an early age. But all along, he harbored a devastating secret about his sexual orientation. He did his best live a good, normal Christian life while looking for ways to overcome his constant desire for male intimacy. Finally, after going through two failed marriages and fathering six children, he came to a point of acceptance of this part of himself he could never change, and started dating men. Shortly thereafter, he also walked away from religion entirely, embarking on a grand adventure of life like he never before knew was possible.

Joy Hopper's book, "Unspeakable Joy" from episode 186. 

About an hour into the interview, our guest today, Matt Vollmer, references episode 177 with Jeff Haley and Dale McGowan as one that helped him take a less hostile position towards religions and those that still adhere to some form. Talking with a friend this week about some friends who have stuck with their faith, surprisingly, and he said, "some people just need it." He even had a friend tell him,"I can't bear the thought of not seeing my grandma again." Implied in that perspective is, "I don't care if it's true or not, I need to believe it's true in order hold myself together. I would collapse if I didn't have that hope. Now, are we to feel sorry for them? Are we to pity them? I say, NO. Of all people, we ex-believers should have compassion on that guy. As post-faith people, we should know the good, the beauty that that faith did for us (until the negative outweighed the positive), and 2) as atheists we should know that this life is hard leave people alone to equip themselves with whatever they need to be happy or even stay sane. We can have compassion because we didn't stick with it for decades because it was fruitless or meaningless. I felt extremely powerful moments in my 20+ years in the faith. Deep feelings, lot of tears, lots of magical moments. AND we know how hard it was to scrape out of our bones with chisels and knives. So we can have com passion. Com is a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” or “in association.” Passion comes from the Latin word passio, meaning suffering. So it means "suffering with." So when you're family member hang on to their faith, we can say--"I get that. I understand the suffering that makes belief in God a salve to the horror of a godless universe. I understand how seeing life through that lens can suspend disbelief and doubt and provide comfort--I used it for a long time before it stopped working for me." Perhaps some of us have even been tempted to go back...only to realize that's not really possible, without an enormous effort keeping certain knowledge chained up in the basement.

I'm reading Robert Bly's book, "Iron John." It speaks to tapping into the wild man or woman within each of us. He's critical of anything that tries to suppress our wildness or tries to tame us, including religion.  Thoreau wrote, “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us.” I had a version of this mindset even when I was Christian because I believe it's in my DNA, and thankfully Christianity was unsuccessful at snuffing it out, despite rigorous effort, and that is my wildness. Life is not tame. The universe is not orderly. Fearful people want things to make sense, to be controlled and directed and neatly organized in partitions and walls and boundaries. But nothing about the natural world, including us humans, will ever be successfully caged or controlled or domesticated. And that's not just something I love about life, it's the only way it could ever be. And so the brave must say yes to it. Nassir Ghaemi (Naw-sear Gomy), in his book "A First Rate Madness" argued that the greatest leaders and world changers, including MLK and Ghandi, were a little bit crazy. Normal people don't do amazing things, at least not while they're being normal. By definition, they have to do something abnormal for it to stand out against the vast, boring sea of normalcy. I imagine these people are difficult to be around. Like a tempest is hard to be around. The people around them have to really love them just to endure their shit. But the people that learn to love the wild things have learned the trade-off is they get to live a more vibrant life than they would wer they not around them. It's dangerous. It's unpredictable. It's insane sometimes. It's not for the feint of heart. Have people tried to tame you? Look at the artists that have found their own voice, whether in music or painting or writing. They must be in touch with their inner wildness. Where are the people whose eyes are wide open? They're hiding none of the harshness and ugliness of life from themselves. Where are the people who get angry, get excited, get sad, whose emotions actually flow in sync with what's actually happening. They don't try to do the opposite; like feign happiness when things are sad. This is the work of religions and reality-deniers, whose lives are dominated by their insatiable desires that things be different than what they are. They're the fake it til you make it crowd. But those are aligned with reality and honest with themselves channel those passions into life-giving creativity. Kylie McBeath wrote, "The more we disconnect from our own anger, the more fearful we become." The wild people are not passive, they just fight the right things. No-sayers are working just as hard to fight back reality and yes-sayers are fighting against the temptation to become a no-sayer.

We taped the following conversation on January 28th, 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, If you've pledged a dollar per episode in the past because it was within your budget to pledge 4 or 5 dollars per month, please go on patreon and change your pledge from one dollar to to 4 or 5 because Patreon forced us to changed to a monthly pledge and you're now pledging a dollar per month, which might be why our monthly check was half of what it's been for over a year, which is around $400. Thank you for your support. it helps my family resent the amount of time I spend on the show less. 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 was created by Cass Midgley

mvollmer2012@gmail.com

 

Direct download: Ep_189_Matt_Vollmer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:29pm CDT
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