Everyone's Agnostic Podcast
Cass Midgley interviews people you don't know about a subject no one wants to talk about--losing faith in the supernatural.

Cass Midgley talks with Casper Rigsby. I had Casper on back on episode 153 and being how he lives right here in Murfreesboro, I invited him over for a little chat about the state of the union and the subject of Identity.

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 August 19th, 2018. 
The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
The segue music on this episode is "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More.
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Casper is a prolific blogger and has personally published 7 books, including his best-selling title, "The Bible in a Nutshell." His work ranges from comedic blasphemy to philosophical inquiry and discourse. He was also nominated in 2015 for the Hitchens Prize which recognizes “an author or journalist whose work reflects a commitment to free expression and inquiry, ‭ ‬a range and depth of intellect, ‭ ‬and a willingness to pursue the truth without regard to personal or professional consequence.”

To me, he's a young man, probably around 30, with a strong mind, a big heart, and a feral determination to thrive. He and I have very different histories. I don't know much about this because he doesn't talk about it much, but he served time in prison and was involved in white supremacy. Perhaps that's why he's so vehement now against it. I love him and I think you'll gain something from being with him for 45 minutes.

Message from listener: "Hi Cass, I really loved and appreciated the episode with David Hayward. My deconstruction began almost two years ago when I lost my 21-year-old daughter in a tragic UTV accident in which she was a passenger. She was home for the weekend from her Air Force duty station in SC. I lost a husband at 24 that was very difficult, but losing my daughter has destroyed my foundation and all that I knew. I was a student pastor at the time and had been an active devout christian for 3 years. A short time, but I was all in. I went from being a believer to a disciple very quickly. I had grown up "knowing" there was a god and I was supposed to get right with him one day. And so I finally did. Joined the church and served with all that I had to give...three years later on a Sunday, my best friend, part of my everything, was taken from me. The night we lost Morgan, my faith began to collapse. Where was god when I prayed for my child to survive. Where was he when I was lying on the floor day in and day out in agony wishing for my breath to escape my body and never return? Where was he when all the people abandoned me and my family?  Where was he in all of my questions and pleadings? Nowhere, I learned. I learned the night of the accident that prayer doesn't work. It's nothing but mere words to a sky. Soon after, within weeks, the pastor informed me "I needed to be at church, so people could love me." I guess meeting me in my brokenness at my home was too much. I needed to be in their comfort zone. I couldn't comply. The church, the people were soon gone...before the casseroles could get cold actually. It was then that I learned that the holy spirit was a lie. People aren't changed by anything. They are the same selfish people they've always been. That was step two in my deconstruction. Step three was realizing that when I stopped brainwashing myself with singing, bible reading and teaching, and Sunday services suddenly god was gone. I never felt him after I lost my child. Not one time in my pleading, begging, and praying for something, anything, did I get a reassurance that my child was in Heaven, he didn't do this, he was good...or any of the stuff I needed. I learned it was because he was never there. It was all in my head.....Step four was when I enrolled at university to pursue the undergraduate degree my daughter was in the process of getting. I had my children young so I put off getting my degree to raise them and work. I wanted to do this to honor her. As I began taking classes, at a christian university of all things, I began to learn about the early church and its beginnings in a western civilization class.....this added to my newly formed belief that the church and religion were nothing more than man-created ways to handle the existential issues of life. Well, that and a way to rob men of their money and time. I also began exploring on the internet and in books all the things I had closed my mind to to keep from being of the world when I was a believer. Books, articles, websites, etc that were filled with rational information helped me see that what I was learning and feeling was legitimate. I soon left the christian university and transferred to the university my daughter attended before joining the air force. I'm in my sophomore year there now. I say all this just to give some background as to why I related to this episode with David so much. In addition to my husband and I losing our daughter, we lost our faith. Our complete beings were attacked and therefore so was our marriage. It has definitely been hard with both of those combined weights attacking it from all angles. We are fighting though. We have 16 years together and we both believe its worth the uphill climb. Some days are really hard. Neither of us is the same person, and we are having to relearn each other, grieve, help the other grieve, help our surviving daughter (who was at the accident that took her sister) deal with PTSD, and create new meaning, all while doing the necessary tasks that life demands. I have related to many of your guests and I'm thankful for the echo chamber and think tank that you provide with this podcast. Validation is a very important thing for humans in order to not feel alone and isolated, which is very easy to do in a situation such as ours. I need it in the loss of my child and grief, and I need it in the loss of god and the grief that that brings. Thank you for your wisdom and for sharing your own journey, as well as those of your guests. What a great way to create meaning in your life, helping us who are new on this journey. Much love to you Cass.  (I added her to the private support group on FB - ep207 death, ep216 Grief)

Leisha: Thank you for adding me to the group and for sharing those episodes. I will most definitely be listening. I am grateful for this community. Damn this is a lonely place. Especially where I live: Rural, bible-loving, preacher-growing, conservative sweet home Alabama. Ugh... I love the place but finding like minded people is extremely difficult. Online communities and support are all I have with the exception of my support group for bereaved parents, which is full of people who believe they will see their child in heaven.
My daughter lived life fully and on the edge, never scared of anything... I was always fearful of losing her and then I did. And the Christian's wanted me to believe it was god's plan. Well the hell with that and their god... what an asshole. I'd rather accept that hes not there than think he chose, caused, or planned this for her or I. 🙂
Cass: Yep. THAT god can't exist and even if he did, I'd never bow the knee to him. I've believed for some time now that atheism is the best practice of theism, bc by ignoring him/her/it, I find myself looking at my fellow humans instead of heavenward. I find I care more, feel more, trust more, live more and that's what a good god would be pleased with. Besides, he/she/it has to be ineffable, unfathomable, and unimaginable, so the fool says "I know God. What He likes, dislikes, approves, disapproves, etc." I know immediately, I'm dealing with an arrogant, power-loving, insecure, scared, delusional person, and I turn tail and run. 🙂  Agnostic atheism produces the best human being, morally and ethically. In my opinion. 🙂
Leisha: And I agree. I find myself more caring and compassionate without religion. I'm a good person and I want to do good and be altruistic in nature because I know other humans love/suffer/hurt as I do. I dont need a crutch or a moral law-giving god to make me do or be good and I have realized that I haven't turned into a new person so much but really just rediscovered who I was the whole time. I am my own agent, my own judge and forgiver, my own support, and my own means creator. It's very freeing. I've had a couple of people see a few tweets I've shared that had atheistic ideas or views reply with, "this makes me sad." I reply back with, "dont be sad, if there is any area of my life that I actually feel good about, it's this one. I'm good there." Yes it's been a process and a difficult one but one that's grown and stretched me so much. Sometimes my brain is just like, holy shit, stop with the information." And my husband and daughter probably say the same thing 🤣 I just wish I could have discovered it all without losing my daughter. 😞 I am alot like you, I think,  in the fact that my wheels are always turning, my mind is always inquiring, digging, grasping, pondering, contemplating,  and philosophizing. Its exhausting but I think I would go crazy if I never got any of it out.

I've been fascinated with identity recently, in a dialectic way. On one hand, the search for "who am I" type identity crisis is often over-played. Friend and former guest on this podcast, Tony Woodall writes, "99% of becoming who you really are...is turning loose of who you think you are supposed to be." Mark Manson, the author of "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck“ writes, "My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator. The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.This often means giving up some grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world.”

But what if you're Hispanic in America. What if you're Arab-American or African-American. What if your gay or trans? why does the culture simultaneously hold those identities in contempt while claiming to not see them? People have claimed to be colorblind when it comes to race, but what if people of color don't want to be invisible?

Here's some James Baldwin quotes on the subject: "An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience. If you're treated a certain way, you become a certain kind of person." I'm a firm believer in like breeds like when it comes to treatment of others. If a teacher conveys respect to his/her students, the students are more likely to return that respect. When parent's confer love to their children, those children are more likely to be loving to their peers. And the opposite is true of hateful or judgmental parents--the children will turn out hateful and judgmental. Again, James Baldwin, "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." And the sneaky thing about bigotry, judgment, racism, or hatred is that often the people that wield these attitudes don't think of themselves as such. Baldwin says, "We have all had the experience of finding that our reactions and perhaps even our deeds have denied beliefs we thought were ours."
All this to say that, in this world, we're all trying to find our place. Where do we contribute? Where do my gifts shine and help others? How do I contribute to the betterment of things? But if those very things which make me ME are stigmatized negatively, how will I ever be given a chance to prove myself virtuous? Pigeon-holing people as such-and-such because of something about them is SO goddamn presumptuous, narrow and ignorant of how complicated we are as humans. Atheists must be immoral, polyamorists must be slutty, Christians must be judgmental, blacks must be lazy free-loaders of welfare, rednecks must be stupid, Arabs must be anti-freedom, women must be over-sensitive, etc. How fucking lazy is it for someone to assume because someone is "blank" they must be "blank?" We might have to think, we might have to give each person we meet a clean slate, we might have to honor the identity of their ethnicity, orientation, religion, or occupation while stopping before broad-brushing all people who share those identities. Goddamnit, we're complicated. NOTHING about this is simple! Nothing about sharing space with other human beings is easy, even if you're family.

Agent Smith is an artificial intelligence character in the Matrix films who is the primary antagonist. He hates humans. He reminds me of the Biblical mindset that hates humanity and wants something better. It's not the only biblical mindset, but it is the primary in my opinion. It also resembles racism or any other bigotry that elevates itself to superiority over reality. These are no-sayers, mind you, wishing that things were different. (play clip)

In this next clip, Agent Smith is fighting Neo, the protagonist in the series, and does not understand why he cares. Like my guest today, and myself, and many of you, if not all, we care. You wouldn't be listening to this if you didn't. You get out of bed everyday because you HAVE found meaning and purpose in a godless world. You haven't let naturalism infect you with complete nihilism. Why? Well that's the question Agent Smith poses. (play clip)

 

My interview today is political in nature. You may wonder how that fits into the deconversion theme of this podcast. Well it doesn't, really. But I'm concerned about the future of this country because I know that all empires eventually fall. And they've fallen for the very reasons that are happening today. And you know, what the fuck, why not try to stop that? why not resist? and this is my small way of resisting. I'm going to play a clip from the 1970 movie, "Catch 22." The history of that phrase comes from the military. The novel looks into the experiences of airmen who attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they may return home. While most crews are rotated out after twenty-five missions, the minimum number of missions for this base is eventually raised to an unobtainable eighty missions. Compliance with this insane number invokes regulation 22 for which there is a catch: An airman would have to be crazy to fly more missions, and if he were crazy he would be unfit to fly and he get sent home. Yet, if an airman would refuse to fly more missions, this would indicate that he is sane, which would mean that he would be fit to fly the missions. Hence the name, Catch-22. In this scene, an American soldier gets into a talk with an old Italian owner of a whorehouse about the future of America. (play clip)

Here's the rub: by wanting America to be great again, we have to believe that we're superior. We know Trump believes in eugenics, which is the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.But it sounds like something Agent Smith would endorse, does it not?

The catch is, wishing things were better is a trap. In some ways, those of us who are opposing Trump and this racist agenda toward "greatness," we are espousing normalness, humaness, reality. Saying yes to what is. What Casper and I talk about today is not wishing things were different, but the opposite. It's calling down those who do wish things were different. Christians wish it. Nazis wish it. Trump wishes it. Uber-wealthy one-percenters wish they had more stuff. People want to live forever. People want life with no pain. They want a skinnier waist, a sharper nose, for things out of their control to be different. Contrast that with people who want to stop unnecessary shit, like cancer, or starvation, or climate change. They've said, "yes, cancer is upon us, AND we can stop it, or die trying."

If you want to make the world a better place while embracing the realities of our complexities as a species, namely our different skin colors, our different cultures, beliefs and religions, then you are simultaneiously a yes-sayer and a world-changer. If you want to make things better by denying reality and the complexities of being human, then you're a lazy, fearful coward in the line of Agent Smith and Donald Trump.

 

Direct download: Ep_220_Casper__Cass.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:46pm CDT
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Cass Midgley interviews David Hayward. 
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.

David Hayward was baptized Anglican as a baby, came to faith in a Baptist church when he was a teenager, changed to Pentecostal in his late teens, married another Pentecostal named Lisa, was ordained Presbyterian, pastored a Vineyard church, and planted others. He has a Masters in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as a Masters in Religious Studies and Ministry from McGill University in Montreal. But in 2010 David left the professional paid clergy. He is still passionate about how people can find and follow their own spiritual path with courage and joy, as well as in how people can freely gather and form community in healthy ways. David started a blog called nakedpastor in 2006, and initiated his public analysis of religion, religious community and spirituality through his writings, art and cartoons. Thousands of people are challenged and entertained by nakedpastor every day. His art, cartoons, writings and book have found their way all around the world. David lives with his wife Lisa on the beautiful Kennebecasis River near Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. They have 3 grown children close by.

I just want to relax. on wishing anything were different. I am most healthy when I release and accept...that which I have no control over. We don't really realize how destructive expectations are, do we? Imagine someone your sideways with comes to you, humbles themselves and tries to repair the breach and because you were expecting it, the beauty and miracle of it is lost on you. It may not have measured up to your expectation and thus lost on you. The degree in which I wish things in my life, over which I have no control, were different has a direct and immediate effect on my satisfaction with my life. Release and accept. Say yes to what is. Because, unlike my Christian life, where I was compelled to carpe diem, to keep pressing in. One scripture that I memorized and quoted almost everyday in my quiet times was Philipians 3:7-13. And it demonstrates a disdain for satisfaction. Even now, that machosim, that rigor appeals to something in me, but I now consider it to be something life-draining, and that is...never let a guy relax, be content for a goddamn minute. It's saying no to what is and constantly trying to get better, be better, be more pleasing, be more spiritual, and just reciting that again sounds exhausting and reminds me of the debilitating effect that had on my fatigue and frustration. Today I want to be satisfied, I want to relax. I want to say yes to what is. To quote Nietzsche (and I'm paraphrasing), "“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful that which is out of my control; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati--the love of fate: 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. The only thing I will say no to is looking away. I will not look away. I will not bury my head in the sand and deny that shit is happening. I will look at my life with eyes wide open. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. It's my formula for human greatness: amor fati: that I want nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past. Not only that I would endure what is necessary, much less to hide it from myself, such idealism is wishful thinking and a lie, in the face of reality— , but instead to love it...to embrace it as mine to learn from, within which to find truth. Amor fati: this is the very core of my being—And as to my hardships, failures and mistakes, do I not owe much more to these than I owe to my successes? To these I owe a higher kind of health, a sort of health which grows stronger under everything that does not actually kill me!—To these, I owe even my philosophy, which is great suffering is the only and ultimate emancipator of spirit, for it teaches one that living fearfully and suspiciously is constantly making mountains out of molehills. Only great suffering; that great suffering, under which we seem to be over a fire of greenwood, the suffering that takes its time—forces us philosophers to descend into our nethermost depths, and to let go of all that which we formerly staked our humanity which was a trust that everything happened for a reason, that life was good and fair. No, acknowledging that chaos runs the universe, not order; that absurdity is the norm, not meaning or purpose. Suffering. Beauty in it all. Not hating it; loving it. By saying saying yes to it. Release and accept."

In this talk with David Hayward, we discover that he and I were both muscians in the Lort's service. Writing Christian songs. Well, just to show how truly shameless I am, I'm going to play a song I wrote and recorded in 1983 as a 17 year old, and it's the opposite of the philosophy I just prescribed from Nietzsche, and directly taken from Paul. It's about never being satisfied. Contrast that with today when all I want in these last two or three decades of my life is satisfaction. Relax, release and accept.  

We taped this conversation on August 19th, 2018. 
The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
The segue music on this episode is "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot. 
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

 

Direct download: Ep_219_David_Hayward.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09pm CDT
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Cass Midgley interviews Tanya Harrison. Tanya is 44 years old, totally blind since birth. She explored a variety of Christian denominations for most of her life in an earnest quest to find God. Today she's convinced that God's not anywhere! And now has more time to dedicate to her passions, which include her dog, Molly, her friends, music, reading, Star Trek and psychology. She writes, "It is a wonderful feeling to have a mind I can trust, not having to feel guilty about leaning on my own understanding." As you'll hear, she is quirky and eccentric. Tanya suspects she gets that from her mother and as Tanya is shunned by her mother and her sisters, she misses her mother dearly. Her life motto is "live life to love and laugh."

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 July 29th, 2018. The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me" 
The segue music on this episode is a song that Tanya chose that she says picks her up when things are getting her down, "Since I Met You" by the Avalanches

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

 

Direct download: Ep_218_Tanya_Harrison.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 217 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today I don't have a guest. My wife and I are headed up to Madison as this is being released to visit our dear friends, Bob and Edie Pondillo. Bob was the co-host of this podcast for the first four years, over 200 episodes. I miss him greatly as I'm sure you do too, if you were listening through those years. But back in September of 2014 we recorded episode 14 with Bob reading an essay he wrote called "Good Without God." It remains one of our most downloaded episodes ever, with over 4,000 downloads.  So I'm going to rerun that reading by Bob as a tribute to him while I'm up thinking, stinking and drinking with him on his porch. One of my favorite things to do in the world.

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 Bob's reading of "Good Without God" in August of 2014

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

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




Direct download: Ep_217_Bob_Pondillo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:37pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 216 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley.  My guest today is Rachel and that's all she's going to go by today. She's hear to talk about GRIEF, especially secular tools for coping with grief. This is a great convo.  You're not going to believe how sharp Rachel is. Prepare to be a better person 2 hours from now (if you listen in one sitting; which no one does, so...) Prepare to be a better person and more equipped to deal with grief whenever you get through this episode.  

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.

Between 2002-2011, Rachel moved ten times for her husband's graduate education and career in ministry.  The more she studied the scriptures and served in the church, the more her faith eroded. This was true for her husband, as well. For him, addiction ensued and secrecy abounded.  

In 2010, Rachel left her religious tradition to explore new worldviews, including humanism and applied positive psychology. While she flourished in her newfound freedom, her husband languished... consumed by regret, self-doubt, and anxiety around the potential fallout of leaving the fold.

Two years later, Rachel's optimism was put to the ultimate test when her husband died in a car accident, leaving her widowed overnight with three boys to raise. Although surrounded by loving and well-intentioned family and friends, her support system offered definitively Christian comfort and consolation. This minimized her loss and compromised her ability to process her grief honestly and openly.  

Ever since she's been exploring new pathways to navigate both life and death in the pursuit of wholehearted healing and reality-based hope.  Her desire is to build secular communities of support for people whose lives have been disrupted by tragedy, transition, and loss... including (and especially) the loss of faith.

Rachel is a resilience trainer and grief support specialist. Even though she talks about death and loss a lot, she's into all things mind-expanding, life-enriching,  and joy-inducing. She is currently developing "resilience without religion" retreats through www.FlourishingBeyondBelief.com.

We taped this conversation on July 29th, 2018. 
The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

find your 25 strengths at https://www.viacharacter.org/

Maria Paplova's Blog - Brain Pickings

 

Direct download: Ep_216_Rachel_on_Grief.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:40pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 215 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, my guest is James Exline.

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.

James is a coffee zealot and self-proclaimed coffee snob who is a former jesus follower who became a pastor who was not only derailed by his own cognitive dissonance and loss of faith but his abusive childhood and his mother's solution of feeding him into obesity by age 3, James retained, at no easy feat, to keep his integrity, agency and self-respect to go on to serve at a drug and alcohol treatment center. Today he's an atheist and humanist. Overcoming decades of self-hatred and endless bullying, he is in recovery himself from alcohol, opioid and food addictions, he is passionate about helping fellow addicts and alcoholics obtain better lives through sobriety—this time sans god.

James has written memoirs chronicling his journey from faith to atheism; those memoirs and more can be read on his blog https://jamesexlineatheist.blogspot.com/ He is also a contributing author at https://www.fullydeconverted.com/ and currently works as a barista at Starbucks while he works on certifications to return to work in the addiction treatment industry.

We taped this conversation on July 21st, 2018. The intro music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me" Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

https://worldbeyondwar.org/good-people-doing-bad-things/

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/nov/12/improbable-research-seeing-upside-down

Cog Dis : the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. you either give in to it and let it keep your world upside down, or you listen to it and reject the nonsense.

Upside down. I'm not trying to boast here, but all my life I've been a softie. As a young boy I once shot a Robin out of a tree with a BB gun. I went to his broken body on the ground, picked him/her up, petted her, wept and buried her.  I've only ever wanted people to just get along. I hate estrangement of any kind, let alone war and hatred. I hate separation of any kind, especially the kind that gives a person licence to benefit at another's expense. It was the Love I was presented in Jesus in God that I bought into. It was the peace-maker Jesus. We know now that if you have a good heart, that the good-hearted Christianity will appeal to you and make you an even better person, because a good person is always looking, whether they know it or not, for those things that will augment the good in their own hearts and in the world. If you're a person with deep-seeded pain that you've not dealt with, talked through, worked through, then bitterness, resentment, fear, self-pity, victimhood and self-dislike or distrust is going to draw you to the mean-spirited Christianity. We humans don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. If toxicity is running through our hearts and minds, then our insecurity will drive us to find things that confirm the skewed lens through which we interpret the world, not confront it. But Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg said, "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion." Weinberg points to a phenomenon that truly turns things upside down. An otherwise good-hearted person can find themselves thinking, saying, and doing things so inconsistent with their original goodness by giving their freedom and agency to dogmas that flip their morals upside down. Devotion to the wrong things produces devotion to wrong things and it breeds in on itself. We become what we admire. And like all successful scams, they pull your naive, gullible good self in with goodness and then slowly turn things upside down the moment they recognize that you've lost your bearings. And before you know it, you become what you used to hate. Stockholm syndrome. One thing I say when people ask why I left Christianity, its because I somehow mustered enough conscience and agency to spot it. To spot what I was becoming. For me, it was 9-11. For some more recently, it's been the evangelical support of Trump. It's noticing cog dis when you see it. Christians that hate Sharia Law wanting our schools, cop cars, and money to say, "In Allah we trust," and to impose Biblical law on non-bible adhering fellow citizens.  It's Christian racists. Christian anti-education. Christian misogyny. Until some of us began to wonder, "are these betrayals of Christianity or loyalties to Christianity?

Some years ago, the psychologist Albert Bandura listed eight mental tricks people play to disengage their consciences so they can perform the acts of violence they would normally abhor. I present them now with some commentary from Kent Shifferd, a Ph.D. History Professor with over 30 years experience studying Peace:

  1. Moral Justification: one is persuaded, for example, that killing the enemy serves a higher moral purpose such as protecting one’s country or serving God’s plan, etc.
  2. Euphemistic Labeling: people mask the true nature of behavior they know is unethical, such as labeling “enhanced interrogation” for torture, “servicing the target” for shooting the enemy, and “disinformation” for lying.
  3. Advantageous Comparison: as in “What I am doing is not as bad as what they are doing.”
  4. Displacement of Responsibility: Uncritically following orders, as in the Nazi concentration camp workers or SS execution squads.
  5. Diffusion of Responsibility: when a whole group decides on the unethical action or when the action is divided into many subparts, for example, the building of nuclear weapons. (“All I do is assemble this little electronic part.” Or, “I’m just driving a truck bring supplies—I don’t shoot anybody.”)
  6. Disregard or Distortion of Consequences: for example, when harm is inflicted at a distance (as in officers in Montana who guide drones that make “bug splats” in Afghanistan) or dropping bombs from a plane on “targets” even though women and children and old men are being killed below.
  7. Dehumanization: labeling the victims of one’s violence as non- or subhuman, as in calling Vietnamese people “slants” and “gooks” during that war, or Germans “Huns” in WWI, or Arabs “towel heads” and “sand niggers” in the First Gulf War.
  8. Attribution of Blame: or blaming the victim who is seen as deserving the mistreatment or seen as having brought it on themselves. For example, “These German civilians we are killing below should not have voted for Hitler; therefore they are to blame for our bombings.

One of the great dangers of letting one's morality get turned upside down, is our brains can trick us into thinking everything's fine, everything is right side up. Not only ideologically, but literally.

In the middle of the 20th century, an Austrian professor turned a man's eyesight exactly upside-down, but after a short time, the man adjusted and could function as normal. Professor Theodor Erismann, of the University of Innsbruck, devised the experiment, performing it upon his assistant and student, Ivo Kohler. The professor had Kohler wear a pair of hand-engineered goggles. Inside those goggles, specially arranged mirrors flipped the images that would reach Kohler's eyes, top becoming bottom, and bottom top.

At first, Kohler stumbled wildly when trying to grasp an object held out to him, navigate around a chair, or walk down stairs. In a simple fencing game with sticks, Kohler would rise his stick high when attacked low, and low in response to a high stab. Holding a teacup out to be filled, he would turn the cup upside down the instant he saw the water apparently pouring upward. The sight of smoke rising from a match, or a helium balloon bobbing on a string, could trigger an instant change in his sense of which direction was up, and which down.

But over the next week, Kohler found himself adapting, in fits and starts, then more consistently, to such sights.  After 10 days, he had grown so accustomed to the invariably upside-down world that, paradoxically and happily, everything seemed to him normal, rightside-up. Kohler could do everyday activities in public perfectly well: walk along a crowded sidewalk, even ride a bicycle.


Erismann and Kohler did further experiments. So did other scientists. Their impression is that many, perhaps most, maybe just about all, people are able to make these kinds of adjustment. Images reach the eye in some peculiar fashion, and if that peculiar fashion is consistent, a person's visual system eventually, somehow, adjusts to interpret it — to perceive it, to see it — as being normal. Kohler writes that, "after several weeks of wearing goggles that transposed right and left, one person "became so at home in his reversed world that he was able to drive a motorcycle through Innsbruck while wearing the goggles". This automatic, almost-effortless adaptation to visual weirdness is one of many bizarre things that brains do that scientists simply do not understand.

Like many of us ex-Christians, my guest today, James Exline, started listening to and giving credence to, his own head-scratching cognitive dissonances. We took off our metaphorical goggles that had flipped everything and we realized we'd been dooped. However, since we'd been wearing the goggles for so long, our brains had to correct the adaptation they'd adopted. By taking the goggles off, we were seeing reality--things as they really are--but now normal seemed upside down. It was probably due to this alarming revelation that some of us quickly put the goggles back on, saying, "I don't care if my world is not real, I'm not ready to have my world turned upside down." For those of us on whom the goggles where placed at an early age, we'd never really seen the world as it is. And it's scary. Probably the very reason that the goggles were invented at all.  

I want to trust the convictions of the boy in me who regretted killing that Robin. I want to believe myself when I tilted my head at the Noah's ark story, or Jesus saying he came not to bring peace but a sword. I want to be wary of my own propensity to justify violence when I'm coming from a place of fear or victimhood. One thing I love about James' story and so many of these deconversion stories, is that we all know tons of people who will go to their grave believing in the inverted world of Christianity, and some of us feel grateful that if not for the grace of honesty, there go I. There is a resilient human spirit that will not be snuffed out by the Bible. James, like many of us, found that his devotion to Christian doctrine brought out the lower angels of his nature, which ironically only intensified the self-hatred willed to him by his father. His fight out of the dumps to eventually develop an endearing fishing partnership with his aging father is a product of James trusting his own heart--his good heart--that was good all along, despite what the Bible told him so.  

 

 


 

Direct download: Ep_215_James_Exline.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 214 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 dear friend Dave Warnock and I talk with Marcia Wickham.

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.

Marcia Wickham is an organic farmer from central PA and the mother of eight beautiful kids. Her recovery from childhood incest has led her to a passionate interest in helping other survivors and in building bridges of understanding between the Christian faith and those who have left. She engages in dialogue with pastors to address the ways theology can collide with psychology when it comes to the often messy process of recovery. She’s studied psychology, sociology and philosophy of religion through Harrisburg Community College and has collaborated with Refinery29 in New York on a feature length documentary about recovery from incest that is in its final edit. She’s also done podcasts with Life After God and Women Beyond Belief.

Like all of these episodes, we interview regular people, fighting their own battles, reaching for oxygen, discovering their own selves, wrestling to steal back their own lives, their own agency, formerly hijacked by people and gods and people-made-gods, just to craft some kind of life worth living and find the laughter and joy that is theirs to procure. Buckle your seatbelts. Push your earbuds in tight. You're gonna wanna take this in, drink this in, deep into your soul because we all have a lot to learn from Marcia. This is what power looks like. This is what overcoming odds and violation and people who step WAY beyond the bounds of other precious human's rights. Fuck the takers. Applaud the givers but most of all, WORSHIP the BE-ers. They just want to be. They've detached from the myth of NEED NEED NEED. Not Marcia, she KNEED her malefactor in the metaphorical balls posthumously and reinvented herself anew. This kind of power is what excites me, gives me hope. It's strangely non-violent yet kicks ass and takes names in a way that foments love and tenderness and respect and hope. So with further Beauty, I bring you, Marcia Wickham.

We taped this conversation on July 22nd, 2018.

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

The segue music on this episode is "Ghost Train" by Counting Crows

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

 

Direct download: Ep_214_Marcia_Wickham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:35pm CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 213 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley.Today, I'm going to feature a short piece by Mark Manson, author of "The Sacred Art of Not Giving a Fuck."

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.
The intro and segue music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me"
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

I don't have a guest today. In fact, this is really just a filler episode that I figure is better than posting nothing. I've had a crazy week, I've got several shows in the can, in fact next week's show is a doozy and I just didn't have the time to do it justice, so I invite you to go listen to episode 35 of Ryan Bell's podcast Life After God with his guest Marcia Wickham to get some background on her story. She's my guest next week. My fellow ex-pastor Dave Warnock sits in as co-host as well. Marcia is a Phoenix that rose out of the ashes of incestuous sexual abuse that was exacerbated by Christianity. She is one impressive woman.

Today I'm going to play a couple of pieces by Mark Manson. I really like Manson and they way he thinks. I relate to it. Sometimes I listen to things that stretch me, and sometimes I listen to things that affirm my crazy thoughts and it helps me not think I'm crazy. Self-acceptance is a big deal. The world would be such a better place if more people accepted themselves. I used to say love themselves or like themselves but I prefer accept one's self because acceptance includes even those things that one doesn't like or love about  one's self. Bob and I used to talk a lot on this podcast about seeing ourselves as connected. The bell tolls for thee type stuff. When I see you I see me. When I'm mean to you I'm mean to me. etc. Self-acceptance is the precursor to any of that even beginning to happen. Why? Because saying yes to what it means to be me is achieved by looking at myself eyes wide open, not hiding or denying or wishing anything were different. With that level  of acceptance, I clap my hands, slap my face, jump up and down and enter the world. I bring it. I bring me. Unashamed. Unapologetic. I don't answer to anyone. The only person I have to be loyal to is me. The only person I need to impress is me, and I don't want to be impressed, so I'm off the hook from having to perform or wow. I don't need anything from anyone in the room. I'm not feeding off of them, or looking for affirmation or validation. I'm enough and I know it because I accepted my reality and said yes to what is.

On the other hand, if you doubt yourself, or reject yourself or deny who you are, you say no to it, then you don't REALLY ever bring yourself into the room. Well, you do, because you have to, but it's really scary for you because you don't really want to be seen because you know how weak you are, how bland, how not funny or not smart or not educated or not clever. Almost everywhere you go you feel out of your league, you're less than and you know if people really knew you and saw you for who you really are they would reject you like you've rejected yourself. So you put on a mask and a cloak and people's desire to connect with you is preempted by your costume because they think they're connecting with you but they're connecting with a fictional character you've created. I've been in relationship with these types for years, and eventually I got the nagging sense that I didn't really know them. If I thought about it or cared enough to think about I'd discover that there's no depth to our friendship, there's something missing. What's missing is THEM. They're not here. They've sent their avatar.

So this ideal of humans connecting and seeing their self in each other is hijacked because humans can't fully connect with ghosts, with hidden people, with guarded people, with fakers and posers.

As Christians we embraced this line of thinking because we were sinners in the hands of an angry God who could only look upon us if we were (and I kid you not) HIDDEN IN CHRIST! We put on the mask of Christ and not only thereby hid from God, but we hid from each other. That's why church always felt like a play. We were actors. Taking our cues from what we believed God wanted from us--in the way of behavior and vocabulary, values and priorities. We got our identity from outside of ourselves. So we were hollow. Shells. The lights were on but no one was home. And when we lost our faith and found ourselves in a godless world, some of us didn't know who to be. We didn't know who we were. We may have carried over some shame from being human, being sexual, being crass, being normal. We may have been tempted to hide. Old habits die hard. But the real world out there wanting to connect with us needs us defrocked, demasked, delivered from self-rejection and fear.

So come on in the water's warm. We're all fucked up. We're all cellular accidents with no owner's manuals. Join the human race. Join this insane, inane experiment of evolutionary biology. Fart if you want, we all do it. Sing if you want. Be angry, but hurt, and most of all be honest. We'll decide how much we like you and how much time we want to spend with you, but don't take it personal, you get to do the same with me. And that's not rejection, that's actually us ACCEPTING each other for who we are. That doesn't mean we'll be best friends, but at least we'll be making these kind of decisions based on the truth of who we are, not some facade.  

 

Direct download: Ep_213_Mark_Manson_Bits.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12am CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 212 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 Pat LaFord Green. 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.comWe taped this conversation on July 21st, 2018. The intro and segue music is by Dave Weckl called "Just Groove Me."  Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.

Pat decided before coming on this podcast, because he's been featured on a few, that he was gonna be real. He was gonna relax and not pre-imagine what it was going to be, or plan out what or how he was going to present. He was going to be Pat. Not "just" Pat, or "just" Cass, because that intones "only or merely." And there's nothing mere about Pat or me or you. On the other hand, "merely" means only as specified and nothing more. So in this sense, Pat did show up as merely Pat and nothing more. No showboating or posturing or masquerading. Just Pat. Which sounds like something Mr. Rogers would say, "just you." And we're enough, aren't we? We're all a mixture. We're all confused. We all succeed and fail and we vary on what those words even mean. We avoid placing judgment on the art that is us, don't we? Hopefully we do, because if a painter or sculpture or poet or songwriter or woodcarver sets out to express themselves in ways that they don't even know where it's going to go when they put paint brush to canvas, then the Big Bang certainly didn't know either where this was going, did it? So everything is a big "OOPS" isn't it? How many of us are accidents where our Dads were in such ecstacy in climaxing balls deep inside our mom's that we're really just a big "oops?" When we see the reality of this chaotic mess we find ourselves in we lose entitlement and expectation and privilege, don't we? We're not privileged to be here. A privilege is a benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most, and when it comes to our biology, our cellular makeup, the fact that we're all animals and accidents at best, is the truth. Any narrative that lifts us above another is mythology, and a pernicious one at that. Scared people kick and scratch to elevate themselves above others. It's only true in their imagination. They love the elusion, don't bother them with the facts, their "enjoying" their superiority, their lie, their bedtime story that calms their fears of being stuck in an elevator with 10 other strangers for 24 hours where body odor and urine and feces and rage and panic would manifest, maybe even death. They might have to be in the same room with a corpse, which is basically 150 pounds of mud that was formerly animated by electronic synapses firing impulses and orders to the eyes and mouth and now is gone to who knows...Where was I. Oh yeah, Art. Isn't it lovely?

In art, especially in the medium of movies, we have the full gamut of "feel good" movies and horror. I've often wondered why some people find horror movies entertaining, because I personally find them ugly, repulsive, disturbing and vile. But I'm suspicious that my place of privilege far removed from the real horrors of life, raised white straight cis male upper middle class by parents who loved me and never fucked me. If my childhood had been a horror instead of the blissfully ignorant and naive pampered version of a super-loved, mono-ethnic, Christian rural upbringing, I might find some entertainment, even comfort, from horror films. It seems that the privileged don't want to be reminded of the horrors of reality, whereas those whose reality and childhood were already a horror, perhaps they find comfort and entertainment in the mockery and public display of the horrific. There's some fascinating scholarship out there studying the existential connections between the art-horror genre and humanities' attraction and avoidance of anxiety and repulsion.

I learned a word when researching this subject: intersticial. It has to do with a small or narrow space or interval between things or parts. In the Hegelian dialectic, its the synthesis, but in the case of horror, it's disrupting and/or disturbing.  On the question of what makes a monster horrifying, Noël Carroll, in his seminal work "The Philosophy of Horror," argues that monsters are ‘interstitial’ or ‘impure’. They are not entirely alien to us, but rather fall between familiar categories: for example, vampires, zombies, and Frankenstein’s monster are somewhere between living and dead, werewolves and the the Fly are both human and beast. The Exorcist and The Omen, even Christ demonstrate something part human and part supernatural entity.

These hybrids throw a wrench in modern western binary thinking. And some of us are ready for complexity, nuance and even outlandish, because perhaps we're bored with chocolate and vanilla. Maybe we're not afraid to be wrong or that life is beyond our understanding. We don't have to have it all figured out in order to have fun. In fact, quite the opposite.

Well my guest today, Pat Green vomited the fruit from the knowledge of good and evil and decided that he didn't need such shallow knowledge, nor did he need to know or place judgment on things as either good or evil. He chose neither. Pat is a former minister of 16 years who left ministry and entered the secular life around the time his son came out transgender.
After attending Christian Life College with an undergrad in Pastoral Studies he was a youth pastor in a smattering of Assemblies of God and non denominational churches. By the time he started pastoring his own church, LifeBridge Church in Lockport Il (near Chicago), he had jumped ship and went into liberal land.

Between 2012 and 2013 his life entered an upheaval and he found himself divorced, driving a taxi, and loving his LGBTQIA+ son for all he was worth. Together, they rode the storm and Pat was left with no faith in a god, but a lot of love.
Today, as a photographer, writer, and a storyteller, he is trying to navigate his way through this new existence in a free market capitalist world he does not fully grasp.
His professional writing has been seen in various publications both online and in print for over the last 12 years. He was a regular contributor to 22nd Century Media, Aquarius News, and also in the Secular Spectrum on Patheos with his blog Tranparent Expedition.
Pat also wrote a book in 2015 titled, “Night Moves: An Ex Preachers Journey to Hell in a Taxi“, which is available online on Amazon. His professional photography has been featured in various newspapers, websites, and other formats since 1985. Most recently, Pat is a proud member of The Artist Guild Of Lockport and the international group RAW Artists where he volunteers as an ambassador helping new artists showcase their work in shows.
With Pat’s passion for his son, his new life is told as honestly and as openly as he can be. He misses Disney World, financial solvency and having a back yard to mow.

 

 

Direct download: Ep_212_Pat_Green.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49am CDT
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Welcome everyone to episode 211 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 Peter Montoya. This is the 3rd time I've had Peter on the show. You can get his full story back on episode 130. He was also featured briefly in episode 163, on Dr. Marlene Winell's second appearance. Peter is all about living a fulfilled life and he sees community as an integral part of achieving that goal. For us ex-Christians, church used to be the main place we connected with a community. Some of us had bad experiences but it's likely that even those were the exception and not the rule. I know I used to look forward to seeing everyone and feeling that energy of people gathering every Sunday morning. But what now? How do we find community after faith is gone? Peter has some tips on how to do just that.

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 25th, 2018.

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

Featuring "People" by Barbara Streisand. 

The outro song: You've Got A Friend In Me (From "Toy Story"/ Soundtrack) by Lyle Lovett & Randy Newman.

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

Perhaps it's not about finding community but creating one. If we wait to be found or to find our people, we could possibly die waiting. Some of us have the means to CREATE a community. As you'll hear in this conversation with Peter Montoya, there are steps one can take to create a recurring meetup with friends. One way that you can calm yourself around this audacious and ominus undertaking is that even if you just meet once a month, at the end of a year you can look back and see 12 meetings that changed lives. It doesn't have to be a big deal or life changing each meeting. It's the 30,000 foot view that says, "we make the path by walking it." One foot in front of the other and before you know it, deep relationships are formed, and enriching exchanges are had. For those who find themselves in remote locations, there is the internet. Charles, a long-time friend and supporter of the show, started a virtual community that meets every other week on a platform called Zoom that functions like Skype where you can see and hear the other participants. We have listeners all over the English speaking world and many don't have community in their geographical proximity, so Facebook and groups like Charles' EA Virtual Small Group can help serve such people with a means to connect to others. It's SO important. .

Dr. Mark Hyman said, "The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic or hospital." If you're interested in being a part of the communities that have formed around this podcast, you can message me on Facebook or email me at midgley.cass@gmail.com and I'll help you get connected to virtual communities and support groups specifically designed to encourage people who no longer believe in the supernatural, are opening their eyes and ears and saying yes to reality and they're feeling the void of lost community.

Relationships are a two way street. They will be dynamic in direct relation to how honest both parties are. If you've done the deep, hard work of accepting yourself, you bring that unhidden person to the gathering. If you encounter someone who has also done the deep, hard work of accepting their self, you will be able to assess the real potential of that relationship. A natural byproduct of accepting one's self--flaws and all--is a greater capacity to accept others--flaws and all. The joy and depth of a community is directly correlated to how honest the participants have been able to get. A Christian author, Catholic actually, who I respected when I was a Christian and still do, is Henri Nouwen. He said this, "Solitude is very different from just a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other."

We're learning that this tension that we all feel between introvert and extrovert is not black and white. We're all both. We get energy from time alone and from time with others. As the steward of your own happiness and health, only you know what you need and your needs are unique to you. We're learning that the "one size fits all" mentality of conformity religions is not honest nor real. Thus, we are free to navigate our relationships and free to let others navigate theirs. Some of us are uncomfortable with the thought of Sunday Assembly or Oasis or any kind of forced intimacy, other's love being in these gatherings, engaging with others, meeting new people. However, most of us are both--sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. And that's my point. As in most things I say, I almost always end up saying "you do you."

The acceptance of what is, the acceptance ourselves, each other, the form the moment is taking, empower us to navigate this tumultuous, unpredictable world that we could be yanked from at any moment, give us the smile we need to calm down, to pick our battles and our fucks better, to get excited about the right things, to give ourselves permission to take in this magical moment, with these beautiful disgusting people, eating this food that we'll only shit out later, drinking these drinks that we may regret in the morning, acknowledging the unavoidable awkwardness that occurs when any two people try to walk up to each other and make something happen.

This is the dance. This is our lives. May we find each other, accept each other and benefit somehow from the shared experience that is the human condition.

http://thriveunion.org/

 

 

Direct download: Ep_211_Peter_Montoya_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:15pm CDT
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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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Welcome everyone to episode 205 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Dr. Bob Pondillo  I interview Anne Marie Zanzal. Anne-Marie Zanzal has a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School and a graduate certificate in Women's Leadership from Hartford Seminary.   She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has worked as a church pastor and as a chaplain in both hospitals and hospices. She is a Compassionate Bereavement Provider certified by the MISS Foundation. Anne-Marie is an informed and entertaining speaker and group leader about coming out late in life, end of life issues and hospice, and women and divorce.  You can find Anne-Marie at www.annemariezanal.com, on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, or email her at revzanzal@gmail.com.

We taped this conversation on May 12th, 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.

Ivan Coyote's "Hats Off" to Femmes

If you've listened to this podcast, you know that Bob and I can very critical of bad religion, especially bad Christianity. We would like nothing more than for it to eliminated and something we look back on someday soon as the silly phase in human history where we believed that shit. However, in the meantime, we occasionally like to highlight when Christianity is done right. In the four years we've been on the air, we've had numerous brave Christian guests in here who have learned to navigate this faith that most commonly corrupts otherwise good people with its fear-ridden, insecurity-appealling dogma that brings out the worst in its adherents. But the Christians we've had on here, like David Dark, Tony Woodall, Stan Mitchell, George Cunningham, Mary and Julia in episodes 4 and 5, Jim Henderson, Benjamin Corey, Jennifer Crumpton, Becky Garrison, Geoff Little, Krista Tippet, Brian Quincy Newcomb, Angela Pancella, William Paul Young, Angela Cantorna, Charlie Smith, and many others who have retained portions of their previous held beliefs while rejecting others, they were willing to bring their stories in here and showed us that there are ways to practice Christianity that truly make the world a better place and don't turn them into assholes. That's certainly the case with our guest today, Anne Marie. In a small way, this is us adopting the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mindset. As we oil the wheels of deconversion and #emptythepews, we also applaud those who, while practicing some form of faith, have not forfeited their intelligence and agency to a false, insecure, jealous, and small God. They celebrate rather than shame what it means to be human. Unlike the majority of their fellow Christians, they do not bury their heads in the sand, and they say yes to what is.

Okay, I found a YouTube of someone reciting the poem to which Anne Marie just referred.  The voice here is apparently a lesbian that presents as masculine, perhaps even trans, it's not clear and I'm reluctant to presume but do so to give you a picture of what's happening because it is relevant. I highly value empathy and compassion, and often these virtues are best attained by putting one's self either in the shoes of those we don't understand or at least listening with an ear to learn. My understanding is that the poem is addressing the fact that some lesbians are butch and/or trans men and some are feminine. This is a world that I do not know. And so I insert here a recitation of the poem by Ivan Coyote titled "Hat's Off.

Again, that's a poem called "Hats Off" by Ivan Coyote, a trans man, found in his book, "Missed Her."  And now we return to the tail end our talk with Anne Marie. We had some technical difficulty at the end and so it abruptly starts.

So that's our talk with Anne Marie Zanzal. Bob and I enjoyed getting to know her. What a tough story. Lots of strength. Lots of courage. Lots of pain. Getting real, getting honest can be really hard work when we're trapped inside false narratives--strong, reinforced, lots of rebar type cemented narratives. Like Han Solo frozen in that giant ice cube and everyone around, also immobilized by self-denying, self-suppressing constraints, doing their best to ignore the cement or wanting everyone to remain incased in it, lest they upend the social construct. But good on you, Anne Marie, or Emery. Congratuations. You know, one thing that makes this so hard is, not only the personal pain, but the pain that getting honest is going to cause others--often those near and dear to us. In fact, while one is getting out of pain, others experience pain. But I think its important to keep in mind that the one getting free, getting honest DID NOT CAUSE THE PAIN. The false narratives cause the pain. Coming out gay or coming out atheist to your loved ones is only painful for them because of the beliefs to which they hold. And they hold them by their own volition...kinda. (that's debatable). But no matter how innocent they're indoctrination was, they are responsible to listen to THEIR own hearts and moral compasses, and ALSO have the courage to do their own breaking out of the lying concrete ideologies that demand allegiance at the price of betraying their own children or friends or siblings. When being a kind, loving person is mutualy exclusive to being faith to your creed, it's time to punt your fucking creed. This is not rocket science. Follow your heart, like Anne Marie is did, and is doing. It's NOT decietful. You're not wicked. You can and must trust yourself, especially more than you trust someone else's made up, over-confident, erection of certainty and projected image of a god to whom one must bow the knee and surrender their freedom and agency. Hell, the word Islam means surrender. The Christians sing "I Surrender All." Bullshit. Surrender nothing to imaginary narratives that are pure speculations derived from anecdotal personal experiences. Stick to evidence and the scientifc method of questioning everything. We are so prone to getting shit wrong that if we don't remain humble and teachable we are doomed to be encased, trapped, imprisoned in a lie to which we pledge allegience and devotion, all the while thinking we've attained the only truth and look down upon anyone who doesn't share in it. Doubly decieved. Doubly duped. and doubly paralyzed to do anything about it.

Okay, that's my rant. One quick announcement, Bob only has two more shows with us, the last one of which I will feature your tributary comments and farewells. You can Love Bomb Bob by calling 1 (800) 685-1797 that's 1 (800) 685-1797. I'll repeat that again at the end. I’ve set up a voice mailbox for you to call in and give a toast or tribute to Bob as he’s leaving the show. You may want to write out what you want to say before calling or just wing it. Either way, try to keep it under 30 seconds, unless you really want to pile on the love and go longer, but the average message should be under 30 seconds. Address him in first person, like “Hey Bob (or Dr. Pondillo or Dr. Bob, whatever), I just want to say…” It can be silly or serious, or both, you can mimic him, try to sound like him, and/or share some of your favorite Bob-isms or quips. I reserve the right to edit your message. You can say your name or not. I’d like it if you would say where you’re calling from (at least the State). These messages will be part of a tribute episode to Bob sometime in July. Thanks for participating in this. Call (800) 685-1797.

Have a good week everyone. I love you. Peace out.





 

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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On this special occasion of celebrating 200 episodes, we talk about the greatest, most alluring topic known to humankind: SEX. Specifically after leaving a faith this is negatively obsessed with it. We're featuring 4 different interviews, each about 40 minutes long: Two conducted by only Cass Midgley, one with Cass and Bob, and one with guest co-hosts Dave Warnock and Bryan Maynard. All guests are anonymous so they could be as honest as possible.  

As a heads up, these talks today are all about cisgender hetero sex. I had a trans man and a gay man scheduled to come on but they both ended up not being able to do the taping. And all four guests are women. One could argue that male sexuality is less damaged by Christianity. And sex is an entirely different experience for men as it is women. Listen to this paragraph by (Ah-nay-ees Neen) Anaïs Nin, a 20th century American diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories and erotica. Notice how she contrasts the man's sexual experience with the woman's. “Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her.”

First up is Sierra. Her first marriage was riddled with sexual problems that she largely attributed to their inability to restrain themselves from having sex before marriage. Thinking, "if we'd just obeyed God, our sex life wouldn't be so messed up." Ironically, their sex life was ill-affected by their premarital sexual tension. As happens so often with Christian marriages, lovers have trouble shaking all the guilt, shame, and ugliness that shrouds sexuality in that context. Sierra's first husband passed away and she began a journey of self-discovery and sexual awareness that is a work in progress, of course. But it's a work that she's proud of, and well she should, because it's hard work and requires tremendous courage and honesty. Listen as her story goes from sexual shame to sexual pride.

Sierra touched on learning to listen to her own body. This is a theme throughout all these talks. Bad Christian doctrine puts a wedge between us and our bodies as something to distrust on one hand and something that belongs to God on the other--his temple, in fact. We were to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Some of us our reclaiming our bodies as the beautiful, intuitive, sexy treasures they are. Up next, Bob and I talk with Elisa. As a part of getting in touch with her body and suppressed sexuality, Elisa took up pole dancing or pole fitness. She has posted many videos on her Facebook of her pole dancing and it's very sensuous. Think about the types of reactions that could stir in people: the exhibitionistic, she must need attention, that's inappropriate, I hope my husband doesn't see this, etc. But once you get to know Elisa and hear her motivation behind doing it, all judgement will dissipate in your love and understanding for this fellow human trying find herself and her way in the new, godless world in which she finds herself.  About 20 minutes into this talk, she gets very real. She's candid the whole time, but she accesses some deep emotions that I believe a lot of women feel.

Up next is Ruby Leigh and she's getting in touch with her own body and what it takes for her to achieve orgasm, which she didn't reach until her late 20s. Also, she's in the middle of her second divorce so we talk about relationship dynamics. She was deeply involved in Campus Crusade and the culture there to either marry or be single; anything in between was slutty.

Our last guest is Lacey. With Lacey's permission, I invited my friends, Dave Warnock and Bryan Maynard to co-host. We're all three ex-pastors and Bryan is a licensed therapist. Like many of us in the Christian faith, Lacey and we three men got married partially because Paul taught it was better to marry than burn in lust. A HORRIBLE reason to get married!  That's really bad advice. More bad advice from Paul comes from 1 Corinthians chapter 7. He writes, "The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband." This is a verse that has caused immeasurable damage in the world. It caused tremendous damage in Lacey's life.

So that's our 200th episode. I'm glad you made it this far with us. I hope we expanded the talkaboutable by talking candidly about human sexuality. Yet another area of our lives that we benefit from saying yes to it. I want to recommend two podcasts that are focused on sex every episode: Dan Savage's "Savage Lovecast," and Dr. Darrell Ray's "Secular Sexuality."  Thanks again for listening. We'll talk next week.

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 the karaoke version of "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye

Thanks for listening and be a Yes-sayer to your own sexuality! 

Direct download: Ep_200_Post-Christian_Sexuality.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02pm CDT
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo converse with Daniel. Daniel is a teacher, coach of a robotics team, and overall computer nerd. He grew up in a small suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended a Southern Baptist church until he transitioned to a Charismatic, Non-denominational church in High School. He married his wife of sixteen years, a high-school friend, when he was 21 and has two daughters (13 and 10), two cats, and 1 Bearded Dragon. In college, he pursued a number of different degrees before finally graduating with a degree in English and Social Studies Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and obtaining a Masters Degree from Louisiana State University in Higher Education Administration with a focus on Student Affairs. His career as a teacher and coach has allowed him to work with students on developing their ability to think critically and to lead effectively. The fact that Daniel is robotic coach is appropo because from a young age his approach to his faith was mostly cerebral--more brain and less heart--so when his faith eventually unraveled it was not as traumatic as it is for those whose hearts are truly in it. I'm not saying he wasn't devout. He was militant in his devotion to the gospel, prayer, worship, advancing the kingdom on earth. And yet, he had a relatively soft landing after jettisoning Christianity. In this conversation, Daniel describes his desire to be in God's inner circle. He wanted more than just casual Christianity. His high school experience of Christianity borrowed military jargon, assembled and marched down the halls in prayer, waving the Christian flag and blowing the shofar, shod in matching fatigues and combat boots. Spurred on by Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk, and Caedmon's Call, they sought the face of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that song "More Love, More Power?" Power seems to be what modern evangelicals want more than love. Power is addictive. I personally attended a lot of conferences...to be with the people who were serious, to ascend the hill of the Lord with others who desperately wanted God to show up and establish his kingdom on earth as in heaven. We wanted Jesus to be Lord of All, even politics if necessary. Jesus for President was just another way of seeing him as Lord or King of Kings. Jesus and God were so good at running things, we wanted them to run everything. And it's what they wanted to do, but they were gentlemen and thus needed an invitation...and for righteous behavior to increase. So abortions and homosexuality were keeping good things from coming to America. A commonly quoted scripture was 2 Chronicles 7:14 which placed the focus on God's people repenting rather than those not considered to be God's people. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." There are pockets of Christianity today that focus on themselves getting right with God as a means to achieving God's favor on the earth. They see themselves as a remnant, like Lot's family, that would stay God's wrathful hand from destroying the nation. I used to believe that our worship was a pleasing aroma to God, like a burning cow, it was a sacrifice of praise and it counteracted the stench of sin rising up in his nostrils. We were saving people from God's wrath by worshiping. After all, He look for people to stand in the gap and fend him off. That was me.

About 50 years ago, there began a shift in Christian thinking. They decided that praying in your closet was getting the job done. That minding their own business within the four walls of the church wasn't being true Ambassadors for Christ. They felt that remaining the sweet, loving insular community was a form of being ashamed of Jesus before humankind, for which Jesus threatened to be ashamed of them before his Father in heaven. So they began their campaign to be Salt and Light in the public square. They formed a powerful voting block upon whom corporations capitalized. Fox News hijacked what little agency they had left after decades of Bible-worship.  They now fill our senates, congresses and courthouses. George W. Bush prayed for direction on major decisions. Wisdom, science and scholarship are disparaged.

So God's people have looked within, searched their own hearts, repented, prayed longer, fasted, worshipped more passionately, beat their breasts harder to get God to move. Another pocket of Christianity has blamed all the sinners, the gays, the baby-killing. THIS is why God is angry. This is why He doesn't do signs and wonders like he did in biblical times. He's angry and waiting on his people to run for more political offices.

Everyone's trying to solve the problem of God's silence. We were too, when we believed. How many times did we notice that life was happening exactly as it would if there were no God and then commence to perform theological gymnastics to make excuses for his absence. We've heard that a lot in the four years we've been interviewing ex-Christians: "I stopped making excuses for God." Believers for centuries have pulled Jesus down off the cross, propped him up, carried him around like the movie "Weekend at Bernies," even tried CPR on him, for years in fact. 1 2 3 breathe, 123 breathe, over and over again for decades. We've pressed the shock paddles on his chest, yelled "clear" and zapped him, over and over again. It's like Bob always says on this show, "C'mon! it's been 2,000 years! he's not coming back."

Some of us have pulled the plug, taken him off the ventilator and walked away lost and confused wondering what the fuck did I just spend the last 20 years doing. It was a lie so big and so repeated...by so many people over so many centuries of which countless cathedrals have been erected, billions of dollars have been spent that we believed it, and millions still do.  Even now, some of our nearest and dearest still believe it and actually want us to return to it. To pick up the silent god again and drag him into every aspect of our lives, crown him lord of lords and president of presidents. I think we're witnessing the type of chaos and absurdity that hoisting up a hollow shelled corpse into leadership produces. It's for the same reason why our universe is chaotic and absurd--no one's watching the shop. It's just us here. We're the only hope for solving our problems, taking care of our world, our societies, each other. Imaginary gods have distracted us too long.  We're the ones in need of resuscitation.

We taped this conversation on April 7th, 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 "One Love" by Danny E. B. Tracks on YouTube

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

Direct download: Ep_199_Daniel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:54pm CDT
Comments[0]

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
Comments[0]

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
Comments[0]

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
Comments[0]

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
Comments[0]

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
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview another Canadian guest, 2 weeks in a row. A guest we talked to back in October of 2015 on episode 67, Gretta Vosper.  Gretta is an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada who is an atheist. Her latest book is titled, "Time or Too Late: Chasing the Dream of a Progressive Christian Faith. Her other books include the best-selling "With or Without God: Why The Way We Live is More Important Than What We Believe," and "Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief in 2012." She has also published three books of poetry and prayers.

Vosper is a graduate of Mount Allison University, and received her Master of Divinity degree from Queen's Theological College in 1990 with ordination in 1992. She has been a minister with West Hill United Church in Toronto since 1997. Gretta Vosper is also founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity.

Despite a finding in September 2016 by the church's Toronto Conference Review Committee that her atheism made her "not suitable to continue in ordained ministry", her congregation has remained staunchly supportive. The matter has been referred to the church's General Council for a decision that could have her defrocked. As of September 2017, the matter remains unresolved.

Her work bridges progressive Christianity and atheism exploring beyond the boundaries of Christian thought. Her website indicates, "In 2001, I made it clear that I did not believe in a supernatural, interventionist, divine being. At first, I identified as a non-theist as I do in my first book published in 2008. Then, in my second book, I felt the need to further distinguish myself from those who used the term non-theist but retained a belief in the supernatural aspects of god; there, I identified as a theological non-realist. In 2013, I embraced the term atheist which means, literally, no belief in a theistic, supernatural being."

I've met Gretta. She's a very impressive, powerful woman. One thing I love about Gretta and her work is the level of honesty she exudes and in fact personifies. Having graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity school, my professors and my fellow classmates looked at things honestly and each found their own unique measure of faith in the supernatural that could remain true to the facts and the truth in front of them. This goes on in academia every day. And yet, these clergy, ministers, and pastors graduate and are ordained and get into their congregations and their pulpits...and they can't say to these poor people in their pews what they just learned in their seminaries. In fact, whole Bible Colleges have been erected to teach people how to REALLY tell the people what they want to hear and our proud to do so. But for those with a conscience, with values and moral integrity who've become scholars in theology find themselves having to be disingenuous from their pulpits if they're going to keep people coming. Enter Gretta Vosper...and David Dark...and Stan Mitchell...and all the many ministers who are walking that tight rope of theology and honesty and integrity and love and trying to find this tiny little space that the Christian narrative and reality share. And there are those that just can't give up the ghost of Jesus but aren't willing to sell their souls, bury their heads in the sand, and hang on to that which they know is only embraced because they need it to be true. Bob and I really enjoy talking to Gretta and I think you will enjoy this conversation too. We enjoy talking to all our guests and helping people through this difficult journey of life, feel less alone. Religion, like any other drug or alcohol can make some people's life easier and destroy others. And one thing you're doing by trying to stay honest, and maintain your agency and freedom as a thinking human being is truly be the steward of your own happiness and not make the values and priorities that work for you the measuring stick of what everyone else should believe. And that can be hard sometime because your epiphanies have brought you so much joy that you want to share them with others. In that way it can feel like your loving them, but when it infringes on their freedom and agency to think for themselves it ceases to be love.

That reminds me of a story from my life. During my high school years I lettered in varsity basketball and I had multiple coaches but this is the tale of two coaches. The first was a guy who was really just a dick. He was insecure. He didn't like himself and so in order to save himself from drowning in his own self-loathing he would elevate himself by lowering others. So when he was critical of your playing or dribbling or shooting, the undertone was judgment, condemnation, and spiteful. Another coach I had later was Jeff Levitzow. I remember his name because a made a wholesome impression on my life. He loved us and we all knew it. He believed in us. He never said as much but you could just feel it. He smiled a lot. We could tell he really enjoyed being with us and teaching us and encouraging us to be the best players we could be in the short time we had together. Certainly he would also critique our playing but it was assessment and evaluation and feedback from an expert. The last thing he wanted to do was crush us or diminish our confidence. Quite the opposite. So that's my tale of two coaches. We, as a team, had no incentive to play hard for our coach or even listen to him, and we sucked. And didn't care. Conversely, we all love playing for Levitzow, we wanted to hustle, he motivated us to excellence. And under his leadership, we made it to the State playoffs for the first time in decades at that little rural Oklahoma high school. So when we're critiquing others or offering feedback, first of all, make sure it's solicited feedback, and secondly, check your heart to make sure you love that person just as they are and not who you wish they were.

We taped the following conversation with Joy Hopper on January 27th, 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 "Lost in You" by Dirty Loops

The GoFundMe for Gretta

Friends of Gretta Vosper Foundation on FB

 

Direct download: Ep_188_Gretta_Vosper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:06pm CDT
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview a Canadian guest who'll go by the name Freddy to protect his identity. He's not fully out to his friends, family and co-workers. His faith began to crumble when he discovered that his dear, dear Lutheran grandma who raised him was going to hell according to his Church of Christ .

I admire the image of an old sage that if full and wisdom, knowledge, and experience and yet tells no one. Doesn't try to teach or enlighten, unless of course someone asks, but even then he discerns whether they're ready to hear it and doesn't waste it on those on whom it would be lost. In that way he's also respecting them and honoring the unspoken boundary of presumed pedagogy. It's ineffective and unattractive for one to presume to be the teacher. That role is given to them by their students, not taken without their consent. These monologues are my attempt to practice the teacher in me and I do it because I interpret your act of choosing to listen as consent. But even so, I can't help but hear the accusing voice in my head saying, "who do you think you are?" Well, truth rarely happens in a vacuum. It is relationships that help us grow, so we all play the role of teacher in each other's lives from time to time. Sometimes it's presumptuous; sometimes it's by invitation. The wisdom to know the difference is an tell-tell sign of the integrity of the teacher and thus the potency of their wisdom. More often than not, we should keep our revelations, wisdom, insight, and epiphanies to ourselves. And just hope that someday somebody asks. But I know that I need to work on being okay with no one ever asking.

We taped the following conversation with Joy Hopper on January 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, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can make a monthly pledge through Patreon. That’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode was created by Cass Midgley

 

Direct download: Ep_187_Freddy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:12pm CDT
Comments[1]

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Joy Hopper. She's the author of her memoir, "Joy Unspeakable: Toxic Faith and Rose Colored Glasses." This is the quintessential EA episode. Joy's story is many abused Christian  women's stories, and yet Joy shares the tragic details with the timbre of an upbeat college girl.

Before we get into our talk with Joy, a word of caution to the ex-Christian men listening. If you even slightly built your marriage on the scriptures, this story is going to sting. Now Joy's ex-husband, whose name is Troy, takes it to the extreme, but I found myself cringing when reading her accounts of the marriage in her book and during this interview. I can easily judge Troy and even hate Troy, but as I did, it had the familiar feeling of Troy reflecting back to me that which I hate about myself.

There's a Buddhist teaching that can help us understand Troy and ourselves and even Joy. It's especially relevant in this time when the cultural scales of justice are shifting in favor of the oppressed and the long overdo condemnation of the oppressors. What we're seeing these days with all these tragic stories coming to the surface about men using their power to get women to do their bidding and how that whole power dynamic steamrolls the woman's consent, is not black and white, it's a spectrum. This is why we're now seeing women push back in France against the potential for this to become a puritanical witch hunt. The human mating ritual is awkward even for married couples who've had sex 5,000 times. It's always a little awkward and neither party ever really knows how into it the other is until several risk-taking moves have been made to test the waters.

Anyway, I want to talk about the spectrum of human behavior and emotional health as interpreted through the Buddhist teaching called the 8 worldly winds. It's 4 sets of 2 poles sitting opposite of each other. In between is a spectrum. And throughout our lives we are somewhere on the spectrum between the two poles. We constantly ebb and flow across it. The first of the two pairs is something we all want and the second is something we all don't want. We all have a tendency to lust after the first thing and be afraid of the second. They are:

This model is a great map for understanding motivation in ourselves and in others. It teaches that every one of us, in our intention to move through this life, are affected by these 8 worldly winds that are constantly battering us. The first two are:

Greed and Lack - everyone of us has desire to gain, to get things, and with that a fear of loss or going without. Sometimes we operate from a place of greed, other times from a place of lack. Both are toxic for us and our relationships. The Buddhist aspiration is find a balance and detach from both the greed form more the fear of lack.

The second pair is Status and Disgrace - everyone of us has desire to be to be seen, to be known and respected, and with that a fear of disgrace, or a fear of being ignored.

the third: Praise and Blame - everyone of us thrives when we experience praise from others, and we fear blame.

lastly: Pleasure and Pain - everyone of us wants pleasure and we have an aversion to pain.

When we seek for the former or flee from the latter, we can live in an irritable often depressed state and it directly affects our relationships. when we reflect on conflict with others it can be interesting to sense which one of the motivators is running really strong at that moment.   

I bring this up in the context of Joy and her abusive husband. We'll see in Troy a deep need for status and thus a deep disdain for being ignored. If you too wrestle with these particular worldly winds, you may recognize yourself in Troy. This will likely disgust you with more fervor than others because it's so close to home for you (I'm speaking from experience here). This brings up another pitfall. It's clear that Troy has a problem--his extreme need for power and the fear of his own weakness. But he will compound this problem if he also has a problem with having the problem. Here's how this works. Joy tells a story where they have a disagreement in the house. Joy is late to run an errand and has to leave the house. Troy interprets this as Joy ignoring him. He's lost the status he craves and feels disgraced when she leaves him behind. He's feeling the pain and disappoint of this, so he storms out to the driveway, pounds on the window and demands that she come back inside. "We're not finished with this conversation," he yells. By now he's aware that he's out of control. He's scared the children in the car. The neighbors may be watching, and now he begins to hate himself for behaving this way but it's too late. He's in over his head, his adrenaline is pumping, he's invested and can't admit that he's made a mistake because he not only has this problem, but he's embarrassed that has the problem in the first place, let alone the unseemly behavior. He needs help, for sure, but the challenge for any therapist he visits is that they will likely have to build him up before he can deal with his issues. If he looks into the mirror and sees the monster, he will repel because he has a problem with having a problem and instead of owning it, he will deny it and distance himself from it, digging yet a deeper hole than he had when he walked in the office. His therapy will take week, months, years just so he has a strong enough self-esteem that when he sees the monster in the mirror he can have compassion on himself.

These theories help me when I see someone like Troy or Harvey Weinstein or even Donald Trump and see a reflection of myself. Obviously my first reaction is disgust and it can easily turn into self-hatred (which is not helpful). But if I can know that while, yes, I am on the same spectrum as these assholes, I'm not necessarily in the same spot on the spectrum. But just having this awareness can help me move along the spectrum in a way that is less like these monsters.

I'm not a hard core Harry Potter fan but one of the movies was on in the background at my house recently and I stopped to watch it. I learned that a part of Voldemort is inside Harry. It made me think that a part of Donald Trump is in me. Now before you vomit, consider this: one sure way that we can make the world a better place, improve society, mitigate wars, and promote world peace is to begin to see ourselves connected to one another--even those who disgust us, especially those that disgust us. Here's a brief excerpt from the Harry Potter story:

Harry:
[to Sirius] This connection between me and Voldemort, what if the reason for it is that I'm becoming more like him? [starts to choke up; fighting back tears] I just feel so... angry, all the time. And what if after everything I've been through, something's gone wrong inside me. What if I'm becoming bad?

Sirius:
I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. You understand? [Harry nods] Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we choose to act on. That's who we really are.

Former guest of this podcast and host of the NPR program, "On Being," Krista Tippet Tweeted this week regarding the intense racist climate fostered by Donald Trump, "The spiritual danger in a moment like this is that we orient so passionately towards what we reject that we mirror it, amplifying its energy and its ethos. Dr. King said, "hate is too great a burden to bear." He modeled a "strong, demanding love" even as he battled hate."  

And one of the 32 declarations of healthy adulthood is "Until I see another’s behavior with compassion, I have not understood it." The danger of seeing another's behavior with judgment is that ironically, before you know it, you become what you hate.  So when I see disgusting behavior, I let myself feel as much disgust as my mind and body decide it merits AND I know that if not for higher love, understanding and compassion, there go I. I see the evil, feel it in my body, I don't judge myself for feeling it AND I don't judge the person for doing it. I see it, assess it for what it is, and try to get in touch with some compassion. Because the truth is, while I may be more self-aware or more disciplined or whatever, but at a primal level, I am not superior to that person and under the same circumstances as their life, I would likely do the same exact thing. This another way we benefit from saying yes to what is; to that which we cannot control.

The faith Joy inherited at the age of three worked for almost fifty years. She believed it, preached it, wrote songs about it, lived it. Jesus was the center of her universe, literally and metaphorically. Hence, one can only imagine the tsunami that followed when her ironclad theological foundation unexpectedly and involuntarily collapsed with a deafening thud.

Joy's narrative chronicles her experiences of indoctrination from a young child to the present, as viewed through her rose-colored glasses. From early neglect to domestic violence, she shares how her distorted lens of faith turned every obstacle into an object lesson and every injustice into a refining tool. She exposes the toxicity of a religion that promises unspeakable joy amidst the backdrop of terror and violence. Joy offers hope to others who, like her, have found the courage to walk away and discover the world is even more beautiful without the enhanced overlay of religion.

We taped the following conversation with Joy Hopper on January 14th, 2018 (the audio got this wrong).

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, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge monthly gift at www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.


Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode the rhythm track of "Black Tamborine" by Beck 

Thanks for listening! And be a Yes-Sayer to what is! 

Direct download: Ep_186_Joy_Hopper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:39pm CDT
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Derreck Bennett. Derreck is the author a book entitled, Addictus, which is a word for someone who is a debt slave; a person who has been bound as a slave to his creditor. Derrick agrees with step 1 of the 12 steps that he is powerless over alcohol but most AA groups take that powerlessness to a degree in which Derreck found counterintuitive. As an atheist fascinated by religion and philosophy, Derreck has studied extensively to glean a comprehensive understanding of the history and origins of religion. His story is both tragic and inspiring as he models how to overcome nihilism and create a life for himself after hopelessness. He was raised believing John 3:16 literally, that believers were immortal in every sense of the word--even their bodies would not die. Imagine the cog diss when his father and mother both died. It's no wonder he  tried to anesthetize his pain through alcohol.

Raw nihilism is the belief that everything is meaningless. It's extreme form argues that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. That level of nihilism could produce a depressing hopelessness and despair. But a lite version of it could actually produce hope and happiness. Like the old bumper sticker, Life's a Bitch and then you die. I think these are truths that can set us free.

As argued in his book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker says that most humans work very hard to suppress the awareness of their own impending death. But I have found that when I do the opposite--I keep it at the fore of my awareness--then I actually value more the people and circumstances of my otherwise banal life. After all, if I'm alive to experience them, it means I didn't die today and that's a tremendous realization. If it's simply good to be alive, then even the worst day is at least a day--something I'm experiencing and any judgment I place on it feels like entitlement.
I don't do this, but what if we started each day saying to ourselves, "I could die today," instead of hiding that fact from ourselves. The "life's a bitch" part is similar. I think it's worth saying out loud and to ourselves every day, "life is hard." Not in a self-pitiful way, but just as a check-in to make sure we've not slow and sneaky buried our heads in the sand. There's not one human on this planet that doesn't take a beating from this existence on a regular basis. It's going to get you and HAS been getting you your entire life. Nothing can stop it from hurting us and fucking with us. As a species we work hard to mitigate our pain and suffering, but no amount of our money, medicine, religions, science, self-help, exercise, entertainment, culture, travel, drugs, alcohol, sex, technology nor fancy foods can prevent it from kicking our asses on a regular basis. All races, religions, nationalities, ethnicities, genders, rich or poor all feel the pain of being human. Life is hard. No one comes through unscathed. I'm not saying "get over it." I'm not saying "buck it up." I'm not even saying, "stop whining." I'm just saying two universal truths: life is hard and it could end today. Yeah, the hardness of life and our unavoidable impending deaths are unambiguous and self-evident. Usually such things should go without saying. But given how hard we try to drown out the constant dull hum of those truths, we would do well to instead pump up the volume and let honesty breed its best offspring: a jovial carefree acceptance of this amazing consciousness we're all experiencing.

I posted a meme this week that said, "Actions prove who someone is. Words just prove who they want to be." I like devices like this, that cut through ambiguity; that shine like a flashlight on that which is otherwise murky. I like how this particular axiom looks to the evidence to know something. It's an example of living by sight, not by faith. But I wonder if people aren't a little too complicated for bumper sticker size slogans to fully capture the nuances of being human. For example, if my mother saw me flipping off my best friend or heard me cuss she might use that line of thinking--that actions identify a person--to judge me as having poor character. And she would be wrong. In this case, I would she fulfill 2 Corinthians 5:7 and actually use her faith in my character to overrule what only sight might determine.

When I posted that meme, on old friend of mine from back in Oklahoma commented. He's a Christian. In fact, I once looked to him as a spiritual director in my life. I've had many good mentors in my life. His name is Mike Shaw if any of you have ever seen him chime in with his Christian rhetoric. He's really a great guy--just totally and irreversibly brainwashed in the Jesus-stuff. But when he read the meme, "Actions prove who someone is. Words just prove who they want to be," he wrote, "Not necessarily! If their words are truth then actions will eventually follow. The heart must have a truth infusion before their tree can bare apples!" Which actual affirms the axiom. I'm reminded of the saying, "what you think about expands," or another version of that comes from The Secret, "what you think about you bring about." And although I don't believe there's anything supernatural or magical about that or that we have the ability to think something into existence, I'm convinced that how we frame things is very powerful and can tremendously influence our attitudes, moods, emotions, and ultimately our lives. A few other mystical scriptures come to mind: "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." (people used to use that to point out my wicked heart because of my foul mouth. Which by the way, we cuss on this show quite a bit, I guess, and I just have to say that the vowels and consonants one chooses to form sounds that symbolize meaning is, in and of itself, amoral. What makes a sentence immoral is the content and the intent, not the form or packaging by which it is delivered). Anyway, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" has always meant to me that when a person talks, they reveal what's in there heart. Which is another way that the meme I posted is inadequate in capturing human complexity. The meme says "actions prove who someone is. Words just prove who they want to be." Whereas if this scripture is true, "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," then we can also know who someone is by some of the words they speak; especially if they grumble and complain a lot, or talk about their own achievements a lot. In that case, we might assess that they lacked praise and affirmation as a child and are now compensating for that deficit as an adult. Another scripture that may contribute to this topic is Romans 4:17, which refers to God as "one who calls forth that which is not as though it were." Or calls things into being from nothing. Now, as I mentioned, I don't believe in magical powers or even that things happen for a reason. As a matter of fact, if something happens that you've been thinking about, I believe its pure coincidence. 100%. However, if you've actually been doing something that would increase the potential for something to happen, then if and when it does, you can know that your actions and your words, that sprang from heart, brought about something that would not have happened had you not got off your ass, trusted your own heart and desire, spoke to yourself and others about how you could help bring that thing about, these are that which changed the world, altered history, and opened up opportunities in your life.

Also, the framing of your reality plays a big role in influencing your emotional health. When it comes to that which you cannot change, placing yourself in a posture of acceptance allows one to adjust and accommodate even one's mistakes as something one learned from rather something to be ashamed of. One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is, "Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it."

Because today's guest, Derreck Bennett talks openly about his alcoholism and his experience with the 12 step program, he references the Serenity Prayer. Which he reinterprets from a secular perspective and is some pretty good shit, such as follows:

"May I grant myself the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking this flawed world as it is, not as I would have it; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with myself."

We taped the following conversation with Derreck Bennett on January 6th, 2017. 
We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for listening and be a Yes-sayer to what is. :) 

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

Derreck's links:

Atheologica and Atheomedy:

https://www.amazon.com/Addictus-Nonbelievers-Recovery-Derreck-Bennett-ebook/dp/B076HGHRT8

https://atheologica.wordpress.com/


https://atheomedy.wordpress.com/

Bart Ehrman's blanket denial of dying and rising gods in antiquity:  https://atheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/06/ehrman-errs-yes-bart-there-were-dying-rising-gods/

And the following two specifically address mythicism:

https://atheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/jesus-man-or-myth/

https://atheomedy.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/not-even-a-carpenter-why-a-historical-jesus-is-doubtful/

Direct download: Ep_185_Derreck_Bennett.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Joel de los Santos. Joel currently lives in Canada but was raised in the Dominican Republic. His Christian journey started as Catholic, then Unity Church, following his parents lead, then he took his own path to evangelical charismatic non-denominational. He and his wife have two sons, his eldest is on the Autism spectrum. The audio is not the best for the first 21 minutes, but gets better and Joel's English is fast and a little mixed with Spanish, but these audio challenges can't keep his big heart and sharp mind from coming through.

Listener email: 

Hi Mr. Midgley,

I have been listening to your podcast for about seven or eight months now and have become a huge fan. While I'm not like many of your guests who've de-converted, I struggled for many years trying to "become" a christian, and suffered a lot of anger and confusion about why it just wouldn't "click" for me and make sense like it does for so many others. I wasn't raised particularly religious, but we did attend church pretty regularly until I was a teenager. When I was a young adult I went back to church trying to become "Christian". I didn't throw myself into it, honestly believing I would naturally have some kind of epiphany and suddenly feel all the certainty that many of my Christian friends felt about the bible. My best friend is a Christian who's heavily involved in her church. She had always been the image of what I expected I would be like once my "epiphany" came. I envied her complete trust in god - despite the discordance I felt about the bible and god's influence in the world. Well, it all started unraveling when trying to start a family revealed that I had some medical issues that would prevent conception. So we prayed... a lot. In the end, god didn't answer our prayer, science did. We had a successful IVF cycle and achieved pregnancy. And although we stood up in church and thanked god for our miracle, I became bitter, angry, and confused afterward. I carried around this bitterness toward god for not giving me a pregnancy naturally. I paid thousands of dollars and underwent uncomfortable medical procedures in order to have my babies. I felt like god had cheated me. Finally though, I had my epiphany. I let go of trying to make sense of a senseless god. The transformation has been revitalizing! Finding your show has added to the peace I feel with my newfound non-belief. One of my biggest conflicts about giving up the search for god was, "What am I if I'm not a believer?" The word atheist sounded scary and like something I didn't want to be labeled as. This is something that your show has really helped me with. Hearing the stories of your guests has shown me that atheist is not a dirty word, goodness and kindness are not dependent on belief in god, and I'm not alone in my non-belief.

Thank you so much for the work you do. Your podcast is bringing some good to the world. Sincerely, Jennifer 

We taped this conversation on December 17th, 2017. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode or more through Patreon; that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode was created by the Barry Orchestra found at https://barryorchestra.bandcamp.com/

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

Joel's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Joymaker

Direct download: Ep_184_Joel_de_los_Santos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:12pm CDT
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