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

Cass Midgley and 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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Comments[0]

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 CST
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