Mon, 28 May 2018
Tue, 22 May 2018
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
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.
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.
Thu, 17 May 2018
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 email@example.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.
Thanks for listening, and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Tue, 8 May 2018
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
Mon, 30 April 2018
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.
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.