Everyone's Agnostic Podcast (general)
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 converse with Thomas Amun. Thomas grew up in the heart of Memphis until he was 18 years of age. A young Christian boy who was on his way to Nashville to attend a Private Christian College and play his favorite sport, basketball. While things were working on the court, Thomas found himself having moments in the classrooms, where he started questioning the Christian belief. During his sophomore year, at the time just 20 years old, Thomas was kicked out of school for violating a school rule. Already questioning his Christian beliefs, Thomas saw the perfect opportunity to join the journey of a free thinker. He's continuing his higher education, now a junior at Belmont University in Nashville studying journalism, Thomas finds himself struggling with the outside world and how the figment of God probably doesn't exist in this chaos. Thomas is a poet and he recites one during the interview and we feature a spoken word song that he wrote at the end.

 

We taped this conversation on September 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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 is by Ludwig Goransson from the movie soundtrack for Fruitville station.

Thanks for listening and try to cooperate with reality while making effective changes to improve it. In other words, be a yes-sayer to what is.





Direct download: Ep_172_Thomas_Amun.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo converse with Rusty Shackleford. That's not his real name. Like many of our guests, they're not completely out as non-religious to everyone and for their own personal reasons wish to keep it that way.

Rusty is a 31 year old mental health counselor. He holds two Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Development/Education and Counseling. He's lived in TN his entire life, and church was always a part of his upbringing.  He grew up in the Church of Christ (with music) and Freewill Baptist. He played drums on the worship team and was involved in the children’s ministry and driving the church vans to pick up the children in the housing developments for the Wednesday night program. Rusty began chipping away at parts of his belief in his 20s, first dropping the literal interpretation, then realizing that the story of the Christ was a repackaged story from folklore of many other religions and belief systems that pre-dated Christianity. He tried attending a church that was a “Progressive" Christian Community, and found a lot of peace within this congregation, but also found that I simply could not align himself with even the most liberal of Christian beliefs.  

After interviewing people every week for over three years, most of the guests have told me that it proved to be a catalystic event in their lives. Something shifts. It can have a rattling effect or it wakes them up in a way or emboldens them to do something significant. People have gone on to start their own podcasts or write that book or come out to their parents, etc. Bob and I forget how nervous guests can be when they come on and almost everyone is at first. And I think that's perfectly normal and even right, since their story is now available to the world for the rest of time, or at least as long the electrical grid stays intact. Either way, people will be able to access it long after we're all dead. I just think its cool how many ways the show is changing lives. Who knew? that Bob and I started this thing that it would create such a beautiful community of people. I've never been a part of something so beautiful. If you'd like to be more involved, add me on FB, private message me that you'd like to be in the private support community of this podcast. If you're middle TN, there's a group, and there's also an international group, and the conversations that take place there (completely private) are so beautiful. I'm grateful for the courage of all the guests who have come on here and shared their story so that thousands of others could be encouraged and feel less alone, less crazy, less afraid.

One more thing I'd like to share. Back in January, I was diagnosed at Vanderbilt Psychiatric with clinical depression. I ended up in the hospital because I was suicidal. I was suicidal because I was thinking crazy thoughts, believed crazy thoughts, and as a result my anxiety and depression came unhinged from reality. I was prescribed medication and things started to get better. So much better that I thought I was fine, that my anxiety was sparked by circumstances and when the behavioral medicine doctor I was seeing was charging me $60 co-pay every two weeks to see him, I took the liberty to stop going and eventually ran out of meds. Well they didn't tell me that this kind of medicine has to be taken for a year or it'll drop you back down like a rock to the state that got me there. And this last month, it did just that. The way it manifests is that if I'm alone in my thoughts for more than 30 minutes, I start to get anxious. I get a tension in my abdomen area, my thoughts race into a vortex of panic and fear and rage and resentment and I start hating. Myself and people in my life. I start distrusting everyone and I marvel at their ignorance. Why can't they see what's happening. Well I'll tell you why. Because it's not happening. It's in my imagination. And if you don't think mental illness is real, then it's only because you haven't experienced that particular disfunction personally. I remember counseling a young man, as his pastor, about his fear of dying in his sleep. It was really debilitating. He fought sleep, he had anxiety attacks, he drank heavilly to cope. I didn't relate. I wanted to tell him, "Dude, you're not going to die in your sleep. You're 30. You're healthy. The odds are astronomical." Essentially I was saying, "stop thinking that way." And that was naive. He needed real help. He eventually got it and he's fine today. But no thanks to me.  

I was sharing with someone this week that I was excited to get back on my meds. I don't want to put too much hope in things but it may be why I drink as much as I do. It may be why I smoke. I may be why I'm unmotivated in life. Why I can't write the books I know I have inside me. Basically, I've been just trying to stay alive AND slowly killing myself at the same time. I told her, "help is on the way." Now I used to be a big Bryan Duncan fan and we were reminded of an old song of his called Help is on the Way.  So just for kicks we found it online and played it. But notice that he blames Lucifer--the author of confusion--for the suicidal thoughts.

The way my brain plays tricks on me can feel like a separate entity. We've talked a few times on this podcast about Sam Harris' question, what is the self? So the fact that our brain is firing constantly, feeding us thoughts with or without our permission can feel like we're possessed by another thinker. Secular people reference this metaphorically as "he's fighting his own demons" which is apt metaphor but within most forms of Christianity, Satan is real. Is it so that we can blame something outside of ourselves? So we're not responsible? so God's not responsible for giving us such fucked up brains? who knows why people throughout history have ascribed mental illness to demons, but I no longer have that luxury. I have to get help--real, scientific help. And I'm glad to so and certainly unashamed to do so. I go back to my prescription this week and I'm sure it takes weeks for the effects to start remapping my neural pathways, but it'll be interesting to see how it changes how I show up as an interviewer, but more importantly as a human being, a husband, father, co-worker and friend. I'm excited to find out.  

We taped this conversation on September 10th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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 is a song that was influential in Rusty's deconversion: The Pig by Showbread.

Thanks for listening and try to cooperate with reality.

Direct download: Ep_171_Rusty_Shackleford.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44pm CDT
Comments[0]

Cass and Bob converse with Dustin Lawson. Dustin spent a year traveling all over North America, Europe, and the Middle East as the assistant to Christian apologist, Josh McDowell. Dustin took McDowell's advice and rigorously scrutinized all the arguments he was espousing, only to find holes that McDowell couldn't defend. After losing his faith and completing a bachelor's in religion and a masters in global politics, he tried to enter the military, but because he a brief bout with cancer at age 20 they turned him down 13 times over five years before letting him in. He is now a public affairs officer in the National Guard. During basic training Dustin won the Iron Man award for having the highest physical fitness score in his company of 200+ soldiers. He's an impressive dude, for sure.

We taped this conversation on August 27th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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 is by Sam Maher

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

 

Direct download: Ep_170_Dustin_Lawson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:27pm CDT
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Cass and Bob converse with Tony Hupp. Tony is the father of Josh Hupp, our guest on episode 158. It might be good to listen to that episode first, if you haven't already. This talk gets very emotional. Tony was in the Air Force for 24 years. He has two sons whom he loves very much and Josh was brainwashed by a cult in Tulsa, Oklahoma for several years that eventually made him forsake his family, place a restraining order on his dad, Tony, and, and the cult leaders took over as parents and overseers of the financial, romantic, and all aspects of their parishioners' lives. Tony tells the story of his attempts to rescue his son and the eventually homecoming.

We taped this conversation on August 26th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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.

if you are a listener of this podcast, and would like to be added to the Private Support Group on Facebook, friend me on FB, private message me that you'd like to be added, and give me a brief description of your relationship to the show. I do screen applicants briefly to protect the confidentiality of the group.   

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 is Paul Thorn's "You Might Be Wrong."

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

Tony Hupp's Podcast, Unfiltered and Unfettered

Paul Thorn "You Might Be Wrong"

Fred Armison's character, Nicholas Fehn, on SNL's Weekend Update

Direct download: Ep_169_Tony_Hupp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:36pm CDT
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Cass Midgley converses with Martin Hughes, a pseudonym he blogs under to differentiate his blogging from his role as a college professor. Martin is the writer of the Barrierbreaker blog on the Patheos network. He holds a PhD in Modern American Literature and an MA (with distinction) in English. As someone who grew up in the Quiverfull movement, he was the oldest of seven children and never saw the inside of a classroom until his first year of college, when he decided to become an apologist in the mold of CS Lewis. In the middle of earning his PhD he was finally convinced to leave Christianity, and he has been an outspoken advocate for secular humanism ever since.

When we have in our minds and imaginations how things should go, we drain the life out of what could otherwise be a beautiful chaos. Saying yes to what is means denying that we have any control over our circumstances or other people and even ourselves really. It's only with the benefit of hindsight that we see our own mistakes, isn't it? In real time, we're all just doing what think is best at the time, right? or do we really have time in real time to think? are we just doing and being what comes up in that second? Isn't everybody just showing up? We don't have free will. We don't have choices. Not in real time. See, when we stop thinking life is good or fair or supposed to be a certain way and just let everyone succeed or fail in real time and not judge how they could've done that better...when we release the need and desire to control or shape how this real life shit plays out...this is not scripted...cameras aren't rolling...we don't get a second or third take to make it right...we're actually living. And living is both ugly and beautiful at any given second. When we say yes to what is, we cease judging. When see ourselves and our lives and others through the lens of honesty and reality--not wishful thinking or judgment--we can have compassion. And compassion breeds patience. It creates real space for others and ourselves to just show up and be. There is no extant meaning to life but there is TONS of meaning in the live, spontaneous, improvisational drama of different human beings showing up and interjecting themselves into the movie that is our lives...our reality...playing out in real time. So come on let it go. Just let it be
Why don't you be you. And I'll be me.

We taped this conversation with Martin Hughes on August 20th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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 is on this episode is Let It Go by James Bay

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

Martin's Blog: Barrier Breaker

Martin's Twitter: @ernestlyseeking

 

Direct download: Ep_168_Martin_Hughes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20am CDT
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley converses with Kamaria Powell. Kamaria G. Powell was one of those individuals who never felt like one religion was right for her, so she filled her shopping cart of faith with whatever she liked from variety of religions and cultures. She expanded her own definition of what it means to be spiritual. Kamaria was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UMass Dartmouth and went on to receive her master’s degree in education at UMass Boston.

In her new book, "What The F#@k Is Enlightenment?" Kamaria challenges readers to take their spiritual identity into their own hands. By candidly illustrating her own life experiences, flaws and all, she demonstrates how a chaotic, mundane life can be transformed into a more purposeful and dynamic one through the process of self-discovery and finding your own unique spirituality. Do you have to meditate? No. Do you have to pray? No. Rather than following a prescribed set of rules, she encourages individuals to find what works for them, no matter how unorthodox it may seem.  

Unfortunately, Bob had to leave town suddenly the day we recorded this due for family bereavement. However, he listened to the interview and he and I discuss it and other things at the end.

 

We as a species are pussies. We're cowards, we're scaredycats. That's not a bad thing. It's just how we are, and the things we are afraid are a big deal and worthy of fear, so no condemnation here. We find ourselves here on this planet, entrusted to these parents, surrounded by these friends, co-students, co-workers, etc. We didn't ask for any this. We had no control over any of it. We have little control over anything, including ourselves and our circumstances. We're powerful creatures with no where to exert our power--the world, the weather, and whatnot DOES NOT CARE about us, it is unmoved by our most severe protests or tantrums. Hell, our best friends can't or won't change to please us or suit our desires, why would Father Time? We're all going to die. We humans are unique because we’re the only creatures that know that we will someday die and that our death can occur at any time, in a way that we cannot control. We are animals — breathing pieces of defecating meat — no more significant than lizards or potatoes. Fuck! That's a horrible existence! Let's admit it--this life is a fucking disaster. And we're all in the same boat, no one got to choose their body, their life, their zip code. no one is better or more powerful than anyone else, except in ways that we've constructed to differentiate ourselves from others--competitions, castes systems, economies, identifiers like skin color, religion, gender, interests, hobbies, etc. We come right out of the womb with judgemental contact lenses on our eyes that teach us to say over and over again our entire lives, "This is not okay," "there has to be more than this," "I deserve better," "I matter, goddamnit!" and we do matter. But we would do well to figure out exactly how much we matter and align ourselves with that truth. And the truth is...not that much. We matter to the people we're sharing life with, but they're going to die around the same era we die, so we really don't matter that much in the big scheme of things. So how should we respond to the reality that life's a bitch and then you die? Can't we muster a little spite? a little orneryness? a little rebel that kicks life in the dick and says, "oh yeah, you want to ignore me? you want to make me miserable? well I have a different idea...how about I have fun anyway? How about I laugh at this whole circumstance and find something interesting within it and do that?

We have a giant imagination but we waste it fantasizing how the world should be, how our lover should be, how long this stop light should be, how smart the bank teller should be, how rare our steak should be, how fast the car in front of us should be going, how good this movie should be, how our children should behave, none of which we have any control over. Let's use our powerful imagination to figure out ways to say yes to what is

Yes-saying can be an arduous concept to ingest. I've said it virtually every week on this show for 3 years. That's over 150 times, and some of you have started to get it, hell, I'm still trying to get it. Some of you think it's nonsense, or it's only afforded to me because of all my privileges, being a white, straight, non-handicapped, handsome male in America. But please be slow to reject it based what you think you know of it. It mostly applies to the big picture perspective of life/reality. It acknowledges two things:
1) Life is hard
2) It only gets harder when you wish it were different, deny it, and/or say "no" to it.  No saying holds onto a belief that perfection exists. Or that flaws are bad. It places judgments of good or evil on that which is unresponsive to judgment.
Conversely, Yes-saying is wanting to operate from as many true assumptions as possible, and the least amount of untruths as possible. It is a difficult work--a life's work in fact--discovering how and when one’s life and values are shaped by lies and delusions. Yes-saying is the slow and steady removal of blind-spots (not knowing what you don’t know nor that you don’t know it). It is infused with the concept of art—which is above right or wrong proclamations. We don’t get to evaluate the Big Bang, or hold up an Olympic score card to the random absurdity of the life that is unfolding before us. It just is, and the only world I want to engage with is this one, the real one. I want to stop wishing it was something different than what it is. I want to join the human race and align with reality. I don't have to like it or agree with it, and in those cases I'll add a word to yes-saying. Yes AND.  For example, if I wake up with a headache or I have to go to a job that I don't like, or my friends aren't calling me as much as I want them to, or my car is a piece of shit...I don't give in to no-saying by stomping my feet, crossing my arms and crying like a two-year-old, "no" or "this is not okay." I start with Yes. I acknowledge that it is happening and that I'm powerless to wish it away. It's not budging. It cares nothing about how I feel about it. I'm powerless to change it, so I start with YES. And then I say "AND." Yes I have a headache AND I'm going to take a pain-killer. Yes, I hate my job, AND I'm going anyway AND I'll find ways to make it fun. Yes, I'm going to die someday, AND I'm not going to forfeit what little power I do have to make some needed changes to enhance my experience while I'm here. Yes-saying is pretty much the serenity prayer penned by Reinhold Niebuhr, just without God (and a little Nietzsche added in there) :

I'm going to exercise the serenity to say YES to the things I cannot change; I'm going to exercise courage to change the things I can;
and I'm going to have the 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 fucked up world as it is, not as I wish it was; trusting that that which doesn't kill me will make me stronger; that I may be reasonably happy in this life. Amen

Given the absolute unfairness of life and the fact that no God is looking out for any of us, a reasonably happy life is about the best anyone could hope for. So grow up, buckle up, life is hard and it only gets harder the more you deny it, reject it, or wish it was something other than what it is.

The conversation with Kamaria Powell on August 19th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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.

if you are a listener of this podcast, and would like to be added to the Private Support Group on Facebook, friend me on FB, private message me that you'd like to be added, and give me a brief description of your relationship to the show. The group is confidential, so I do screen applicants briefly.  

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 is on this episode is a rendition of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground by Dave Weckl and Jay Oliver

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

Kamaria's book, "What the F#@k is Enlightement," at Amazon.

Malcolm Gladwell's "Revisionist History" podcast episode on "moral licensing."

The PachaMama Experience

Kamaria's Facebook page

Twitter: @WTFIsEnlighten

Email: wtfenlightenment@gmail.com


Direct download: Ep_167_Kamaria_Powell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30am CDT
Comments[0]

Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo converse with Sean Ritter of Wichita, Kansas. He's kind of a good ole boy from a fly-over state but his wit and intellect took us by surprise.

Sean is a 40 something father of 3 from Kansas still married to his high school sweetheart. Sean works in middle management for a warehousing company and is a do-it yourselfer. His hobbies are auto mechanics, discussing ultimate concern issues, and enjoys watching independent and foreign movies. He grew up going to church in the conservative Evangelical Free denomination in the 80's and got his Awana Timothy Award along the way. By the time he made it through high school, he was done with church and never wanted to go back. After getting married and starting a family at 19, he returned to church attendance at several different evangelical churches. In 2010, about 10 years after returning to his childhood church things started to change. The long term pastor was fired, the sermons changed theologically and a more Calvinistic theology emerged. This prompted him to read a wide range of theological, historical, philosophical and political books. It was during this time a high level of doubt kicked in and he decided to leave the Evangelical world for a more traditional mainline church. After several years at the mainline church, more doubts came back and Sean is a Deist hovering on agnosticism most days. Sean feels that faith is just something he doesn't have and after years of trying to believe it was time to throw in the towel.

We taped the conversation on August 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  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.

if you are a former guest or a listener of this podcast, and would like to be added to the Private Support Group on Facebook, friend me on FB, message me as much, plus, if you will, give me a brief description of your relationship to the show. Please respect the confidentiality of the Group.

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 is on this episode is "Say It Isn't So," by Hall & Oates. 

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

Sean's email: 3crazydogs@cox.net 

Twitter: @3crazydogs24

 


Direct download: Ep_166_Sean_Ritter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:40am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview an ex-Christian married couple in their mid-twenties who are using the names David & Arrianna. They grew up in very different christian homes. David was brought up in a deeply fundamental, Pentecostal christian household. A literal reading of the bible was adhered to - the bible was considered THE word of god, end of discussion. Arrianna had a much softer experience with parents that prioritized empathy, understanding and asking questions. It didn't take long for these healthy habits to rub off on David (early in their relationship) and eventually led to both of them de-converting (amazingly, at around the same time and only about a year ago, so this is really fresh). They are both now totally removed from religion and personally feel they are better for it.

We taped the conversation on August 5th, 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode 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 is on this episode is a song called "High Life" by the Dave Weckl Band

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

https://scathingatheist.com/

https://evolutioncounseling.com/hero-worship/

https://evolutioncounseling.com/heroes-to-emulate-not-to-worship/

Some of us former Christians carry around antithetical sentiments toward are former faith. One day we're soft on Christianity and the next we're on a mission to destroy it. At least that's how it goes for me. I haven't done the math, but at least one out every 10 guests we've had on this podcast are progressive Christians. Often they're friends of mine, and I'm usually pretty soft on them when they're here, with a few exceptions. Many of us are doing our best to maintain decent relationships with our Christian friends and family who are dear to us (at least those who will still talk to us). We ex-Christians have noticed a pretty stark difference between atheists that never loved Jesus with their whole heart for decades and those that did. And I've been critical on this show of the branch of atheist activism that ridicules the most extreme versions of Christianity; the low hanging fruit. I've said it doesn't take a lot of courage. I've referenced Jim Henderson's core tenets from episode 33 many times, one of which is "stop comparing your best with others worst." But as you know, I also reference and have prescribed what is probably the most scathing atheist podcast on the air, appropriately titled, The Scathing Atheist, and especially the opening diatribe by the founder of the show, Noah Lugeons. I featured one them on an episode years ago. Well this last week, on their episode 235, Noah makes a point that I want to share with you. He gave me permission to play this 5 minute diatribe. I won't reiterate his point here because he does a fine job of it, but to preface it, they have made a living creating a podcast that ridicules the stupidity of all religions, especially Christianity, since for a long time they were immersed in it in Valdosta, GA. If you're not a regular listener of their show, you may not recognize all the nicknames they've given the many practitioners of Christian stupidity (like Pat Robertson is P-Robe, for example) but don't miss the point he makes. As Bob and I marvel virtually every week and the bizzarro world in which we find ourselves, I think it's important to make the connection between how we got here (and by here I mean a Trump presidency girded up by evangelicals for starters) and the pass we've given Christianity for the last 50 years. We've turned a blind eye to the ludicris and absurd thinking that it would always remain on the margin. In the meantime, it's encroaching hegemonic takeover has grown into a powerful juggernaut that may be the end of us, and that's no joke.

My thanks to Noah for letting me share his Diatribe here, for writing it, and a big tip of my hat for all the work he and his crew does to stem the tide of theocracy over America and religions around the world.

 

Who is on your mind? I recently became interested in this topic because I've noticed that some people seem to look outside themselves for how to think. Back on episode 126 we interviewed Jen Senko, who wrote and directed a documentary titled “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” how Fox News turned her father from a sound-thinking liberal to a paranoid alt-right conservative. Many people tune into particular pundits to know how to think. Sometimes we do it to each other. Have you ever had people in your life that were "big" in your mind while you were small and everything you did together you were constantly thinking, "what are they thinking?," so that you could know how to think about too? Perhaps to avoid conflict, perhaps align yourself with them because your own ability to think yourself was atrophied by non-use and it was just easier to adopt their point of view?

As Christians, we used to ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?" And because we were taught to not trust our own heart and mind, we deferred our own agency to this imaginary, projected symbol of perfection. And how'd that work out for us?

No matter the source, if there are influences in your life that cause you to cast doubts on your own thoughts or ability to think for yourself, get curious as to how that's impacting your personal development.

That said, let's explore the opposite, if it's possible to have a few people that you admire that you consider when faced with tough decisions. Surely this is less toxic if it's not a forfeiture of one's agency. In my case, I sometimes wonder "what would Bill Murray do?" or Christopher Hitchens or some local personal friends in my life of whom I think highly. Sometimes we have the benefit of letting people--often authors of books we've read--shape our ways of thinking or seeing the world, and I think that can be very healthy. That's one way that being a life-long learner, or in community and relationships make us better people. Hell, our parents were models in both good and bad ways as to how to think or behave. With just about everyone we encounter we can see both how it's done right and model that and/or learn how NOT to do it.  

As those of recovering from religion, we are learning to ask "what would I do?" What do I want? What do I want to experience? And how can I take responsibility for bringing about the changes in my life that I desire? This is basically the difference in hero worship and having heroes that we emulate. It comes up in our talk today with our guests--this notion of charismatic leaders and the way in which we put them on pedestals. Allow me to read an excerpt from two articles by Psychologist, Michael Schreiner about hero worship in which he addresses the issues of being a hero worshiper, being the worshipped hero, and how to have heroes in a healthy way.  (links to the articles are in the show notes).

"Some feel the relentless drive to elevate a person to godlike status. They search and search until finding a suitable target, then bow down before this supposedly stronger presence. If one is on the receiving end of this, it can feel really good to be the object of hero worship, but understanding the psychology behind the phenomenon makes it much less appealing.

Hero worship is not really about the hero. The same people who worship you one day will discard you the next, moving on to a new entity that does a better job filling the role. If you had not been the chosen one, someone else would have been. This idea applies whether we are thinking in the metaphysical context of deities, the social context of fame, or the intimate context of personal relationships. For example, if you have ever had a romantic partner who began treating you as all-knowing, powerful, and more talented than everybody else, he or she likely followed this same pattern in previous relationships too before they inevitably soured, just like yours did. Or think about the religionist who loves and worships his god until tragedy strikes, at which point adoration is replaced by cursing this god’s name.

The reason to resist the temptation to accept the godlike role (and this may resonate with us ex-pastors)  is that your freedom of thought and behavior will become extremely limited. It stops being okay to make any mistakes or to admit your ignorance. If you buy into what is said and thought about you, then conflict will arise between who you really are as a human being and the unrealistic image you are trying to fulfill. You will attempt to cover up or minimize all your shortcomings and foibles until finally being exposed for the fraud you are (or human you are), at which point the person or people who have put you up on the pedestal can toss you aside with a clean conscience, feeling defrauded, even though they were the ones who unfairly put you up there in the first place for their own psychological needs.

The people placing heroes on a pedestal are parasites (and this may resonate with lay people). For whatever reason they feel incapable of doing the hard work of self-actualization themselves, so they take the shortcut of basking in the glow of the hero's presence instead. They latch onto the hero, and unconsciously believe that this is enough, that they will be able to find fulfillment by being a small part of what is going on. They worship the hero, and all they ask in return is that the hero remain perfect at all times, living up to the impossible standard they have set for the hero without fail.

But there’s nothing wrong in principle with having heroes, specifically when your relationship to them is one of emulation rather than worship. In this case you’re harnessing the power of anchoring, setting the bar high instead of settling for mediocrity. The goal is to join them up in that rarefied air, a much different orientation than perpetually praising them.

Whether heroes are used for the purposes of worship or emulation, the psychology is the human need for transcendence, for escaping the ordinary in favor of the extraordinary. What it comes down to is cultivating the belief that if you discover and cultivate your unique seeds of potential, you can be extraordinary too. You don’t need heroes to take over the job for you, only to show you the way."

 



Direct download: Ep_165_David__Arrianna.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09pm CDT
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Before we get into this week’s episode, a brief word about this week’s events around white-supremacy and the President’s remarks. His insistence on imputing violence on “both sides,” completely misses the point, of course, in that one side’s resistance, however imperfect, has been justified since at least the 1940’s by the historically proven abuse of power and ethnic cleansing agenda of racial supremacy. To no one’s surprise by now, Trump’s insanity at pronouncing both sides equally guilty is, in fact, ludicrous because it equates evil with good—a determination he obviously has no compass, no core, and no soul by which to measure. I do hope that my fellow Americans do not share his oblivion and stupidity. Stand strong resisters; even though they know not what they do, they do not deserve forgiveness, patience, or passivity. That said, we must do more than just punch individuals on the street, we must enlighten whatever hearts and minds are left of those who elected him. Speak out, write blogs, songs, and poetry, vote, talk to friends and family, coerce, convince, and persuade, but please do not think this will go away without some serious social chemotherapy.

Welcome everyone to episode 164 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Dr. Bob Pondillo and I interview Molly UnMormon. Obviously, this is a pseudonym; she's not entirely out to her friends and family. Molly is a blogger, writer, and poet at Doubting Dogma; that's doubtingdogmablog.wordpress.com. She lives in south-central Pennsylvania with her husband and two dogs. She served in the Army and continues her career in the civilian sector of the federal service. (yeah, she's kinda bad-ass) She grew up in Colorado, where she was born and raised in a conservative and devout Mormon home. After several phases of not attending Church and some revealed family secrets, she doubted the truthfulness of the Church. It was another two years before she began doubting the core of her faith and finally wrote her letter of resignation to the Church. In order to deal with the frustrations of lost faith, she began blogging, and later podcasting, about her journey.

Before we get into our talk with Molly, this conversation brought up something for me that I want to emphasize: relationships. Yeah, I'm frustrated at how many relationships are complicated by if not ended by the fact that we no longer adhere to the master narrative of Christianity and how that somehow equates to no longer having enough in common, as humans, to remain in contact or congenial.  But the human condition is unavoidably universal and we ALL have the shared experience of trying to find our way in this world, we all get stuck in traffic (as Marlene pointed out last week), we all get sick now and then, we all form opinions about movies, sports, politics, home decor, ice cream flavors, etc. And this brings up for me our ability to compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is a tool that can benefit our lives and diminish it depending how we use it. Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, even personas. For example, Walter White on Breaking Bad was a high school Chemistry teacher and family man while living a double life as meth cook.  We all do it. We're different people around say our grandparents as we are around our intimate friends. We may also know in one part of our brains that Horoscopes are bullshit and yet read them anyway because it rings true and feels good to think the universe really knows me and perhaps has plans laid out for me. compartmentalization can be a tool that makes you a better person in that you're more engaged with the present moment because you've set aside distracting things that are on your mind in order to fully focus on the task at hand. For example, it can be helpful to leave one's thoughts around one's job at the office in order to be more present for one's loved ones at home. This is healthy compartmentalization because you're not in denial about those other things, you're just controlling which thoughts you're going to focus on now, knowing that you will attend to the others later.

On the flip side, we can knowingly or unknowingly use compartmentalization to partition off thoughts that make us uncomfortable. As a Christian, I had to tell myself things like "God knows what he's doing" to stave off my fear of say my daughter rejecting Jesus and being cast into outer darkness forever while I feasted at the banquet table in Jesus' throne room. We delay our own maturity when we bury our heads in the sand instead of get honest with ourselves. This too is compartmentalization. A Christian who is a good person at heart, has to compartmentalize a God who commits genocide, eternal torture, and doesn't intervene in tragic and/or unjust circumstances so that they can sing a worship song to that monster. Or in the context of my concern today for broken relationships due to religion, compartmentalization allows people to choose loyalty to their God--who is both imaginary and evil--over their loyalty to their own family member or friend, who is real and good.

Compartmentalization is how the majority of Evangelicals believe Trump is a good thing for the country...or Pro-Life people are simultaneously pro-Capital Punishment or hawkish when it comes to bombing foreign nations.  But when it comes to Christians allowing themselves to come in contact with people who they know hold a contrary belief to their belief--their precious belief that ensures their acceptance into heaven and was purchased by a tortuous beating of their beloved savior god-man and left to die a slow painful death nailed to a cross, they not only want to mentally compartmentalize conflicting thoughts and evidence that casts doubt on their beliefs, they want to compartmentalize us--the people that represent such evidence--out of their lives. Our very presence reminds them of their own doubts. I don't over flatter ourselves, but I imagine that, in some ways, they envy us. They envy our courage, and those who are more on the margins of their own faith, are probably watching us to see how that works out, taking the path of outright unbelief.

One last note on this subject of compartmentalization: in my personal therapy, I have done some work with dissociative issues. Where parts of me--be they the Cass that experienced something traumatic at a certain age, or the Cass that didn't get enough affirmation from his father, or the 17 year old Cass who didn't properly grieve his father's death and ran into the arms of a beautiful affirming woman to prop up his ego and establish validation and identity vicariously through her, or whatever. The goal of integrating these compartmentalized versions of one's self is healthy, I think. I've benefitted greatly from comforting my fearful, insecure 17 year old self and my 51 year old self welcoming him into the 21st century, to forgiving the Cass that made horrendous public mistakes, to affirming the sexually confused Cass and reversing the damage done by shame and self-hatred. I can attest to the benefits of integrating one's fractured self, conflicted and divided, actually fighting within one's self and manifesting in self-sabotage, paranoia, and being a walking contradiction. As an ex-Christian, I welcome my former Christian self into my core rather than deny that I ever believed it, as embarrassing as that may be. And by saying yes to my journey in all it's hills and valleys, I accept my reality and restore my dignity.

Ironically, when a person remains a compartmentalized person, I think they find comfort in what I'll call counterfeit integration by, instead of integrating internally, they join a group of people just as compartmentalized as they are. All the members of the group have forfeited their personal agency and so they can feel good about themselves even though they've sold their soul up the river. Their doubts can be squelched because all of these people can't be wrong. Such a group is good at putting on airs and masks and posing as good people, nice and thoughtful, but it's only because of their deep need for acceptance. You know the difference between someone being kind because they need something and someone being kind because they're kind, right?

Conversely, when a person integrates within themselves, accepts their self, they don't have the unhealthy need for safety in numbers and groupthink. They do, however, being human still desire friendships, except now, that they are whole and integrated, they look for relationships with other whole and integrated people--other yes-sayers. A community made up of people who love themselves, who are comfortable in their humanity and unashamed of their flawed, imperfect selves, is FAR more capable and empowered to be honest and real and genuine in their community than a group of compartmentalized, reality-denying, scaredy-cats who are embattled within themselves with self-loathing and disgust of their own humanity.  

When ideologies and tenants are canonized as sacred, unquestionable, and static, and then education, research, and science reveal the fallacy of those beliefs, or at least a need to amend, adapt and rethink what we formerly thought, we are either going to discard those former beliefs for the newfound facts we've been exposed to, or we're going to set those beliefs aside in their own compartment of our brains and tote them along as we aspire to be honest people with integrity. We have no other choice. But consider the emotional and mental toll that living with such inner tension might have on your life. No one has perfected this, least of all myself, but I think it's obvious that they healthiest route and the most moral choice is to try to be an honest person with eyes wide open who holds on very loosely to ideologies and beliefs, who is willing to release them when they prove false and/or no longer serves your higher values. Our hearts and minds cannot help but be freer and happier when we lighten the load by throwing old sentimentalized things away, when we stop being mental hoarders of things we're afraid to cast aside, when we subject all our compartmentalized beliefs to scrutiny, and retain only that which is true and aligns with our new values that we've allowed to evolve by critical thinking, snapping out of denial, and saying yes to what is.

We taped the conversation on July 30th, 2017, and my talk with Peter on August 7th. 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode 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 is on this episode are segments from music by Nightwish, a favorite of our guest today.

 

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

Molly's Blog: Doubting Dogma


Direct download: Ep_164_Molly_UnMormon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:53am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Dr. Marlene Winell. This is our second interview with Marlene, back in March of 2015 on Episode 35. She is the founder and director of JourneyFree.org. Journey Free is dedicated to helping people transition out of harmful religions, recover from trauma, and rebuild their lives.  They develop programs for both individuals and groups. From their website, "If you are recovering from religious harm, we have great respect for your strength and courage. Please know that you are not alone and things can get better." We're honored to have her back on the show; she's been helping people recover from religion for 23 years.

Born and raised overseas by missionary parents, Marlene was immersed in fundamentalist Christianity from childhood. She moved away from that religion during college and found the transition process so difficult and intriguing that she began to research it professionally. In 1994 she published Leaving the Fold: a Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion which has become a leading self-help book in the field of religious recovery. In 2011, she coined the term for the condition she calls Religious Trauma Syndrome.

She holds a bachelor and a masters in Social Ecology from the University of California, Irvine, with an emphasis on marriage and family relations. She earned her doctorate from Penn State in Human Development and Family Studies. Her area of special study was programs to enhance human development in adulthood.

Dr. Winell has taught courses in adult development at Penn State, Colorado State University, and  Boulder Graduate School and University of California, Santa Cruz. She was licensed as a psychologist in Colorado where she had a private therapy practice. She also worked as a psychologist in Australia for seven years before relocating to California. Her primary focus is on developing services for recovering from religious harm. She believes this is important for individuals and for society to move forward.

In this talk, we tackle issue of post-religious sexuality, sexism, and some really helpful tips on how to communicate and relate to religious family members around this issue.

Before we get into our talk with Marlene, I had a short 15 minute talk with Peter Montoya. We had Peter on back at the end of 2016 on episode 130. Peter is a true go-getter. He has an appetite for life and emotional health that sets him apart. If he wasn't such a genuine soul and a true friend, I'd pigeonhole him as one of the motivational speakers types, like a Tony Robbins or something. But the thing about these types of people, is if they don't fall into their own ego and greed and become cheap posers and charlatans, they have a lot to offer and their energy and passion is contagious. And Peter is one of those who has all the assets of motivated person without the masks and lies and deceit. He was there for me when I was drowning several months back and was a real life-line for me. He's got a project going that is not only relevant for Californians, where he lives, but the principles for building community that come through in this conversation will be helpful to all of us that hungry for intimate friendships post-Christianity. I know you're gonna like him. But more importantly, you may be quickened to do something in your town that fosters essential relationships. Seriously, as humans, we are not going to be our best selves or truly develop character or live up to our potential if we're not engaged with honest, intimate friendships on a regular basis. This is science. This is evolution. And I mean that in the meaningful sense too. Like more laughter, more looking forward to the coming week because of the events we have on our calendar. If you're feeling like your calendar is stale, you're starting to get bored with or even hopeless about the future, the ideas we discuss here may energize you to make some calls, host some get-togethers, and initiate ways to elevate your lifestyle by meeting and involving cool people in your lives.

So I'm happy to bring these two outstanding guests on and I'm confident that your life will be enriched is some way. First my one-on-one with Peter Montoya, then Bob and I talk with Dr. Marlene Winell.

We taped the conversation with Marlene on July 29th, 2017, and my talk with Peter on August 7th. 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms.  Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode 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 is on this episode is me goofing off on various percussion instruments from my collection.

 

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

http://journeyfree.org/

Dr. Marlene Winell's previous appearance on Everyone's Agnostic Ep 35

Peter Montoya's EA episode 130



Direct download: Ep_163_Marlene_Winell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:01am CDT
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