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

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

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

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

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

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

We taped the following conversation on January 28th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, If you've pledged a dollar per episode in the past because it was within your budget to pledge 4 or 5 dollars per month, please go on patreon and change your pledge from one dollar to to 4 or 5 because Patreon forced us to changed to a monthly pledge and you're now pledging a dollar per month, which might be why our monthly check was half of what it's been for over a year, which is around $400. Thank you for your support. it helps my family resent the amount of time I spend on the show less. or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson 
The segue music on this episode is "Closure" by Maroon 5


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

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

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

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

We taped the following conversation on January 28th, 2018.We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts.

Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, If you've pledged a dollar per episode in the past because it was within your budget to pledge 4 or 5 dollars per month, please go on patreon and change your pledge from one dollar to to 4 or 5 because Patreon forced us to changed to a monthly pledge and you're now pledging a dollar per month, which might be why our monthly check was half of what it's been for over a year, which is around $400. Thank you for your support. it helps my family resent the amount of time I spend on the show less. or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

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

mvollmer2012@gmail.com

 

Direct download: Ep_189_Matt_Vollmer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:29pm CDT
Comments[0]

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

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

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

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

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

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

We taped the following conversation with Joy Hopper on January 27th, 2018. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, we offer these podcasts freely. And your support truly makes a difference. You can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge a monthly donation through Patreon. that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music on this episode is "Lost in You" by Dirty Loops

The GoFundMe for Gretta

Friends of Gretta Vosper Foundation on FB

 

Direct download: Ep_188_Gretta_Vosper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:06pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview a Canadian guest who'll go by the name Freddy to protect his identity. He's not fully out to his friends, family and co-workers. His faith began to crumble when he discovered that his dear, dear Lutheran grandma who raised him was going to hell according to his Church of Christ .

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

We taped the following conversation with Joy Hopper on January 14th, 2018.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Direct download: Ep_186_Joy_Hopper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:39pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Derreck Bennett. Derreck is the author a book entitled, Addictus, which is a word for someone who is a debt slave; a person who has been bound as a slave to his creditor. Derrick agrees with step 1 of the 12 steps that he is powerless over alcohol but most AA groups take that powerlessness to a degree in which Derreck found counterintuitive. As an atheist fascinated by religion and philosophy, Derreck has studied extensively to glean a comprehensive understanding of the history and origins of religion. His story is both tragic and inspiring as he models how to overcome nihilism and create a life for himself after hopelessness. He was raised believing John 3:16 literally, that believers were immortal in every sense of the word--even their bodies would not die. Imagine the cog diss when his father and mother both died. It's no wonder he  tried to anesthetize his pain through alcohol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derreck's links:

Atheologica and Atheomedy:

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

https://atheologica.wordpress.com/


https://atheomedy.wordpress.com/

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

And the following two specifically address mythicism:

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

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

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

Listener email: 

Hi Mr. Midgley,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direct download: Ep_184_Joel_de_los_Santos.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:12pm CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Keith B. Keith is a software engineer, dancer, and ex-Creationist living in Augusta, GA. He came from a homeschooling Independent Fundamental Baptist family in southern California, got a degree in Biology at Pensacola Christian College, and moved to Georgia to start a secular PhD program in Biology.  While in grad school, he started dancing. His world expanded as he became close friends with people outside the fundamentalist world, and eventually religion could no longer withstand the strain of contradictions these new connections were revealing. He'd begun reading about the history of Christianity; and initially, the evidence he learned only made him question fundamentalism. As he attempted to find a faith he could hold in good conscience, he was surprised to discover that in this commitment to evidence he'd become atheist. He's now an atheist and secular humanist; and tries to follow the evidence and live a life of sight, not faith.

This talk went long because after an hour of taping, Bob had to leave and yet Keith had more points he wanted to cover, he and Cass keep talking for another 40 minutes. They talk about mitochondria, polyamory and Keith's deconversion process. Keith is a fascinating person and thinker. We think you're going to enjoy this conversation. We taped it on December 16th, 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 Cass Midgley

Thanks for listening, and be a Yes-sayer to what is! 

http://existentialcomics.com/

Kimchi Cuddles

Blues Dance World podcast w/ Tim O'Neil

 

Direct download: Ep_183_Keith_B.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Valerie Torico. Dr. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer with a passion for personal and social evolution. Today, we discuss Tarico’s book, Trusting Doubt:  A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, offers personal insight into how we can apply “constructive curiosity” to our most closely guarded beliefs.  

As a social commentator, Tarico tackles issues ranging from religious fundamentalism to gender roles, to reproductive rights and technologies. A primary focus is on improving access to top tier contraceptive technologies. To that end, in 2015, she co-founded Resilient Generation, a family planning advocacy hub based in Seattle, Washington. She serves on the board of Advocates for Youth, a D.C. based nonprofit with wide-ranging programs related to reproductive health and justice, and is a Senior Writing Fellow at Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on sustainable prosperity. Her articles have appeared at sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Salon, AlterNet, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and they are available at ValerieTarico.com.

Bob and I (Cass) wish you a wonderful summer solstice, time with family and friends, the giving and receiving of gifts from loved ones, and however else you recognize these year end holidays. If you're going to be with family with whom there is religious tension, I encourage you to stick to humanist values when you're with them and be present as a healthy, mature version of yourself. To that end, I will now read excerpts from the third Humanist Manifesto and David Richo's declarations of healthy adulthood:

As humans, you and your family members are an integral part of nature, the result of evolutionary change, an unguided process. Our ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Our fulfillment in life emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Working to benefit society, even a micro-society like your family gatherings, maximizes your own individual happiness. We humanists have respect for differing views in an open social context, as long as they are humane.

And from Richo, in preparation for potentially incendiary encounters with family and friends, say these to yourself before you engage:

I accept full responsibility for the shape my life has taken.
I need never fear my own truth, thoughts, or sexuality.
I let people go away or stay and I am still okay.
I accept that I may never feel I am receiving – or have received – all the attention I seek.
I acknowledge that reality is not obligated to me; it remains unaffected by my wishes or rights.
One by one, I drop every expectation of people and things.
I reconcile myself to the limits on others’ giving to me and on my giving to them.
Until I see another’s behavior with compassion, I have not understood it.
I let go of blame, regret, vengeance, and the infantile desire to punish those who hurt or reject me.
I am still safe when I cease following the rules my parents (or others) set for me.
I cherish my own integrity and do not use it as a yardstick for anyone else’s behavior.
I am free to have and entertain any thought. I do not have the right to do whatever I want. I respect the limits of freedom and still act freely.
No one can or needs to bail me out. I am not entitled to be taken care of by anyone or anything.
I give without demanding appreciation though I may always ask for it.
I reject whining and complaining as useless distractions from direct action on or withdrawal from unacceptable situations.
I let go of control without losing control.
If people knew me as I really am, they would love me for being human like them.
I drop poses and let my every word and deed reveal what I am really like.
I live by personal standards and at the same time – in self-forgiveness – I make allowances for my occasional lapses.
I grant myself a margin of error in my relationships. I release myself from the pain of having to be right or competent all the time.
I accept that it is normal to feel that I do not always measure up.
I am ultimately adequate to any challenge that comes to me.
My self-acceptance is not complacency since in itself it represents an enormous change.
I am happy to do what I love and love what is.
Wholehearted engagement with my circumstances releases my irrepressible liveliness.
I love unconditionally and set sane conditions on my self-giving.

So get out there and be your self. Your "self" and presence are precious. Someday you and all your family members will be dead, never to be experienced ever again. You and they will not be sitting around the dinner table someday. But this Christmas,  you and they will be there, together, in the same rooms, and that is valuable beyond measure. Bring your body, mind and soul into those rooms. As much as you're able and comfortable, be the miracle that you are with those people, whether they understand that or not. Be gentle with yourself. Don't do anything you don't want to do. Be as honest as you can and look for the magic moments, as brief and rare as they may be. And remember Bob and I and the relationships you've made through this podcast and the larger atheist community and that you are LOVED just as you are, even if your family is unable to do that. Happy Holidays my agnostic friends!  

We taped the conversation with Valerie Tarico on November 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. 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 Cass Midgley

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

https://valerietarico.com/

http://www.wisdomcommons.org/

Twitter: @valerietarico 

The movie, "The Mask You Live In." 

 

Direct download: Ep_182_Valerie_Tarico.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:25am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview Corinna Nicolaou, author of "A None's Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam" Corinna is a writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Texas Observer, Salon, and Narrative Magazine, among other publications. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and her writing can be found on her blog, One None Gets Some: Looking at Life Through the Lens of Faith."A None's Story" has been reviewed in the New York Times, Shelf-Awareness and Publishers Weekly.  

We're going to flip the show upside down this week. We normally interview people who were raised deeply religious, usually Christian, and then deconstruct their childhood faith to various degrees of unbelief. Corinna is the opposite--she was raised completely secular and yet in her 40's she had something of an existential crisis and wondered if she wasn't missing out on something. The majority of the human population identify with some religion or another. She wondered why and set out to see what all the hubbub was about. Today she identifies as a None, but has gleaned a little bit, here and there, from the major world religions while discarding the bullshit. Her measuring stick is, "if it helps me love people, I'll take it; if it tells me certain people should be my enemies, I throw it out."

 

She joins us from Washington state via Skype. It's a decent conversation at first but really picks up in the end. Still it may not be for everyone; Corinna is very graceful towards the major world religions, in a kind of a naive way, to be honest. She was never burned by religion like many of you.  She has two masters degrees and teaches writing at Washington State. I think there's something here for us to learn if you're open minded. Though she remains a devout none, Nicolaou's experiences reveal points of contact between the religious and the unaffiliated, suggesting that nones may be radically revising the practice of faith in the near future.

We taped the conversation on November 18th, 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/

Corinna's Blog site

Amazon for her book

Publisher's site for the book

Direct download: Ep_181_Corinna_Nicolaou.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29pm CDT
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