Sun, 19 February 2017
Cass Midgley interviews author Solan McClean about his new book “Learning to Drive Into the Now,” followed by Bob and Cass interviewing Stephen B about his minority trifecta: black, gay atheist.
Many ex-Christians and atheists have discovered the benefits of living a contemplative life, being self-aware, practicing mindfulness or meditating regularly. Sam Harris has written extensively on this. These terms can make us think of self-help gurus or woo-woo but my first guest today posits that people of faith or no faith can benefit from these practices. In particular today, he’s talking about his new book, “Learning to Drive Into the Now: PRND.” You may recognize that acronym as the gears of your car—Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. But Solan uses them to remember his method of meditational driving: Practice, Relax, Now, Drive. Solan’s a brilliant guy…literally; he’s a member of Mensa. I think you’ll find him interesting.
Stephen B is a young African American man who is atheist and gay. He is a former 7th Day Adventist and was devout in his faith and his pursuit of God. He lives in Chattanooga, TN.
We taped these conversations on January 22nd, 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Fri, 17 February 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Bill Finley. Bill was a latch-key kid that took matters into his own hands as a senior in high school to map his path through Bible college and 13 years of service in the Salvation Army. But his mind and heart were too broad for the narrow path of Christianity, or as he puts it as an arm-chair linguist: "I needed another language."
Here in Nashville on Saturday, March 18th, we're hosting a one day convention called the Nashville Nones Convention, or NaNoCon. This is our second annual gathering. You can find more information at nashvillenones.com. Tickets are just $15 if you register before March 12th and only $20 at the door. Matt Dillahunty is our key note speaker and they'll be breakout workshops.
The second event is ReasonCon 3, being held the weekend of April 21st and 22nd in Hickory NC. This conference puts an emphasis on atheist podcasts and the communities that build around them. Tickets range from $45 to $180. For more information go to reasonnc.com.
In addition, I want to plug two medias that truly illustrate what it means to be a yes-sayer. The novel by Alain de Botton, "The Course of Love," and the movie, "Arrival," starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
Alain de Botton's "The Course of Love" follows a young couple, Rabih and Kirsten, for around 30 years from courtship to mid-life. Francine Prose, of the Guardian calls the novel "a sympathetic account of the relationship that begins only after the besotted courtship has ended. Having fallen deeply in love, the couple “will marry, they will suffer, they will frequently worry about money, they will have a girl first, then a boy, one of them will have an affair, there will be passages of boredom, they’ll sometimes want to murder one another and on a few occasions to kill themselves. This will be the real love story.” Journalist Michelle Newton writes, "De Botton argues we are all crazy and broken; that is the human condition. I would argue that the culture we live in is also in need of major repair as it is riddled with anxiety. No wonder the promise of escape via the wings of love is appealing. A strong dose of reality is needed to ensure the long-lasting survival of love. De Botton argues it is a skill to be learnt over time. I am no expert on love, but that is just the point. No one is."
De Botton invites us to put away our fairy tale expectations of what romance should look like and do the hard work of cohabitating with another person just as crazy as us, with just a different brand of crazy. The lie that the grass is greener continues to pull us out of our present reality into a delusional dream-state that says no to what is. I'm convinced that most couples in the world bear some measure of resentment when their partner is praised by others, thinking to themselves, "if you only knew him/her like I do, you wouldn't think so highly of them." Obviously, this advice only applies to couples who are not in a perilous relationship where they're safety and well-being are threatened. But barring that, being a yes-sayer means deciding if you want your pursuit of companionship to divest itself over and over again with new partners, looking for mr or mrs right? Or if the person laying next to you snoring or drooling or farting suffice for the task?
And lastly, the movie, "Arrival." “Arrival” is not your typical alien movie. This film has tremendous depth and a message that blew my mind. Amy Adam’s character, Louise, is a Professor of Linguistics and is called on to help communicate with aliens from outer space who have arrived on earth. As she grows more intimate with the aliens, they bestow on her, through dream-like visions, an ability to transcend time by seeing the future. What she does with this information and how she reacts to it emerges as the ultimate message of this movie cloaked in an alien invasion context. What I’m about to say could be considered a spoiler, but I think your experience with this movie will be enhanced by understanding the twist at the end as you watch it from the beginning. Louise is able to see her future self marry the scientist she’s working next to at ground zero, see the daughter that they bear, and see her die as a pre-teen with some kind of cancer. AND SHE CHOOSES TO FOLLOW THAT PATH ANYWAY. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” To quote movie critic, Jarrod Canfield: “Arrival is a thoughtful adaptation of that adage. Arrival introduces us to a new prism by which we can better view our own lives. There is no salvation in this vantage point, nor protection from death. Instead, Arrival asks a simple question: if you could view your life as an image, a story told in one nonlinear and infinite symbol, would you change it? Would you live it anyway? Louise embraces life for all of its myriad victories and losses, knowing that the journey is worth far more than the final destination.” This is yes-saying. Looking the cruelty and absurdity of life in the face and walking into it anyway. Nietzsche’s formula for human greatness is Amor Fati, latin for love of fate—not wanting anything to be different. No-sayers look at their lives and they say NO, they want things to be different, they puff and pout over things for which they have no control.
We taped this conversation on January 21st, 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Tue, 7 February 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Steve Dicus. This is our Redneck Comedy Tour episode because Steve is born and bred in backwoods Tennessee, because he’s funny and witty and truly an amazing thinker. He’s live in the studio and I do mean LIVE! At age 10 he deconstructed the Noah’s Ark story. This was the first of many cracks in the dam that led to his loss of faith. And to add to interesting facts about Steve, this big burly redneck’s vocation is a pediatric nurse.
Visiting with our guest, Steve, I was reminded of my little home town in Newkirk, OK, and all the insecurities that come to mind when I think of my childhood and teen years. In contrast to our guest, who seems extremely comfortable in his own skin, my teen years were racked with insecurities. I felt deeply that I was a disappointment to my father, who died of cancer when I was 17. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to get more and more comfortable with what it means to be me. To say yes to what is.
Regarding human insecurity, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne wrote in an article for Psychology Today titled “Why We Feel Insecure, and How We Can Stop:
"Everyone feels insecure from time to time, perhaps particularly in certain situations. You may feel that you’re not as attractive, intelligent, or well-situated in life as you could be. Comparing yourself to the people around you can make you feel even worse. Some people compensate for in securities by trying to elevate themselves at other’s expense. They might see people who seem to have the confidence they crave and envy them. They can even resent them and look for ways to bring them down. The psychologist Alfred Adler, who coined the term “inferiority complex,” referred to this tendency as “striving for superiority.” In the worst case scenario, striving for superiority means that you’re stepping on the feelings of those around you. The only way you can make yourself feel bigger is by making them feel smaller. There are times when insecurities are well-justified, however, and admitting those feelings is psychologically healthy. If you’ve been belittled by a person striving for superiority, it’s normal to question your self-worth. However, recognizing that you’ve been manipulated into feeling this way can help you shake aside that negative self-assessment. You can also be made to feel insecure by actual events in your life: Your romantic partner threatens to leave you or expresses concern about the future of your relationship. Your teenaged daughter shouts in your face that you’re a terrible parent. Or, your parents can make you feel inadequate by pointing out all your failings and missed opportunities. In all of these cases, you wonder what you’ve done wrong. Feeling better in those situations involves separating your contribution to the problem from the other person’s [contribution]. If you’re feeling insecure…this will negatively affect you the most when you believe you won’t be fairly treated, that the weakness your feeling will cause people to dismiss you or ignore, further amplifying your negative self-image. People can handle insecurity as long as they believe someone is watching out for their well-being. Having faith in the friends around you or your partner can help you get through those waves of insecurity that may overcome you from time to time.”
I was with Dr. Whitbourne throughout this article until that last paragraph. I understand that when you are drowning in self-shame or regret, that friends are a great source of comfort and reinforcement of positive image. But I wish she had gone on to say that once you get on your feet, you will need to find your power within yourself, so that you won’t be toppled every time someone with an inferiority complex insults. By ending the article this way, she seems to be saying, “you can handle your insecurity as long as you know someone who believes in you.” But what if that person dies? Or they turn against you or stop believing in you? If you’re ex-Christian, God may have been that person who knew you best and yet loved you. Where do you find the strength to love yourself now? Where now will you source your confidence?
While I can attest that Dr. Whitbourne’s prescription works—that knowing your mother believes in you is a good start for children, but you will need to grow up someday and believe in yourself. The same is true with the support you feel from friends, or your partner, or your God. Looking to others to prop you up can create a sense of false confidence and power, but it’s not the most authentic, powerful source. It is borrowed from another. It’s still looking outward for identity and validation. For those of us who adopted the Christian perspective on the human condition being one of total depravity, we have additional work to do to restore a healthy self-image. Even seeing ourselves as good can take some time. But over time we discover that we’re larger, stronger, and better than we thought; we can even be surprised to discover that we held so much goodness. And staying umbilicly connected to surrogate sources of self-acceptance creates blind-spots in one’s psyche where self-hatred can hide and abide.
Since leaving Christianity entirely around 2008, I have spent countless hours in therapy, read a lot of books, listened to tons of podcasts and youtubes, and journaled regularly. I reached a plateau of self-acceptance and personal happiness that was unprecedented in my entire life. Only to discover a pocket of my psyche where I was still looking outward for validation. I still had work to do.
I’m learning to find my power within myself entirely, not in the affirmation of others. Now before you think I’m the guy in Paul Simon’s “I Am a Rock,” I think this work is best done in the context of an intimate, hand-picked community. Consider the power of being with honest, mature friends (who are also on their path to greater self-love and respect) walking out life along side you. And imagine you’ve created a safe atmosphere for honest feedback and praise. This is the best of both worlds—namely, your inner self, where you pursue an understanding of one’s self, extend compassion toward one’s self, and access the courage to be one’s self out and proud, and secondly, you are simultaneously surrounded by an intimate community that can keep you honest about your self-image and the experience your presence creates in others. One without the other creates a lopsided development and can be unhealthy. A self-empowered person can can strong and super-confident, while being obvlious to the experience they’re creating (Trump). A weak, insecure person can be surrounded by friends who seem to love them and yet remain self-loathing.
Amy Cuddy, author of “Presence,” writes: “Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.” “Power… transforms individual psychology such that the powerful think and act in ways that lead to the retention and acquisition of power. True confidence stems from real love and leads to long-term commitment to growth. False confidence comes from desperate passion and leads to dysfunctional relationships, disappointment, and frustration.”
I also think it is worth noting that insecurity will also be with us. Erich From wrote, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”
John Lennon was so resigned to his insecurity that he prescribed staying busy to subdue it. “Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity.”
Insecurity is universal. And religion actually augments it. Take the Garden of Eden story; before the Fall, they were naked and unashamed. Feeling watched and judged by an all-seeing, judgmental God is extremely damaging to us being able to say yes to ourselves. I’ve found that the naturalist and scientific view of life gives me a lot of “grace” to borrow a Christian word, for being human. Atheism acknowledges that there is no shame in being alive and conscious. On the contrary, it is a beautiful thing. Albert Einstein agreed, saying, “It stands to the everlasting credit of science that by acting on the human mind it has overcome man's insecurity before himself and before nature.” The facts show that we just are what we are, with no judgment.
A monologue would not be complete without a reference to Nietzsche. He zeroed in on a phenomena that happens to insecure people. He called Ressentiment, or as we know it, resentment. He said, “resentment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one's own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be "blamed" for one's own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external "evil."
According to Nietzsche, the more a person is active, strong-willed, and dynamic, the less place and time is left for self-pity and resentment of others one envies. In summary, shut up and get busy being you. The world awaits your beautiful, powerful self.
Listen for this level of confidence in our guest, Steve Dicus. You’ll hear how, at a young age, he learned to trust his own intellect, listen to his own heart, and thus be present as his true self. You won’t hear arrogance, in fact, you’ll hear humility, but you simultaneously experience a person very comfortable in his skin. Not that he’s void of insecurities, but has seemingly learned well how to manage them and say to what is.
We taped this conversation on January 14th, 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Tue, 31 January 2017
Cass and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Wendy Marsman. Wendy was raised as a Fundamental-Evangelical in a Missionary Church who served in cross-cultural missions for 15 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Wendy left organized Religion in 2008, became Agnostic and separated from her missionary husband in 2009 ending a 20-year marriage. She reconnected with high-school sweetheart and started a new blended family. Today, at age 47, she, her husband and children are all atheists and figuring out how to live honest lives within reality. Wendy credits hundreds of hours of atheist podcasts like this one for giving her the courage to step out of the Christian institutions where she felt brainwashed. We talk about Christian patriarchy and the suppression of women and how the trauma of finding agency as a woman after leaving one’s faith is often an additional trauma to overcoming the loss of God.
If you’re a woman and after listening to Wendy’s story would like contact her at email@example.com.
Wendy’s story brings up an issue that many ex-Christians run into and that’s navigating the philosophical changes brought on by a deconversion and how we, as married couples, handle this metamorphosis. This is a big deal and often ends up being the final straw in many marriages that may have already been weakening. I was fortunate that my wife worked through my changes with her own honesty and personal reflection and found that she could find a path for herself that was compatible with mine and, in our case, even better than when we were both Christians. She did, however, discover that her resentment of how she was treated under the Christian patriarchal system grew more intense the further away from it she got. This is always going to be unique to each marriage and the pre-existing dynamics at play there. No two humans are alike and we all bring our own personal histories and pathologies to our relationships. It’s like a chef experimenting with different herbs, spices, vegetables, and meats and discovering that some recipes produce a delicious entrée and others become a disaster he/she would never serve to their patrons. When we try to blend ourselves in intimacy with another, especially in that we are ever evolving creatures, we can see that, in many ways, the odds are against us becoming something beautiful and pleasant and compatible, and we’re truly lucky if it ends up working out, but even then, you both are ever evolving and thus are moving targets. This can be exciting as in ever renewing itself, or it can destroy the relationship because the personal paths grow ever further apart. I point this out to remove some of the guilt that comes with thinking we are a failure when our marriages collapse. Often it is not an indictment on either party, but simply a matter of incompatible spices. We should recognize that it requires a lot of maturity and flexibility on everyone’s part to create a relationship that is mutually beneficial, and that every degree of rigidity and fragility that presents itself lowers the chances of the marriage surviving the metamorphosis that deconversion can introduce into the mix.
We taped this conversation on January 8th, 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Wed, 25 January 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview an anonymous guest who chose to go by the name Homo Sapien. He’s 52 years old, pretty much a life long atheist, he’s Canadian, and yet he still isn’t out of the closet as non-religious.
This conversation is not about our usual subject—the trauma of leaving one’s faith. But it is about the toxic effects that religion has on society as it suppresses curiosity, creativity, and personal accountability. Mr. Sapien is a brilliant thinker and a great conversationalist, so Bob and I have a great time. This type of episode is as close as we’re ever going to get to a Sam Harris type podcast.
Before we get into our talk with Homo, I want to read a couple of emails that came in this week. I get a lot of emails each week like these and I apologize that some get read on the air and some don’t. It’s not because you’re email wasn’t great; it really is just that these came in a time when I didn’t like any of the monologues I’d written and I these were great so I’m gonna read them.
The first one is from Matt Schmidt. He writes,
I am just wanting to write a quick email to you about your podcast. I have only been listening for about 6-8 months now, but I have found myself connecting to so many of your guest’s experiences. I’m currently in the process of deconstructing myself and have been traveling through this new world for just over a year. Started my church experience in the belly of my mother and been part of the Church for over 40 years.
As I listen to the many life stories told on your show, there have been many occasions that someone expressed a feeling of confusion followed an anger of betrayal by the narrative of Christianity, which we have taken to accept as reality or even a new-found freedom from the release all the human designed rules and constraints Christianity has taught our wholes lives. I cannot thank you enough for creating this vehicle to provide reassurance that we are not alone in this process and the feeling and experiences we are going through are not unique.
Everyone has a story…. Keep up the good work.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein
This next one wanted to remain anonymous:
Dear Cass and Bob,
I just wanted to send you guys an email and thank you for the wonderful work that you guys are doing just by sharing the podcast with people. I can't tell you how much it has helped me come to terms with my own godlessness amongst the deeply Christian community in which I live.
See, I grew up Catholic and it wasn't until about six months ago that I finally acknowledged the fact that I was agnostic and likely had been all my life. Now, I'm nineteen and living with my parents who are going through diaconate training and becoming increasingly more theological by the day. They don't know that I no longer subscribe to the belief that there is any god, let alone the Christian God that is just waiting to send me to hell for being queer, so I listen to your podcast to and from church every Sunday to distract from the situation. Please know that it genuinely helps with the feeling of loneliness that comes with being the only atheist in a church, and I don't know if I would still be sane without it.
So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Kind regards, Anonymous
P.S., if you guys ever want an interview with a queer ex-Catholic college student who is still going to a very southern Texas church with a future deacon father, let me know. I would be happy to throw my two cents into the immeasurable amount of advice and experience your podcast has put into the world.
So, without further ado, this is our talk with Homo Sapien, a mutual friend of a dear friend of the show who has promoted our podcast everywhere he goes, Bob Barnes up in Canada. He’s taken Bob and I to dinner, he passed EA Podcast business cards at the Reason Rally. He’s a great guy, and he introduced us to our guest today. So here’s our talk with Dr. Homo Sapien.
We taped this conversation on December 4th, 2016. 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Fri, 20 January 2017
Hosts Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview John Loux. His story is one of many tragedies. Today he calls himself an agnostic Christian. He has a huge heart and has given his life to helping less fortunate people. He attends the Unity Church in Kansas City.
Unity Church was a plateau on my journey. I joined one here in Murfreesboro around 2010 or so. I was the music leader there for 3 years before my studies at Vanderbilt Divinity prohibited me from continuing. Their primary text is the Bible, but they are universalists when it comes embracing the path of other religions and the afterlife. They believe Jesus was the son of god but no more than your or I. Their core principles are: God is absolute good and everywhere present. People are good. Thoughts create experiences (kind of “what you think about you bring about” from the Secret). Prayer is connection, and Action is needed. Heaven is not a place, but a state of consciousness; we create our own heaven and hell here and now. We all have an innate capacity to know God through direct experience. The “Christ” is that part of God that is in every person. There is a spark of divinity within all people, just as there was in Jesus. In God we live, move, and have our being.
These aren’t toxic principles. I know some want to hurry humanity along in their recovery from the concept of God, myself included, but we also need to let ourselves and each other trust our own journey. You do you. Say yes to you and your current needs, feelings and desires. And if that includes some remnant of your old faith, trust your instincts. You’ll know when and if that narrative no longer serves you. No one is better or superior for moving faster or slower or even hanging onto Jesus til you die, because there is no judgment when it comes to people pursuing their own happiness (unless it harms others, of course).
John Loux models a way of making the world a better place one adopted child at a time. It’s his way of being a part of something bigger than himself, and by golly if it feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone—do it! It is an important human need to say something with your life. To leave your mark. To find a way to express to the world (or whatever part of the world you can touch) with what’s bubbling up within you. We each have something to offer; something to bring to the table and enhance the life and experience of others. Find your outlet and bring yourself to the world. It’s your world. The world belongs to you and you to the world. Don’t let anyone or anything stifle you or mute you. Many of our guests and listeners are bloggers, poets, songwriters, nurses, authors, teachers, or as in John’s case—parents. Sowing into children that need loving parents.
The problem of evil has and will always trouble those unsatisfied with the old cliché’ “God works in mysterious ways.” That explanation can feel like a twisting of the knife for those who have known the pain and agony of losing a child or a sibling prematurely. Lately we’ve heard that there’s really no such thing as closure, and that’s okay. What’s not okay, at least for me, is continuing to hold onto to some narrative that overstates our value and simultaneously reveals some expectations and projections of what we think life is supposed to be. Even the word “supposed” implies that we’re assuming or presuming something to be true that may not be. So when a loved one dies, it’s not just their absence we’re mourning, but maybe the deterioration or even death of an old belief as well.
I think that life gets easier and maybe even more fun the more we align our beliefs with reality. Just this week I heard a man who was rendered completely dysfunctional by the untimely death of his wife and daughter in a car accident nearly 3 years later. He said, “my faith is 100% of my survival.” You’ll be glad to know I resisted the urge to ask him that most condescending of questions, “How’s that working for ya?” I’ve said it many times before, and it sounds paradoxical, but getting more honest with reality and letting go of false narratives that formerly comforted us can actually lead to a more satisfied, settled, and sustainable happiness. That the more we stop expecting things from life, the more beautiful and magical life becomes.
Our guest today, John Loux, is a singer/songwriter/musician who led worship at the 24 hour house of prayer in Kansas City and other churches. He was raised in a traveling family band through his teens. He’s written a song about the dissonance he feels with the God of his youth in the face of so much tragic loss. We feature this song during the interview. The lyrics read:
Now I'm tearing at your skin
Say something, anything
Are you even real
We taped this conversation on December 3rd, 2016. 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Wed, 11 January 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Kate. She came out as an ex-Christian less than a year ago to a select few family and friends. Kate is a 21 year old nursing student. Her husband is still a believer, and his devout Christian parents still don’t know about her deconversion so we hide her identity on this episode.
Life is the great teacher. It is teaching us things about itself, the natural world and ourselves. I know it’s debatable whether there actually is something called the self. But somebody is listening to the teacher (in this case, Life) and deciding what to believe and keep, or not believe and reject. For example, you’re a high school student and you graduate. One lesson you could hear is, “Hey, I accomplished something. I finished something I started. I hated most of it, but I got through it. That says something about me. It means I’ve got what it takes. That I showed perseverance, tenacity, and discipline.” All our lives we’re doing things that were successes or failures, we overcame it or it kicked our ass, they loved me or they hated me, etc. All the while we’re building a self-image. We’re tweaking our self-esteem and self-respect. We discovering that we’re not umbilically connected to Mommy anymore, that we don’t need her teat, and that I’m equipped, capable, and free to take on the real world. This is a part of becoming an adult. But do you know who misses out on this type of learning? this wonderful rite of passage? whose maturation is impaired they walk around handicapped until they can do some hard, painful repair work on their psyche? Christians who were sheltered and married young. Any one of those three things will handicap your personal maturation: Christianity, being spoiled or over sheltered, and marrying young. And you are FUCKED. You hear all your life that you are inherently sinful, your heart is deceitful and wicked and beyond cure, that without God you can do nothing, that without Jesus in your heart you deserve eternal torture. So you’re brainwashed into having no self-respect or identity. Christianity is even harder on women. You are to submit to your husbands, you’re a second-class citizen because Eve is blamed for the Fall, you are to be silent in church, you’re to cover your head in shame and hide your glory. Secondly, your parents may buy you everything, or rescue you from every peril, or hide sexuality or science from you so that you when finally learn the truth you are cold-cocked by it. And lastly, if you went straight from your parent’s arms to your lover’s and never got a chance to try your wings, get your own apartment, move to a strange city, or bear responsibilities like a job or car payment or doing your own taxes, this is another way in which you haven’t had the opportunity to build your own confidence and self-esteem.
These are ways that the ex-Christian’s life are complicated. There’s a fourth thing I want to highlight that is not associated with Christianity directly, although I think it could be argued that western civilization is so shaped by Christianity that it’s culpable even in this: and that’s the codependency in pop music. Let me play a medley of codependent songs. I must warn you, though, if you were ever a pastor’s wife this is definitely going to trigger your PTSD. I kid you not. Listen how these “lovers” put too much responsibility and cede too much power to another human being.
We taped this conversation on December 11th, 2016. 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Mon, 2 January 2017
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Blake Coleman. Blake is a local friend who works in a restaurant with my children. This is a bit of a detour from our regular format. We normally focus on our guest’s deconversion from Christianity and the pains and difficulties of that journey. Today, because Blake decided all man-made religions (which is all there is) were false at age 12, we end up talking about culture, religion and politics in broad, general terms and the three of us really enjoyed ourselves. I hope you do too.
As one who has adopted what I consider to be healthy dose of nihilism, and by that I mean an embracing of the meaninglessness of life, I’m often confronted with just how harsh life is and how difficult it is to be a yes-sayer. This motto has a boldness to it that musters the courage to look absurdity in the face and refuse to look away…or bury one’s head in the sand. However, life is so hard that I have chosen to use opiates as a means of taking the edge off, not unlike people use religion. I am one who thinks a little depression now and then is apropos given the harshness of life. Hell I’m a white straight male with a beautiful wife and kids living in a 3 bedroom house in suburbia; what do I know about the hardness of life? What about Syrian refugees trying to find food, shelter, and warmth for their crying babies? What about people right up the street from me who live in the projects and try to keep the lights on with a McDonald’s salary. I complain about my shitty cars but at least I have one. Obviously suffering is relative but make no mistake, everyone suffers. Even the guy with the mansion, private jet, and the 200 ft yacht. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. I often say how miraculous it that we’re even conscious. It’s amazing that we’re here and sensing these emotions at all. But that doesn’t always cut it. Often unconsciousness sounds better than consciousness. This is why we like to sleep a lot when we’re depressed, or worse yet, consider suicide. Sometimes we just have to ride out the dark night of the soul hoping that elusive euphoria that comes around now and then is just around the corner. Saying yes to this existence and whatever form it’s showing up as at any given moment is challenged by fatigue and cowardice and apathy. And yet we stay. As Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote, “We are humanity, Kant says. Humanity needs us because we are it. Kant believes in duty and considers remaining alive a primary human duty. For him one is not permitted to “renounce his personality,” and while he states living as a duty, it also conveys a kind of freedom: we are not burdened with the obligation of judging whether our personality is worth maintaining, whether our life is worth living. Because living it is a duty, we are performing a good moral act just by persevering.”
But being a yes-sayer is most applicable to the uber-mensch. To a powerful person who knows who they are and carries a power that affords them the luxury of being a yes-sayer to the real circumstances in which they find themselves. This is not to be confused with the positive effects of also knowing when to say no. If you ever read the Boundaries book, you know that saying “no” to people making demands on your life that you did not sanction is also a bold and brave thing to do.
For someone who has lived a servile life, always thinking of others, protecting and serving all those near and dear in their life, it may be time to say no. As John C. Maxwell wrote, “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.” Listen to this testimony by Paige Burks, on her blog “Simple Mindfulness.”
“I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life. I’ve done what I think I’m supposed to do to make the people around me happy. Needless to say, my own happiness was pretty low on my list of priorities. My thinking was that I would be happy when everyone around me was happy. Funny thing is that this time never comes. Making everyone around me happy is completely impossible. For decades I didn’t understand the core tenant of happiness: no one and nothing outside of you can make you happy. Happiness comes from within. It’s a choice.
We’re programmed to believe that pursuing our own happiness is selfish. Like we’re not supposed to be happy until we make everyone else around us happy first. This comes from the same warped thinking that keeps us from doing things we enjoy because we have to finish all the un-fun work that never ends first. I’m here to tell you that those rules are total BS. They’ve created nothing but misery for millions of people. It’s time to wake up to your new, happier way of being. It all starts by putting yourself first. Go ahead. Be selfish. You’ll also be happy.
For years I said yes to everything, thinking that I was invincible and could take on more than anyone else. Even being very organized and efficient, it’s crazy for me to think I could handle this level of stuff – especially other people’s stuff. When I started saying no to requests (in a diplomatic way) or not volunteering by assistance, I felt bad. I thought I was letting people down. The more I said no, the more clearly I could see my healthy boundaries – that imaginary line between helping because it makes me feel good and helping because others expect it of me. The more I worked my ‘no’ muscle, the more people started to respect my decisions. I say no to things that don’t support my values so I can focus my time on things that do.
If we’re a doormat and say yes to everything, people will continue to expect us to say yes to everything. When we make our boundaries clear by saying no because that’s the healthy choice for us, we teach others to respect our choices. Saying no to something that doesn’t serve you opens the space to allow you to say yes to something that makes your heart sing.”
So in summary, the Nietzschean yes-saying motto is talking about life and the brut harshness of it. And even then, life can be so relentless, merciless, and extreme that sometimes saying yes allowing yourself to be depressed, take more naps, maybe even cope with some moderate opiate use, so that you can ride that storm out and survive to see better days.
On the other hand, the healthy no-saying that is prescribed by those wanting to achieve a more-Nietzschesk power status, is about saying no to external demands being placed on you by others. Both practices—yes-saying and no-saying--are working toward the same goal: the empowerment of yourself that comes from knowing, loving and caring for one’s self.
My admonition is to 1) believe in yourself and 2) put yourself in a community of others who also believe in themselves and where you each can believe in each other. Another great quote from Jennifer Michael Hecht is “We believe each other into being.”
Say yes to life and your ability to stay in it despite its brutality, and say no to people trying keep in you enslaved in powerless servitude so that you can grow the strength to say yes to what is.
We taped this conversation with Blake on November 20th, 2016. 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
So that’s our talk w/ Blake Coleman from here in Murfreesboro TN. Great guy. Feels like he’s navigating his life and picking his battles well.
In closing I want to read an email from a listener who has an interesting twist on her faith journey. Her name is Jennifer Casey.
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 Casey
Thu, 29 December 2016
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Amber Cantorna. Amber was raised evangelical Christian and home schooled. Her father works for Focus on the Family and has for 30+ years. At age 27 she came out to her parents as gay and they disowned her, regarding her as dead—sounds like a practice they borrowed from Sharia Law. Today she is 32, married to her wife, and they both are Christian. Amber’s book, “Refocusing My Family: Coming Out, Being Cast Out, and Discovering the True Love of God” is set to release in early 2017.
As an ex-Christian myself, I find that my sense of how comfortable I am being around Christians has a lot to do with the doctrines they personally hold to. It’s been said that Progressive or Liberal Christians have more in common with us atheists than they do with fundamentalist Evangelicals, and I think that’s true. Many of us who have rejected Christianity are able to look back at the damage it did to us. I see many damaging effects of Christian doctrines on society, to name a few:
So perhaps you can understand why I am apprehensive to build a friendship with a person who believes in Heaven and Hell. They can admire the teachings of Jesus, hold loosely to the Christian doctrines and I find I’m not as suspicious or nervous around them than if I know that deep down they’re okay with a God who tortures those who reject him and trains his followers to be servile, infantile, and void of agency.
Not all Christian doctrines are toxic, but some of the most fundamental core tenants are deeply damaging to the individual who buys into them and to the societies where a majority of the population adhere to them. The most violent countries are the most religious, and the least violent countries are the least religious. These jealous god’s abhor the goodness and freedom of humans to find their own path without the aid of a celestial dictator, thus their followers distrust and deny their own innate sense of morality and thereby turn morality on it’s head—calling evil that which natural humans regard as good, and calling good such things as ignorance, stupidity, and servility.
Knowing this about Christianity can be the difference in religiously-mixed couples staying together or divorcing. A couple like the Thompsons, featured on episode 111, get along because neither are radical fundamentalists of their own beliefs. This is one reason I like to elevate the agnosticism that all humans share. Certainty, rigidity, and fear are destroyers of relationships. If one or both parties are, as Peter Montoya put it in episode 130, “0% capitulation and 100% capitalization,” then they are at an impasse.
Sometimes the Christian accuses their Atheist partner of being intolerant of their Faith, and this may in fact be happening when the atheist attacks their partner’s Christianity on purely judgmental terms, like, “you have to be stupid to believe.” However, if the atheist is positing that the beliefs their Christian partner hold to are immoral and have lowered the character and integrity of that partner, that’s a much more robust argument for establishing irreconcilable differences. Remember, one thing that it’s okay to be intolerant of is intolerance itself. Meaning we’re all free to believe what we want, but if one or both parties deem the other’s beliefs as depreciating the value of the relationship or in fact disgusts one or both of them, then no covenant or promise we made at an altar years ago should lock anyone into a situation that is draining the life out of them. Here again, though, Christianity can foster a lack the agency on the part of the Christian to protect their own pursuit of happiness and oblige them to a higher power to stay in a toxic environment. Not so with the free-thinker.
So there’s my thoughts on whether or not I can respect or be friends with a Christian. Rigid, immutable beliefs in toxic ideologies limit, if not eliminate, my desire to spend time with that person. If they believe in a literal Hell or are even hesitant to take a stand on it, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
Okay, back to our interview with Amber. Amber is an activist, author and speaker with a heart for people who find themselves at the intersection of their faith and their sexuality. She strives to bridge the gap between two seemingly opposing communities. She has been featured in Huffington Post’s Religion column, as well as on Liberal America and other writing mediums.
We taped this conversation on November 21st, 2016. 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, give it 5 stars, and/or 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Wed, 21 December 2016
We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. Today, Cass Midgley interviews Peter Montoya. (Bob was not able to be present for this one.) I heard Peter interviewed on Bart Campolo’s Humanize Me podcast and wanted to bring him on to talk about his work in developing communities. Peter is one of those energetic communicators and creative brains that motivates people and discovers solutions. Very entrepreneurial. He was raised Catholic but today models an unbelieving worldview that is non-threatening and, in fact, very amiable. I call this relaxed atheism, and it’s something to which I aspire.
Before we get into my talk with Peter Montoya, let me get a couple of things off my chest.
My prescription for creating something tolerable in this world is "say yes to what is." By all means, find yourself, THEN LOVE THAT SELF, pursue your dreams, set goals, etc., but if, at the end of the day, you don't say yes to what's right in front of you, you'll always be chasing that next thing and hitching your happiness to it. I believe self-denial is actually more rewarding than self-indulgence. The good life is not about getting what you want, it's wanting what you got.
What I mean to say here is that part of the loneliness and restlessness that we all experience comes from thinking that we’re the only one fighting battles, under stress, embarrassing ourselves with fits of anger or saying things we regret. We could tell ourselves that everyone else is having fun (Facebook does this to us), everyone else is able to control their emotions, everyone else has amazing friends as demonstrated on TV shows like Friends, Seinfeld, or New Girl. This loneliness and sense of missing out can be even more intense among ex-Christians. We devoted our lives to the social boundaries of the Christian subculture. We suppressed our true selves, our likes and desires, in order to be like Jesus. For some of us, when that tent collapsed and we pushed and crawled our way out from under the heavy tarp, we got the sense that a party had been going on the whole time without us—a party we formerly regarding as sinful or worldly. Now we see that humans have been creating strange and exotic cultures, making music and all art forms, experimenting with scientific theories, calculating and understanding the cosmos, figuring out how to enjoy being human instead shaming ourselves for being human. All while we were parsing scripture to unlock the code of God’s hidden intention for our lives. So perhaps we feel like we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Some of come out swinging with rage and embarrassment and a hefty appetite for hedonism. But what I’m shooting for (and what I think my guest today models) is a calm mature exploration of who I am, what I believe, what makes me happy, why I do the things I do, how can achieve better emotional health, where is my own moral compass pointing to, how can I be a better husband, father and friend, --all things I maybe thought I was doing within Christianity but this time NOT out of an obligation to appease an angry god or please the judgmental measuring stick of my pretentious peers. This time, I’m doing it for me. Because I can, not because I should. Not just telling ourselves lies in attempts to get fired up, or fake-it-til-we-make-it, but affirming actual facts about ourselves—qualities and traits that are true, that everyone else already knows about us but we’ve too afraid to admit. By seeing ourselves as the natural accidents we are rather than the creation and property of an owner and master, we realize that we are neither good nor evil, we just are. And the sooner we show up as ourselves comfortable in our own skin, having said to yes to what it means to be ourselves, the sooner we live the fulfilled life. And by fulfilled I mean the one in which we find ourselves—wherever that is at any given moment. It means being present and unafraid to be ourselves. This is the opposite of what Christianity taught us. We were taught to be downplay our strengths and highlight our weaknesses. This was the virtue of humility. But I call bullshit. It is of utmost importance that we hone our skills and acknowledge our weaknesses so we know when to act or not act, when to speak or shut-up, to stay in our lanes, so to speak, and see the nuanced balance of our skillsets and lack thereof and how we are neither savior nor invisible in the societies we orbit.
I felt this moral inversion imposed by Christianity for years but couldn’t wrap my head around it until I read Nietzsche’s theories on morality. This is a difficult concept to comprehend and will probably require revisiting many times before it starts to sink in. This 8.5 minute lecture unpacks it concisely. I encourage you to listen carefully to this entire 8.5 minute excerpt of a lecture given by Joseph Vukov, Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. It just might blow your mind. Listen also for how this upside morality would serve to suppress women even more than men in western civilization.
In conclusion, a tongue in cheek axiom that has been the goal of my life is “be who you is, cause if you is who you ain’t, you ain’t who you is.” Let us aspire to stop apologizing for being ourselves and being human and hiding ourselves from each other. This type of inner work of affirming yourself and showing up as the truest you is well laid-out in Amy Cuddy’s book titled “Presence: bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges.” I highly recommend it. A link to it is in the show notes. And to bring it back to my interview with Peter Montoya, I believe that being in community helps foster this type of personal growth. It is in the context of healthy, loving relationships that we feel safe enough to try out our true selves on our friends; selves that have been hiding in fear and shame for possibly decades. We need communities so we can see, in more mature people, what it looks like to be true and thus powerful. Not a poer that wields itself over others, but that lifts others up by modeling a healthy, inclusive confidence. We need safe places to give and receive honest feedback as we step out of the dressing room with our new duds on. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with choosing to confide in each other and exercising our innate gifts to help each other be brave and bold.
I taped the following conversation with Peter Montoya on November 19th, 2016. 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, give it 5 stars, and/or 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.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.
Peter’s phone number: 949-334-7070
So that’s my talk with Peter Montoya. I hope you benefitted from that. I did. I’m driven by past experiences, some of which were in a Christian context, to be involved in community. Peter talked about levels and layers of community or tribes, defined by proximity or common interests, but also shared suffering. I think that can be achieved by intentionally getting involved in some cause, but also by just sitting together and sharing in our everyday suffering that life ultimately imposes on everyone on a regular basis. The idea of getting together and sharing your life stories, drilling down, getting to know each intimately is very enriching and exciting. Especially if it’s recurring. It can become something you look forward to, a place that helps you feel less alone in your struggles. We need this, people. We need one another. We’re pack animals. We really start to live when we’re actively involved in helping others and making a tangible difference simply by loving one another and listening and expression compassion and shared experiences. This is what the ex-Christian movement needs. We need each other. The problem is that it’s messy sometimes, it’s taxing on time and energy. Often it becomes overwhelming if too few are the caretakers of the group and experience burnout. These are pitfalls that are common in community building. I hope this talk gave you some inspiration toward being involved as both a beneficiary of the community and playing an active roll in making it happen. This is one of those things that isn’t going to land in your lap. We all have to get out, risk awkwardness, risk exposure, spend precious time, energy and money to keep it going and exercise a lot of grace (to borrow a religious term) and patience with the complexities of being human. Thanks again for listening. Have a great week. Think about how you could be better connected to a local community. Do some research to find groups in your area and start reaping the benefits of being actively connected to others in your area. We’ll talk to you next week.