Everyone's Agnostic Podcast
Cass & Bob interview people you don't know about a subject no one wants to talk about--God. What's not to like?
Episode 131 Amber Cantorna

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:

  • The concept of eternal life diminishes a person’s ability to be present and concerned with reality
  • The concept of reward and punishment in the afterlife inhibits people’s ability to grow up, to think for one’s self, to determine one’s own personal ethics, and contributes to a divisive sectarian view of others, thus enhancing the potential for judgment, superiority, violence and an “us versus them” mentality. In other words, an asshole.
  • Hell forces one to suppress and compartmentalize one’s natural sense of connectedness to all things in order to be okay with human beings being tortured forever. This hardens the heart and numbs one’s innate sense of compassion. It narrows one’s capacity to empathize with all humans by removing empathy from those outside one’s tribe. It promotes in-group loyalty and out-group derogation.
  • The concepts of Heaven and Hell falsely satisfy the innate human need for justice, inoculating one’s ability to acknowledge that, in reality, life is not fair; it is random chaos, and justice rarely happens. This harsh reality is too much for some to bear and they hide under the delusion that God is someday going to right every wrong, further postponing their maturation.
  • To quote Psychologist, Scott McGreal, “…belief in Hell at a national level is probably associated with greater support for retributive policies such as capital punishment and torture, as well as with prejudice against people who violate religious norms such as gays. Aside from being an extremely cruel thing to believe in, the idea of Hell may have done more harm to society than good.

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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is on this episode performed by Sam Maher on a handpan in the NYC subway.  

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

Amber’s website

Belief in Hell: Does it Benefit or Harm Society?

"Untangling the Mess" by Kathy Baldock

https://www.facebook.com/Beyond.AmberCantorna/

 

 

Direct download: Ep_131_Amber_Cantorna.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am CDT
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Episode 130 Peter Montoya

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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is on this episode is Sam Mayer recorded on a handpan in the NYC subway 

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

Peter Montoya’s website

Amy Cuddy’s book: Presence

Prof. Joseph Vukov lecture on Nietzsche’s Master and Slave Moralities

Sebastian Junger’s TED Talk

Another Sebastian Junger’s TED Talk

petermontoya@petermontoya.com

Peter’s phone number: 949-334-7070

https://www.facebook.com/newfreethinkers

 

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. 

 

 

 

Direct download: Ep_130_Peter_Montoya.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:13pm CDT
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Episode 129 Hank Vincent

Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Hank Vincent. Like so many of us raised in small, rural, heartland-of-America towns, Christianity was the assumed world-view of everyone he knew, and he might still be a Christian had it not been for being shown the door at a church where he served as worship leader.  

Hank points out that in his small town, people don’t approach Christianity doctrinally. The emphasis is on loving God and obeying God and inviting Jesus into your heart as Lord of your life. I know because I too was raised in a small town in Oklahoma, 100 miles from his little town in the Texas panhandle. They want to know that you’re in the club; that your name is in the Lamb’s book of Life, that you are “one of us.” Christian hegemony is nowhere stronger than in rural areas in the red states. If you’re child doesn’t list their church as they’re introduced as football homecoming royalty, you’re the exception. And after all, it’s a club of the nicest, sweetest, kindest backstabbing gossipers this town’s ever known. The questionable aspects of the Bible are swept under the rug, along with everything else with which they’re uncomfortable. The supernatural acts of Moses or Daniel or Jesus are simply assumed to have happened; end of discussion. 

After our conversation with Hank, Bob and I do a brief commentary. Then, local friend and clinical Psychologist, David Mathis and I discuss various ways humans use denial to protect their beliefs and their emotional security. Lastly, we feature a song written and performed by Hank. It’s a break-up song but much like worship songs can resemble love songs, this break up song could easily be about his break-up with God.

We taped these conversations on November 13th, 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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is on this episode is an original piece written by our guest Hank Vincent

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

 

 

 

 

Direct download: Ep_129_Hank_Vincent.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:37am CDT
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Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Nathan Keith, of San Antonio, Texas. Nathan is a gifted musician, served as worship leader and youth pastor. Nathan, like many, took Christianity SO literally, SO serious, only to realize later that most people—most Christians—DON’T take it as literal as we did. In fact, it may be that Christianity is only a sustainable ideology when handled metaphorically or loosely or at least with a lot of wink-winks along the way.

Nathan is in his mid-20s, married around 2 years and just recently decided he couldn’t believe anymore despite sincere efforts. His wife remains a believer but models one of the best examples of how to handle this situation as I’ve ever heard. His parents are also handling it well. As what happened to many of us in the first year of our deconversion, some aspects of our world and identity are turned upside down. For example, Nathan’s a musician and yet he has picked up an instrument since deconverting; he used to be an avid hunter now he’s working on a flexible vegetarianism. He attempts to exceed the F-bomb record set on this podcast by Marie LePage, Episode 108, but doesn’t quite make it. 

We taped these conversations on November 12th, 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.

Credits:
"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is by Sam Maher recorded on a handpan in the NY city subway.

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

The news story on Nathan’s church embezzlement case

 

 

Direct download: Ep_128_Nathan_Keith.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:43pm CDT
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