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 135 Homo Sapien (Anon)

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,

Cass-

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.

Matt Schmidt

“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.

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 called “Reasons” and was created by friend of the show “The Barry Orchestra” found at barryorchestra.bandcamp.com

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

 

Direct download: Ep_135_Homo_Sapien.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:43pm CDT
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Episode 134 John Loux

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.

I was talking with a friend last week and together we decided that we were just natural stoics. Stoicism comes from a philosophy introduced by a thinker named Zeno around 300 BC. Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of Virtue in accordance with Nature. That people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity. It doesn’t mean that we won’t feel joy or grief or passion, but that we will not be knocked off kilter by them. Stoics believe that just living is an act of courage.  Seneca the Younger, another Stoic philosopher wrote, “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so…wants nothing.” This has always come natural for me.  This can be frustrating for people around me who are Carpe Diem types, who want to jump out of bed and suck the marrow out of life, always wanting more, that next thing. As usual, somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. If a stoic and a sieze-the-dayer could hook up and enjoy the other’s influence on them, that would be powerful combination.

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:

How could you do this to me
I'm at the end of sanity
I was just rising from the dead
You seemed it right to push me down instead

Now I'm tearing at your skin
To see what's underneath
A bastard or a friend
Or something in between

Say something, anything
Give me one more hallelujah
Give me one more hallelujah
Say something, cause you're fading
Give me one more hallelujah
Give me one more hallelujah

Are you even real
Or just something we think we feel
I thought I had been loved by you
Now I feel taken for a fool

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.

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.

John Loux’s website with music

 

Direct download: Ep_134_John_Loux.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55pm CDT
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Episode 133 Kate

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.

The sooner one learns one’s competence, the sooner one gets out from under untrue narratives that stunt one’s growth and arrest one’s development, the sooner one believes in one’s self—that you’re brave, powerful, independent or interdependent, you’ve shored up your self-respect with true beliefs about yourself, you feel that you have a voice, that your thoughts and feelings matter, the less pain and suffering you’re going to incur when life’s harshness comes at you. You have to have agency to say to what is. 

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.

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.

http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/

 

Direct download: Ep_133_Kate.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:21pm CDT
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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.

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.

“When It’s Time to Say No” Blog

http://www.jennifermichaelhecht.com/stay/

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.

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 Casey

 

Direct download: Ep_132_Blake_Coleman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:01pm CDT
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