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Everyone's Agnostic Podcast

Cass & Marie 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.

Nov 23, 2016

Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Jen Senko, who wrote and directed a documentary titled “The Brainwashing of My Dad.” Jen’s documentary and the effect that political pundits and talking heads have on the human psyche brings up a fascinating subject, especially relevant in view of the election of Donald J. Trump to the highest office in the world (or at least it was before he took it). This catastrophe has so stupefied people that we’re finally talking about the elephant in the room: “fake news.” and it’s ability to influence people  to vote against their own self-interest, their own conscience, or against whatever decency they have left after 30 years of right-wing propaganda.

This really is a fascinating conversation with a fascinating personality—Jen Senko. There are several nuggets of unique dialogue here and a few at my expense.  I love this episode and I hope you will too. 

We taped these conversations on October 30th, 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, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated. Our Indigogo fundraiser is over and as of this taping, we raised $530. We were trying to raise $1600 for 3 new microphones and 3 boom arm mic stands. We raised enough for the mic stands with a head start toward the mics. My thanks to everyone who donated. 

"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green
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.

Official Website:
YouTube Channel:
Twitter: @brainwashingdad


Producer/Sales Contact: Adam Rackoff
(917) 207-5169


Maslow’s 5 hierarchies of needs start with the basic needs of food and shelter, then safety and security. The third is community. The fourth is esteem. The fifth, and top of the pyramid is self-actualization. But in light of today’s show and the premise of this podcast, I want to point out how falling for counterfeit means of meeting the 3rd and 4th level’s needs—community and self-esteem, keeps one from ever achieving self-actualization. This is where false ideologies come in and hijack personal growth and true agency. This where religion and Fox News come in. 

People can overlook a lot of nonsense associated with an organization IF they’ve made friends within it. Churches are full of people that don’t tow the party line of all 7 tenants of their church’s statement of faith, but they go back week to week because “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows you’re name, and they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows you’re name.” That’s the 3rd tier—community. 

The fourth tier has to do with self-respect or self-esteem.  We all need a sense of contribution or value. This might include a felt need for strength, competence, independence, and/or freedom. These are true paths to the 5th need—self-actualization. But we can be tricked into thinking we have freedom when we’re yet a slave; we can think we’re thinking for ourselves when we’re being told what to think. We can be tricked into thinking we’re strong when in fact we’re weak.

The church does this by conveying that God loves you uniquely. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are special. The music, the stain glass windows, the grand narrative from Creation to Apocalypse, the goose-bumps all make a person feel alive and a part of something bigger than themselves. All this was made with you in mind. But what if it’s not true? What if life is not the intent or creation of a being and we’re all just accidents; that the universe doesn’t know or care that we’re here? Wouldn’t it be important that we’re getting our needs met by things that are true? That are real? We don’t eat imaginary food? We don’t shelter ourselves under imaginary roofs. Our self-esteem must be based on facts or we’ve fallen for counterfeit girding of our existence.  The banner under which we rally our community must be real.

Fox News meets the esteem need by igniting the emotions—primarily fear and anger. When our brains light up with these emotions, they release dopamine and adrenaline and we feel alive, powerful, and most importantly: right. The need to be right cannot be underestimated. But it actually stunts our maturation, not fosters it. Yeah, you’re exerting your energy, flexing your muscles, fighting enemies, but they’re not real. Fake news keeps people on an imaginary playground with imaginary battles and thus in a perpetual state of infancy.

The most honest path to true self-esteem is thinking for one’s self, doing the work yourself to build your beliefs, but this is hard work. Part of the difficulty is facing harsh realities like the chaotic, absurd meaninglessness of life. Part of it is acknowledging that we all die a permanent death and will be forgotten in a few generations—as if we never existed. If a person cannot or will not exert the effort needed to face reality, it can actually lower their self-esteem. Life is SO complex, and navigating human problems is such an intricate labyrinth, that it’s very attractive when someone offers to do your thinking for you and feed you what to think and believe.  Religious leaders and political pundits are eager to feed us. There is great wealth to be gained by creating followers. 

We all can get overwhelmed with our realities and the temptation to bury our heads in the sand is powerful. But this is saying no to what is.  There are many popular ideologies, including religion and partisan politics, that when adopted can trick you into falsely maintaining your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-righteousness in spite of your cowardice, incompetence and sloth.  I’m saying that Maslo’s needs are real; we all want to feel alive and part of a community. I’m pointing out that there are people who understand that humans can be stupid and lazy and are eager to exploit us for personal gain by introducing deceitful pitfalls that can derail our heroic journey toward genuine self-esteem and authentic community. Don’t fall for it. Smell it out. Follow the greed. Discern the liars. Say yes to reality and no to falsehood, not the other way around. Jesus may have been right when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”