Nov 23, 2016
Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview Erin Leigh. She’s another Minnesotan guest, she’s a math teacher a marathon runner, and she’s an ex-Christian. We interview people you don’t know on a subject no one wants to talk about, but we think it helps people to talk about it AND we are, in fact, about to get to know Erin Leigh.
Erin was raised Evangelical, went to church 3 days a week, thought she knew 100% 'truth.’ She left Christianity when the questions outnumbered the answers at age 25. She’s now 32. She blogs as A Math Person at amathperson.blogspot.com. One of her posts is a letter to my Christian friends. The following are exceprts from that blog:
“As many of you know I was once one of you. From a young age, I was active in the church community I grew up in. My mom and dad loved him, my grandparents loved him and so did most of the other people I knew, so it seemed like a pretty reasonable thing to do. We participated in AWANAS and I was a dedicated verse memorizer. When I was old enough I joined the youth group, and my life began to revolve around Christianity even more. We had the best parties, amazing retreats, I got to sing in the band, and all my friends were there too. It wasn't just about fun stuff though, I took my faith seriously. I lead the campus bible study. I questioned my faith and found solace in various apologetic resources. I lost someone dear to cancer and was compelled by their story to believe ever more deeply that there was a God.
In college, I was equally involved in a campus ministry, but the questions I felt I had wrestled with in high school still remained and were in some cases were emboldened. I struggled with the lack of intellectualism expected from anyone in ministry I was involved in. I struggled a lot in college with 'fitting in' within Christian circles. I felt like a strange anomaly in this group because I wanted to get a degree that was marketable outside of ministry, which seemed to mean a lot more homework and not enough time for leading a bible study (though I tried). About the time I graduated from college I found faith again in my own terms. I flirted with Catholicism, because I really enjoyed the ritual and reverence. I joined a church where my questions were honored, or at least not completely laughed off and considered irreverent. I met people who 'believed in Evolution' and God, who could have a cocktail and a Bible and who swore and said Amen who prayed and voted democrat. At this time, I felt my faith was dynamic and honest. I wanted nothing more than to stay true to that honesty and remain faithful for the rest of my life. And I did stay honest. And that in turn was the problem.
There were three main sticking points that led to me leaving the faith. The efficacy of prayer (or lack thereof), the ubiquity of the messiah stories, and evidence that existential experiences are not strictly divine. I had a strong, but complicated emotional connection to my faith and despite it's messiness I had no desire to leave. I felt forced by the plain logic in front of me, and I was a somewhat unwilling deconvert. I attempted to hang on in various ways. I joined an emergent church, I read Anne Lamott, but it didn't really work. In the end, I found atheist is the best description I could give myself, though I'm still not a fan of labels in general.
Here's the thing I didn't expect from leaving religion. I'm happy now. I expected pain and heartache and suspected I would feel some sense of existential dread, but to be honest leaving Christianity has made me a much more fulfilled person. I'm finally free to pursue the passions I always loved without guilt or shame, and that has made be very fortunate and fulfilled person. Ultimately, leaving Christianity alleviated the pain I had always felt in my brain, and eventually alleviated the pain I didn't know was in my heart.”
We taped these conversations on November 5th, 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.
"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.
Erin’s Blog: http://amathperson.blogspot.com/