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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.

Mar 12, 2017

Cass Midgley and Bob Pondilloo interview Matthew O’Neil. Matthew is an activist, theologian, and teacher. He has an MA in Theology from Saint Michael's College and is a certified Humanist chaplain and celebrant. He is the author of What the Bible Really Does (and Doesn't) Say About Sex and writes for the Danthropology blog through the Patheos network. He lives in Saint Albans, Vermont. Today, we talk about O’Neil’s catholic upbringing and his latest book, “After Life: Solving Science and Religion’s Greatest Disagreement,” which he wrote after having a near-death experience.

This is a good talk with Matthew O’Neil. Of his latest book, “After Life,” Dr. Michael Shermer, author and editor of Skeptic magazine, wrote this: “What happens after life? Matthew O'Neil answers this question with learning, elegance, and grace. He reveals the surprisingly rich history of heaven and hell and many other religious ideas that believers assume have always existed in their present form but in fact evolved along with society and culture. There may be no scientific evidence for an afterlife but O'Neil demonstrates how this fact leads to a most uplifting conclusion. To discover it, and how to live a fulfilling life without an afterlife, read this beautiful book.”

Before we get into our conversation with Matthew, as you know, this podcast chronicles the stories of people recovering from Christianity and getting healthy, myself included. Something that comes up a lot is the notion of agency and discovering one’s self and acting from that authentic self. There are lots of factors that contribute to arrested development in people, and Christianity is one of them. Christianity not only tries to minimize one’s self to be eclipsed by Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but it can bring out the worst in people.  One way it does that is it removes responsibility from its followers. Our mistakes are cast into the sea of forgetfulness, or cast onto the sacrificial scape-goat of Jesus and are now covered in the blood. Sometimes Christianity demotivates personal development because it is worthless to be good (filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6) or even impossible to be good and thus a futile effort, as Paul taught in Romans 7: “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. If I do what I don’t want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.” Contrast these lines of thinking from the Bible with the wisdom that is coming out of science and the study of what it means to be human. The following declarations of healthy adulthood, by Dr. David Richo, my reveal some unhealthy mindsets leftover from Christianity. I recommend his book, “How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration.” A link is in the show notes. These are rich statements, loaded with meaning, so for the sake of time I’m just going to read them without comment. However, you may want to be prepared to stop the tape and contemplate some of them.   

  1. I accept full responsibility for the shape my life has taken.
  2. I need never fear my own truth, powers, fantasies, wishes, thoughts, sexuality, dreams, or ghosts.
  3. I trust that “darkness and upheaval always precede an expansion of consciousness.”
  4. I let people go away or stay and I am still okay.
  5. I accept that I may never feel I am receiving – or have received – all the attention I seek.
  6. I acknowledge that reality is not obligated to me; it remains unaffected by my wishes or rights.
  7. One by one, I drop every expectation of people and things.
  8. I reconcile myself to the limits on others’ giving to me and on my giving to them.
  9. Until I see another’s behavior with compassion, I have not understood it.
  10. I let go of blame, regret, vengeance, and the infantile desire to punish those who hurt or reject me.
  11. When change and growth scare me, I still choose them. I may act with fear, but never because of it.
  12. I am still safe when I cease following the rules my parents (or others) set for me.
  13. I cherish my own integrity and do not use it as a yardstick for anyone else’s behavior.
  14. I am free to have and entertain any thought. I do not have the right to do whatever I want. I respect the limits of freedom and still act freely.
  15. I overcome the urge to retreat on the brink of discovery.
  16. No one can or needs to bail me out. I am not entitled to be taken care of by anyone or anything.
  17. I give without demanding appreciation though I may always ask for it.
  18. I reject whining and complaining as useless distractions from direct action on or withdrawal from unacceptable situations.
  19. I let go of control without losing control.
  20. Choices and perceptions in my life are flexible, not rigid or absolute.
  21. If people knew me as I really am, they would love me for being human like them.
  22. I drop poses and let my every word and deed reveal what I am really like.
  23. Changes and transitions are more graceful as I cooperate with them.
  24. Every human power is accessible to me.
  25. I live by personal standards and at the same time – in self-forgiveness – I make allowances for my occasional lapses.
  26. I grant myself a margin of error in my work and relationships. I release myself from the pain of having to be right or competent all the time.
  27. I accept that it is normal to feel that I do not always measure up.
  28. I am ultimately adequate to any challenge that comes to me.
  29. My self-acceptance is not complacency since in itself it represents an enormous change.
  30. I am happy to do what I love and love what is.
  31. Wholehearted engagement with my circumstances releases my irrepressible liveliness.
  32. I love unconditionally and set sane conditions on my self-giving.

Source: Richo, D. (1991), How to be an adult: A handbook on psychological and spiritual integration. New York: Paulist Press.

I love this picture of adulthood, aspire to it, and commit myself to do the work needed to attain this level of health and maturity.  It’s never too late to grow.

Don’t forget: ReasonCon in Hickory NC, is coming up the weekend of April 21st.  more info is available at I’ll be there with lots of listeners and former guests of this podcast. If you’re planning on going, I’d love to meet you so let’s meet up at ReasonCon. 

We taped the conversation on February 5th, 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, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.

"Towering Mountain of Ignorance" intro by Hank Green
Intro bumper "Never Know" by Jack Johnson
The segue music is on this episode was created by our guest today, Matthew O’Neil. His music can found at

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

Dr. Ricoh’s book: How To Be an Adult

Matthew’s books on Amazon

Matthew’s Twitter: @mwoneiI

Matthew’s articles on Danthropology:

Matthew’s music:

Matthew’s Facebook