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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.

Aug 24, 2017

Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo interview an ex-Christian married couple in their mid-twenties who are using the names David & Arrianna. They grew up in very different christian homes. David was brought up in a deeply fundamental, Pentecostal christian household. A literal reading of the bible was adhered to - the bible was considered THE word of god, end of discussion. Arrianna had a much softer experience with parents that prioritized empathy, understanding and asking questions. It didn't take long for these healthy habits to rub off on David (early in their relationship) and eventually led to both of them de-converting (amazingly, at around the same time and only about a year ago, so this is really fresh). They are both now totally removed from religion and personally feel they are better for it.

We taped the conversation on August 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 is a song called "High Life" by the Dave Weckl Band

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

Some of us former Christians carry around antithetical sentiments toward are former faith. One day we're soft on Christianity and the next we're on a mission to destroy it. At least that's how it goes for me. I haven't done the math, but at least one out every 10 guests we've had on this podcast are progressive Christians. Often they're friends of mine, and I'm usually pretty soft on them when they're here, with a few exceptions. Many of us are doing our best to maintain decent relationships with our Christian friends and family who are dear to us (at least those who will still talk to us). We ex-Christians have noticed a pretty stark difference between atheists that never loved Jesus with their whole heart for decades and those that did. And I've been critical on this show of the branch of atheist activism that ridicules the most extreme versions of Christianity; the low hanging fruit. I've said it doesn't take a lot of courage. I've referenced Jim Henderson's core tenets from episode 33 many times, one of which is "stop comparing your best with others worst." But as you know, I also reference and have prescribed what is probably the most scathing atheist podcast on the air, appropriately titled, The Scathing Atheist, and especially the opening diatribe by the founder of the show, Noah Lugeons. I featured one them on an episode years ago. Well this last week, on their episode 235, Noah makes a point that I want to share with you. He gave me permission to play this 5 minute diatribe. I won't reiterate his point here because he does a fine job of it, but to preface it, they have made a living creating a podcast that ridicules the stupidity of all religions, especially Christianity, since for a long time they were immersed in it in Valdosta, GA. If you're not a regular listener of their show, you may not recognize all the nicknames they've given the many practitioners of Christian stupidity (like Pat Robertson is P-Robe, for example) but don't miss the point he makes. As Bob and I marvel virtually every week and the bizzarro world in which we find ourselves, I think it's important to make the connection between how we got here (and by here I mean a Trump presidency girded up by evangelicals for starters) and the pass we've given Christianity for the last 50 years. We've turned a blind eye to the ludicris and absurd thinking that it would always remain on the margin. In the meantime, it's encroaching hegemonic takeover has grown into a powerful juggernaut that may be the end of us, and that's no joke.

My thanks to Noah for letting me share his Diatribe here, for writing it, and a big tip of my hat for all the work he and his crew does to stem the tide of theocracy over America and religions around the world.


Who is on your mind? I recently became interested in this topic because I've noticed that some people seem to look outside themselves for how to think. Back on episode 126 we interviewed Jen Senko, who wrote and directed a documentary titled “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” how Fox News turned her father from a sound-thinking liberal to a paranoid alt-right conservative. Many people tune into particular pundits to know how to think. Sometimes we do it to each other. Have you ever had people in your life that were "big" in your mind while you were small and everything you did together you were constantly thinking, "what are they thinking?," so that you could know how to think about too? Perhaps to avoid conflict, perhaps align yourself with them because your own ability to think yourself was atrophied by non-use and it was just easier to adopt their point of view?

As Christians, we used to ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?" And because we were taught to not trust our own heart and mind, we deferred our own agency to this imaginary, projected symbol of perfection. And how'd that work out for us?

No matter the source, if there are influences in your life that cause you to cast doubts on your own thoughts or ability to think for yourself, get curious as to how that's impacting your personal development.

That said, let's explore the opposite, if it's possible to have a few people that you admire that you consider when faced with tough decisions. Surely this is less toxic if it's not a forfeiture of one's agency. In my case, I sometimes wonder "what would Bill Murray do?" or Christopher Hitchens or some local personal friends in my life of whom I think highly. Sometimes we have the benefit of letting people--often authors of books we've read--shape our ways of thinking or seeing the world, and I think that can be very healthy. That's one way that being a life-long learner, or in community and relationships make us better people. Hell, our parents were models in both good and bad ways as to how to think or behave. With just about everyone we encounter we can see both how it's done right and model that and/or learn how NOT to do it.  

As those of recovering from religion, we are learning to ask "what would I do?" What do I want? What do I want to experience? And how can I take responsibility for bringing about the changes in my life that I desire? This is basically the difference in hero worship and having heroes that we emulate. It comes up in our talk today with our guests--this notion of charismatic leaders and the way in which we put them on pedestals. Allow me to read an excerpt from two articles by Psychologist, Michael Schreiner about hero worship in which he addresses the issues of being a hero worshiper, being the worshipped hero, and how to have heroes in a healthy way.  (links to the articles are in the show notes).

"Some feel the relentless drive to elevate a person to godlike status. They search and search until finding a suitable target, then bow down before this supposedly stronger presence. If one is on the receiving end of this, it can feel really good to be the object of hero worship, but understanding the psychology behind the phenomenon makes it much less appealing.

Hero worship is not really about the hero. The same people who worship you one day will discard you the next, moving on to a new entity that does a better job filling the role. If you had not been the chosen one, someone else would have been. This idea applies whether we are thinking in the metaphysical context of deities, the social context of fame, or the intimate context of personal relationships. For example, if you have ever had a romantic partner who began treating you as all-knowing, powerful, and more talented than everybody else, he or she likely followed this same pattern in previous relationships too before they inevitably soured, just like yours did. Or think about the religionist who loves and worships his god until tragedy strikes, at which point adoration is replaced by cursing this god’s name.

The reason to resist the temptation to accept the godlike role (and this may resonate with us ex-pastors)  is that your freedom of thought and behavior will become extremely limited. It stops being okay to make any mistakes or to admit your ignorance. If you buy into what is said and thought about you, then conflict will arise between who you really are as a human being and the unrealistic image you are trying to fulfill. You will attempt to cover up or minimize all your shortcomings and foibles until finally being exposed for the fraud you are (or human you are), at which point the person or people who have put you up on the pedestal can toss you aside with a clean conscience, feeling defrauded, even though they were the ones who unfairly put you up there in the first place for their own psychological needs.

The people placing heroes on a pedestal are parasites (and this may resonate with lay people). For whatever reason they feel incapable of doing the hard work of self-actualization themselves, so they take the shortcut of basking in the glow of the hero's presence instead. They latch onto the hero, and unconsciously believe that this is enough, that they will be able to find fulfillment by being a small part of what is going on. They worship the hero, and all they ask in return is that the hero remain perfect at all times, living up to the impossible standard they have set for the hero without fail.

But there’s nothing wrong in principle with having heroes, specifically when your relationship to them is one of emulation rather than worship. In this case you’re harnessing the power of anchoring, setting the bar high instead of settling for mediocrity. The goal is to join them up in that rarefied air, a much different orientation than perpetually praising them.

Whether heroes are used for the purposes of worship or emulation, the psychology is the human need for transcendence, for escaping the ordinary in favor of the extraordinary. What it comes down to is cultivating the belief that if you discover and cultivate your unique seeds of potential, you can be extraordinary too. You don’t need heroes to take over the job for you, only to show you the way."