My guest today is the producer and subject of the podcast, Hiding in Plain Sight. Tom is a non-believer living in the UK. He decided to explore the hidden things that surround him that he has so far left unexplored. He takes on the task of a search for meaning within the Christian framework.
The Hiding In Plain Sight podcast is very well produced, it has its own original music and it takes an honest and sincere look at Christianity in its first series. Ultimately, the podcast is about the search for meaning and the examination of one’s life. Tom does this with humility and sincerity. It is a riveting story that you must hear.
Tom’s reason for doing the podcast:
For most of my adult life, I have spent a few hours a day on one of London’s busy commuter trains. It has given me time to think. I have often stared out of the window and felt like I was missing something, some meaning. This podcast is a search for that meaning and in each series, we will explore something new, I will try on new ways of living and thinking like a new pair of shoes, and let you know how it feels, the comfortable and uncomfortable parts.
Sassy Atheist is on the show. Sassy has a YouTube channel where she honestly describes her deconversion and her earnest desire to help others through the process. Hear her heart breaking story of a broken relationship with a loved one because of her deconversion.
Sassy’s search for truth included Episcopalianism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism and eventually atheism. She also was on a search for community which she is now finding in the atheist community. Sassy exemplifies the themes of the podcast: deconversion, Secular Grace and brutal self honesty.
[To god] Just do something to tell me that you are here and that you know that I am in pain.
My guest today is Jennifer Michael Hecht. Jennifer is a poet, an author, an award winning academic and an intellectual historian. She has written numerous books from a secular perspective. I asked Jennifer to come on the show to discuss her book Doubt: A History and its profound effect on me post-deconversion. She is one of my intellectual heroes.
It is hard to express how much this book has influenced other secular writers and thinkers. This book has strongly influenced my other two favorite books Greg Epstein’s Good Without God and Katherine Ozment’s Grace Without God. Both of which quote Doubt throughout.
Jennifer proved to be as profound a thinker as her reputation makes her out to be. It was my privilege to attempt to keep up with her in this interview.
Great believers and great doubters seem like opposites, but they are more similar to each other than to the mass of relatively disinterested or acquiescent men and women. This is because they are both awake to the fact that we live between two divergent realities: On one side, there is a world in our heads— and in our lives, so long as we are not contradicted by death and disaster— and that is a world of reason and plans, love, and purpose. On the other side, there is the world beyond our human life—an equally real world in which there is no sign of caring or value, planning or judgment, love, or joy. We live in a meaning-rupture because we are human and the universe is not.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
David Ames 0:11
This is the graceful atheist podcast Welcome welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. If you've ever thought to yourself, I really want to hear David be less graceful and more mean and catty. Well then I have a podcast recommendation other than my own. I'd like to recommend the deconversion therapy podcast the hosts Karen and Bonnie ticket comedic look at the deconversion process and in particular the silliness of evangelical life. They're often read listener submitted stories and so I submitted a story from my experience as a youth pastor back in the 90s. If you want to hear my story about attempting to be a hip, young, long haired youth pastor in the 90s, check out the May 9 episode of The deconversion therapy podcast on today's show. My guest today is one of my intellectual heroes. One of the great things about doing this podcast is getting to interview people whose work has had a profound impact on my thinking, and deconversion. My guest, Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, a historian and a commentator, and author of numerous books. And she literally wrote the book on doubt. She's also an award winning academic, she wrote the end of the soul scientific modernity, atheism and anthropology. Her current book is called stay a history of suicide and the arguments against it. It's a secular argument against suicide. But I asked Jennifer to be on the podcast to talk about her 2004 book doubt, a history and its profound impact on my thinking, post deconversion. There are three books that have had a major impact on my thinking. Catherine cosmonauts Grace without God, Greg Epstein's good without God. And Jennifer Michael Hecht's doubt a history. All three of these books have been important for different reasons. Jennifer's doubt a history really helped me understand the intellectual history that we inherit as secular people. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is going through either deconstruction or deconversion to help ground yourself in the history of others who have doubted before you. It is amazingly comforting to realize that not only are my doubts not particularly original for today, my doubts are not particularly original for 2500 years ago, and that is the kind of context that a book like doubt a history can give you. As you will hear Jennifer and I talk about how old these questions are and that humanity has been wrestling with the concept of doubt and belief. For most of our history. The book is a crash course in philosophy, ethics and religious thought. It encompasses multiple millennia, and circumnavigates the globe, including cultures from around the world. What could be a dry and potentially boring subject I found riveting. Page after page I came face to face with my own ignorance and the wisdom of humanity. Over the centuries. Jennifer has written a book that contextualizes the modern moment of secularization in the West. And for that she is my intellectual hero. And now I give you Jennifer Michael Hecht.
Jennifer Michael Hecht, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 3:58
Thanks so much. Glad to be here.
David Ames 4:00
Jennifer, you're a poet, you're an author, you have a PhD in History of Science, you're called an intellectual historian. And you've literally written the book on doubt. I want to just give a quick moment for you to talk about some of your current work I understand your previous book was called stay history of suicide and a secular argument against it. And that you're working on a current book now, the wonder paradox, a guide to using poetry to find meaning in folk ah, and rest in some clarity of mind.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 4:33
Yeah, we're still working on the subtitle on that one. But yeah, paradox is what I'm working on now. And, and yeah, the The truth is that the books are very different, but in a lot of ways they do all cohere around the question of how people live it outside of religion, or having moved on from it or not. having, you know, come into their own in a culture that isn't, that doesn't find it as their focal point. And there's all different ways that people have structured meaning the, the modern sense that, that without religion, you don't have a lot of these things is very temporally local. It's a very, it's a very momentary and historically specific experience. And so when I start looking outside the present moment, to see how people deal with certain kinds of things that we associate with religion, I always find a wealth of, of ideas and lives lived generations lived under different conceptions of, of all these types of religious ideas. So the Wonder paradox right now is, is a direct response with poetry, seeing how how ritual and wise words that sound good and feel good and that you've returned to have influenced people's lives outside of religion within religion, but without belief with religion with belief, but without all sorts of other kinds of configurations. And as you said, the the anti-suicide book stay was really an investigation into how people who weren't going to just answer that question with God says know, how they respond to what it could mean to to each other and to ourselves to to ask questions about whether it was morally straightforward. Whether or not you could take your own life.
David Ames 6:44
Right. Right. I think that's an important book for our time as the as we see a movement of secularization. Yeah. And suicide is always an ever present danger. So yeah, I terrible podcast hosts, I have not yet written those. That book, I plan to read it very shortly. You've graciously come on the podcast to talk about a book that you wrote in, it's 2003. Right? It's a long, long time back. I appreciate you taking that time. One of the selfish goals of the podcast for me is to just become a little less ignorant. And just to TSF, a little bit, I've read your book, doubt a history a couple of years after my deconversion. And I just found it so profoundly important. And mainly because of my own ignorance. I came from an evangelical background where my ignorance of history and in particular, secular history, philosophy, philosophical history, was just profound. And on top of that, to make matters worse, there's this sense of hubris like, you know, well, I probably I understand these things already. And then even going through the deconversion process, oh, I have these original experiences, it must just be me. And reading through the book was not only recognizing my ideas are not particularly original for today, they are not particularly original for 2500 years ago. And I find like this is just a really useful thing for people to to be grounded in to recognize our place in history. Before we jump into some of the specifics of the book, would you like to tell us about your particular spiritual or faith journey? Where are you at? Where did where was your background growing up?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 8:37
My background growing up was a, I was raised, you know, Jewish household we were practicing. But what's called conservative Judaism at the time, all the names have sort of shifted a little bit, but my dad's a physicist, and so he didn't believe, but also came from the same world of Brooklyn, Jews, second generation. And so third generation in some cases. And so, I grew up on Long Island and in around New York City, so I do a lot of Catholic kids, and I suppose more than you would in the middle of the country. But yeah, for me, the my personal history of secularism, so I decided that that is I came to my own understanding that there is no god or anything supernatural at about age 12. I mean, I know I was age 12. And it did hurt at first. But, but not for that long. It really was literature though. It took me a while to realize that's what it was but this beautiful quote, by Rainer Maria Rilke saying, to live the questions. Mm. like that, we can't come to the answers that even if the answers were handed to you now, you couldn't, you couldn't really know them not only couldn't really know that you couldn't know them at all, he compares them to to, you know, wisdom in a language in a book in a language you don't understand. And the book is worth something, but you really can't understand it yet. And to me, at 12, it was a revelation that, that you could live the questions that you could, that you didn't have to believe, now that there were no answers, because what you thought of as the source of answers previously, no longer holds, holds good. The idea that wisdom is indeed something that you have to work through both in living and through a long process of learning. That was very emancipatory, for me that that meant that whatever I couldn't figure out now was not a closed door. On the other hand, I? Well, I was gonna say that I've had a pretty solid sense of what I thought in terms of believability, the notion that there that I could conduct my metaphysical investigations the same way I conduct my life investigation, so no evidence, really no reason to tolerate the proposition. Right. Right. And, and that worked, okay. But, again, one grows and one learns. So Buddhism became something that was very fascinating to me to figure out, to what extent millions upon millions of people across, you know, 10s, of hundreds of generations were living without supernatural ideas. And what what you find is that it's a little divided. So there's Theravada Buddhism, where you really do strict, strictly state without supernaturalism Mahayana Buddhism, which, as I explained in doubt, they come to the idea that you could believe in the weird and absurd and unprovable through a kind of rational progression, about what you can't know. And when rationalism gets to its edges, where it breaks down a little bit, there are paradoxical problems with being a human being trying to understand the world. Right? Not problems anyone can get anywhere past. And so some, some of the, the Buddhist world also goes into this world of irrationalism, on the good faith of so the world's irrational. But yeah, again, also looking, looking into Confucianism, how much how much of the non supernatural, non theistic religion that is essentially set out there was influenced by local customs and religions that were superstitious, right. And what I found was a tremendous amount of people all over the place throughout all different periods of times, specifically banishing the supernatural, and saying, well, then what do we make of life without it? So for me, I processed through taking on certain amounts of all these different religions to the point where I am now, I have a great deal of respect for all of them, and also a great deal of concern about how much how much everyone who talks about these different religions, is promoting their own point of view. And so we have to be, we can't say that they really are atheistic, because atheism as we understand it now, is very historically specific to this moment. I rambled a bit, but I personally came from a position until 12. I believed to some degree, then I stopped and was a pretty standard kind of atheist very scientistic. Until Yeah, I guess at Columbia, doing my PhD in history and reading about different cultures, atheists, cultures, in history, and finding out just beginning to get the sense that there was more to be understood there and coming to understand that instead of scientism, I really find more truth in what I'll call poetic realism, right? A commitment to realism, but with an understanding that there's more truth in some of the connections we glean through beauty and feeling and surmise. And so that lands me in a rather odd place.
David Ames 15:00
Well, I think I can identify, I think one of the things that I tried to talk about on this show is that we are human beings and not Vulcans. And one aspect of the modern version of atheism is kind of a pure rationality, that kind of tries to ignore the three dimensionality of human beings. We are emotional, we are whatever you want to term spiritual, for lack of a better term, right? We have, we have these feelings, these things are important. And so I was familiar with your concept of, of poetic atheism. And I think that's a really good way of putting it. So
Jennifer Michael Hecht 15:36
yeah, I've sort of moved to calling as to saying poetic realism. In the same breath, I think quite a gazhams. Important still, because I personally think it's important in this moment in America. And it started with Bush, I remember telling interviewer as well, I wanted to, I wanted to use very neutral words, so as to not stop conversation before it started, right. But but as the evangelical started rising up, I started to feel like well, if I'm appreciating other people coming out and saying the word atheist, then I'm going to do it too. And I still have no problem with it whatsoever. And I also think it's important that I keep saying it, but it is. It's just a word that is first of all negative as so many of our words are, and also hung up on Abrahamic theism. The idea of one God, the the Judeo Christian education that everyone in the West receives tilts towards the notion that monotheism and theism itself is a very ordinary aspect, a very ordinary way for human thought to go and it isn't, it just isn't the way they argued it without the evidence was to say that everyone else was primitive, and they were headed there. Right. And that is patently absurd now. But it's what a lot of our whole subconscious notion of what standard normal human religion is. So saying you're an atheist is ignore is sort of separating yourself from all these people who didn't believe in God without having ever heard of them without having ever entertained the notion of an afterlife. And so, realism is a terrifically complicated word you, right, everyone thinks they're being realistic. But still, I felt that it was it was intelligible enough. So I tend to use them both both phrases, that I'm a poetic realist come up poetic atheists to make the point of the atheism but also to, to open it up and ask, well, you know, in what traditions this all falls in?
David Ames 17:57
Yes, I again, relate a lot to that I could very easily use the moniker graceful humanists, but I keep graceful atheists, because I think it's important to be out and allow to help others to come to that as well. But my focus is very much about humanism, and how do we connect with one another and live life? Well. I do want to circle back really quickly. The title of the book is doubt a history and not necessarily atheism history. I understand that it's somewhat of a historical accident. But I find that it's a a serendipitous one, I believe that the word doubt is so evocative. And, you know, doubt leads to questioning and questioning leads us maybe in circles, but eventually to some truth. evokes, in me the idea of somebody who has skin in the game, the doubt or cares about? Yeah. Tell me about your conception of doubt. And what led you to want to research it?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 18:56
Yeah, exactly. You reminded me that in the Introduction to Data, I say the the, the strong believer in the strong atheist in a way have more in common than the great mass of people who don't think about these rights. Yeah, who are sort of hypnotized by, by life enough, my daily life enough to and the concerns that you see in daily life and television and commercials that, that world, that world, you know, it would be hard to argue against it if it went on forever, and it was always happy. But it doesn't tend to serve people that well. And even if it does, it ends and it ends for other people in your life before it ends for you. That is if you try to ignore the situation we're in, it will come crashing in and the if you're not familiar with it, it will destroy you. So we have always known or from the beginning of human records that that we try to prepare ourselves a little bit with by remembering the pain that how happened in the past. And by putting it into some kind of conceptual structure. Yeah, everybody. It doesn't last very long periods of history where people aren't trying to figure out the best way to live, we are living in a very strange, multifocal moment and and that really just means we have to do that extra little bit of work of looking for the material that will save us. In some periods in time, it's handed to you in a little bit more of a coherent way, even at the worst. But we're in a very, very complicated moment, because we've just human beings from different local contained groups have never been able to speak to each other the way they can't today. And so we're all overwhelmed with choice.
David Ames 20:53
It's an information dealers, and half of the problem with the internet is not necessarily finding something to learn, but rather to figure out which things are true. Right filtering processes, the new chat, the modern challenge, that's also
Jennifer Michael Hecht 21:11
you know, that depth of knowledge. So, as you were saying before, the notion that look, I, I can see the world, I'm smart, I talk to people every day who seem like they know less than I do. So I probably have a pretty good handle on this. And then to, yeah, what's located in doubt, and of course, there's a million things I left out of that giant. To see that. If you look for this stuff through history, you will be surprised at every turn. I already had a PhD in history, I had been teaching Western Civ and world history and then history of medicine for years already, when I started to write down, I thought I knew the story. I thought I had picked up as I went along, reading all sorts of history, little stories of atheists and religious doubters, everywhere I looked. Yeah. And yet, when I looked at any overall survey of history, or even of any period, or place, the atheists were gone. And people were still there, but they were being celebrated for other things they did. And if you were only an atheist, you only showed up if if, you know, if you if the big movement came up against you. So they were there, they were still the names were still in the books. But to a remarkable degree. Only when I looked up real close, when some historian had looked closely at a little period, they didn't find it. They didn't leave out the atheist. So I knew about them. I also thought of certain periods of time in certain places as being totally, totally encompassed by religion. But I thought I would just sort of put a sign Here Be Dragons and and we go back to you know, the civilized places where there was culture and sophistication. So like I said, I was already a historian, I had already co authored a Western Civ textbook I, and I thought I had the material. When I brought up the proposal, I had the material laid out. But when I went and did the research, the wealth of personalities and ideas and different takes on things, ideas that seemed like they had to be modern, that showed up in medieval Spain that showed up in Syria, I mean, that, that real color, real flavor, really understanding the ways that different people process these, these ideas about life that are in religion and outside religion. I mean, it certainly blew my mind to the point where I saw that I wasn't writing a story that was a minor story within the larger story of history. I was rather, again, a metaphor I use in in the preface to the book or the introduction. That was it was like looking at a map upside down. It was the same story I learned, but celebrating the times of confusion, which are actually times when people are asking questions and people are suggesting different answers. And people are tolerating the possibility of several answers without a desperate need to pick one and march with it. Those incredibly sophisticated, complex, distressing periods, they tend to make us feel a little ill at ease when we live in them, which makes us write literature which means we have we have the record. And so there, there was just a tremendous The amount of stuff that even as a historian who cared about these things, until I did the research, and really looked up close, I didn't know and was quite astounded, and quite, in some ways you feel better, because you see, you don't have to make all these points there in the world. Right? Like, you're not alone, even if you're alone when you're in a football stadium, and no one else agrees with you. There's millions of people who do agree with you, right? That's a good feeling. A bad feeling is to realize that coming up with some of these answers doesn't save the world. They come out, they help, they can make a wonderful period of time, but there are opposing forces. In in each of us even of just fear and weariness, and, and despair, which can, can put you in other places. But the, the hard part also Well, one thing was I realized by the end of the book, that the reason that we didn't know these stories, as well as we should have was partially the Cold War. It took me a while to really see this, I really had to do some research, some of which, you know, just sort of the highlights ended up in the book, but to really come to understand that in this country, in the United States, during the Cold War, it's in the 50s in response to this fresh, godless, calm animosity with the USSR. That yeah, that not just communism, but atheism because because they were associated with each other became a taboo because it was downright treasonous. The same way Catholicism is treasonous in a in a, you know, during the the age of religious wars, when a country turns Protestant, these kinds of existential belief systems. And so all these books that used to be on the shelves everywhere, came off the shelves. It's remarkable of the extent to which the history of atheism gets shut down in the 50s. And, yeah, there was research I did for a while on, on what I was calling the lightbulb years saying that the first half of the 20th century in the United States was the single greatest period of atheism, including today, that is, before the Cold War, we still haven't gotten back to that level of, of, of certain kinds of freedom. So that, you know, Edison says, you know, in in the, you know, the teens, I think it's 1913, says two New York Times on the front page of the times they asked him about, about the afterlife. And he says, No, of course not. I'm a person of proof and science and mechanism, proof that, of course, there's no afterlife. They'd asked him because William James, up at Harvard had said that just in case, he will try to contact people in case he was so curious about the afterlife. So he had died. And you know, when is your new him said they were contacted. So they went around. And now I don't think somebody who was primarily a maker, the way Edison was, would feel quite as comfortable saying that to the New York Times as in the teens, I'm just saying, even out we can look back and say, Wow, there were many famous men and women famous for other things not famous for their atheism, who were publicly avowed atheists. You know, Sam Barnhart, you know, like, actresses just coming out early part of the 20th century. So, so that was a one of the big parts of realizing the differences with doubt.
David Ames 28:56
Yeah. And again, I think one of the things that just strikes me about particularly looking at a overview the way you do in the book, I'm just seeing various cultures and various times in history, where we've been wrestling with this as humanity from the beginning, these are old questions. And I think he said something very insightful. Near the beginning about even if we hand you the answers, it's almost like we each individually as a society have to go through that process of asking those questions. Even though again, in history, these questions have been grappled with already.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 29:35
Right? And, and we will always have to, which is kind of the wonderful, terrible thing about being human art is not going to get old. Because we're because it's, it's not just that each individual has to go through the story on their own, but that each individual is responding to a new world in a way If they're the culture that's around them, and where they are, in their moment of history makes all the words they're using special.
David Ames 30:10
I mean, right? The context matters.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 30:12
It matters so much. And I think we forget that if, if, if you want went to read Newton right now, you'd be way better off trying to read a book written in this century, about Newton, then reading Newton. And one of the reasons for that is that he's, it's long enough go of course, Principia, a Roman Latin, but, but is the last great work written in Latin in that way. But but the the point is, even John Locke, you know, get closer up to the moment, the words don't mean the same thing. So if you just pick a paragraph and read it, right, you know, 911 people were posting this poem by Whitman, called the firemen, because they were so grateful to the firemen. I'm a New Yorker, I was here and we were feeling very grateful for, indeed, you know, someone I knew who was in the force, passed away that day. And but yeah, the Whitman poem was about the guy in the train, who keeps the fire going back in steam locomotives, there were guys who just had to keep shoveling the coal and keep it going. So yes, it was a hard working man, sacrificing himself, but it was the completely wrong fire man. And I know it's a bit of a digression. But I'm saying that the words means so many such different things. And, indeed, what Americans made up out of Christianity is found nowhere else in history, this very direct relationship with this almost male friend, Jesus character. That's, that's a very American invention. And so an atheist, now, you now are responding to a different religion than anybody else has, and you lost a different thing. Now, there are other things that religious people in the past as they became atheist sloths that you don't have to worry about, because you never had them. There are, you know, the, the ancient Greeks expected to be able to follow their heart and their feelings, but sometimes a Damon sometimes a spirit of one sort or another, or a god would take you over and have you either get in a fight, or fall into a romantic situation, or write something you didn't know you believed in, or do all sorts of things that are out of character, or in, in any case, when they decided, oh, that's all not true. And that did happen. They felt bereft of that, right, but they didn't sit around saying, I don't believe in the gods anymore. Now, I won't live forever, because the gods never offered eternal life for human beings in ancient Greece. So. So yeah, each of us come, each of us comes into the problem in our own moment, in our own way, and then yes, to process through. And, you know, there, there are these beautiful realities of being a natural creature, who has, who has feelings and, and observations of a world happening on many different levels, all at the same time. And comprehending one's vastness and one's limitations, realizing the extent to which you're part of a web of things, right, and your place in it, and the complexity of all of that, that there's something in there. Well, Emily Dickinson says that the brain is wider than the sky for put them side by side, the one the other will consume. And you besides So, the sky the universe is much bigger than you. But you know, the universe and the universe doesn't know you. So who is really the the point of this strange, beautiful, real reality? Yeah, so we are stuck in these mortal beings in these mortal situation but there's something that happens between us and something that happens within us, that is beyond words. And that leaves us the, the great adventure of living our lives. Attempting to speak from What we're actually experiencing to put that into words or colors or shapes to communicate to reach someone else, or at least to reach ourselves to say, yes, I've made something that pleases me in the way that the universe does and to have that communion. But the greatest is the one between other human beings and the way that something real happens in our relation to each other. That is, all the magic you need more than anything else.
David Ames 35:29
Yeah, the two things I wanted to say. One is, and this ties back to the topic of suicide, as well as that, I think we've taken the Copernican principle too far, where we've, we've, you know, we've said, man, we're just a tiny speck in this massive universe, and we're totally pointless. And the flip side of that is what you describe, right? That we are conscious beings, we are observers of the universe. And so I would say, even if you are alone on a desert island, thinking, your thoughts that is so rare and so precious, those thoughts, those conscious thoughts, that there's meaning in that, and we are meaning makers. And I could not agree with you more that one of the primary ways that we make meaning is by interacting with one another, it's our relationships with family, with friends, with our community, and with the wider world. And I one of the things I talk about on the podcast a lot is that as people go through a faith transition of one kind or another, they might be very angry. And, and one of the dangers of that is you've got this all this newfound knowledge, this, you know, the sledgehammer of, of argumentation, and and you're angry, and the most dangerous thing that can happen is you burn bridges to the people that you actually care about. Oh, right. Sure. And so one of the things I just tried to convey is that, yes, you're angry that anger is valid. But sometimes we have to be the bigger person, and the people that we love, really, ultimately is the meaning in our lives. And and, and that's what we need to find precious.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 37:11
Yeah. I agree entirely. And it's a very interesting perspective. I have certainly had many consequences about from being a vocal atheist. But coming from a New York Jewish background. It wasn't, I certainly didn't have to lose friends, I certainly did have some struggles there. And continue to in certain ways, but But I certainly know what most Americans who are coming out of, you know, in fact, for many, many years, I would attend a lot of atheist conventions, because I was invited to speak. And, yeah, the people that you meet there, who who is going to go, why would you choose that as your vacation? And so it is people who very often are coming from a world that that treated them with a lot of hostility as they started to ask questions. So they needed this, this other community. And, yeah, I was very moved to see I bought the book. A boy erased that they made the movie about recently. I purchased it before I saw that I was quoted in it. Oh, there's, you know, a blank page between parts and little quote from Foucault and a quote for me, I was delighted to see but the quote was, it was moving because I wouldn't have thought of this as what my quote was just outside the turf war between religion and science, more nuanced arrangements may be made. You know, what this person is saying is he came out of a world that was very religious, and it was sort of trying to stomp him out, in his very being right. But he loved those people. And he did negotiate, you know, his mom goes with him now to these readings and stuff. And so they, when you love the people, and they love you, you can get past things, even if it takes years sometimes. But if the atheist world around you tells you that the only way to be an atheist is to hate all religion, and not all of them do, right, their atheist crowds where they are very friendly to religion, but very, very strictly atheist, others who are very anti religious, but okay, about a certain amount of supernaturalism. Right? So it's not even a coherent category, but still to just realize that everything that we think of as part of religion has been part of non religious human culture at one time or another, and so you don't actually have to throw out anything that doesn't fit. The the many of the ideas and feelings and rituals that are that we think of as attached to superstition or theism detach very easily. And it feels like you're doing something either hypocritical or offensive if you've never seen it before, that's one of the greatest things about knowing the history of this thing. You just realize how many thoughtful brave permutations of belief and, and ritual and life and getting along with the people around you? How many indeed there have been and, and it's hidden from us for a lot of reasons, including the belief that atheism either didn't exist, ever, right? Or that it was so dangerous, that no one spoke it out loud because you get killed. That isn't true, either. So there's definite hiding, and we have to, we have to do our research with that notion. But yeah, the things that we think we have to hate, because they came along with, with ideas that were oppressive to us, we can end up living in very small box, if we don't do the simple history of looking around and seeing what's been there. And again, what's so great about that, you know, research and writing of doubt for me, what were the characters, these amazing men and women, I mean, the women running around 19th century America, living off giving speeches where they would get chased out of town afterwards for their atheism, wearing you know, the petticoats and like, the whole thing, but managing, and some of them getting invited to the White House. And all these stories are still around, you can go to where the building was where there was a church of science, and there's a plaque on the wall. The stuff is, I always tell everyone, there are atheist screens in every religious person's library, because they just don't know that that's what that book is. You know, even the Leviathan people think of Hobbes Leviathan as just a political work, but it's goes on and on about what he finds ridiculous. sanity,
David Ames 42:25
right. Can we talk briefly about you have a chapter on women in in the history of doubt? I want to just bring it to a modern question. There are times where I want to just relish in the concept of doubt, because I, again, I think that it leads ultimately to truth. But there is a dark side, there's a flip side to that, and the idea of the Dunning Kruger effect. And in particular, I think very highly competent women in our modern society can also have a negative side of doubt where they they doubt their own abilities as yourself being a very highly competent woman or in our society. How do you distinguish between doubt that is good self evaluation and doubt that is debilitating?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 43:14
Ah, well, it's a good question. I guess the, the doubt that I'm talking about in the book is almost always doubt in received knowledge. And the question of doubting oneself is you know, that's an eternal balance. Because if you don't, you're just going to be an ass. Yes. And so anyone who's too successful tends to stop being able to do this balancing work. Which means that you know, all these things that make us doubt ourselves all these you know, and if anyone looks and says oh, she's got seven books and a couple more we for every success for most people I know certainly writers there are so many failures for every success you know, a rejection times 10 You just That's why they say don't do it unless you you really can't not because they've so the the self doubt part the world the world make sure that most people take a couple of real intellectual body blows now and again, you know, and and I find it remarkable watching the great you know, was watching up Fossey Verdun on on FX right now. He's just incredibly celebrated artists. You see it everywhere, when they have one small reversal want, you know, one On batch of critics, that doubt comes back in and it can be debilitating to the point where you can't do anything. But and I don't know, I don't I don't know how anyone. All I know is to do good work and to actually finish anything that that double need is predicated on a balance between self doubt, and a kind of dumb courage. Yeah.
David Ames 45:29
I feel that if I can jump in here, I feel that way about the podcast, right? I have to have a certain level of cognitive biases to even do the work. Who's going to listen to this? Who are you listening out there? I don't, I can't hear it. It's amazes me that anybody is listening. But when you create something, and when you put it out into the world, and other people identify with it, that's an amazing thing. And so there does have to almost be dumb courage to just just put things out there.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 45:59
Yeah, I think so. I think so. Indeed. I just reading out, Antonin Otto talking about Vincent van Gogh and saying, nothing has ever been done. No great work, but also No, almost small work, nothing gets done, nothing new gets done without it being driven by, by an almost crazy kind of anguish, pain or need. So it's not it's like, yes, it's, it's a little dumb courage, but the courage of moving forward, but there also is almost has to be something chasing you from behind some feeling that you that you need to, to, to try in this direction that you need to do it. And because what else could overcome the tremendous, you know, frustration of trying to do anything? And the feeling of who am I? Why should I bother? Right? But we have to always just juxtapose that with the there are people throughout history have changed the world, practically on their own, you know, on their own standing there and being fierce enough to gather a small group around them. And that group standing there and being fierce enough so that other people see, there's an option for it. So, you know, Maslow's pyramid of of needs, yeah, you have to have some of your needs, taken care of in order to do these daring things, like the podcast. On the other hand, if you were really completely settled, I'm not sure you would try a new skill, right? Why not enjoy the things you're already doing. So this thing really is complicated, because I think as you become more mature, in some ways, you have fewer needs to that what being more mature is certainly in our culture, and in many others, to act to not have the need to be celebrated. And to get the attention and to to be applauded. Now. So if maturity means being able to sit quietly, when are we going to hear from these people? When are we going to hear from the wise, right? So it has to be this endless adjustment of what you, you know, an assessment of what you really have to offer of what would feel good to try of your motives, all of these things. And there are going to be times when just feeling bad about yourself, it's going to be enough to make you paint every day. Because you need to do something right. Other times, you're going to feel great about yourself. But if everybody stops painting, when they're in love, we're not going to have any love paintings. Right? Right. So it's a it's it is very complicated. And we do I think all have to trust ourselves. I guess you and I are sort of in the same ballpark age wise, but when you know, when you're in your 20s, you're just trying so hard. And as you get older, you do start to be able to get get the kind of perspective that that allows you to maybe try some things without quite the same desperation. And that allows you to I think, sometimes get work done that you couldn't when you were younger.
David Ames 49:29
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and I look back on, you know, in my youth was when I was I went to Bible college, I did mastery for a few years. But you know, I look back on that not only from the secular perspective, but just the, the lack of wisdom at that time in my life period, you know, that, that, you know, you've I've lived a few more years. I've got a few more experiences. Yeah, give me give me some perspective.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 49:53
I mean, I guess I evaded the question a little bit about the the, the female extra burden. And I have to say it's, it's it's frustrating is the the way that the culture uses women philosophers, women thinkers as compared to their male peers. I, I have found it distressing and mostly managing it by trying to think about other things. I'm not really at peace with it and I'm not feeling terribly hopeful. And I'm not sure I would advise a woman or young woman I cared about to necessarily put themselves in this position,
David Ames 50:49
right? Well, I can tell you that I'm incredibly grateful that you have. Thanks. I want to just quickly tell the listeners, you have to read this book, or just doing the research for today I looked at I've read it on Google Play Books. And so I can I can capture the notes, the highlights of that I have 230 highlights. There was no way there's no way to summarize the book without reading it out loud, right. It's just it's a huge summary. And if you are a person who makes memes, this is just a wealth of quotes, you can just mine quotes all day there. I do want to hit just a couple more themes. One of the one of the things that really spoke to me, was this idea of doubt as a feature and not a bug of Christianity, and you specifically highlight Pauline Christianity. Yeah. And I think that's absolutely true of the modern era, in particular Evangelical Church, if it's truly faith alone, if it's trading, just the belief, then the the natural flip side of that is, is doubt. Can you expand on that idea? A bit?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 52:02
Sure. Yeah, that's a fascinating territory and a lot of different ways. The truth is the idea of doubt, in religion and doubt, in God's disbelief and belief was really never central to any religion, I can find any record of before Jesus, the reason it happens is because Christianity is a crash of two streams of culture, the Judaic Hebraic, one and the Greek idea, and by the time of the Common Era, the Greeks have a whole, you know, they have libraries full of atheism, and religious doubt built along all sorts of different scientific or psychological or philosophical lines, we divide them up in those ways. And, you know, in the, in the Republic, so, Plato is, is we're talking about, at least, he's, he's talking about fourth century BC, right BCE, and he's saying all the youth are atheist,
David Ames 53:18
right? Kids these days?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 53:20
That's right. Because Because there have been all these different, there are lots of different ways that that the gods have been dissected and seem to be cultural ideas. And so the religion of the Jesus sect of Judaism, which is what Christianity is, for its first 100 years is a request to believe in not just the Judaic God, which had gotten huge in the sense of being all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent, but gotten so small in terms of anything you could say about him, right? Can't say anything about him. He doesn't look like anything. There's never been a God that didn't look like anything that wasn't a stipulation of Gods before. It was a very weird thing that the Jewish temple had an empty place where the god usually would be at the Sanctum Sanctorum you know, so. So this god that doesn't have features was tolerable by rationalism, in a way that when the Jesus cult goes with Paul, as you said, the Paul line changeover that this isn't a religion about Jesus's critique of contemporary Judaism. And what it really was, was Jesus wanting to kick the Romans out of Jerusalem It was now there's a regular political message and all of that. But when you when you get to Paul, and the religion is now mostly about his death and revival then from that point on the, the, you require a leap of faith and that's when that phrase gets invented because the Emperor's until Constantine it you know In, in what 325 AD, the common error that's what they you see before before the Roman Empire makes Christianity no longer illegal it doesn't make it the religion of the of Rome but it makes it no longer illegal 300 years we had to not get killed or choose to be martyred, right? So had to find a way to get along with the Romans. And that had to be in a philosophical language that accepted that they were talking about a God who was eternal, but who had a face and a mommy. And you know, what a spleen? Does he have an appendix? All of this had been laughed at by by Greek skeptics already looking at their own gods, right? So really took this idea that there was that religion was about a leap into belief over disbelief. Again, yeah, you can even nowadays you can search online, any Bible and just look for the word belief in the Hebrew Bible. And it's really only a you know, I believe it was Thursday when I mean, it's not usually right. And then look, search for it in, in the Christian Bible, and there it is, in this, you know, it'll show up in red, all like a big chrysanthemum around Jesus this and and that goes with the magic as well, all of this notion of let's believe, despite reason. So Christianity is it's a brilliant idea. It's an it's an it's a marvelous theater for human experience, right? This coming towards and away from a belief in a kind of ideal, not everyone wants the ideal that's in this box. And the closer you look at it, do I want to live forever with my family really? Loud worshipping, like, what is that? There's no image of that, that really meant. But if you say it's an ideal, still, there's very localized ideal. It's a kind of pretty human activity, I think I think there's a beauty to that, imagine the ideal, and then attempt to believe it, there's a beauty to it. It's not my thing, unless the reason I believe it, is because I have evidence, it's just elusive. And that I, I have incorporated into my life and my work, the notion that there are things that we believe that we have evidence for, but they're elusive, like love, like justice. And that, though, I'm always very careful when I use words that seem religious, I think the notion of faith, that we can have human faith in ideas that are not measurable the same way, you know, evaporation and condensation are measurable, and yet, are demonstrably real outside one's own self. They're real within the human group, right. And sometimes we can look at things that are elusive, but real within the human group and say, I want to work on my own ability to have faith in say, that I am part of a world of feeling that that I can relate to and how I can be moved by and that I can move that that requires faith, it requires faith to feel that all of this matters without anyone watching. How do I work on that phase? One thing is by asking myself, why would help if anyone was watching? You know, if there was a God out there, what taking notes? Why would that be more satisfying, but I was raised in the West in the Judeo Christian world, and it does feel like I'm sure it feels like if we were being watched and recorded somehow, that we could say, well, you know, that's why it's worth it. But that's a mistake. Right? It doesn't mean it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. So. So yeah, I didn't remember that question.
David Ames 59:33
No, no, no worries. Let me let me ask a quick history question that I legitimately am just curious about personally, and then we'll hit my last theme, and we'll, we'll start to wrap up. Great. So I'm fascinated my tiny amount of, of education in was in Christian church history. And we studied things like Gnosticism and you know, we have the Nicene Creed, that's really a risk. response to narcissism. And I kind of trace it back a little bit to and tell me if I'm incorrect in doing so. It to Plato, and these ideas of, of, you know, the Platonic forms this idea of these things are, are more real in their abstract ideas than then the natural world around us. Is Plato the first to come up with dualism? How does that play out in history? What's your opinion on that?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:00:30
Yeah, I guess it's an interesting question. And the way you're phrasing it, I guess. I guess Plato definitely stands out as having described the problem for us in a way that we didn't see before. And that was sufficient to, you know, basically set up the playing field. You know, up until this point, to some degree, the truth is, I guess, in most cases, what we see, is that kind of conversation happening about language. So how is it that we know what a chair is, since all the chairs are different, right, is that that's the sort of obvious version of it. There's, there are ways that all of this floats in and out of kind of all science and, and all poetic description of the world. So that, you know, just in the way we came up with atoms before the electron microscope, it's, it's a kind of metaphorical extension, in part of the same notion of, you know, an ocean wave is not a thing. It's the ocean waving. And, and, you know, an apple that comes into the universe, you know, first it's a flower and it comes out, and then it it shrinks back and, and ends up withered and disappears, again, was for a moment the universe appaling in the same kind of way. Yeah. And following Alan Watts, the great Buddhist teacher, You are the universe Ewing, for a moment. And, and that aspect, where we're recognizing that the whole world is in flow, I think interacts in an interesting way with this idea of there being sort of Platonic forms of there being either these ideal forms, or the forms are not really so important. They're more the shapes that an underlying flow is, is taking out. But I want to ask you find more about your question. Tell me more about your interest in that specific Nexus.
David Ames 1:02:55
Yeah, I guess, I guess what I'm saying is a tremendous amount of problems come out of the concept of dualism. We're still debating that today, right? Is consciousness a function of the brain? Or is it something else? Right? So we're, you know, Descartes is asking, you know, I think therefore I am, he's got separation. Right? What is the physical and what is the conscious and we are still having that same debate. And to some degree, I just want to shake my fist at Plato and blame him.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:03:29
Interesting, right? Yeah, I don't. I don't see Plato, for one thing. I, he's a great philosopher. And I know that he was against poetry in certain ways. But I think he was just mostly against religious poetry. Those are the ones he names. But he's it for me as a poet, philosopher, so that for one thing he has to be because we don't know the order of his works. So we don't know. We don't know the order of his work. So he did very contradictory things across his life, sometimes very poetic things that if he was a poet, I wouldn't hold it against him at all, to hold two opposing positions in two different forms. So he, so he's, he, for me, what he actually believed even about these things, is up for grabs to some degree among them. So there's that. This other thing, I just want to say, look, when I think about the best reasons to believe in some of the most attractive or vontade of the consciousness can be separated ideas. I give it I give it straight thought. And I have to say that I think if there were no other animate life forms, I would say that consciousness is so different from rocks and even so different from trees, that I just don't know whether I would What I would make of it? I wouldn't say, I didn't know.
David Ames 1:05:04
Whereas, which is an honest answer. Yes, yeah. But I am now
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:05:08
surrounded by ants and flies and cats and dogs and polar bears and chimpanzees and bonobo, and I can look at this planet. And even without looking at its history, where did we come from just looking around, as people throughout history have done and said, this consciousness thing is clearly part of matter. I don't know how conscious an ant is, but it is a lot more conscious than, than a rock, right? I have more in common with the ant, you know, then the rock and the ant have in common? We're doing stuff. Yeah. And to see consciousness on all these different levels of scale, to me, leaves no room for, for mysticism that this consciousness is extraordinary. It's poetic, but it is demonstrably part of the natural world. For me, if you're not going to assign a heaven or possible little, what an exhaust of energy from the death of an ant. Just as Ecclesiastes says, you know, a man dies like a dog, why should he die? Otherwise? Why should a dog dog spirit not go up? If you're believing that a man says so? For me, the idea that this consciousness is somehow inextricably bodily I just that just seems pretty bedrock for me. So the next question is, can I regularly convinced myself to be happy about that? Yes. You know, yes. Because if the content if consciousness was really separate from the body, then you could tell me stories about how maybe we're in a computer simulation, but we're not right. I mean, you you know the difference between watching a TV show you even know the difference between a dream and being awake, maybe not when you're dreaming. But when you're awake, you know? Right. And part of the reason you and I both know we're awake right now is because we can feel the weight of ourselves in our chair, the coolness of the air against our arms, also that we're hungry. Also the five thoughts that are flickering at the edge of consciousness, the birds, there's too much going on. Yeah, maybe stuff up fiction. It just doesn't have the detail. Yes. The detail is all from there's so much that's happening because I am an embodied creature. Yes. And this outrageous amount of information that is synthesized through this being that is me that I did not create. I can't think of a more delicious, strange position to be in. Yes. So as much as it's a it's a heavy burden. It's also one I wouldn't put down. Yeah,
David Ames 1:08:20
yeah, I have to I'll have to have a computer scientist on the podcast to talk about, to me that to even contemplate the idea of a simulation that would take the computational power of the size of the universe to compute, right, the detail level that we experienced, so it seems like that's a non starter for me personally. Like I'm I'm very cognizant of your time, but I've got one more theme that would just kill kill me if we didn't get to. And, and again, just to express my gratitude for you coined the term graceful life philosophy, and I just need to set up briefly why that's, that's meaningful for me, I am on a fool's errand assistive physio task to try to redeem there's another religious word, the term grace, this idea. For me, what I call secular grace, is that people and we've talked about this throughout the podcast, so far, people need each other. We need to be we need to feel accepted by one another. We need to feel loved by one another. We need to feel belonging to your group. And you can do all of that all those things are available in a perfectly natural, naturalistic perspective. HUMAN humanity provides that and so that's that this idea of secular grace, but you've said it so beautifully, and it was the first time I'd kind of read someone else put it into words. And and then you go on to describe throughout history, the many graceful life philosophies that are strewn throughout the history. Can you tell me what that means to you? Maybe an example or two
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:10:00
Yeah, I was delighted to hear you describe to me some of that. And, and it made me really happy because I think it's, it's such an important place to start from. And yeah, I wanted to share with you that I had to come up with the term graceful life philosophy, because not only were there not good enough terms, but the terms were a little negative. So, historically, they were often called Silver philosophers as opposed to the golden ones. And the difference is clear in the fact that it's the same insult that's in self help. Okay, the notion of the notion that the work of the work that we do on ourselves, I think it's because it's one of these things that everyone does a small version of, right, we advise our selves, we advise the people around us, and we come up with life hacks that we then tell other people, so self help seems like it can. Well, not just seems it can be this, this lower form of, of philosophy. And that's how it's been viewed through history. So even philosophers who did both the, you know, who studied either ontology, or eschatology or phenomenology, whatever specific metaphysical problems they took on that were about time, or, or cause and effect? Or what origins could mean? Or what endings could mean, the philosophical questions that we hold up, as, you know, as the golden questions, these are the questions about that are practically what was left when physics took everything else you could measure, but it's still physics kinds of questions, right? And then there's these other questions, a lower kind of philosophy, how should we live? Well, how come so many times the same people are doing it, or people in the same crowd are doing it? Because they actually aren't? Because graceful life philosophy isn't a lower form? It's a human version of the same question. And so it's the question of then. Okay, so given that we are separate, and yet, and yet commute communal, how shall I live? Given that time, is always moving? And yet, repetition is constant? So then how shall I live? And so these questions aren't separate, but they needed a name that didn't have to be defended with, you know, oh, this is ancient self help that would have denigrated it, if I called it that they kind of said, this is, you know, self help is really just silver philosophy. That's still denigrating it. So I did, it did make sense, just in terms of the conversation, to keep it as philosophy, but to separate it from the, how does the world work? Separate from our US question? This is the how does the world work? You know? And then how do we live within it? And how do we want to live? The point was, these people weren't saying, Oh, just, you know, just get all the plant and physical pleasure you can out of it, and then die, or just try to make a name for yourself, and then die, or, you know, get as much power as you can. Everybody knows these things. Don't make you happy forever. So there's always this voice that comes after and says, Well, look, if materialism or power or winning isn't working for you, then how do we live this thing that is graceful? Yes, I very much was thinking of the word grace in there that that we are talking about, not just how to live well, live well with others, but to live in tune with the most, the richest, most poetic aspects of being human. And the world we're in is constantly pulling us in both directions, right? There's this, you know, the beautiful trees and birds and this whole outside world right outside. And yet, we also have to get some dinner on the table and have to do all these mundane things in order to make that happen. And, and again, that's why I rehabilitate words like faith, with the same need and grace with the same need of, you know, putting into that category of things that take you know, when I talk about if you're talking about grace in a religious setting, no one thinks anybody's walking around always in a state of grace. So why Why does do do we philosophers and poets and humanists think that our philosophies should keep us in a state of happiness at all times? It can't possibly, it's going to require the same stoking of faith in hope and beauty and rebirth and the healing properties of time. Right? And keeping at bay, some of the more negative stuff and trying to build in ourselves the capacity to be of use.
David Ames 1:15:33
Yeah, absolutely. And find find meaning and purpose and something to, to drive your desire to live. Yeah.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:15:41
But also to know that it is, it would not be even normal to feel good all the time. It's not what you're looking for. You're nobody feels meaning all the time. Nobody's in love all the time. I mean, you know, everybody. The more real this stuff is, the more elusive it is. And yet, the struggle is, you know, is worth it. But we do have to help each other in that belief the same way. Any belief requires a certain amount of mutual shoring up. And but you know, that's the answer to your question. I mean, for me, done a lot of interviews, I, you know, I sort of started to say no to a bunch of them after a while, just because I had done so many. And, but you know, this conversation, it's, it's cool, it's good to hear your story. And, you know, I hope people listening, you know, feel feel moved as well. But I feel moved, you know, and it feels it's great to hear that the work that I've you know, all of this interaction after it is what keeps our heads above water.
David Ames 1:16:50
Yeah, no, and I, you know, I do the podcast for selfish reasons, right? Because I get to have these kinds of conversations. What I found was, you know, as an unbeliever, I was interested in asking these big questions. And now as an atheist, I'm still very much interested in asking the big questions, right, questions that don't have answers, right, and to connect with other human beings who are interested in the same questions is this very powerful thing to happen? Yeah.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:17:18
So powerful. And, you know, I hope you will hear from a lot of people because certainly, you know, it's not as strong as as you know, in maybe 510 years after doubt, just hearing from people a lot of the time I would get emails from people and it was, it really did show me that this work, you know, I think it makes you feel good. And actually, really, there's a world out there and that's how this conversation started. Right? That that, um, went to Twitter and and searched my name mentioned, you know, and that's, that's that little, you know, spider sort of just flicking the string and just trying just listening is, you know, is anybody out there and, and realizing that even one little response, just electrifies everything?
David Ames 1:18:04
Absolutely, absolutely. Jennifer, I could keep you here for hours upon hours. I hope you might consider coming back on the podcast, maybe when your next book comes out. I'd love to I think I have 1000 Other questions I could ask you. Tell people how they can get in touch with your work. What's the right websites to check out? What's your Twitter handle?
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:18:25
I have a website, Jennifer Miko, hec.com. I'm also just Jennifer firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to say hi, and and my books are on Amazon stay and as we've been talking about doubt history.
David Ames 1:18:39
Absolutely. And I will provide some links to Amazon in the show notes. Terrific.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:18:44
Thanks a lot. It was great talking.
David Ames 1:18:46
Yes. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. You're welcome.
Jennifer Michael Hecht 1:18:49
David Ames 1:18:58
Final thoughts on the episode. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jennifer Michael Hecht as much as I did. The breadth of her knowledge and insight is incredible. And I really could have asked questions for hours upon end, many of which I didn't get the opportunity to do so due to time constraints. I would have liked to ask Jennifer about growing up Jewish, as well as subjects she touches on in the book about reinterpreting the stories in the Old Testament. She has a wealth of knowledge and I highly recommend the book, doubt a history because it gives one such a sense of context. And in our moment of secularization in the West, that's crucially important. As Jennifer mentioned, she has written several other books, I'll make sure I have links to her website, as well as Amazon links to her books. I want to thank Jennifer for being on the podcast and graciously sharing her time and wisdom. As a last thought, I just want to talk about the virtues of doubt itself. And here I want to distinguish between what we discussed in the podcast this Dunning Kruger effect where highly competent people doubt themselves, versus the kind of doubt that leads to self evaluation and self reflection. I believe that doubt leads to truth. I believe that doubt helps one to discard bad ideas. If you happen to be a believer and you are having the long dark night of the soul, rather than feeling guilty about this, lean into those doubts, explore what they are telling you. Go investigate. Read your favorite apologists. Does their argument make you feel better? To talk to wise counselors? Do they make you feel better? Ultimately, you may even want to read sources that disagree with you. For all of my time as a believer, I believed that if faith was worth anything that it could live up to scrutiny. So my one piece of suggestion is scrutinize your doubts scrutinize the answers that you get. Take time to evaluate what you accept as truth. Doubt leads to Time for some footnotes. The song has a track called waves by mkhaya beats, please check out her music links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to help support the podcast, here are the ways you can go about that. First help promote it. Podcast audience grows by word of mouth. If you found it useful or just entertaining, please pass it on to your friends and family. post about it on social media so that others can find it. Please rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. This will help raise the visibility of our show. Join me on the podcast. Tell your story. Have you gone through a faith transition? You want to tell that to the world? Let me know and let's have you on? Do you know someone who needs to tell their story? Let them know. Do you have criticisms about atheism or humanism, but you're willing to have an honesty contest with me? Come on the show. If you have a book or a blog that you want to promote, I'd like to hear from you. Also, you can contribute technical support. If you are good at graphic design, sound engineering or marketing. Please let me know and I'll let you know how you can participate. And finally financial support. There will be a link on the show notes to allow contributions which would help defray the cost of producing the show. If you want to get in touch with me you can google graceful atheist or you can send email to graceful email@example.com You can tweet at me at graceful atheist or you can just check out my website at graceful atheists.wordpress.com Get in touch and let me know if you appreciate the podcast. Well this has been the graceful atheist podcast My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheists. Grab somebody you love and tell them how much they mean to you.
This has been the graceful atheist podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
We throw around the term religious trauma but what exactly does the term actually mean?
On today’s show, my guest is Kathleen B. Shannon. Kathleen is a physiotherapist. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington state and a Listened Professional Counselor in North Carolina. I asked Kathleen to be on the show to talk about religious trauma from an expert’s perspective.
What does psychology have to say on the subject and what does she sees in her practice?
We discuss Kathleen’s experience at bible college, religious trauma, outrage exhaustion and what Kathleen calls equanimity.
Kathleen’s advice for those deconstructing:
Find a space that is safe to ask the questions, preferably one where they will not give you the answers.
I want to give Mandy Nicole (@ThatMandyNicole) credit for coining the term “Prayer Reflex.” Mandy coined the term after the recording of the show but it eloquently describes a feeling I was attempting to articulate in the episode.
The intro points out that we recorded the conversation with today’s guest, Kathleen B. Shannon, before the passing of Rachel Held Evans on May 4th, 2019. The absence of mention of Rachel and her work would have felt awkward. So, I make a few statements about Rachel’s impact on the world of progressive Christianity and I read a statement from Kathleen about Rachel’s impact on her.
On today’s episode my guest is Kimberly Stover. Kimberly works in the space of losing religion recovery. She describes this process as having three phases:
Reflect, Recover then Rise
Kimberly and I discuss religious trauma syndrome, the #EmptyThePews movement, how narcissism relates to Evangelicalism and rising up out of recovery. On Kimberly’s site she has resources for those in the process of losing their religion. If you are in the process of losing your religion, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to Kimberly and the resources she has available.