Alice Greczyn: Wayward – Spiritual Warfare & Sexual Purity

Adverse Religious Experiences, Authors, Bloggers, Book Review, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Purity Culture, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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My returning guest this week is Alice Greczyn. Alice has written a new memoir called Wayward: Spiritual Warfare & Sexual Purity. In it, Alice tells the harrowing story of growing up in an Evangelical family that attempted to live by faith. They moved from place to place believing the “Lord would provide.” Alice describes it as being “homeless.”

Alice came of age under the oppressive sexual and purity mores of the “Kiss Dating Goodbye” era. She tells the story of being shamed while on a YWAM mission trip to India for being “flirty.”

And that’s I think the greatest mind f*** of Christianity as a whole: these awful feelings are called love. They’re done in the name of love. My wires of love and shame and fear and guilt and self hatred were so crossed and it took me years to even see that wiring.

As an adult in her 20s, in a desperate but final act of faith, Alice tests God. God fails. And Alice begins the difficult process of letting go of faith. This is a dark time of panic attacks, depression and self-harm.

When we’re told God is love, and love feels like this horrible, self-hating guilt complex, what is love, how can we recognize good love?

With the help of secular therapy and the discovery of the term, Religious Trauma Syndrome, Alice began her recovery process. She studied the science of faith, neurotheology, and began to understand herself and those around her who still believed. In this new freedom, she rebuilt her life reclaiming her autonomy and discovering what real love feels like.

And again it [understanding neurotheology] alleviated the pressure. God wasn’t ignoring me. There was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t this chronic sinner who was just born defective and unable to feel the love of God because I didn’t have enough faith. It’s simply to be a matter of science and that’s how most things are to me.

On top of being an author, Alice is an advocate for those questioning their faith. Her organization, Dare to Doubt, is a resource for those who are no longer satisfied with their faith tradition’s explanations and demands.

Yet this demographic [millennial “Nones”] is also resilient. We are as brave as the martyrs we were raised to be. We are battling the spiritual war we were trained to fight. We’re just not on the side of religion, and believe us—no one is more surprised by this than ourselves. We are condemned, prayed for, and loathed as much as we are feared. But persecution was once our fuel. Our skin is thick with the courage to fight for truth as we see it, and where we once saw through dogma-colored glasses, we now see through the lenses of relativity, reason, and the validity of our own experiences. It is easy to dismiss us as bitter. It is understandable to write off our deconversions as desperate attempts at individuation and rebellion. It is compassionate to ask us why we left, instead of praying for us to rejoin.

From Wayward


Wayward: Spiritual Warfare & Sexual Purity

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Alice’s first appearance on the Graceful Atheist Podcast


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


NOTE: This transcript is AI produced ( 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'm trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest reviewer on the Apple podcast store. Irish heretic. Thank you so much for rating and reviewing the podcast. Please consider subscribing to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's episode. One of my favorite aspects of the podcast is when people write in to me and tell me their stories. The last week and a half or so I've received three just incredibly poignant emails from people who are in the middle of or long past a deconversion process and finding the podcast lets them know that they are not alone. That is, ultimately the entire point of what we are doing here is to say that many have gone before you, you are not alone. This is normal. This is human. Let's remind each other that we are not alone. I wanted to mention here that on the blog, gracefully I now have a number of book recommendations and the links for those books are using the Amazon affiliate program. So if you happen to be interested in any of these books, and you buy them after clicking on the link on my website, I'll get a little bit back from Amazon, which will go to the production of the podcast. On today's show. My guest today is Alice Greczyn. Alice has written a new memoir called wayward it's a harrowing tale of growing up in an evangelical family that was attempting to live by faith being led by the Lord, which in Alice's words ultimately meant they were homeless for much of her growing up years. Alice grew up in the 90s under the influence of the book, kiss dating goodbye. There was a tremendous amount of sexual repression and idealistic views on courtship, dating, sexuality. And in her memoir, she goes through with just heart wrenching honesty, telling her story of growing up in that environment. As you're about to hear, Alice is an incredibly inquisitive intelligent person. She has since done a lot of research in neuro theology. And it's fun to be reading the book and she's telling a particular story, and her current self breaks in to point out the science of the situation. It ends with a lot of triumph, and ultimately, Alice's dare to doubt organization that helps people going through faith transitions. I highly recommend the book wayward it is an amazing book that is gripping. My understanding is that Alice has a limited number of signed copies available. If you are interested in a signed copy, you can go to Of course, I will have the link in the show notes. attentive listeners may recognize Alice's name. She was on the podcast way back in July of 2019. So if you enjoy this episode, you should go and look that one up as well. I'm very proud and excited to give you my conversation with Alice Greczyn.

Alice Greczyn, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Alice Greczyn  3:59  
Thank you. It's such a pleasure.

David Ames  4:01  
So you have the dubious honor of being the first repeat guest. So you're back to the Oh, yay. Yay. Yeah, that

Alice Greczyn  4:11  
is awesome. What an honor.

David Ames  4:12  
Yeah. And you've written a book called wayward and it is absolutely amazing. You know, again, I get asked often to read books, and some of them are good, some of them are bad. But this was ripping. It made me blush. It made me want to scream out loud. I recognized myself. I felt paternalistic, like protection for you. Just just a range of emotions, but that is all down to your writing ability. So my first question to you, Alice is, is there anything you cannot do?

Alice Greczyn  4:47  
Thank you very much. I can't I can't sing or play music at all. I feel like I feel like I do a lot of things and I feel pretty confident that I can teach myself almost anything But I don't know if you if I put a little bit of power into it. But But music No. But thank you, I really appreciate your your kind words. I mean

David Ames  5:10  
a lot. So you are human,

Alice Greczyn  5:11  
after all, Oh, yes, very sorely human.

David Ames  5:15  
Just in case anybody doesn't know. So Alice has had a successful modeling career successful acting career, she started the dare to doubt organization that helps people transitioning through faith transitions, with lots of resources there that's dare to So you've just done an amazing number of things in your life. And now you are an author? No, I

Alice Greczyn  5:36  
am an author. And I have to tell you, as soon as I got my first shipment of hardcopy books, which just came in the mail a couple of days ago, my my boyfriend was asking, what's the part that I was looking to the most about actually getting to hold a physical copy of my book in my hands, and I thought about it and I said, being able to speak about this in past tense, because for so long, I've been writing a book or working on a book or in the middle of publishing a book. And now I get to say, I wrote a book, I'm an author. So it's a pretty fun feeling.

David Ames  6:09  
So I'm gonna start with the the title wayward is such an evocative, single word. Tell me what that means to you and why you chose it as a title.

Alice Greczyn  6:18  
Thank you. So wayward. For those who grew up reading the Bible. They may remember the wayward woman frequently mentioned in the book of Proverbs. And she's mentioned as in painted and very much the light of a harlot as a scandalous, scantily clad woman who stirs lust in men. In some verses, she's made out to be like she's married, and she's cheating on her husband and seducing men. In in the churches that I grew up in, though, I mainly just heard the wayward woman talked about as symbolic of everything that I was not supposed to be everything that women were not supposed to be, you are not to be sensual, you are not to be beautiful, you are not to be free. You are to be submissive, subservient, and chaste, and duty bound. And so for me, when I was thinking of titles for my book, wayward was a working title for a long time. And I always assumed that a publisher would change it, because I'm reading writing blogs, they're like, don't get attached to your title, you know, but, but my publisher loved it. And then I also came up with the subtitle, which is a memoir of spiritual warfare and sexual purity, and wayward, you know, in a secular sense waver, it also has connotations of being willful, of being rebellious of being, like a wayward child like a who just won't listen won't do what's expected of them. And so I liked that people who grew up with in religion would recognize it, possibly from the biblical references to the wayward woman. But I also liked it because it, it still says something to a completely secular reader of like, oh, it's, it's I like that it's a singular word. That hasn't been overused in the book market, because I did a bunch of research. And yeah, that's, that's how I came up with it. And that's what it that's what it means to me.

David Ames  8:08  
Awesome. You start off the book, talking about just the nature of a memoir and human memories. So you kind of acknowledged that this is your story, or your telling of the story, which includes a lot of your family. So yes, it's talking about that, like what what is it like to start to write a memoir and acknowledging that, you know, memories can be valuable?

Alice Greczyn  8:29  
I'm really glad you asked that actually, because as someone who reads memoirs, a lot all sorts of memoirs, I feel like there's not a whole lot that I can find anyway, about memoir, authors talking about the complex journey of writing a memoir, specifically how it relates to your loved ones that may appear in the book, whether their names are changed or not. And I did change quite a few names in wayward. So later on in my book, without giving away too much, I definitely get into a more neuroscientific look at faith and the effect of faith on the human brain. And some feedback that I got from earlier drafts was that it kind of seemed a little out from left field, like, Oh, why, why are we in a science book all of a sudden, but for me, understanding the science of mystical experiences truly was crucial to my healing and making peace with my religious past. And so I felt like having something at the beginning of the book, that is sort of a nod to neuroscience, where I talk about, you know, memory is fallible, and it changes as we need it to changes as other people influence it, and share their stories of what happened. And I mean, we've seen this, we see this happen all the time. And, for example, when there's a crime and police interview, say nine witnesses to the crime, people tell different stories, not because they're making things up, but because that's how their brain internalized it maybe the person was wearing a red jacket, but someone said no, it was blue. No, I'm pretty sure it was orange. Right? Memory really is some objective and there's so much to be explored. But I wanted that disclaimer there at the beginning because A, as I'm sure, as I'm sure you can imagine any listener or other writer can imagine, writing a memoir has definitely dredged up a lot of family stuff. And it's not been easy. Negotiating this venture with the people that I love, I am still close to my family. Unlike a lot of other memoir writers in my genre, my family and I are not estranged, I'm still very much in touch with them very close to them. And that made it a lot harder, it'd be a lot easier. In some ways. If my family had disowned me. And I don't say that my life would be easier. I want to watch my words here. But the publishing of this memoir would be easier. I understand now why people wait until their parents die, or they've been disowned before they publish a memoir. But there's so much love between my family and I. And despite how difficult it's been at times, they've remained very supportive. And I do try to make that clear. But that disclaimer there at the beginning is for them, but also for myself, and also for anyone who reads memoir, because I think myself included, it's very tempting to take an author's perspective as the cold hard truth, forgetting that this is the cold, hard truth to this person. Some things are objectively verifiable, like, where did we live in this year. But some things are not like someone's tone of voice or how I interpreted they meant for me to feel when they said something to me. And I wanted to I wanted to make clear that I take responsibility for how I interpreted things, whether it was things pastor said, my family said, the music I listened to, you know, this is how this is my narrative of what happened. And if you ask anyone in the story, very narrative, what happened, it will be different. And I feel like stating that upfront. I hope that does a service to memoir as a genre, because we all know of famous memoir, authors who have gotten busted for making things up. And yeah, part of me wants to cover my own ass and be like, disclaimer, I'm not saying this is the truth for everyone. But yeah, I think I think that that's what's beautiful about memoir, too, is it does ride that line between fact and fiction, and storytelling, and that little tiny, it's only like one paragraph or two long, I think there on the on the first page, I just wanted to own this as my recollection. And that way, people can just take everything that I say with a subjective grain of salt.

David Ames  12:28  
I just appreciate it like for me, I think we've talked about before, you know, the honesty is such a rock bottom and authenticity. And I just saw that throughout the book, as you were working to convey what you honestly felt and how you were honestly responding to the events around surrounding you. And as you say, you were still owning all of that you weren't, you weren't blaming other people. And I just really appreciated that. I try not to thank you. One more compliment. And then I want to talk about that neuroscience for a minute. Yeah, we got back in touch in discussion about Sasha Sagan. And actually your writing really reminded me of her book in one particular way. Very eloquent prose, you're wrapped up in the story. And then you'd have these moments where you would modern, Alice would break through. So you'd be describing, you know, the charismatic church worship event, and then you'd break through kind of modern? Well, neuroscience says that, that reminded me so much of Sasha. So very good compliment to you that I think your writing is great is a huge, all of that, including the storytelling and the kind of modern skeptic in you coming through, it was just amazing.

Alice Greczyn  13:41  
Thank you, that is a huge compliment. I really appreciate that.

David Ames  13:46  
So to talk about neuroscience, so it's kind of starting at the end a bit, the book kind of ends in, you know, semi triumphant, you're talking about taking control of your life back and we're gonna get to this in a minute, you know, handling the trauma after both your experience growing up in Christianity and then leaving that faith behind and and just you know, the physical problems that that you wound up having. But it ends triumphantly a view, discovering how you're going to seek meaning in your life, how you're going to have purpose and ultimately ends with a dare to doubt reference, which I just loved, I absolutely adored. Thank you. What are some of the things that you've learned from the study of neuroscience? I think you dropped the term neuro theology as well. What are those things? What have you learned from those things?

Alice Greczyn  14:34  
Oh, man, I feel like if first of all if I if I went back to school and did life over again, I honestly feel like neuro theology would be a field that I would deeply explore as much as my non mathematically inclined brain could. But yeah, I love it. So for those who don't know, neuro theology is sometimes defined as the neuroscience of spirituality or faith, my working definition for in the book And how I how I use it. It's the neuroscience of what are collectively called mystical experiences. And the way that I grew up those mystical experiences were called the Holy Spirit. So my, my background for most of my childhood was in charismatic Christianity, which is very emotive, very falling to the floor, being slain in the Spirit rolling around shaking, praying in tongues, prophesying, massive outpouring of laughter and crying, like it's a very, very demonstrative expression of Christianity that, that people will say is, is Spirit let, and I faked it. I think I talked about this before on your podcast, I faked it because I would go up to receive prayer and people would put their hands on my forehead and you know, pray over me in tongues and in English, and nothing would happen. I was hurt when I was really little by a pastor finally just like pushed me over, and it really hurt my neck for for a while. And not to mention, like psychologically traumatized me, because it left me with this complex of what's so wrong with me that God won't touch me himself that this man had to literally push me down on a flight of stairs because I wasn't falling over in the Spirit. And so to prevent anything like that from happening again, I decided that I needed to fake it. But caveat, I don't think everyone was faking it. I think a good number of people were, but later on in my book, when I am learning about the neuroscience of it, I'm like, What the hell was that? Because if not everyone was faking it. And I don't really think they were like people like my parents. What, what was that? And I learned that, that what I grew up being called being slain in the Spirit, or the holy, the Holy Ghost, was called so many things by other cultures, other religions in various times and places. Kundalini Yoga might be one of the more widely known parallels to it, where there's similar symptoms of entering basically a trance state, feeling electricity in your body. Speaking in tongues, you know, or glossolalia I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right. But yeah, and, you know, being touched on on the forehead, the third eye, like there's, there's so many others, like in Christianity, we would never say the third eye because that would be demonic. That's so Hindu derived. But you know, in other cultures there, there are these ecstatic trance states. And I call them soberly induced mystical experiences, because an acid trip is also a mystical experience, but obviously not soberly induced, you're ingesting a chemical substance or, or a plant derived substance. So I really needed to understand for my own well being and being able to move forward, what the Holy Spirit was what soberly induced mystical experiences were. And spoiler alert, we don't know, guys, we don't really know exactly, why is the human brain capable of doing this. But what I did learn was enough to put my mind at rest, that whatever this was, was not unique to Christianity, it did, it was not a testament to the power of God, it was not a testament to the truth being found only in Christianity, and furthermore, charismatic Christianity. And I think that, that that understanding, being able to see brain scan images of, say, Buddhist monks who are meditating or nuns who are chanting, and a lot of the research that I did outside of the book, because I only wanted to devote one chapter, but just in case it was too sciency. For some people, even though I know I know, a lot of others will really like it. It really brought me a level of peace, to be able to just see it. It's like, oh, no, this is not mystical at all. This is just chemicals firing off in our brain. These are just meetings of neurons. And what I learned is that oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine play a significant role in, in getting a person to an elevated opiate state. So there's there's several researchers that I quote in the book, and one of them is Dr. Michael pur singer, who has since passed away. But his work was really influential to me in understanding the the high of getting high on Jesus, which is totally possible. For some people. I don't think that everyone and I say this from my own experience, and also from talking to many other people who grew up like me, not everyone's capable of this. And we were taught that that meant that there was a sin in our life that was blocking us from feeling God or that we just didn't have enough faith. You are always the problem in Christianity. You are the center, it's up to you. And you know, God would have a miracle for you if you just had faith, but you have to be ready to receive it. And it's like, not everyone's wired for that, for whatever reason, whether it's genetic, I delved into a lot of the the genetic arguments for faith and also why some people genetically just aren't hardwired to be inclined that way that brought me a lot of peace to because, again, it alleviated the pressure of like, there was nothing wrong with me. God wasn't ignoring me. There was nothing wrong with me, I wasn't broken. And I wasn't this like chronic sinner who was just born defective, unable to feel the love of God, because I didn't have enough faith. It's simply to be a matter of science. And that's how most things are to me. And if not science that we can understand today, then then inspiration for the tools that we need to develop to understand them tomorrow. And in the future, I think that nothing can be I don't think that there's anything that needs to remain on. No, I think it's just a matter of time and tools. That is my opinion.

David Ames  20:31  
You know, it's interesting, I think my experience fell somewhere in between, like, I had some real charismatic experiences, you know, feeling of warmth, you know, breaking down in tears, and just feeling a, you know, presence. I was also always kind of an outside observer to myself, and recognizing when I was kind of faking it, and when I wasn't, but the thing that I really related to, as you were describing, kind of the charismatic experience is that there is almost an addictive quality of chasing after that experience, so that your experience with the Toronto Blessing and your parents experience and the charismatic experience in general often can devolve into chasing that feeling chasing that experience. And you've just described quite eloquently the science behind why that might be the case, the hits

Alice Greczyn  21:19  
of God or the Holy Spirit or whatever, whatever version of that you find and whatever your practice is, it is neuro chemistry, it is replicable. And it can become addictive, because it taps into the same part of the brain as drugs and sex like it can easily be it puts you in a new fork state. And there usually is a cutting down when you have a bunch of these neurons firing off just like when you when you might do a certain drugs say there can be a come down. And I remember seeing it a lot as a kid, like we go to these conferences or a revival, like, you know, a week long this or a weekend here. And I feel like my parents would just be on this high for like a week after when we got home. And then there could be a crash and who's to say what that crashes in my child mind. All I know is what I observed. Like I can't, I can't say for sure what my parents reasons were, but for the ups and downs of everything that I that I saw as a kid, but But it made a lot of sense to me learning about that, because I do think that a lot of people, like you said they keep chasing after that feeling because it supposedly it feels really good. I never felt it. Okay, all right. But it does seem like it feels really good. The closest that I came to feeling that and I wrote about this in the book was when I was 13. And I went to a friend's youth group meeting. And I cried there while my friend was praying over me. And I was crying because of the words that she was saying, and her prayer, the things she was saying made me feel so seen. And I was in such a lonely, depressed place. That it she saw me, not God she did. But in the language of God, and because I I grew up seeing people cry under the touch of God, I decided it must be God touching me through her and seeing me through her. And so because I was crying and so it made me feel like oh, God's really touching me because I'm crying. And it's like though I was just on an endorphin high and and my heart was just cracked open by confession and all of these other things and you're logically speaking, there's a lot mass hypnosis plays a large role in this too, and priming ourselves for those open, transformative mystical experiences. And I wouldn't go so far as to say that pastors and worship leaders are deliberately trying to hypnotize crowds to orchestrate mass cognitive experiences, as Dr. Peter Singer would say, but that is often the result. And I think I think music plays a very deep role in that because who hasn't been to even a secular concert and found themselves in sort of an almost like group hypnotic trance stay of just feeling good and everyone's swaying and raising their hands? And yeah, it's, it's a, I do think it can be addictive and easy to lose oneself.

David Ames  24:18  
So I feel like we would be doing a disservice to the book if we just focused on the hard science because there's so much humanity in the book, I think a theme that just comes through very strongly is the loneliness you experience as your parents moved you about from place to place and you refer to many friends throughout the time and you there's just a sense of, and don't take this the wrong way, but its sense of desperation, like you need that connection to that friend comes through. And then you mentioned when a friend prays for you and you're breaking down crying because that is an expression of love or stranger or somebody you just met. A young person, your same age, prays for you and expresses actual care and you Do you are breaking down? Because that's what you need. And then all the way at the end with the hindsight of the human connection that you were longing for it was it was that what you needed? Was that intentional? Or is that just so hardwired into the story? I don't think

Alice Greczyn  25:22  
that was intentional. But I'm glad that that translated, no. And I would not disagree with that I desperately needed human connection as as do we all and for those who don't know, like, in my book, yeah, my, my family moved around constantly, as I was growing up, and I was homeschooled my whole life. So I was always moving from one place to another, never really being able to have friends for very long. And I do think that ought to be all about sciences is explaining the how the what is is human connection, is love. Really, ultimately, I think, and it's, it's interesting, because today, especially working with dare to Tao, and in a lot of the secular spaces that I that I've that I've found years being one of them, humanism is such a recurring theme. And I remember somewhere in my book, towards the end, I like I write that people would say I'm anti humanist. And it's because I just don't think humans as a species are innately good. I just, we could all end tomorrow, and I'd be fine with that. Like, I could see us very much as we're just a virus on planet Earth taking up and not giving back a whole lot to Earth. But, you know, I that's like, there's so many ways to dive into that angle. And I do I, well, there's part of me, that very much sees it that way, I don't feel anti humanist because the other thing that I also write is, I think we I think most of us who are able have the choice to die, we always have the choice to kill ourselves. And when we don't, whether we consciously choose not to, or we just can't, it's never even crossed our minds, there's an act of choice to be here. And I think for me, I was very conscious of that choice. Because when I lost my faith, I lost my sense of meaning I lost my purpose, as many of us do. And I did not find comfort in in, in what I've come now to be known as humanism. At first I have now because I had to put a different lens on it in order for it to resonate deeper with me. But I think that in making that choice to stay alive, and in seeing ourselves objectively is just this, this primate animal that's just wired for connection, we just want to be loved. We want to be accepted. We want to be part of the clan, we want to cuddle, we want to have sex we want to eat, we want to feel good, we want to help each other. Those traits of humanism, I can totally get behind like those the love. And that is what keeps me wanting to live. Sorry if that sounds like Tanger does. In fact, I've

David Ames  27:45  
written down two quotes, if I can, if it's okay, yeah, yeah. For me, the key to happiness lay and wonder, instead of sending my mind into an answer lists, spirals trying to find out the meaning of life, maybe I needed to rephrase my quest as that I'm looking for meaning in life. And a little later on, I was taught to deny the pleasures of the flesh, I came to realize that the physical and material world I was told to fear and abstain from was the very thing that made me want to live, I think, right, that leapt off the page to me, like, that's exactly what I find is kind of the problem with many religions, not all of them, but like it is that it is denying the humanity the things that make us human, are the pleasures of the flesh as it were, like, and so when you're denying yourself all of those things, you're missing out on the goodness of life.

Alice Greczyn  28:32  
Yes, I 100% agree. I think it's, um, and I find this in non religious spiritual circles too. Like there's that that adage of we're a spiritual being having a human experience instead of we're human beings having a spiritual experience. I very much disagree with that. I don't, I don't believe in spirits. I don't believe in souls, I view that as a synonym for what I would call consciousness. And I'm inclined to suspect that consciousness is a product of the brain and that when our brains die, consciousness does, but I don't know, I'm open. You know, it's definitely a field that I that I like to explore. But again, I think, I think embracing my humanity and my flesh really was the antidote to my depression. Because there's so many years of hard wiring of us being taught to deny your flesh, you know, lean not on your own understanding, deprive yourself of pleasure, because pleasure is sinful. And it can lead to temptation of all sorts, whether it's the temptation to overindulge and drink or food or sex. And I spent so much of my young life living for the afterlife, as as did most of us, you know, that the afterlife, the spiritual plane is so much more important than this one. And that was, in my opinion, deeply, deeply, wrong, deeply harmful, and when I lost my faith I had to refine that in myself, I had to rediscover my flesh, I had to re reacquaint myself with myself with my body with my senses. I also right, right after I lost my faith and on wanting Lee became an atheist. I gave God a test. And he failed. That That same week, not even maybe a week or so later, I write that I, it was almost as though I lost my senses in a literal, in a literal way. My sense of smell was the only thing that I remember that I still had. But like I couldn't, I felt so numb. Of course, I could still hear things but like I didn't, I felt so removed. I was in like a dissociative out almost out of body state. And I had to relearn how to connect with myself. Because Christianity, for me, basically taught me how to be very disembodied how to not trust my gut, how to not follow my instincts and not use my mind and definitely not to indulge or gratify my flesh. And just because we don't believe in something anymore, as most of us know, does not mean that it leaves our body that doesn't leave our nervous system. And so, it was both exhilarating and terrifying to, to learn how to be in my body. Yes. Yeah. It's something that should be so basic. But it's, it's difficult. And I think I think a lot of it would be hard to explain to people who don't know otherwise. You know, it's like, how do we articulate that? That journey? Like what has it been like for you, I'm sure you've had moments where you've needed to reconnect with your body and learn how to listen to yourself and gratify yourself without pennants or guilt or shame. You know, it's such a, such an individual journey that I'm sure it's different for everyone. But I candidly share mine.

David Ames  31:49  
Yes, there are definitely parts that made me blush. For anybody who's a believer who might be listening to this, it is deeply honest, it is not sensational, for sensational sake, it is expressing what it is like to grow up, you talk about hitting puberty, getting your period, masturbation, you were deeply influenced by kiss dating goodbye and trying to navigate relationships. You have this idea of your future husband and protecting that in some way. And the part that really made me want to scream was that you mentioned the scene, you're on a missions trip with YWAM. And your friends are accusing you of being flirtatious. And I thought, Oh, just the negative peer pressure. And and again, the denial of just being a person of regular human being. We've kind of avoided things so far. But like, let's talk about what were some of the things that you later recognized as religious trauma from Marlene, what else book? What were some of those experiences for you that that were traumatizing

Alice Greczyn  32:54  
that that instance you just mentioned definitely was is one of them. So I was 15 when I went on a mission trip to India, through YWAM Youth With A Mission for those who don't know, they have like a teenage almost like teenage mission summer camp, sort of program called Mission adventures, or at least they used to this was in I believe it was the year 2001 Because 911 happened shortly after that. So 2001 I'm 15 We go to India and I'm a full on purity ring wearing like good little Christian girl never held a boy's hand never kissed a boy like totally saving myself and my future husband and write in letters, the whole the whole thing. I dressed very modestly and especially modestly in India, like we weren't allowed to show our shoulders, we all had to wear like baggy pants and long skirts. And three of the other kids who were in my youth group who were on the mission ship with me. One of them a guy basically confessed his feelings for me and wanted to get to know me better. And I was like, Oh, I don't date but thanks very awkwardly in my very inexperienced, blundering overly formal way. But then it came out that I was struggling with feelings for another guy in the youth group on this on the same mission trip. And I would have never acted on these feelings. Even if he liked me back. I wouldn't have dated him because I was I was waiting but I was I was wrestling with so much guilt over even having a crush on this guy.

David Ames  34:22  
You're 15 Yeah. Yeah. Is that

Alice Greczyn  34:30  
so normal? So number my hormones are raging and like I Yeah, you know, like I'm, I it's, it's totally normal. And I've been having crushes since I was like a little kid. But I in the in the book, I knew I focus on this one crush because he was probably the most significant crush that caused me the most. I caused myself the most guilt over it but but yeah, I so you know, I have feelings for this one guy, Zach. And but this other guy Luke likes me and I I don't want Luke to know that I like Zach, because I'm so mortified that even like him to begin with, and long story short, it all comes out. And then these three kids on the mission trip basically say that I've been flirting and sending mixed signals and distracting all the men in the whole team by by with my flirtatiousness. And I was so not a flirt guys, like I, I wasn't I was so and they they give instances like for example, on a bus ride from New Delhi up north to this other place, it was like an eight hour bus ride, the air conditioner broke. And it's so hot, it's like August in India. And I had these pants that would zip off into cargo shorts, like the long kind. These were not cute, sexy little convertible pants. These were like REI, like baggy, just you know, camping pants that were like long cargo shorts. I zipped off the lower half of my pants, guys. andalas scandalous. And furthermore, I put my feet up on the bus seat in front of me, which I was accused of doing it on purpose so that my legs will be right in front of my seatmate who happened to be a dude. And I was accused of trying to get him to notice me by like flaunting my legs in his face. And it could not have been further from the truth. I was so hot. I was just trying to stay conscious and cool off anyway. And like they were long cargo shorts. I was not like rolling them up all the way to my hips or anything like that. But and even if I had been so what right? But yeah, like thing instances like that. I just felt so I still to this day, like I'm flushing right now my body thinking about I don't think I've ever felt more ashamed than I did in that moment when those three kids were calling me out. And I don't think that they were consciously trying to come down on me and make me feel ashamed. I think that they were exercising what the Bible says to do, which is for Christians to call each other out on their sins and hold each other accountable. So that, you know, one black sheep doesn't ruin the whole flock at cetera. And I think, of course, it's ironic that this the shame conversation comes on the heels of one of the guys confessing his feelings for me. But it yeah, like I mean, there you go with like, victim blaming rape, culture, all of that stuff. It's always the girl's fault. She should have done more to guard her modesty.

David Ames  37:17  
And then here the religious layer is saying there's biblical precedent for saying this kind of thing. And totally and that's on that's laid on top of you your responsibility for the boys purity in some way or another, which is absurd and ridiculous.

Alice Greczyn  37:33  
Totally. And I ended up going to each male on that team and apologizing to them with a pastor accompanying me because God forbid, I believe.

David Ames  37:42  
Yeah, yeah, that also had me screaming. Yeah. Yeah, that just felt like again, I apologize for the paternalistic aspect of this but a sense of protectiveness for you. We're kind of friends we're internet friends, right? We don't really know each other. But we're, we're internet friends. And, you know, so I have a I've legitimately feeling like the pain that in the shame that you would feel and here's a female pastor, someone who should have known better, who is walking you around having you apologize to a set of boys and I just, I guess what I'm trying to say. Allah says, My heart was broken reading this book for you. And it just the downside, the negative side of purity culture isn't something that I personally experienced. And so when I read something so honest and forthright the way that you have written this, my heartbreaks, not just for you, but for many of the millennials that we see these days who are coming out of religion, Christianity, specifically down that purity culture, and of course they're traumatized. Of course they are.

Alice Greczyn  38:49  
Your Empathy means a lot to me, I've noticed I'm getting like watery eyes. I'm, I appreciate that and No apology necessary for any sort of paternal looking out for instincts that you have or felt. No, I hope that it resonates with people who went through things that were similar because I know I've found so much catharsis in reading other people's stories like that, like Linda Kay Klein's book pure, all about purity culture, from an evangelical Christian perspective, I was just sobbing all throughout that book reading story after story like mine, and far worse. And the shame is so so. So scarring, and I know of course, boys and men struggle with with shame to you know, like, it's, there's more hard data on how it's affected women in the long run. Maybe because physically, we we manifest more physical symptoms of it, but it's, it is absolutely debilitating. And I do hope that it'll help someone else know that this didn't just happen to you. So so many people have their own story of how they were shamed, even if not on purpose, because the true mindfuck of it is, is it's not called shaming someone. It's called love. Have and the woman youth pastor who was escorting me as I was apologizing to these men and boys. She was so it was it remains a little bit confusing but she was so gracious and reassuring to me like oh, don't beat yourself up about this, you know, like I had way more to repent for when I was your age and you know like I'm so impressed by what a godly young woman you are, like all of that, like it's like, but yet she was escorting me with this and and I was still doing I wouldn't say she made me do I honestly and I write this in the book, I honestly can't remember whose idea it was, it could have even been my own because I felt so bad. But surely an apology was necessary. Because if I've been this, this whore of Babylon and everyone's seen it, but me, then surely I need to own up to it. And she was there as like a chaperone figure who was reassuring me and like, comforting me and handing me tissues and telling me not to beat myself up. But they're with me doing this. And that's I think the greatest mindfuck of Christianity as a whole is these these awful feelings are called love. They're done in the name of love and my wires of love and shame and fear and guilt and self hatred were so crossed and it took me years to even see that wiring and I probably could have written a lot more about it in the book too but you know, had I had to cut it down to a book sellable size but but yeah, there's there's there's so much about and I think that I think it's something that I know I've seen a lot of X religious people struggle with are those wires and I write about in the book later how how that wiring affected my whole views on marriage on child rearing, because when we're told God is Love, and Love feels like this horrible like self hating guilt complex, what is love? How can we recognize good love? That's not to say that I didn't know good love. I did. You know, my parents deeply loved me and I I've had friends who have deeply loved me, but I had to, I had to relearn love, in a secular sense. And it was my secular friends as I was still a Christian, that showed me that that made me feel what it's like to feel just accepted. I never felt accepted in Christianity, because you're never good enough. You can't be accepted because you're wrong or sinful. And my secular friends when I was like, in my late teens, and I was living in Los Angeles, like, it was so discombobulating because I felt what I thought could be actual love. But it was not coming from a god source at all. And that was confusing, but also eventually incredibly liberating, because it made it made love accessible to me. It made love real to me. I didn't have to feel God to to know love. And that was huge for me.

David Ames  42:59  
One other aspect that comes out is you mentioned Luke already. But Luke, later in the book expresses a bit more than just some feelings. You want to tell a little bit of that story?

Alice Greczyn  43:10  
Yes, so Luke was one of the guys in India on the mission trip who, like he just said, confessed his feelings for me. And ended up being part of the night of shame, I'll call it. And fast forward two years later, I moved out to Los Angeles to because I believe God's opened the door for me to pursue an acting career. And I turned 17 A month after I moved to LA, because I was homeschooled, I'd already graduated from high school. So I was basically a very young adult. And I was here on my own, after my mom and siblings went back to Colorado and love to be here. And Luke, from Colorado, ends up coincidentally, in Los Angeles at the same time as me, and he was three years older than me. So I'm 17. He's 20. And he moved out here for something else and had family here. And we because I didn't really know anyone else in LA, he didn't either. We just became really, really good friends. And I reiterated to him at some point that, you know, like, I did not date we were definitely not dating, I could not have been more clear. And I didn't really feel like he was trying to date me. I thought we were just hanging out as friends. But I always felt such a burden to like beat boys over the head, making it crystal clear that there would be no misunderstanding, I wouldn't have to have a night of shame. Again, this is nothing. I mean, nothing. This is just platonic as platonic guests.

David Ames  44:36  
So I have teenage daughters. Yeah, they are objectively beautiful. And we have this conversation a lot, right? Like they want to have male friends. And, you know, I'm telling them from the boy perspective, you know, yeah, it's good that you are just as clear as you possibly can be. But it's a burden, right? It shouldn't be on them. It shouldn't be on you, but it is

Alice Greczyn  44:56  
it is and the grace that I can extend toward that In a secular sense as well, is we're just animals we're hardwired to, to breed and may and and, you know, at teenagehood, like most of us are already in our reproductive years. And I think that it's pretty natural for especially societally speaking for boys to be the pursuance. And therefore girls to bear the burden of having to clarify like, Nah, I don't, I'm not leading you on, I just want to hang out, you know, or, like, Y'all go to prom with you, but just as friends, you know, whatever it is. So yeah, it's a sucky burden. But I could I could just be like, well, it could just be one of those things in life. I don't know. I had that. Maybe it's just what I tell myself. So it feels less awful. Totally be that. But yeah, I. So yeah, couldn't have been clearer that you know, still saving myself for my future husband. And long story short, one day out of the blue, he, he, he's just like, God's show me or my future wife. And I just, I, I believed him completely, because who would make up something like that? And we both know, the world we came from, we both went to the same church, we both know the purity culture. And it's just not uncommon in that world for God to reveal who spouses are. And I've come across one question that people always ask, especially if they did not grow up, like me was like, essentially, in a graceful way, like, how did you fall for it? Like, why would they like clearly this guy is projecting his own motives and using God as a way to get you? I disagree with that. I think that I think that there was genuinely a part of him that genuinely believed that we were supposed to be together and that it was God's plan. Like he was a very godly young man, a great guy, a great friend. I loved him dearly, just not in that way. I did not. I was not attracted to him. I didn't feel romantic feelings for him. And I would guess that he did for me, but I would not say that he used God to cover up his ulterior motives. Like, I would think that would be false.

David Ames  47:00  
I think you're being kind but okay.

Alice Greczyn  47:03  
Yeah, maybe it was next. Maybe it was next. But I think I think he did believe that. And he came out one day, and I just went along with it. Because I think another thing that's important for people who, who have not yet read the book, or heard me on your other podcast episode, like I, just to make it again, clear, God never spoke to me. God always led my life through what he told other people, God spoke to my parents. God spoke to my friends, God spoke to my youth pastor. And I just by the time I was 17, I just gotten used to that I just gotten used to God never touching me. Never slay me with the spirit, never giving me a word, you know, or really putting something on my heart like I, I just accepted that for whatever reason. God didn't talk to me directly. Maybe he might one day, but patriarchy is a big deal in evangelicalism. And so God led my life through my dad. And it made total sense to me that God would lead my life and talk to me through my future husband. So that that for anyone who's wondering is why I went along with it, because it just wasn't surprising to me that God hadn't told me anything about marrying this guy, because God just didn't tell me anything. Period. And again, this was a very dear friend of mine, and I knew the sincerity of his faith. And I, I just was like, okay, and I thought it was also a very, I was struggling so many feelings of betrayal, not just from him as a friend, but also just I felt like God betrayed me because the promise of purity culture, right is that you you do all the right things, you save yourself. And then when God does lead you to your future spouse, it's going to be this epic love story that's like far exceeds your own fleshly imagination when you when you let God write your love story as the purity culture book by Eric and Leslie ludie stated, you know, he's God's going to reward that faith, he's going to reward your obedience. And so I thought that God's revealing of Luke being my future husband, it was jarring for so many reasons, but one of the main reasons was, but I don't have feelings for him. How can this be the epic love story that I was promised? I did everything right, God, I held up my end of the bargain. How can this be? And I felt like the answer that I told myself was, oh, well, this must be the fact that I don't love him that way, but have to marry him It must be God teaching me not to be shallow you know, it's shallow to want to be sexually attracted to someone it's shallow to that I'm that I don't care from that way and you know, it's it's or it's because I'm I couldn't stop masturbating. And so God's punishing my sin by making me marry someone that I'm not sexually attracted to like, that's what I that's what I thought. Yeah. And so I there's a way to justify everything. But that was my line of thinking. And yeah, that's, that's that.

David Ames  49:54  
So you know, stop me if I'm giving too much of the story away, but I also was cheering when your mom kind of sat you down and said he really challenged you. You know? Are you sure? Are you really, really sure. And you kept giving the answers you thought she might want to hear. And she kept pushing until you kind of told her the truth. So good for her man.

Alice Greczyn  50:14  
Yes. Oh, gosh, I know, I know, I'm if it had not been for my mom says. So here's the thing, guys, listeners or people who haven't read it yet. It wasn't just Luke, who was saying that God showed him that we were supposed to get married. My dad and Luke's mom also said the same thing. So there's an external confirmation of God's will, which was crucial to the whole courtship of purity culture, the external confirmation, especially from godly elders, like parents, affirms that you're on course with God's plan and not your own flesh. So my mom, however, did not hear from God that I was supposed to marry Luke. And yeah, she sat me down. And she could tell I was deeply unhappy. This was about two months into arbitrable a month or two into arbitrary level. And I, she could just tell, I lied to her. And I was like, No, I'm happy. You know, like, this is what you know, of course, I'm happy. He's a great guy, you know? And she could she's like, Are you sure though, like, and and I just crumbled into tears. I couldn't hide it from her anymore. And I'm so grateful that she, that she essentially like disobeyed what appeared to be God's plan, and gave me that out. And I also would like to say here, and I say this in the book, my mom had stopped going to church. By that point, my, she had already begun her own deconstruction at that point, although she would not have used that term. But that was also why I didn't trust her right away. It was because like, well, she's off the wagon, totally using her to tell my flesh what it wants to hear that I don't have to marry this guy. And so I still struggled. But ultimately, and it's not spoiling anything like I'm I'm not married, never have been I didn't end up marrying him. I broke it off. And it was the most terrifying thing I've ever ever done to this day.

David Ames  52:00  
Yeah, I think that's what what struck me is you write about it being the most disobedient, you would have ever been to God, that you felt so strongly that that confirmation from your dad, his mom, and he himself that you were disobeying God by, by not having feelings by deciding not to marry this person.

Alice Greczyn  52:23  
Yes. So So I think for sure I had I was, I believed at the time that I was a sinner just by being born, but also because I did struggle with things like lust, like, I don't know, just micro sins, nothing over like stealing, but just, you know, pride, whatever, whatever it was. And so I disobeyed God, sort of, you know, in my own heart and in private, but never in such an overt way, where it affected someone else's life, at least not that I'm aware of. And I felt like, it was so scary, because I wasn't just disobeying God's plan for my life, but his plan for Luke's life. And so I just, I thought, for sure, like, really, really bad consequences were going to happen because I was told, I was taught that God never punished us for our sins, He just allowed consequences to happen, which is the same fucking thing. So it's just semantics. Bottom line, when you go against God, bad things happen. And so I felt like for the first time in my life, I was deliberately and consciously stepping outside the umbrella of God's protection through my mind knowing deliberate sin of not going through with this plan, therefore opening myself up to Satan and all the hell that he would wreak on my life. And I, I was just waiting for it. i There was about like, a year after I ended my betrothal, where it was just what I now know is like major symptoms of religious trauma. But at the time, I just thought I was just waiting for Satan to get me and I it was anxiety, it was self harm. It was like disordered eating. It was it was self violence, it was just true mindfuck I would just I would be driving somewhere and I would just forget where I'm driving and just be crying on the side of the road, I was just waiting for the road to open up and swallow me whole and an earthquake as punishment for my son. And it sounds so weird to say now, but I genuinely believe that, that the consequences of my son would come and get me and I would I was gonna have to, to accept it. And you know, nothing bad happens. Of course, nothing bad happened. I moved on with life and eventually, but that was the turning point of my faith. That was where my deconstruction began, I would say was when I ended my betrayal. I was still a Christian for three years afterwards. But I was a different type of Christian I was starting to explore more liberal Christianity and I wanted desperately to believe that there was still God and he was still a God of love, and forgiveness, and I started focusing on those Bible verses. Was that told me what I wanted to hear that God was real all of my faith hadn't been a total waste my life did still have meaning and purpose and God but it was just a different type of God not the must obey me type of God it was the live your life Ecclesiastes sort of God

David Ames  55:17  
dearly love Ecclesiastes. Oh,

Alice Greczyn  55:19  
I do too. I still do I think of it as a very interesting philosophical book on like, what is the meaning of life? Nothing. It's all just smoke it spit into the wind. Like, it's like an ode to hedonism that for some reason still did not manage to get edited out of the Bible. But yeah, I was more I very much wanted to believe in God, just the Ecclesiastes version. And then even that just I couldn't hold that up anymore eventually.

David Ames  55:57  
You hinted at it earlier, you have kind of a moment of testing God. And one of the things I find fascinating about the vicious cycle of Christianity in particular here, but But faith in general, is by saying that you can't test God. You feel bad for doubting for wanting proof wanting something. So can you tell the story about the spice rack and kind of testing God a little bit?

Alice Greczyn  56:24  
Yes. So okay. So I, I reached a point I was 20. And my boyfriend at the time had sort of like innocently asked me like, Oh, why do you still believe in God anymore? And I was just stumped. And horrified at my stump Ignis, just like I don't know, I felt like I attributed to like, Oh, I'm just flipping out, because I feel put on the spot. But his question just, I couldn't shake it for weeks afterward. And we were watching was trying to watch this documentary called Jesus Camp. And it was so triggering to me, I couldn't make it even 10 minutes into the film, I had to stop it. And it brought up all this anger of like being ignored by God, because I saw these little kids doing what I used to do as a kid like having their hands in the air and crying all these grown ups were praying for them. And maybe some of them are knocking them over. I don't know. But it just, it was really triggering to me. And I was like, I need to know if God's real I can't, like I just couldn't shake it. And so one day, and you'd think something like this would would require like a big elaborate plan of like, how am I going to, like, I would have thought that I would have put a lot more thought into

David Ames  57:34  
it while being fleeces and things like that. Yeah.

Alice Greczyn  57:38  
I feel like I would have made something ceremonious about it or just, I don't know, but I just couldn't shake it one day I was just washing dishes at my sink, just totally mundane. And it was like a hot sunny afternoon and, and I just couldn't wander anymore. I was like, I just I have to test God now. And I had all these Bible verses screaming through my head about do not test the Lord your God. And I was like, I God if God's there he he's gonna get it. If he's really this God of love. He's totally going to have compassionate understand this is not coming from a place of pride or arrogance. This is coming from the most humble place of desperation of God, I want so badly to believe in you. You please, please, please make yourself known. It was not coming from a hottie like oh, yeah, of God's real do this. It wasn't like that it was it. I could not have felt more vulnerable or broken or desperate. And, and I figured, you know, even though it was wrong to test God, if he was really the God of love that I had believed him to be, he would understand and His grace and mercy would cover over any disobedience that that I was committing. And there was a spice rack on my counter. And I just happened to look over it and I was like, oh, man, like I just knew what my test had to be because my test had to be God. If you're real you need to knock over that jar of cinnamon. Because I need I need I needed God to know that like, he couldn't prove himself to me in a way that he chose it needed to be a way that I chose because I knew how slippery My mind was into making anything proof of God like I didn't want to hear my neighbor's doves and think like oh yeah, that's God answered me I didn't want to all of a sudden have a breeze blow through the window and be like, Oh, that's God answering me he does exist I could not afford that type of self convincing faith anymore. So and like you know, it's just a jar of cinnamon you know, this is the this is the God who's done so much more than that, you know turn people into whole pillars of salt and part of Oceans and you know, like all of that so I was like, This just has to be it and I waited and waited just my eyes glued to that jar summit and of course nothing happened and then I bargained with God you know the stages of grief I was in the bargaining stage like okay, it can be it can be another spice you know, knock over cumin knock over nutmeg, like any Okay? doesn't just just any any of that. And eventually I just realized just accepted like, nothing's happening. And it's it was such a weird, disquieting feeling of this slow admission for me of just like, holy shit. Like, there's no one there like, I'm, I'm just talking out loud, like, like, I'm just no one's listening. I just felt like I'm like a little kid talking to an imaginary friend and just all sudden realizing, Oh, they don't exist. And I but I and I felt like strangely, nothing, right? And that there's that numbness that I was talking about earlier, it was just sort of this like, like, I shouldn't be feeling so many feelings, like God was my whole life. And all of a sudden, he doesn't. I know, he doesn't exist. Like, I should be feeling more about this. And I couldn't. And the feeling caught up with me later.

David Ames  1:00:51  
Yeah, yeah, let's get to that. I just want to react to that really quickly. You've expressed something there that I've been trying to express about that those early stages. And I talked about the absence of a sense of absence, well said. And what I mean by that is, shouldn't it feel like something is gone. But the point is, it was never there to begin with. So you've just expressed something that I feel is really deep about the process of deconversion of recognizing, nothing has actually changed? Yes.

Alice Greczyn  1:01:23  
i It's like, how do you grieve someone who didn't exist, you know, when when a loved one dies in front of you or not even in front of you like, there, there can be a certainly a delayed reaction, but like that, it's like they were here, and now they're not. And that is very tangible. That is very obvious. But when you never felt or heard from God to begin with, and all of a sudden, it switches your mind is like, Oh, well, then that just means he's not there. It's like, but I've for 20 years, like been, or 21. I think it was 21. At this point. It was just it was just confusing, sort of. And yeah, I think you actually articulated just now better than better than I could, you know, it's the what did you call the absence of, of a sense of absence? Yes. And it was just the area's thing that I didn't. I didn't reconnect to my feelings again, until a week or so later, when I caught myself praying out loud out of habit. And I just like, froze, like, what, what am I doing? There's no one listening. And that's when the grief hit me. And it was just a spiral from there, guys for the next couple of years.

David Ames  1:02:32  
Yeah, so you talk about the process of trying to find a maybe not overtly secular therapist, but someone who wasn't going to be, you know, either new agey or Christian. You know, somebody who was going to actually help and you eventually do find that, but do you want to just talk about, you know, what did help you through what was very difficult time? It wasn't all sunshine and roses after your deconversion Oh, no,

Alice Greczyn  1:02:58  
I would have like Starbursts have fun and freedom and exhilaration sprinkled between like debilitating psychological trauma. I began having really bad panic attacks, that at the time, I didn't correlate to my loss of faith at all. I just thought I was going crazy out of nowhere, for some reason, because, and in large part in retrospect, I think, I didn't know about religious trauma, then I never talked to any other ex Christians. There, the internet wasn't what it is today, where you can just search a hashtag ex Christian and find a whole community. This was before, before Twitter and everything so and honestly, even if those things had existed, I would not have explored them. Because I think I would have been too afraid of people who were anywhere close to that world. I was so triggered by just the word God, it it like it wasn't even until a couple years ago that it wouldn't make me like flinch inside i since since doing dare to doubt I've, I've had to talk about God so much. And hear about God so much. So I feel pretty totally neutral about it now and good like I can, I can talk about this from a positive place. But for a long time, I just I just wanted to forget it. Honestly, I didn't, I didn't want to have any more power over my life. And so I think that was another reason I didn't attribute any of my post faith, depression, suicidal ideation or other struggles to my loss of faith, because that would be an admission that God still had power over me in some way, even though I no longer believed in him. So yeah, I it was really hard for me to find a therapist that I could that I felt I could trust. I've said before that I think I think that, at least in my experience that might be partly because I live in Los Angeles, which was a very woowoo spiritual kind of city. But I think therapy and ministry have a lot in common. I think the people who are drawn to pastor ship or minister professions, like therapists and counselors are people who genuinely want to help people. And so I think that there's a My experience a lot of overlap between the spiritual community and the psychological health community. And it was, if I felt spiritual vibes or saw spiritual books or a fucking crystal in the office of a therapist, I was like, no, no. Like, like no offense, but no, I because I in therapy you need if you're trying to get the most out of it, you need to be vulnerable, and you need to trust this person. And it's not to say that spiritual therapists are not trustworthy, they just weren't for me where I was at, or even Christian therapists, for that matter, you know, like, wherever, wherever you whatever is helping you grow. Like that's, that's your journey, you know, but for me and mine, I couldn't trust anyone that graduated from a Christian university, for instance, I would Google this shit, I would like look up, like, where did they go to school? You know, like, well, what is the Pepperdine stance? Oh, they went to Pepperdine? Nope. You know, like, it's like, I don't I don't care if it's because they have a good Psychology program. If their value system mentions God, nope. So I needed to know that I if I was going to go to therapy, it needed to feel very safe. And I did eventually find that with my therapist, it was very safe. And I was in therapy for three years, a little bit off and on, but mostly on following my deconversion, I probably would have still stayed in therapy, except I ended up booking a job that took me out of town for a long time. And then I was feeling a lot more level than and not to say that I haven't gone back to therapy at different points in my life. Since I have I am a big advocate of therapy, I totally understand why some people have an aversion to it. I think it's a because I've come across those therapists that I did not feel were a good fit for me. And if those were the only experiences with therapy I had, I probably be very anti it. But anyone who's wondering if therapy can help them. It's up to you. But I would advocate for just keep trying. And that's part of the reason I made dare to doubt is because I wanted to make it easier for people to find therapists, especially secular therapists who have who understand religious trauma, because I think, and again, you mentioned Marlene Brunel. And I certainly read about her work in my book, she wrote this book leaving the fold. And she is a therapist who is ex Pentecostal. And it's part of her mission now to help other therapists recognize signs of religious trauma and to be able to help them help their patients because I think it's natural for a lot of even secular therapists to recommend spiritual practices like meditation. I know many people who get a lot out of that, and I didn't it felt too much to me like prayer.

David Ames  1:07:33  
Yeah, I I'm a huge skeptic, as well on that, on that front. And one of the things I think you capture in the book, and you said this on our, our first episode together, you said, you stopped being good at fooling yourself? Yes, I couldn't lie to myself anymore. God, that's so good. And I feel the same way. Like, it is the seeking after an altered state. Now, if you're gonna, you know, if you want to get high or go get drunk, or what have you, fine. But, but there's, there's still an element of that spirituality where you're seeking some altered state. And for me, my humanism is about experiencing the humanity right, and not trying to be something other than human. And yes,

Alice Greczyn  1:08:16  
I just know, I just felt that in my body when you said it's like, yes, we don't need to try anymore. Right? We can just be yes. Yeah, no, because you're so right. I think that's part of that's the nail on the head of why spirituality doesn't really hold much of an appeal to me, like if the if there's a practice involved. Not only does it mildly, at this point, but it still does trigger me a little bit. And I'm like, Oh, this is my quiet time. I'm sitting down to meditate, you know, that it triggers me a little bit and like a prayer throwback. Not only that, but like it's not, I can, I can accept that. Some things aren't instantaneous. They do require a discipline and a practice before you start seeing the benefits of it. Anyone who's ever tried to work out regime knows that. But the difference between a mental exercise and a physical exercise, my muscles are sore when I work out, I know it's doing something. I don't know anything's happening. If I'm just sitting there, trying not to think and observe my thoughts of like, it's just a mindfuck. To me, I'm like, no, no, I don't I don't think this is for me. It's just not for me. But you know, Sam Harris is one of the most renowned atheists that we have. And he is a huge advocate of meditation. And I've done some of his guided meditations, thinking like, oh, maybe this one will, you know, feel safer to me and it definitely feels safer. It's just an i It's just still not something that I like to do on a regular basis. But I've just accepted that to me. Going for a beautiful hike, or cuddling with my cat and basking in the sun is so much more fulfilling. It's being in my body, it's being in my senses, because meditation is they say, you know, the number one thing, usually for a beginner in meditation is to focus on your breath. And in some ways that is very much like be in your body, but it doesn't work for me. Great for you. if that's helpful to you, but

David Ames  1:10:01  
yeah, and it might sound like we're bashing on that, but I what I like to say is you're an experiment of one, what works for you is a part of this self discovery process. And you know, if meditation is meaningful and valuable to you, that's fantastic. I joke about all the time that running for me is very meditative. You know, that's my thing. You know. So whatever works for the person is really where they should totally totally.

I do want to end just on a bit of the the triumphal bits that I mentioned. So you, you began, dare to doubt. I wanted to read you one more quote from this, you're talking about the millennial experience and to contextualize that often is the people who grew up with the kiss dating, goodbye and a lot of that spiritual purity burden. You say, Yes, this demographic is also resilient. We are as brave as the martyrs we were raised to be. We are battling the spiritual war, we were trained to fight. We're just not on the side of religion. And believe us, no one is more surprised by this than ourselves. We are condemned, prayed for and loathed, as much as we are feared. But persecution was once our fuel. Our skin is thick, with the courage to fight for the truth as we see it, and where we want saw through dogma colored glasses, we now see through the lens of relativity, reason and the validity of our own experiences. It is easy to dismiss us as bitter, it is understandable to write off our deconversion as desperate attempts at individual individuation and rebellion. It is compassionate to ask us why we left instead of praying for us to rejoin just just it's amazing. Allison's just totally beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. So I've been talking to Alice Greczyn and her talking about her new book wayward, which should come out February 2, if I'm not mistaken. And this episode, if everything works out, right, we'll be out the day before. So I will have links in the show notes for your new book. That's exciting. How else can people reach you?

Alice Greczyn  1:12:11  
You can follow me on Instagram at Alice Greczyn it's just my name. I'm assuming you'll have a link where people can see the the Polish spelling of my name. So Alice Greczyn and then you can also find me on Twitter at Alice food. And check out dare to doubt two, if you're someone who's been deconstructing David, the graceful atheist is on their dare to is a resource site, just Yeah, featuring different resources for people from different backgrounds. Right now. There's there's several different religious backgrounds that I have resources for if you're in the middle of deconstructing from any of them. But yeah, check out the book. And David, thank you so much for having me on here. Again. Always a delight to chat.

David Ames  1:12:51  

Final thoughts on the episode? Well, my first thought is go buy this book. It is absolutely amazing. It is available on Amazon. I will have links in the show notes. And on my website. It is available on Alice's website, As well, from our conversation, I think you've got a really good feel for just how incredibly intelligent, passionate and articulate Alice is. And the book represents that as well. As I was trying to hint at the overwhelming feeling that I personally had while reading it was just a protection for Alice and feeling aggrieved and angry for her. But in the book, she does not come off as bitter in any way. This is a person's reflection back on an entire lifetime of the experience of growing up Evangelical, experiencing the negative sides of that environment. And then slowly but surely overcoming that. There are many difficulties along the way, including self harm and suicidal ideation. So this was not an easy process for Alice, which makes the book all that more poignant and powerful as she tears out her soul to tell you her story. I also want to encourage everyone to check out dare to that is Alice's organization that is helping people go through faith transitions. She has a tremendous number of resources there. She has been much much better at that than I have. No matter which faith tradition you are coming from. She has resources for you, and that includes lots of non Christian religious backgrounds. I want to thank Alice for being on the podcast and for sharing. So powerfully her story and the book with us. As always, one of the main drivers for me is about honest V and self honesty and Alice represents that so, so well, I wish Alice all the best luck with the book, I hope that all of you listening will go out and buy it. And I hope to see more books from Alice in the future. Thank you, Alice. As I mentioned at the top of the show, I have just been amazed at some of the emails that I've gotten of late of the stories of people going through difficult deconversion processes. I just want to thank you for listening. I want to encourage all of the listeners as a community to have each other's backs. I am interested to hear from you if we need to provide some kind of online space for communication amongst the listeners, I have thus far been hesitant to do so based on the fact that virtually every podcast in this space has its own community, and I am not a particularly good community organizer. What I'd really be interested from hearing from you all is if there's someone who would be willing to admin, say a Facebook group or some other online group that would allow people to communicate with one another that would be able to do moderate and basically own that I'd be very interested in hearing that. Please get in touch with me graceful We will continue to have some exciting episodes coming up, including my conversation with Mayor Simka and my conversation with Troy. Representing y'all means all as well as many others, so please look forward to those upcoming episodes. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from MCI beats links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application. And you can rate and review it on pod If you have audio engineering expertise and you'd be interested in participating in the graceful atheist podcast, get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and you'd like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Logan: Beyond Belief

Atheism, Bloggers, Deconstruction, Deconversion, LGBTQ+, Podcast, YouTubers
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My guest this week is Logan Thomas who blogs at Beyond Belief. Logan interned at St. Andrews, a famous church in the UK. He went on to Bible college and eventually perused a Master’s degree in theology where he studied biblical studies, biblical languages, history and textual criticism where he began to question.

After all that I had been through, what I had studied, what I had learned about myself, about people, and the world around me, I could no longer hold on to the faith and the God who had been my constant companion through it all. It just didn’t fit.

From the Beyond Belief Blog

After discovering his sexuality, Logan came out during his internship at St. Andrews. He discusses coming out twice. He started with a more progressive view on homosexuality. But between the Church’s stances and the biblical texts, he realized these things could not be reconciled. We discuss the differences between UK and US churches handling of the LGBTQ community.

Logan cares about truth. As he was deconstructing what he believed about the bible based on what he was being taught at Bible college he came to a point where he could no longer believe. Logan tells his story with a great deal of honesty and self reflection on his former faith.

It was not simply because I had lost trust in the historical reliability of the Bible; it was not only on account of the unpleasant character of the god found within; it was not just because I could not reconcile my feelings for people of the same sex with a god who condemned this without reason; it was not simply due to the increasing incoherence of the Christian worldview; and it was not only because of the vast chasm between theological expectations and my lived reality. However, when these were all viewed together…

From the Beyond Belief Blog

Now Logan has a social media presence where he blogs and creates videos asking questions about faith and doubt.


Beyond Belief Blog






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Erin: Religious But Not Spiritual

Agnosticism, Authors, Deconstruction, Deconversion Anonymous, Humanism, Podcast, Religious but not Spiritual
Erin by Haida Draws
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This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

My guest this week is Erin. Erin is working toward her chaplaincy and her Masters in Practical Theology. She describes herself as “religious, but not spiritual.”

If I had to encapsulate my religious outlook in one sentence, I would invert the oft-cited phrase ‘spiritual, but not religious’ and instead say I am ‘religious, but not spiritual’. I have always had a deep-seated interest in religion, and I love the traditions, community and way of life which Christianity provides. Yet I have always struggled with the supernatural aspects of the faith; I could never grasp the concept of communicating with a God ‘up there’ while humans were ‘down here’.

Erin grew up in Northern Ireland. She was raised to respect all people. But when she was accepted by an Evangelical Presbyterian church she became in her words “the worst kind of fundamentalist.” This included deriding Catholics.

At University she excelled and found herself attracted to more liberal theologies. She says she went from Evangelical to an Open Theist to a functional atheist (agnostic).

Erin also happens to be on the Autism spectrum. This had an impact on her inability to accept things on faith. She needed logical consistency.

But Erin still finds value in the Christian tradition. She plans to do good in the world as chaplain.

Links and recommendations

Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity (Canons Book 104)

Autism Faith Network

Autism Pastor



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NOTE: This transcript is AI produced ( and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.

0:11 Welcome to the show.
2:31 Growing up in the “Bible Belt of Europe”.
5:26 In Ireland, there is a long history of protestants and catholics.
10:40 If God is all powerful, it either means he created evil and allows it because he’s awful, or he’s powerless.
15:34 The best of both worlds at university.
20:28 The transition from open atheism to agnosticism.
25:36 Another reason why autistic people are less likely to be conventionally religious is that they don’t tend to see an overarching meaning.
31:07 How do you interpret the good parts of Christianity without having supernaturalism?
35:32 What is Erin’s idea of what a chaplain does?
41:10 My final thoughts on the episode.
David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I'm not going to make any comments about the news. I've had to record this intro a few days earlier and who knows the world could be upside down by the time you're hearing this. I do want to thank a new writer and reviewer par job P AR jop. Thank you for rating and reviewing the podcast on Apple podcasts. You can also rate and review the podcast on Apple podcasts or on pod Special thanks to Mike T for editing this episode. On today's show, my guest today is Erin. Erin is working towards her chaplaincy. She describes herself as religious but not spiritual. And she is on the autism spectrum. Erin also has a number of accomplishments already at a young age. She wrote a book during her high school years. She is working on a master's degree in practical theology. And she's working towards chaplaincy. Her joy at life, hers. Raviv is obvious as soon as you hear her. And I think her story is really important. I think her perspective coming from the autism spectrum is really significant. And she is ultimately doing good in the world. Here's my conversation with Eric.

Erin, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Hello, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to have you, you reached out and mentioned that you have a really interesting story to tell. And it's in line with some of the previous guests that we've had where you kind of described yourself as religious but not spiritual, the inversion of the typical spiritual but not religious. You're also amazingly accomplished at very young age, you've written a book, you've got a theology degree, you're working on a master's, if I'm not mistaken. So you've done quite a bit already. But let's start with what was your religious experience growing up?

Erin  2:31  
So as you can possibly tell from my accent, I was born and raised in Northern Ireland, which I like to describe it as the Bible Belt of Europe, because, okay, by demographics, I think it is the most evangelical part, certainly in Western Europe. Although my my parents, they were they were the good sorts of Christians, like, I don't think but good things to say about them in that, you know, we went to church every Sunday. They were decent people. But they didn't shove it down people's throats. So that was fine. Yeah. So in those early days, I have nothing but positive memories attached to the church. It wasn't until I got a bit older, that things started to change. So in Northern Ireland, this gives you an idea of how Evangelica is, whenever you start high school, everybody gets a Bible, you know, even though it's just you know, a government school, everyone gets a Bible Society. I mean, you can refuse it if you want. So we all got our Bibles. And it was also in secondary school, where my life started to go downhill. So I'm autistic, but I, I wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult. So school in general was just awful. Not because it was not because it was a bad school, just because I had no social ability whatsoever. So I was just dreadfully lonely. Oh, no. Okay. And, as I'm sure many people have told you, that is when you are a prime target for religious fundamentalism.

David Ames  4:05  
Yes. Yes, it is. Yeah.

Erin  4:08  
Yeah. Okay. So I have my Bible that would have been handed so I thought, you know, what? May as well read it. It's not like I've got anything else to do.

David Ames  4:15  
Okay. Yeah.

Erin  4:18  
And of course, you autistic. I took it all. Extremely literally. So then I decided, well, I guess I'm gonna have to find a church that takes it as literally as I do. Yes, guess. So. Whereas most teenagers would do. I don't know, sex and drugs or their rebellion. I decided to do fundamentalism. Is that Yes.

David Ames  4:41  
I hear. Yeah. Okay.

Erin  4:42  
So the church I joined. It's called the free Presbyterian Church. Its founder is Ian Paisley. Not sure if you've heard of him. I have not. Don't think he's particularly well known outside of Ireland, but he did have a degree from Bob Jones University. So he's that. Got it out sort of Chris.

David Ames  5:00  
And that tells us listeners exactly what type of Yes, yeah. The church

Erin  5:05  
itself. The people were fine. And they were mostly retirees, and I actually found that easier socially. Okay. So, in that regard, it was actually quite good for me. But unfortunately, as I got more into it, I think the negatives started to outweigh the positives. All right? Yes. I think I just turned into a rather unpleasant person. So, in Ireland, there's a very long, bloody history of Protestants and Catholics hating each other. And, you know, I was raised to not buy into that, until, of course, I started attending this church, where we're told that Catholics are awful, hellbound, false teaching antichrist, etcetera, etcetera. Oh, wow.

David Ames  5:52  
At a distance, you know, I'm aware of some of the history there, but it's really interesting to hear, you describe that just, you know, beginning to go to a Presbyterian Church, which I don't particularly think of usually as super evangelical. So it's really interesting to hear.

Erin  6:09  
I have been to a PCUSA church, and they, other than the fact that they share the same word and their title, they're just totally different. Okay. Yes, my poor parents, you know, they raised me to be a decent person, and then suddenly, what have I become? But at the same time, they were also happy that I finally had something. Okay. Yeah. In my life, that I'm not sure they quite knew what to make of it. There's quite a push in a lot of youth groups that, you know, you should use whatever talents God has given you, and give them back to God. So I was trying to think, well, what am I good art? I like writing. Okay, how can I give this back to God? So, because at school, I didn't have anything to do at break and lunch, because it's not like I was talking to anyone. I just decided to stay in the computer room. And I think, yeah, when I was 13, I wrote my novel.

David Ames  7:07  
Wow. me look bad here, Erin. That's amazing.

Erin  7:15  
Yes. So I voted when I was 13. And then it was published when I was 16. So it takes quite a while to turn a first draft into something that's yeah, readable. So because I loved CS Lewis, on the Chronicles of Narnia, I tried to do something similar. Okay, it's a fantasy story with a Christian message. And interestingly, my first draft was actually quite metaphorical with the religious stuff. It wasn't too heavy handed, but because my publisher was an American Evangelical company, you were very good to me. As part of the editing process, they basically made it much more explicitly Christian. of the American variety.

David Ames  7:59  
This is way too subtle for Americans era. Yes,

Erin  8:05  
yes. Which is why I, you know, obviously, I still advertise the book on my website. I kind of have a love hate relationship with it. Now.

David Ames  8:13  
I can imagine. Yeah.

Erin  8:16  
Same time, I don't want to cancel my former self. So it's still there. And of course, because there's practically no separation of church and state, I was able to go and sell it in primary schools across the country.

David Ames  8:29  
Wow. Okay. You know, you talked about, in your words, becoming a kind of a terrible person. I think that for those of us who take the Bible seriously, just the fact that you read it. And taking it literally, those are the people who take it very seriously. And I find that many times the people who have some kind of deconstruction or deconversion experience later on in life, it's because they took it seriously. It's it wasn't a surface level thing for you. It was it was real. And so I wouldn't say that that makes you a terrible person. I would say that that makes you someone who cares, right. You cared about your religious experience, your and what you were reading?

Erin  9:14  
Yes. And I think like a lot of people I was quite surprised that the Jesus of the New Testament is very different from the fluffy, Lovely Jesus of mainline Protestantism. Yes. Yeah. And I think towards the end of school doubt started creeping in for a few reasons. So Well, firstly, our minister changed. The one that they had when I joined, was relatively moderate for that denomination, okay, but the one who replaced him was very much fire and brimstone. And I just remember thinking every sermon was about what we are not. So we are absolutely not Catholics. We don't like the gays. basically don't like anyone. I just sort of sitting there feeling really frustrated, like, what are you for? We all know what you're against.

David Ames  10:07  
Yeah. That's the exact thing that I'm doing on the other side of the fence, right? Atheism is so much about, wow, we're down with Christianity. But I'm like, well, actually, what's important is what are we? What are we for? We're for loving people actually connecting with one another.

Erin  10:24  
So yes, that definitely frustrated me. Also, the their version of God was extremely Calvinist, I think I began to see some of the logical flaws in that. Okay, because, you know, it's the classic was it, Epicurus? Yes. The Triad. Yes. So if God is all powerful, knowing, as we were taught, It either means he created evil and allows it because he's awful. Or he's powerless to stop it, and therefore, not all powerful. So yeah, I couldn't quite square that circle. Yeah, classical theism.

David Ames  11:01  
It amazed me. I think, as soon as I got my head above the surface, as it were, and began to look at the history of these deep questions. It amazed me that Epicurious had formalized that problem so long ago, and we're still having the same argument today. It just amazes me. Because I mean, you know, it's, it's over, right? I mean, there's logically impossible.

Erin  11:27  
It's such a powerfully simple argument. Yes. And, of course, the standard responses, God's ways are higher than our ways. And we just have to trust the plan. If I actually remember being told that by one of the ministers because he knew I was reading a lot. I think he actually said to me, sometimes it's good, just to trust and stop looking into it.

David Ames  11:50  
You're thinking too much, Erin.

Erin  11:53  
Yeah, I ended up doing the opposite. So I knew my faith was going downhill. So I thought, You know what, I'll go to Theological College, and then I will be super Christian. All my questions will go away, and it will be fine.

David Ames  12:08  
Oh, my God, I feel for you.

Erin  12:11  
Did you go to seminary, or anything like that,

David Ames  12:14  
I went to a very small, very Evangelical, Christian private college, which is to say, not a terribly good education. But I studied church leadership, quote, unquote, which is basically how to be a pastor. However, I really had very lovely professors. I often say that they did too good a job. They taught me critical thinking they taught me, you know, exegesis hermeneutics, you know, actually looking at what the text says, and what the original author and the original hearers understood it to mean. And anyway, a lot of that I still value greatly today, and yet also lead towards really seeking truth wherever it could be found, and ultimately to deconversion.

Erin  13:02  
So it was also at this point, so when I was 18, that I got formally diagnosed as autistic, which was extremely positive for me. Okay, bad things make sense.

David Ames  13:13  
Can you describe a little bit about how that happened? Like, did you go seek out testing? Or did someone suggested,

Erin  13:19  
I mean, I'd been in therapy, basically all of school because we knew something was wrong, but never quite never quite got to the bottom of it. You know, I had various different levels, like anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, which weren't necessarily incorrect. They just didn't get the full picture. And it wasn't until I saw a different psychiatrist. And really within about one session, she she suggested going for an autism assessment, which isn't something that actually crossed my mind before,

David Ames  13:52  
right? Do you find that having the diagnosis was very helpful, or did you feel burdened by that label? I found it

Erin  14:00  
immensely helpful. But unfortunately, in the UK, the waiting list for an autism diagnosis, particularly for an adult is approximately three years. Oh, wow. And if I hadn't waited three years, I would have been graduated by then. I had I'm extremely privileged in that I had relatives rich enough just to buy me a private assessment, which I don't think there's anywhere near as much as it would be in the US like it was about 1000 pounds. But still, that's a lot of money. Sure. Yeah. Yeah, that came back. Well, back then we called it high functioning autism. I don't think we use that term anymore. But I do find it hard to keep keep up with the language because it changes so much.

David Ames  14:44  
We mentioned off Mike the labels or the language sometimes can be complicated.

Erin  14:48  
Yeah. So I am what they used to call Asperger's Syndrome. But we don't use Asperger's Syndrome anymore, because Asperger was a Nazi.

David Ames  14:56  
Okay. That's See, I was even unaware of that fact. So I'm learning something here.

Erin  15:04  
Yeah, I don't know an awful lot about it. But I know he has extremely questionable eugenics history and experimentation on children.

David Ames  15:12  
Wow. Okay. Is there a terminology that you prefer for yourself?

Erin  15:18  
I think just bog standard autism is the easiest thing. Yeah. And when it comes to, you know, is an autistic person or person with autism? I really don't mind. Like, as long as you say it nicely, I really don't mind. Okay.

David Ames  15:41  
So I completely interrupted you. So you, you had your assessment, which it sounds like was a good thing. And then what happens next?

Erin  15:48  
Yeah. So then I went off to university, the University I went to, it was only three miles from my house, but I moved I anyway, because I wanted to try and get that independence. Yeah, it was like the best of both worlds really? Right. So the theological college I went to, it was a funny setup in that it was a Presbyterian, Ron college and all the professors were Presbyterian ministers, but it was sponsored by, you know, the normal state university. Okay. Proper University. Okay. So I do have a proper degree. Yeah. So socially, it was excellent. Because well, I had the support in place. And I think just people are more mature when you get to university. You can find people who match your interests. And so yeah, so socially, it was a very good three years. Our degrees are only three years.

David Ames  16:40  
Okay? That doesn't surprise me. You guys are smarter over there.

Erin  16:45  
Although, in Northern Ireland anyway, we do 14 years at school, whereas I think in America, it's 12. Grades, we, we do four to 18. I think we just succeed anyway. So socially, it was excellent. And, you know, I came out of my shell, I learned more about myself. But I felt like, the more I became confident in myself as a person, the less competent I was, in my faith, as it were.

David Ames  17:13  
Okay. Yeah. The

Erin  17:14  
opposite reason why I went to college. And it was just the same problem I'd had before and that I couldn't just accept it. I had to think, which is the point of university. But yeah, I, I felt like, it's almost like we started with our conclusion, and then worked backwards to try and find the evidence for it. And surely, you're supposed to do the opposite. Yes.

David Ames  17:41  
I think that is a deeply insightful observation. I think that's what you see from apologetics in particular, but yes, and Christian schools as well.

Erin  17:51  
And I remember one thing in particular, that was said in a lecture, where was it? The professor said, the Bible is the Word of God, because it's self attesting, which means the Bible is the Word of God, because it says so. Right. It's just sitting there like, I am paying money for this. I got on a personal level with every professor Barwon because we fell out over disability adjustments, because he was very much of the opinion that pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you don't need any help. And then he said, If you don't come to my class, you won't do well. So I refused on to his class turned up to the final exam and got the highest score just to spite him.

David Ames  18:36  
I love it. I love it. I think had we been at the same university at the same time, we would have been great friends.

Erin  18:44  
Yeah, so yeah, part of it was, you know, the intellectual side, it wasn't quite holding up, there was also undeniably an emotional element. I remember at one point, I didn't know this person, personally, but they're quite well known within like Irish church circles. Okay. Their child had horrific brain tumor. And I remember, practically every church in the country was praying for them week on week. And whenever they showed improvement, it was praise God, whatever they didn't. We just had to pray harder. And the whole thing just made me profoundly uncomfortable. I can imagine. Yeah. And that it just drove me to the classic questions about prayer. You know, the New Testament is really clear. There's a lot of verses that say, Whatever you ask for my name, I will give it to you. And you can do the mental gymnastics to try and explain that away. But, you know, yeah, when there's a kid deteriorating, despite practically an entire country praying for him. Yeah, I just, it almost seemed the most logical explanation was that we were talking to thin hair.

David Ames  19:56  
So again, you were taking it very seriously, huh? The reasonable expectation after reading the New Testament, and then the reality of the world don't match up.

Erin  20:08  
Yeah. And also on a personal level. So I have arthritis as well as autism. I'm a disaster. There's a few rather embarrassing times where people tried to kill me of my arthritis. Guess what? It didn't work? Yeah. And again, that just, it causes you to question why. Yeah. So as often happens, my view of God got more and more liberal, until it practically wasn't there anymore. So I went from Calvinist, to have anyone to open theist to the point where it's like, I'm basically a functionally atheist. Alright, you know, God, for me had lost so many attributes that I eventually got to the point like, what am I even clinging on?

David Ames  20:56  
Did you go through a more of an agnostic phase of just I don't know, or did you really go from open theism to? I don't think God exists?

Erin  21:05  
Well, I think that's where I've landed agnosticism, I think that's just the most honest position, I think. So I don't know if there's a God. And I think the term functional atheist is probably quite fitting.

David Ames  21:19  
That makes sense to me, than it seems honest. And I think that is a perfectly reasonable position to hold.

Erin  21:27  
So then from my final year dissertation, I decided to do my research on autistic adults in the church, for obvious reasons, and also because everything that had been written was about children. So I thought, let's write something about adults, specifically. And how did that go? Yeah, it went really well. I really enjoyed the project. It sort of gave me a taste for independent research, which I quite liked. But my findings were particularly interesting. There's quite a few studies that prove that autistic people are way more likely on average to be atheist or agnostic. Again, probably because we do think so logically, and straightforward. God, I can't bring myself to do the mental gymnastics required. Sorry, that sounds terribly condescending.

David Ames  22:19  
What is interesting, I think about D conversions like so in my case, I very much did believe I very much was doing those mental gymnastics until you have this moment of clarity where you recognize I'm doing math, mental gymnastics. And if I just stopped making those assumptions, what does it look like? Yes, it's the opposite of born again. But the scales fall from your eyes. And you realize, I have been taking things on given or taking things on somebody else's word, without really investigating and really questioning myself.

Erin  22:56  
And you know, emotionally, it was very, very difficult. Because I did live in a Christian bubble. Yeah. And I, it's, I don't think it's overdramatic to say it did feel like my life was falling apart, because I just managed to build a nice social life for myself. Right? And then suddenly, I was worried that that was all gonna go away. So that yeah, it was a very unpleasant time in general. Okay. But the degree itself, it went, it went very well, I was the highest scoring student in the college, which probably annoyed some professors.

David Ames  23:37  
That's awesome.

Erin  23:37  
Because all our work had to be double marked by the proper University. So that's why yes. It also actually, while I was there, that state university decided to sever funding for the theological college, because for a variety of reasons, but I think, basically, their teaching wasn't good enough for them. So those of us who had started, were able to finish with our proper degrees, but I think from now onwards, I don't know what they'll do, but they're certainly not part of that university anymore.

David Ames  24:13  
Okay. Can I ask you one more question about the research? And correct me if this is a simplistic understanding of autism, my observation of Christianity is you just mentioned the word bubble, is that it is kind of socially enforced. You learn what the group what the community believes is true. And you learn where the unwritten boundaries are. And when you cross them, you are corrected, right? You get a sense of, I can question this far, and then that's too much, or I can look at these resources, but outside this, you know, outside of Christianity, those don't quite work. So my question to you is, my simplistic understanding of autism is that it's sometimes Missing social cues or missing the implicit information within a community? And does that correlate to why maybe autistic people are more likely to be agnostic or atheist?

Erin  25:14  
I think that's definitely part of it. I think that's also part of why I ended up doing so well, because I didn't realize this this doctrinal line you're not supposed to cross. I was drawing at all sorts of sources, you know, John Shelby Spong to all these heretics that would not normally be cited in such a college. Another reason that some research suggests is that we don't tend to think Tellier logically, which means we don't tend to see an overarching meaning. So say, for example, that kid with a brain tumor I mentioned, all those tele illogical explanations, like for the glory of God, Satan's doing it, something like that. None of them were satisfying, because I don't think that way, I just think, in the here and now, I was like, the kids cells are multiplying irregularly. He needs chemotherapy. That's it. I don't see any supernatural component to this. Right. Exactly. So yeah, that's another reason why I think autistic people are less likely to be conventionally religious. Which I suppose brings us to why I am still calling myself religious but not spiritual.

David Ames  26:34  
Yeah, so that definitely begs that question. Yes.

Erin  26:37  
Towards the end of college. And this was like the beginning of time, because I graduated online. I think that's when I started to, quote unquote, come out as agnostic slash, whatever I was, okay. In fact, the first time it was even by accident, because I remember, me and my friends, we were talking about existentialism, because good grief, we were nerds,

David Ames  27:03  
as you do as you do.

Erin  27:07  
And I think I was basically just saying how much I loved the idea of existential that things just are on that we just have to make the most of it. There is no meaning other than the meaning that we create for ourselves, etcetera, etcetera. Yeah. And then I think one of my friends was like, but where does God fit into that? I think at that point, I was just like, he doesn't. Yeah, I'm not sorry, to interesting conversation. But compared to what I hear from a lot of people, I'm extremely lucky. I didn't lose any friends over it. Because I think we were friends for the right reasons, not just because we thought the same way. Likewise with my parents. I mean, I think there was a little bit of abusement with them, because you know, I'd been fundamentalist before. Now I'm coming home saying I'm an agnostic. I think they were just like, right, you're being Muslim in two weeks? Yes.

David Ames  28:01  
They sound like wonderful parents, I got it. That's good to hear. I'm really glad to hear that your friends stuck with you. Because I do feel like this process. You learn who your friends are? And who, maybe some people who are not your friends that you thought were

Erin  28:18  
Yeah, and I think what a lot of people said very well meaning is that, you know, doubt is normal. But I think I beyond doubt, I don't think doubt is sufficient.

David Ames  28:30  
Yeah. So I think we've covered the non spiritual part fairly well, what is it about the Christian tradition, then that you find useful or compelling,

Erin  28:41  
I still think Christianity and church communities can still be a useful part of someone's life, they can be seen as part of our culture, or kind of like an art form, without necessarily having to take it. Absolutely, literally. An example I like to give is secular Judaism. So Jews are way ahead of us in this regard. Because I mean, particularly in Europe, quite a high proportion of Jews are functionally atheist, but they keep the rituals and the sense of community. So basically, they keep all the good bits of the religion and managed to dispense with the bad bits. Yeah. people accuse me of cherry picking, and I say, Yes, that is exactly what I am doing.

David Ames  29:27  
Exactly. I'm going to have Matt from two Christians in a Jew, which is their title, not mine. And he's an Orthodox Jewish person, and we're going to chat and one of the questions I'll ask him is about secular Judaism, right? And the secular humanism that I think is very influenced by Judaism. And the reason I bring this up is, I often hear from Christian apologists that humanism gets all of its ideas from Christianity. And I want to say first Well, I think these ideas long predates Christianity. But beyond that, if anything, modern secular humanism is mostly influenced by secular Judaism. Right? Yes. Yeah, this idea of, hey, we're a community, we still need to have rituals in which we connect with one another and find purpose and meaning. And we don't need anything else beyond that.

Erin  30:20  
Yes, so the Bible has some truly horrendous bits. It also has some bits that are quite decent. And it really is just, you know, trying to apply a utilitarian lens. So anything which we can use to create more happiness for the greatest among people should be kept anything else? We can appreciate it in a literary sense or historical sense, without needing to take it. So literally, right. And I think to a lot of Americans in particular, I don't think this form of Christianity is quite as popular as it is in Europe. To give you an idea in, in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, one in six of their pastors are open atheists. Oh, wow. Okay. Because Europe, in Scotland, where I live now, my theological hero is a bishop called Richard Holloway, and he was an agnostic. Okay. So yeah, I'm certainly not the only one who is attempting to keep the traditions and the community of Christianity without the harmful doctrine,

David Ames  31:31  
right. I do want to just say here that I do think the community aspect, that connection between human beings is the good part of Christianity. And if you can salvage that, then wonderful, that's fantastic. I have one question for you. I've often said that the most dangerous word in English is God. Oh, yes. And what I mean by that is that you could ask 1000 Different people what or who God is, and you would get 1000 different answers. Exactly. So how do you interpret the good parts of Christianity that community parts, the ritual parts, without having supernaturalism kind of sneak in accidentally?

Erin  32:15  
Yeah, that there was an Anglican bishop called John Robinson. Last century, he argued that because of what you said that God has been redefined into oblivion, that we should just dispense with the word altogether. Obviously, that's not going to happen. I quite liked his idea. So looking at it from a purely psychological or anthropological point of view. I quite like what Don Cupid says that God is essentially just an anthropomorphize version of our highest ideals. Yeah. So you can tell a lot about a person based on the God they worship. Yeah. So when I talk about God, if I must, yes, it is basically just an anthropomorphized form of my highest ideals, which is things like love to be cliche, kindness, cooperation, beauty, progress, et cetera, et cetera, all of these things. That is what I am thinking of, whenever I say prayers, God, I am well aware that the person sitting next to me in the Pew has a completely different interpretation. And I think that is fine, as long as we both respect each other. And that's actually something I really like about the Scottish church. It's a very broad church in that, you know, you've got everything from evangelicals, to agnostic atheists, all using the same liturgy, but interpreting it very differently. Right. But we're all sharing cups of tea together. Yeah. For the pandemic.

David Ames  33:51  
Yes. Back when we can be fully human. Yeah, yes.

Erin  33:57  
I don't think I could ever go back to an evangelical church. I mean, well, who knows? But certainly at the minute, I don't think I could, but I'm quite happy in the tradition I'm in at the minute because there was room for a very wide variety of opinions.

David Ames  34:17  
And what do you see your role in the church as you see it?

Erin  34:21  
So right now I'm studying a master's degree in chaplaincy, because I really liked chaplaincy. I did a bit art just in a voluntary basis when I was at college, and I feel like a lot of the people who are to theologically left field to be priests end up as chaplains. Okay. I don't know if they'd appreciate me saying that. I think it's a much more practical form of having fear. So it takes the best bits of what Jesus was doing. So he hung out with people who were ostracized from normal society, and that is quite often what a chaplain does, whether they're in a home hospital or prison or wherever. It's almost like a combination between a priest and a social worker. And in terms of the spirituality of it, it's very much driven by the person. So if they have a very strong faith and a supernatural God, then that's what we go with. Because it's all about helping them not imposing my views. Likewise, quite a lot of our clients end up being atheists, and they don't want to talk about God, they just want to talk about I'd know their children. Yeah, yeah, we're here for that.

David Ames  35:32  
I think you've just described, the thing that I found, as a teenager, so compelling about Jesus is that in his time, he was calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. And he was spending time with the people who were rejected, who were isolated. He was actually caring for people, literally, you know, if you take the story, literally feeding people. And it sounds like that is your idea of what a chaplain does, right? Did you do the gospel?

Erin  36:04  
Yeah. So my full degree title is a master of practical theology. It's that practical focus that I really like. Yeah, the way of Christ can still have potential in the modern world. If we can somehow detach it from this idea of Jesus being the second person of the Trinity hypostatic union pre existing eminent the father, blah, blah, blah.

David Ames  36:30  
You got to throw it in hypostatic. Union. Yeah. I love it.

Erin  36:36  
So I would very much love to be a chaplain, but I'm also realistic in that I am well aware of that I might have a chance with, particularly the Scottish church, they may well turn around and say you're a bit too Orthodox, which would be fair enough. Okay. So I think my plan B would probably be just going into secular counseling, because I think you can achieve some of the same aims. But right now, I'm still on the chaplaincy path, and we'll see where it goes.

David Ames  37:06  
I don't want to oversimplify what you do or what you see as kind of mission for you. But have you worked with other people on the autism spectrum?

Erin  37:15  
Not directly, actually. But my most favorite form of chaplaincy ever was maritime chaplaincy? So that is working with, like the crews of cargo ships. Okay. And I found that immensely interesting. Because these people, they live on a confined ship for months of the year, very little company. It's like living in their own world within a world. And that's how I felt like I was prior to my diagnosis, you know, interested trapped in my own world. I know how meaningful it can be if someone breaks into that world, and just makes you feel seen, like an actual person. Yeah. And I feel like that's, that's what we were doing when we visited ships. Okay, it could be something simple, like just bringing phone cards or tacky Irish souvenirs? Yes, you know, it just meant an awful lot to the people that we visited. And I thought this is the gospel, like, yes, I would happily do this for the rest of my life. If I could.

David Ames  38:15  
Yeah, that's awesome. So Erin, let me ask you, what are some resources that you suggest, let's say somebody who is either questioning their faith or someone who has discovered they're on the spectrum? What are some resources that you found useful?

Erin  38:32  
My most favorite theology book is doubts and loves by Richard Holloway. He's an agnostic Bishop I mentioned. Okay, because I just think that it's not a very long book. But I think it does a fantastic job of laying out how some of the tenants of Judaism and Christianity can still be carried forward into a secular world. So I like that a lot. And as for someone who's newly diagnosed, I think one of the great things of the internet years is that there's so many resources out there. And the autism faith network, I will always recommend, I love them. Okay, I interviewed the lady who founded founded it for my dissertation. So yeah, if you're still attending church, and you have got a diagnosis, I definitely recommend getting in touch with them. There's also a guy called Lamar Hardwick. I am probably mispronouncing his name, but he calls himself the autism pastor, because, as the name suggests, he is a pastor with autism. His books are very good.

David Ames  39:38  
Excellent. So we're doing this episode as more of a deconversion anonymous episode, so I'm not going to ask you to give information about how to contact you but if people are interested, is it okay if I forward like emails that come to me to you?

Erin  39:53  
Yes, yes. Okay. I mean, I'm sure if people are able to put the pieces together they could probably find me but yeah,

David Ames  40:00  
Honestly, that's how I am to right. It's like I just yeah, it's 95% Anonymous. Yeah, a dedicated person can figure this out. It's not going yeah.

Erin  40:10  
But no, I love talking to people. And in fact, I've found quite often that people say to me that I'm saying out loud what their voice thought, or too scared to say

David Ames  40:19  
yes. So Erin, I really appreciate what you are about what you are doing in the world, I think, you know, to use my terminology that you are expressing secular Grace within this religious but not spiritual framework. And I wish you all the best, I hope that you become a chaplain and get to do everything that you've described here.

Erin  40:44  
Thank you. And thank you so much for this podcast. I think I've listened to it for a long time. And I think if we had more atheists like you, maybe Christians would realize that they're not the scary monsters that we think.

David Ames  40:58  
Well, thank you for being a listener. I appreciate it. Erin, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode. Like I said, she has an infectious joy about her. Erin is so accomplished at such a young age. She's making us all look bad. But I just love her desire to do good in the world to reach people where they're at regardless of their metaphysical beliefs. Erin has gone the gamut of speaking and publicizing her book within the Christian world, to seminary and exploring liberal theologies, and ultimately to religious but not spiritual, still maintaining the traditions of Christianity without the supernatural beliefs. I was particularly affected by her research into adults with autism, and how that affects matters of faith. What we discussed in the episode, I think, was really important that so much of faith is the community expressing what to believe. And for someone who is less prone to receive those implicit signals, it's harder for them to take that leap. I just found that really interesting to hear from Erin's perspective. Beyond just the autism spectrum, is Erin's obvious intelligence and as a young person in school, not being able to accept pat answers. I think that is a challenge that many bright young people face when they're confronted with things they must accept by faith. When they are looking for evidence or looking for logical reasons, and can't find them. That is a hard place to be. I expect to hear great things about the impact that Erin makes on the world. I want to thank Erin for being on the podcast for sharing her story sharing her joy for life. I wish her all the best in her endeavors. And I hope that someday she can be a chaplain. You may have noticed that we have been doing an episode per week lately. As I have reflected on in previous episodes, I had a number of interviews in the can. Mike T has joined the team and is helping out with editing so we are able to go a little faster. I don't know that this is maintainable for the long run. But for as many weeks as we can do. We'll do one episode per week until either Mike or I runs out of energy or we run out of content one or the other. I have upcoming episodes with Logan, who calls himself beyond belief on Twitter and social media. I have Troy with y'all means all. I have mer Simka who is from the two Christians in a Jew podcast as well as several others. So keep coming back to hear these and other stories. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from Akai beats links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application and you can rate and review it on pod If you have audio engineering expertise and you'd be interested in participating in the graceful atheist podcast, get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular human minimum spaces, and you'd like to be on the podcast. Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google secular grace. You can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

James: Deconversion Anonymous

Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Podcast
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This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

The idea of being non-christian or even non-religious, even more so, was just not something that ever occurred to me as a possibility it was all very real very present it could completely fill my mind and my heart and consume my life.

My guest this week is James. James is a former missionary to Haiti who was a part of the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions. James took his Christianity very seriously and was sensitive to God speaking in his life.

Through a series of realizations and life difficulties, James began to doubt what he had been taught about God matched reality. Later, exploring psychology he realized the cognitive biases and connotative dissonance he had lived under.

Whether or not God is real, what I was taught about God does not hold up.Sometimes shit just happens and it is not part of a plan

James describes himself as more “emotional.” His story is an important one representing the way Christianity can play on emotions and “works” until real tragedy strikes.

This basic skeleton of theology that I have been taught my whole life It really only works if you don’t ask certain questions and you don’t follow certain logical pathways that come out of it.

Special thanks to Mike T. for editing this episode.

[ “You were never a real Christian”]That sort of denial makes perfect sense. It’s cognitive dissonance. If somebody who was fully faithful, fully committed, fully convinced [and,] on fire for god can eventually get to a place where they say I no longer believe that then that raises the uncomfortable question of “Could that happen to me?” That is something a believer could ask themselves.
Rather than face and confront that question, as uncomfortable as it is, if you can dismiss the deconversion of someone else by saying “you never really believed in the first place” then they no longer have to contend with that discomfort in themselves they can avoid the cognitive dissonance that way.
So I understand why they do that.


ExChristian Recovery

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Jon Steingard: The Wonder and The Mystery of Being

Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, YouTubers
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I really did believe and I had questions,
but I was afraid to even ask them alone by myself.
I was afraid to present them to myself.

My guest this week is Jon Steingard, the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. In late spring of 2020, Jon posted a gut-wrenching confession on Instagram that he no longer believed in God. He is one of the more prominent recent high profile deconverts. Jon risked more than most by publicly acknowledging his lack of faith as his career was tied to the Christian music world. This confession and the public discussion of his loss of faith has and will continue to have reverberations throughout the Christian community for some time.

I was ensconced in this culture and my career was a part of that
and questioning it would have meant undermining my career
and so for a long time I just didn’t.

Jon has made himself widely available to honestly and vulnerably tell his story both to the Christian community and to the atheist humanist communities. It is Jon’s honest seeking after truth and his willingness to respectfully engage apologists and other prominent Christians that are having such a large impact. He has become a safe person for others in the Christian world to discuss their doubts.

So often I would say, “You know I am really wondering about this,” and you would just see this look of relief go over their face
and they would be like, “oh, thank you for saying that, I’ve wondered that too.”

I noticed there [were] a lot of people in Christian culture that were my age that had grown up in the church that were beginning to ask the same questions that I was and also similarly intimidated by what it would mean to say [this] out loud.
And so I just found myself being like, “well, I’ll go first!”

In my conversation with Jon, he describes a major turning point in his life when he saw poverty, starvation and abandonment of the Batwa children and community in Uganda. This began a quite reasonable time of questioning: if God is all-powerful, all-knowing and good, why are the Batwa suffering?

{Witnessing poverty starvation and abandoned children in Uganda} And that kind of thing wrecked me

The things that I am seeing here, do not dovetail with the idea of an all powerful and all loving god.
Because when I read scripture, when I listen to what I hear in Christian culture,
I hear about a god who intervenes,
I hear about a god who answers prayer, certainly not always but definitely sometimes.

And so I grew up hearing [answered prayers for parking spots], and then I go to Uganda and I see this [poverty …]
And I go like, “God, maybe answer a few less parking spot prayers and a few more prayers for these children who are literally dying
and suffering unimaginably.

I came back from that trip and I was just like, “There is no way that I can believe in god the way that I used to.”

In January of 2021, Jon started a podcast and YouTube channel called The Wonder and Mystery of Being.



The Wonder and The Mystery of Being podcast and YouTube channel:

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NOTE: This transcript is AI produced ( 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 race for atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. We have finally made it to 2021 I can't say that I am disappointed to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. This doesn't mean that we will miraculously solve all of our problems overnight. But it is a nice mental marker to move forward to have some new hope. I want to begin by giving some thinks I want to thank my ongoing supporters, Libby N. James T. John G. In Job W. I also want to thank new writers and reviewers, GG M. I won't be able to pronounce this user name but begins with J S G. And another user, whom I will call DD. Thank you for the ratings and reviews. Thank you for the support of the podcast. I'm going to talk a little bit about my upcoming plans for the 2021 year for the podcast improvements that I'd like to make. So please hang on in the final thoughts area of the episode and I will go over some of those plans. In the meantime, I will ask that you do in fact rate and review the podcast. And one other request is an ongoing goal is to rise in the Google results for various keywords. The podcast has been number one for the term secular grace for quite some time. And it just recently has started to rise in the ranks for the term deconversion. So if you could do me a favor and just Google deconversion and click on my link, which is probably about the fourth or fifth link in the list that will help rise in those rankings. The podcast is all about secular grace and deconversion. So I'm hoping that people will find the podcast by googling those terms. onto today's show. My guest today is Jon Steingard, the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. Several months ago, Jon posted on Instagram, a heart wrenching revelation that he no longer believed in God, that he could no longer call himself a Christian. As you can imagine, someone who is famous within the Christian music world and famous just in the Christian world. This was a dramatic moment. The number of hot takes that I have read from apologists about Jon's deconversion are innumerable. I've talked about them on the still unbelievable podcast with Matthew Taylor and Andrew Knight. Jon has since gone on what I would call a podcast and YouTube world tour. He has talked to multiple apologists, he's been on multiple humanist and atheist podcasts. And he has such a down to earth way of talking about his seeking for truth because really, this isn't about atheism, or anything else. He wants to know what is true. And so he is honest about that process. Since the recording of this podcast about a month ago, Jon has started his own podcast and YouTube channel called the wonder and the mystery of being. There will be links in the show notes for these and I highly recommend that you go and check that out. Here is my conversation with Jon Steingard.

Jon Steingard, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Jon Steingard  4:03  
David. Thanks for having me, man.

David Ames  4:05  
This is one of those fun times where everyone knows who you are. And nobody knows who I am. So me introducing you is just a ridiculous thing. You are the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. Yep. And the reason you're on the show today is that a few months ago, you posted an Instagram post talking about your deconstruction process. That's right. Let's just start with how difficult was it to write that message?

Jon Steingard  4:33  
You know, on one hand, it was like one of the most difficult things I ever feel like I wrote down but on the other hand, it was so liberating to feel like I could finally say, what I was thinking. Yeah. Because it had been it had been such a process of feeling a lot of those things and thinking a lot of those thoughts and learning and processing. You know, things to do with my faith and and having to feel like I couldn't say that stuff out loud. Right. So it was difficult to write down. But it was also liberating. And you know, I'm sure anyone that's gone through that process identifies with that sort of, sort of dualistic experience where it's amazing and horrifying all at the same time.

David Ames  5:21  
Right, right. So I reread it this morning, just in preparation to chat with you. And just the feeling of being torn between being authentic, and honest and straightforward. And also knowing that this was a bomb that was gonna go off in the community. And yeah, you know, people who love you, what was the reaction? What was the main reaction to this? Yeah,

Jon Steingard  5:47  
I mean, for me, anybody that knows me personally, was incredibly kind. Yeah, with almost no exceptions. I mean, I can think of a couple now that I really actually think about it, but

David Ames  6:00  
you definitely find who your friends are? Yes, for sure. It's with virtually,

Jon Steingard  6:03  
with virtually no exceptions, I had people reaching out and saying that they loved me, and that they, you know, that we're still friends, you know, these are all mean, almost, the vast majority of my friends were Christian, and still are, right. And I also for anyone that I was pretty close to, I gave them a heads up. So like that morning, before I posted, I texted probably, you know, 35 people or so saying like, Hey, I just wanted you to hear from me, this is what I'm posting today. Obviously, it's a big deal in my life. And I just want you to know that, like, I love you. I don't want this to change the fact that we're friends, but I recognize it'll also change the dynamic. And I just wanted to, I wanted you to hear it from me and not see it on Instagram. Right. So I did that. And I think that helped. And for the vast majority of people that that know me personally, they were very kind. Of course, then you get strangers on the internet. And the response there was as mixed as you would expect, you know, some people, some people were, were also kind other people were sad, some people were downright hateful. You know, then I had, you know, atheists and Christians fighting in the comments about theology, which was always fun. It was a it was a bit of everything, you know, online.

David Ames  7:30  
So I've been following your story pretty much since you posted that, and one of the things I've been fascinated by is, you've really made yourself available. So you've been on the unbelievable podcast, to Sean McDowell, you're talking to Jonathan McClatchy, you've just really been open. And you've I think you've gone above and beyond honestly, you know, you've you've really made yourself available to answer those questions. What has it been like, talking to professional apologists?

Jon Steingard  8:00  
Oh, well, I mean, first off, I think most of the believers that, you know, like, like Shawn and Jonathan, and Frank Tarik, I did, I did a thing with him as well. They've all been incredibly kind. And they all have their own tone and their own approach to the way they do things publicly. And that's normal and cool. And, but I never felt like any of them came at me in an argumentative or overly aggressive way. Yeah, it was, it was always from the perspective of like, Hey, this is someone who was one of us, and is now you know, saying that he's not an AI would, I just hope that he has all the information before he makes that decision, that's sort of been the approach that most of them have taken. And I appreciate that. And, for me, I've chosen to engage with those people, because I am interested in the truth. And I don't want to, you know, walk away from Christianity, out of ignorance, I don't want to stay in ignorance, and I don't want to walk out of ignorance, you know, so I should be open to truth wherever I find it. And that should include the circles that I come from. So that's been why I've been, you know, making myself available as you say, I actually feel like there's a bit of a lack in my engagement with individuals from other religions. And so that's something I'd like to remedy at some point and maybe do some stuff on my own YouTube channel and maybe have some conversations with, with with Muslims, with Buddhists with Hindu individuals. And so I that's something I'd like to do more in the future.

David Ames  9:42  
Interesting. Okay. I think the reason that I say that you've gone above and beyond is, from my perspective, the work that I'm doing, I feel like adult deconversion like yourself, like me, really says something, right? Like there's a difference between You're 20 years old, you're in college and you know, you're reading Nietzsche and you reject your, you know, I do like nature. Yeah, exactly. You specifically, you know, you had an entire career that was predicated upon your belief system for you to go through the process of deconstruction, and then be willing to let go, at least on some level of some financial security. That's a pretty big deal. And one of the things I find interesting from the apologetic response, and here, I want to I do want to separate the difference between believers, just regular people. Yep. And the professional apologetic class. Sure. But there is almost an assumption like, Well, you probably haven't looked at it from this perspective, or you haven't looked at it from that perspective. Or maybe you you didn't have faith in the right way. Yeah. Did you ever feel kind of being patronized?

Jon Steingard  10:54  
Um, you know, not from, like, the guys that you mentioned, like Shawn and Jonathan and Dr. Tarek, I don't I don't feel like they were ever patronizing. I feel like they're so used to engaging with people that are not believers, that they've learned the skill of, of being respectful and, and non patronizing. Now, there's certainly other people that have been a little bit more patronizing. You know, I remember, you know, at one point, I wrote an Instagram post listing all the crazy things that people have suggested are the cause of my conversion, right? My dude, my deconversion, right. And like one of them, I had forgotten about that post, and someone brought it up to me the other day, and like, one of them was low carb diet. So like, that's one of the more ridiculous ones. But but it's like I said before, it's like any of those kinds of patronizing things. They're all coming from people that don't know me. And, you know, one of the advantages I have, compared to someone who's maybe not used to being in the public sphere, is that I've got 15 years of experience ignoring random people on the internet. So it just, I've gotten a pretty thick skin on that level. And so it doesn't, if someone that knows me, personally, is patronizing, or rude or hateful to me that that actually does hurt my feelings. But if someone you know, a random person online, who doesn't know me personally, it's very easy for me to look at that and go like, well, they just don't know me. You know, that's okay.

David Ames  12:31  
I wanted to mention, I think the thing that made me love you, Brian Houston of Hillsong wrote a tweet.

Jon Steingard  12:40  
And he said, Yeah, that one got under my skin.

David Ames  12:43  
When someone can just walk away from their faith, I would question the strength and validity of their faith in the first place. And your response was just beautiful. Or you could just love them. And I think that encapsulates so much of what I think is wrong in the dialogue between Yeah, D converts and believers is all talk about, you know, if you're a religious humanist, if you in other words, if you care about people, the well being of human beings. And I'm a secular humanist, hey, we can do some stuff together, we can, yeah, we can make an impact on the world. Instead of trying to undermine each other's justifications for why we care about people. That just seems like a ridiculous waste of time. To me.

Jon Steingard  13:28  
Well, it's like if we can agree that we care about people like let's focus on that. Let's Exactly. I'm with you.

David Ames  13:34  
Yeah. Yeah. So I you know, that I think that Post Malone told me quite a bit about your character and your heart. I know part of your story is going to I believe it's Uganda. Yeah. Can you talk about that story a little bit about how that affected you?

Jon Steingard  13:49  
Yeah. So over the years of doing the band, I started well, when you're in a band, first off, you you have, you know, we play shows every night. And when you're on tour, in the spring, in the fall, you typically get on a tour bus, and you go from city to city, and, and you have a lot of time during the day. And so I started using that time learning how to operate cameras and do video production, okay. And, and initially, I did that because the band needed, you know, video content, and I was starting to make it but then that grew into a full on video business. And that's actually what I do full time now. And one of the projects I did a couple of years ago was a documentary in Uganda, about a people group named the Botswana and the Botswana live in southwestern Uganda kind of tucked in that corner right next to Rwanda and the Congo. And they were for, for generations, just a hunter gatherer society, like super old school, undeveloped. It's very, very remote. And they lived in this area of the Virunga mountains, and they just lived off the land. And in the 90s, the Ugandan government decided to create a guerrilla sanction. worry there. And as far as conservation of the environment goes, that's a good thing. And tourism, you know, that's a good thing and business, that's a good thing. But the one problem was they had to clear the bottle out. And when they did that, they, they didn't really offer the bottle, any sort of place to go or any solutions as to you know, we're moving these people from their ancestral homelands and then just kicking them out and not giving them any, any compensation or any options. And so they just became this last people that had nowhere to go, they didn't fit into society at all. They're physically different than the other natives in the area. They're pygmies, so they're less than five feet tall. So it's very easy to distinguish them physically. So it's easy to discriminate against them if you want to, okay, and so the organization I went with basically works with this people group, and there's a lot of orphans, there's a lot of death, a lot of starvation, there's a lot of disease, they're incredibly impoverished, and they're basically just squatting on whatever land they can find. So this organization that I went with they they have an orphanage that houses feeds and clothes, and educates 250 baht with children. And before they got there, over half the, the children born in these little encampments would not make it to the age of five. Anyway, sorry, this is getting to be not the short version of the story. But essentially, I went there to document their story, because that hadn't really been fully done the way that it needed to be for this organization. And so I went and did that. And, and I had recently become a father myself, and so I'm looking at these boxwood children. And I see my son, and I just can't help but think, you know, this, this could be my son, if he was just born here, instead of in, you know, San Diego where we live. And to see children starving to see them not making to the making it to the age of five, to see I mean, the image that actually really well, there's two images that really broke me. One of them was the descriptions of how they would find these children was typically they would find them, because they just find a random child in the forest somewhere naked and starving and alone. Well, because their parent had died while they were just sort of hiding in the forest and the child was left on their own. That's how they found a lot of these kids. And that's horrifying to me. I mean, the description is like, they would find these kids by following the sound of them crying. Like, wreck to me. Yeah. And then the other image that wrecked me was was at one point, I was taking a few shots, but this really long lens, because I was I was trying to not insert myself into the story too much. I was trying to just really like pick off little micro stories that I can see visually happening in these encampments. And at one point, I saw what looked to be about a four year old girl who was caring for a two year old boy. And I realized in that moment, like that four year old is actually responsible for this two year old the way that I am responsible for my son. Wow, yeah. And I'm watching a four year old raise a two year old because that's the only option they have. Yeah. And that kind of stuff just wrecked me. And I was already starting to sort of question a lot of things about my faith. But that put me in a place where I was like, the things that I'm seeing here do not dovetail with the idea of an all powerful and all loving God. Because when I read scripture, when I listen to what I hear in Christian culture, I hear about a God who intervenes. Yeah, I hear about a God who answers prayer. Certainly not always, but definitely sometimes. And, you know, I grew up hearing stories of people that were like, you know, God, just he loves me so much answers, even my tiny little prayers sometimes, like I, like I pulled into church one day, and I was late, and I didn't think I was gonna get a parking spot. And then bam, right up front, there was a parking spot. And I knew just, God loves me so much. He even cares about those little details. And so I grew up hearing that and then I go to Uganda, and I see this. Yeah. And I go like God, maybe answer a few less parking spot prayers and a few more prayers for these children who are literally dying. Yeah, and suffering unimaginably and in situations where honestly, sometimes dying is the the Most Merciful thing they could experience because they're suffering so much. And I just, I came back from that trip and I was just like, Like, there's no way that I can believe in God the way that I used to, after that. No way. Yeah. And then I started reading about the problem of suffering of the problem of evil in a more philosophical sense, but, but I experienced it in that way, sort of, before I really dug into it intellectually. Yeah.

David Ames  20:21  
Yeah, you know, I want to be careful that we're not exploitive of the story of the bottle as well here. But I've listened to several of your conversations with various people about the problem of evil, and they are definitely trying to answer it from a more philosophical point of view. But when you have experienced, yeah, starving children, those pat answers just aren't adequate. They don't rise to the level of the real world problems that you can see. Yeah,

Jon Steingard  20:51  
the way I describe it to them is I just, I usually say something along the lines of like, I understand the philosophical sort of responses to the problem of evil. But when I'm standing there in Uganda, with these children, those answers are not satisfying. And to their credit, a lot of the apologists that I've spoken with, are quick to say, like, yeah, the problem of evil is probably the biggest issue. It's probably the the biggest argument against the existence of a loving God. And they're usually pretty quick to, you know, to say that that's the case. Yeah,

David Ames  21:28  
we're also kind of dancing around the divine hiddenness problem. Yes. Well,

Jon Steingard  21:32  
and for a long, for a long time, I actually thought that the problem of evil was my main problem. And it wasn't till I thought about it more that divine hiddenness sort of revealed itself to me, divine hiddenness revealed itself to me. But I realized that divine hiddenness was was actually the the big issue for me, right? Yeah.

David Ames  21:53  
One of the things that I tried to get across is that, and again, I want to really separate if there are believers listening, it's not believers that I'm talking about. It's the apologetic perspective. Sure, is that the apologetic perspective has a neutered God, a powerless God that fits nicely in a box? And there are answers for every reason why? The answer is no. Right? Yeah. I believe that your experience of your faith tradition was one of charismatic experience. And yeah, very much, you know, I think your faith was of a powerful interventionist God. And then when you go again, to the real world in Uganda, and God is not intervening. These are reasonable questions to ask.

Jon Steingard  22:39  
Yes. Yeah. I, yeah. It's unreasonable not to ask them in my view, you know, right. Exactly. And I think I spent a lot of years not asking them out of fear of what the answers might be, because I was someone I mean, like you hinted at earlier, my career and my livelihood was wrapped up in my belief. And so in a sense, I was like a professional Christian, right? You know, the same way that a unapologetic author is sort of a professional Christian, right? I was as well. The only difference is, when I was a teenager, and I got into being in bands. I didn't realize that's where I was headed. Like, I just didn't think about it that way. Like, yeah, I accepted my Christianity. It's what I was raised in, I accepted my, you know, my beliefs. I hadn't really studied it the way that I've studied now. But I was ensconced in this in this culture. And my career was a part of that, and questioning, it would have meant undermining my career. And so for a long time, I just didn't. And it's not that, you know, sometimes I've been accused of like, oh, we you didn't believe for a long time, and you just lied. And I'm like, Well, no, I really did believe. And I had questions, but I was afraid to even ask them, like alone by myself. I was afraid to present them to myself. Yeah. And I think that was, that's sort of a nuanced thing. And I guess if if someone wants to argue that I was being duplicitous, they can do that. But I don't feel that I was.

David Ames  24:17  
Well, I completely understand what you're saying. Our mutual friends from still unbelievable. Matthew Taylor and Andrew Knight. Matthew has this beautiful way of saying that, you know, his deconversion he was aware of it suddenly, but suddenly didn't describe the deconversion process just described his awareness. Yeah.

Jon Steingard  24:36  
And I would relate to that tremendous. Yeah. Yeah.

David Ames  24:39  
So I feel the same way that you know, it was, you know, years of change going on under the hood, and then a moment of honesty of admitting to myself, I don't believe

Jon Steingard  24:50  
Do you remember where you were when you first said out loud? Like I don't think I believe in God. Yeah.

David Ames  24:57  
I literally said Oh, shit. Oh, Oh, yeah, I don't believe anymore. And because my immediate response was, how am I going to tell my wife? So my wife is very much a believer. And she is she still? Absolutely, she absolutely is. And in fact, we've got an episode that will probably precede yours. She and I talking together and wow, we're working through some of this. So again, back to that idea of, she's a better humanist than I am. She's just a believer and a humanist, right? Like, she loves people, she cares about meeting real world needs in the world. And we share so many values still. And that's kind of what we've been able to focus on. And, and that's

Jon Steingard  25:35  
amazing, because that's a hard journey I've spoken to, I mean, one of the really cool things that I've gotten to do the last eight months or so, is talk with people that that are also on similar journeys to mine, right, who maybe didn't have people to talk to you about it before. Yeah. And so I mean, Instagram, DMS, I've spent obscene amounts of time this year, just talking with people about this stuff, and so many people, like yourself, are in a marriage where there's a difference of, you know, perspective on this stuff. And that is incredibly difficult. So, yeah, the fact that you guys have managed to work through that. I mean, at least to the degree that you have, that's, that's incredible. That's yeah,

David Ames  26:20  
and that's mostly a testament to to my wife. But since you bring it up, you know, your Instagram post mentions your wife. And it sounds like the two of you went through this process kind of together, what was, which one of you admitted it first to the other?

Jon Steingard  26:36  
Definitely, I went first. But we got very, very lucky that we have similar backgrounds. I mean, similar, almost identical. I mean, I grew up in Canada, she grew up here in California. But other than that our backgrounds are, are like, strangely identical. So both of our dads are pastors, both of our dads are pastors of very charismatic churches, both of our dads churches had a history of church splits and disagreements within the church that were the sort of happened at very critical times in our upbringing that caused some baggage for sure. So my wife and I have very similar baggage when it comes to Christianity. And both of us sort of just didn't really want to fully admit that maybe we didn't believe for quite some time. But once I started going down that path, my wife was like, everything you're saying, is confirming stuff that I think I've felt for a really long time. So it's been awesome in the sense that we've been on more or less the same page this whole time, which is, which is really, really fantastic. It's been one less issue

David Ames  27:54  
to deal with. Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Steingard  27:56  
But at the same time, like, there's a sadness there. And maybe I don't know, if maybe you have had this experience. But, you know, for me a lot of this journey, and my wife really feels this a lot is that we used to have this sense of certainty. And, and I now, you know, we both now see that that certainty wasn't necessarily based on truth, right. But it was based, you know, like, it was based on a lot of assumptions. But regardless, we still lost that certainty. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of things about life and death and the future. And, you know, the sort of metaphysical nature of reality that we used to think we understood, and now now we recognize that we might not know the first thing about, right, how we raise our kids, you know, those kinds of things. purpose and meaning. Yeah, purpose and meaning, you know, like, the age old question of like, what is the purpose of our lives? Why are we here? What are we doing here?

David Ames  29:07  
We can talk about this more, but like, for me, I think the recognition that I came to was, there may not be inherent purpose and meaning in the universe. Yeah. But human beings are meaning makers. Yes. And in some ways, we are so good at making meaning that we created gods, right. Like, it's kind of out of that impetus that makes that

Jon Steingard  29:30  
that's a really interesting way to say it. And I think that's, I think that that's bang on. Yeah.

David Ames  29:36  
I've had the opportunity to talk to a few of my kind of humanist heroes, Sasha Sagan wrote a book called for small creatures such as we that talks a lot about this. Lots of good title. Yeah, yeah. It's from Carl Sagan. So his, her dad BarCamp, polo, similar, and I always talk when I'm talking to them. It's like, how can we bottle up this sense of joy and humility from a secular perspective and give it away. And I find that that is the hardest thing to do. Right? Like, I don't know how to. I know how I feel it, and I can talk about it and express it, but I don't know how to give it away yet. Yeah,

Jon Steingard  30:12  
it's difficult because it's like, in a lot of ways, like, think about the word good. You know, or the color yellow? Like, how do you describe the color yellow to someone, it's just like, you have to just say, yellow. And trust that the person you're talking to knows what you're talking about. And I sort of think that finding meaning outside of religion of any kind is something like that. It's yeah, it's it's like, there are things that feel meaningful to me. But I no longer exactly have a way to articulate why and, or I can try, but, but it just sort of like, it's it's not satisfying in the same way that, you know, the apologetic explanations for the problem of evil are not satisfying, like, like, I have some guesses as to why my bond with my children is so strong. And those have to do with evolution, and genetics and sociology and all that stuff. But like explaining it like that doesn't, doesn't seem to do it. Justice. Yeah. So that's one of the areas that I continue to find myself curious. And I continue to find myself wanting to use religious language like, like, when I spend time with my son, something about that feels sacred to me. Yeah. And so it's a done, it's a question of like, well, what does that mean? Right, and like, so? Yeah, it's, it's, I feel you on that, on that stuff?

David Ames  31:43  
I think you're asking all the right questions. Again, I don't want to make this about me. But very quickly, I want to hear more. One of the answers for me is the recognition that, you know, from the apologetic point of view, they are trying to say we have this absolute justification. And in truth, an honest perspective, is that really they are asserting that God exists and everything falls out from that. Yeah. And so I just basically lean into that and say, Okay, I assert that human beings have great value, and that our connection to one another is the greatest meaning in my life. Right, I just assert it. And let what happens out of that fall out of that. Right. And it leads to a really good things, right. I think part of your story was being able to embrace the LGBTQ community, you know, Are you a human being great? Yeah. deserve rights, and dignity and kindness and love and respect? And it just, it just simplifies? Yeah, a lot of things. Right.

Jon Steingard  32:43  
Yeah. It's funny, I, I didn't think that issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community, I did not think that was central to my journey until recently. And I realized that it actually has been, yeah, the feeling of freedom to go like, you know what, I can affirm every buddy everywhere. And it doesn't mean I have to affirm every action every human being takes, but I can affirm them as a human being. Yeah. And it's been an absolute joy to be able to say stuff like that publicly. And in my heart, like, in my gut, I've wanted to be more openly affirming of same sex marriage of, you know, transgender individuals. In this journey of since talking about it publicly, I actually had a dear friend come out to me privately. And he's not out at the moment. But he was comfortable sharing that part of himself with me once I started talking about this publicly, right. And I was just like, What a joy that like, what an honor that I get to be a part of, you know, this person's life who I've known for a long time. And they're being transparent and open with me and wanting to share something about themselves with me, because they know they can trust me, right? And what like, what a joy that's been? Yeah, it's been way more central to my journey than than I thought it was.

David Ames  34:12  
What I find interesting is that, I think what compelled me to Christianity to begin with, I became a Christian in my late teens, okay, was the humanity of Jesus was the compassion, the calling out of hypocrisy, the loving the people who were unlovable, right, yeah, that's what drew me to that. And then it was that same desire to care about people that kind of led me out to recognize that this is actually limiting my ability to care for people rather than expanding upon it. And so that is one of the unexpected surprises of deconstruction. deconversion is that, you know, you're just free to care about people.

Jon Steingard  34:55  
Yeah. And, you know, I've thought about this a lot now. And I really love like, I love thinking about it in that way. Because I do feel like Christianity tracks with humanism, on a lot of levels, right. But there's just a few issues where it feels like it departs. And those issues become a problem. You know, when you're dealing, you know, when you're dealing, you're just walking through life, you find yourself, you know, if you're someone who deeply cares about people, you find yourself like, wanting to love people and affirm people more than your faith really allows you to. And those are the issues like one of the things that I'm sort of that I'm doing this sort of privately with friends, because I don't feel like I'm, I'm like, prepared to do it in a like an organized public way yet, but, but I actually feel like you can make a really good case for for being affirming of the LGBTQ community, even if you are a Bible be believing me, you know, Christian, I think you can make a really good case for it. And so one of the things I've enjoyed doing with my Christian friends is saying, Hey, I've seen how you love people. I know you love people. And I think that you would be open to the idea of being affirming to this community, if you felt like it was consistent with your faith. And here's a way that I think you can do that. Right? And that's been fun for me, because it's like, it's not adversarial, then. Because it's like, I'm going like, Hey, I know that you love people. I've seen you do it. And here's a way that I think you can do it even more. And I think you want to,

David Ames  36:40  
right? Yeah, yes, exactly. So I want to go back to the early moments of kind of admitting to yourself that you no longer believed, who did you tell first, so besides your wife, who was the first person outside of your immediate family that you tell?

Jon Steingard  36:57  
It's kind of hard to say? Because it happened in stages for me? Like I think I gradually disbelieved in things one at a time. So I like I think one of the things that I gave up before I gave up belief in God was biblical inerrancy. And I got to a point where I was just like, there's no way I can continue to believe that the Bible is the perfect word of God, right. And there's a lot of reasons for that. And some of them are simple. Some of them are technical. But you know, I had a lot of those conversations with my dad, who's a pastor, and my wife's dad, who's also a pastor. And then I had a number of close friends that are either friends that I have from Christian music, or friends that I have from the film work that I do. Yeah, I did notice somewhere around my mid 30s, or maybe even early 30s, I noticed that there was a lot of people in Christian culture that were my age that had grown up in the church, that were beginning to ask the same questions that I was right. And also similarly intimidated by what it would mean to say stuff out loud, right. And so I just found myself being like, well, I'll go first. And so I started just sort of putting it out there to friends that I had and discovering that. So often, I would say, you know, I'm really wondering about this, and you just see this look of relief go over their face? Yeah. And they would be like, Ah, thank you for saying that. I've wondered that, too, you know, yeah. And that is part of what motivated me to write the post and do it publicly, too, is that I'm just like, I think there's a lot of people out there wanting to ask these questions, and they just need to see someone go first. Yeah. And I'm willing to do that. And it's not. It's, it's not like I'm the first person to publicly ask these questions like, that's not, but I just mean, within some of the circles that I run in, I was willing to sort of say, like, Hey, I'm thinking this, what do you think?

David Ames  38:59  
We've talked about apologist quite a bit. The other end of that spectrum is kind of the militant atheist side of things. Sure. I'm very critical of the debate culture. And I think we focus so much on the philosophical arguments that we've missed what I think you've just captured there, that just being honest, yeah, just saying, Hey, I have these doubts. If more people were just honest, like that, I think that would have this huge impact. And so right, you were taking a leap by being first by coming out publicly in the circles that you run with, but I'm sure that that's going to have an impact on the people that you're friends with. Well,

Jon Steingard  39:42  
it was sort of interesting, because I think when someone sort of deconstructs or deep converts, there typically is a bit of a, an angry face. Sure. And I think I think that that's pretty normal. So anyone that's listening to this, if that's where you're at, you're very much not alone. Yeah. But I also think that you don't have to live there forever. And so I sort of I went through that phase before I started speaking publicly and actually wasn't until I felt like I could address these issues without feeling angry that I felt ready to be public. And so I had already sort of gone through that phase largely. So when I started talking about it publicly, I, I felt like I had, I'd gotten my feet under myself enough that I was like, I can have these conversations and not get super pissed off mostly right? Most of the time, yes, yeah. There's exceptions. But because of that, I had a lot of engagements with like, both people on the atheistic side and people, you know, on the Christian apologetics side, where I think I got into these conversations where people expected me to be pissed off and angry, right, and weren't entirely sure what to do when I wasn't. Yeah, yes. And, you know, a number of my conversations with with Christian apologists, for instance, I think there was a an expectation ahead of the conversation that it might be somewhat adversarial, and then it just didn't materialize that way. Yeah. And I think that it's been refreshing for me, I think it's for the people I've engaged with, there's a level of appreciation for that approach. And, and that's one of the things I love about how you're doing this. And even the the title graceful atheist, is it saying something that I feel like is really important to say, because as much as our positions are important, and our beliefs are important, I also just think our posture is really important to write, and how we relate to people and how we give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that their motivations are exactly what they say they are, right? And that kind of stuff. And so, for anyone who's listening and is going through this journey, like it's okay to be angry, if you have spiritual, you know, if you have some, some wounds that that are coming as a result of your experiences with Christianity or any other religion, that's not uncommon, right. But you do not have to let those wounds define you for the rest of your life. They can heal, you can find healing, and then you can look for what's good and true in life. And that journey is worth taking.

David Ames  42:31  
Absolutely. I'm still curious about the first people that you were telling, what was it like telling your dad and I understand your your wife's dad is also a pastor. So what was that? Like?

Jon Steingard  42:43  
It was tough. To this day, the hardest part of this journey, for me has been the knowledge that my parents worry about my soul. You know? Yeah. And the idea that, that they might be afraid that I would go to hell. Like, if I was worried about that, for my kids, I would have a hard time sleeping at night. Right. And so knowing that I was that my journey was basically putting them in a position where they might feel that way. That's tough. Yeah. I went through my rebellious teenage years where I was like, Screw you guys. You know, I don't feel that way anymore. I love my parents. They're not perfect. They didn't do everything perfectly. But they things loved me really well. And they still do. And so sometimes I'll you know, I'll publicly say like, if you want to criticize the faith, I come from that. That's fine. I'm doing it. But if you want to criticize my parents, like, I'll come at you absolutely. Because I had some people saying like, Oh, obviously, his parents didn't teach him good theology. I'm just like, I just to that I just want to be like, like, you don't know the first thing about how I was raised, right. So like, that bothers me because I get defensive of my parents because I adore them. Right. So that's, that's been that's been tricky.

David Ames  44:10  
I think this is really, really, really important, what you just said, I've talked to a few apologists who are looking at deconversion specifically, and they'll have these lists of, you know, causes from their perspective. And one of them they'll often talk about is, and I'm being unfair here, but they're basically attacking the way that you were raised or the way that you've been taught Christianity as if that's your fault, anyway, but Right, it seems also to me to be missing the point quite a bit that then what is the perfect way to be raised?

Jon Steingard  44:45  
Well, the insinuation there is that if my parents had just indoctrinated me properly, I went stayed indoctrinated. Exactly, you know, like that's, that's why I sort of have an issue with that whole line of thinking, because I'm like, Look at I'm asking questions, and I'm listening to answers from all kinds of people. I am interested in the truth if Christianity is true, and if I'm genuinely interested in truth, then I'll end up there, right? So you don't have to go after my upbringing. You don't have to go after my parents. It's like, we're here. Now, let's have a conversation about truth now, right? Every time I talk to believers who try to convince me of the truth of Christianity, I generally point out I'm like, You are believing first and rationalizing? Second, right? I'm not saying that I'm not doing the same thing. I'm not saying I'm more objective than they are. But let's not pretend that this is exclusively like, oh, I through the powers of logic and reason. I am completely objectively looking at this stuff. And I have objectively determined that it's true. It's like, that is not how this works. Yeah. And so I engage with Christian apologists a lot. And I and I very often say, like, we're looking at this issue, you're presupposing that it's true, right? I don't feel like I'm presupposing that it's untrue. But I might be somewhat so I got it. I have to grant that. And, you know, it seems that the evidence is inconclusive, because neither of us is drawing the same. You know, we're not drawing the same conclusion here. Right. So what's different, like the facts are the same, what we're bringing to the table is different. And so that's why I think a lot of people's certainty on doctrinal issues or theology is a result of sort of an a priori, interpretive framework for reality that that they're sticking to.

David Ames  46:42  
Absolutely. And again, this is why I think that adult deconversion have so much to say, if I believed in the resurrection wholeheartedly, I believed that Jesus was my savior, I believe with all of my heart, even with any doubts that I had I you know, I that was the core of everything. And then when I began to look for I was I was haunted by the idea that I wanted this to be true. And so could I find an objective reason? And when I went down the road of looking for objective reasons, what I found was special pleading. Yeah, overstating the evidence, I found bad arguments. And when I was just honest about that fact, the, you know, the, the everything began to crumble, right? I was just just recognizing that. It's okay for me to believe this. It's not irrational for a person to believe this. No, but there isn't proof in any way. There is no objective reason to believe

Jon Steingard  47:41  
No, and that's, that's one of the one of the sort of the places that I've landed with regards to Christianity is, I don't think it's unreasonable to be a Christian, right. Even from getting to know the, you know, some of the apologists that we've been discussing, like, they're very sharp individuals. And they've really thought about this. And, and it's not, it's not like they're being irrational for believing what they believed. The only thing that's a little bit irrational to me is the certainty. Yeah. And one of the things I appreciate about Sean McDowell, for instance, is, is we had a conversation where we talked about certainty. And he said, I don't say that I'm certain about these things. I say that I have confidence, meaning, I don't know that this is certain. But I see enough reason to believe it, that I have some confidence in it. And it's an it's been a good thing in my life. And when someone says that to me, I'm like, Hey, fair enough, you know, like, Yeah, that's great.

David Ames  48:43  
Yeah, my response is, you know, if you say you believe by faith, I respect that. I can't follow you there. But I respect it.

Jon Steingard  48:51  
Yeah. So it's an interesting thing, because in my journey, I've sort of gotten to this place where I'm like, okay, at some point, I'm going to have to embrace some mystery here. Because, you know, if I'm going to be truly, if I'm going to be as objective as I, as I can be, knowing that I can't be completely objective, because I'm human, then there's just certain things I can't know. Like, I don't think that I can know what happens to me after death. You know, I can have guesses, but I don't think I can know that. And this is one of the things that I think is a fair criticism of religion is that like, there are things you can reasonably believe but then there's also things that are not reasonable to have certainty about so. So like Christianity claims to know what happens after death, like most religions do, right? I don't think that you can know that. And so that's an issue on which like, like you said earlier, I think we're so uncomfortable with uncertainty that sometimes we invent our own certainty. Yeah. And to allow degree I think that's what religion is. But religion also provides a way of, of looking at the world that adheres groups together in ways that evolutionarily we seem to have needed, right? I mean, I don't think it's any coincidence that basically every society that has ever arisen out of humanity had a religion. Right? I don't think that's a coincidence, it serves a function. The question is, as we become more enlightened, and more rational, and more scientific, what do we do with those religions? You know, and, and, and, you know, we mentioned Nietzsche earlier. And I think when I was a believer, I always assumed Nietzsche was like, you know, he's quoted as saying, you know, God is dead, and we have killed him. And when I thought about that, as a Christian, I always thought he was like, celebrating that. Right, right. But you read Nietzsche, and that is not the case. Right? You know, he's concerned about, we used to derive values from this shared fiction that we had. And now we're going into an era where we no longer, you know, share these these religious beliefs. So how do we determine our values? And he hoped that someday we'd be able to determine our own values in a meaningful way. And he, you know, he described those those individuals as an Uber Metro Superman. Right, right. And so he hoped that we'd be able to do that. And I think to a degree we have, but it's not at all clear that we've been able to do that on a societal level. Right. You know, and I think we see some of the effects of that today and the political landscape. And yes,

David Ames  51:46  
and I find this quite ironic as well, in that I became a Christian in the late 80s. It was kind of the beginning of the Moral Majority. And the specter of post modernism. Yeah, that was the thing that was the death of society, and the what we're living through today, and I don't want to get too political here, but no sure. That group of people has embraced nihilism entirely. Nothing matters. Nothing is true. Willpower is the only thing that matters, right? And I just find the irony of the misunderstanding of the post modernists, who were saying, hey, given the fact that we can no longer accept these as absolute truths. Now, what do we do? Right, it's just the entire point of post modernism?

Jon Steingard  52:33  
Well, I think the postmodern question is a good question the exact right, yeah. And it's so much of the critique of post modernism is not a critique of its truthfulness. It's a critique of its effects. Right. Yeah. And so I share those concerns like I, I wonder what happens to a society when our whole legal system is based on it's predicated on the idea that a we have freewill, which it's possible, we don't, right. It's predicated on the idea that human beings have intrinsic value. It's not easy to ground that claim and naturalism. So there, there are sort of religious ideas that we've built our society on, that I think it's reasonable to be concerned that if you pull that particular Jenga block out of the bottom, can the thing stand up? Yeah. So I think there's some, you know, like Jordan Peterson is a good example of someone who rails against pomoc post modernism. And I think his concerns are, are totally justified. But it doesn't mean that postmodern thinkers are metaphysically wrong. Right. So it kind of comes back to like, the way that that applies to Christianity. For me, it's like, I've had this thought, like, I see Christianity as a good thing, or at least a, you know, more good than bad in a lot of the lives of people that I care about. And so I go, okay, that doesn't mean it's true. Right, but what do you do with something that's good, but not true? Or, and I'm not saying that is even for sure exactly how it is? I'm just like, if that's a good question. That's a great question. So I've wrestled with that a lot. You know, like, my entire family and my wife's entire family there. They're all Christian. They're all plugged into churches and to detach themselves from Christianity would be to detach themselves from careers from social circles from their communities. And it would be really disruptive to their lives and, and I kind of go like, okay, so if I don't believe in this thing that they all believe in encouraging them to come over to my side, quote, unquote, right? Like, what if that's really disruptive? Do their lives and? And if that's the case, like, how do I relate to them? Yeah. And that's, that's a tough question. I don't I don't have. I don't have good answers for that yet.

David Ames  55:13  
Two things I want to say in response. One, I've used the analogy of Dumbo and the magic feather. And I've specifically used it for my experience, like, right when I needed some support. Feeling of somebody's got my back, somebody loves me, is when I became a Christian. Yeah. And then recognizing, decades later that actually, there was no magic and the feather was the people who loved me that that was the magic that people were in the magic. And the reason I bring that up is to say, I recognize that snatching the magic feather out of the people who are still believers who we love, just leads to a crash, right? That there's no good and doing that. That's not going to help anybody. Yeah. And then to everything I know about you thus far is that you're incredibly well read. I've got one more book recommendation for you. Oh, please do Yeah. That is Jennifer Miko, Hex doubt a history, who I don't, I'm gonna write it down early on in my deconversion. I've read this book. And what it did for me was so important was just to ground that these questions are not new. Yes. So Cicero, that Roman philosopher that Greek philosophers the Epicureans, that they were asking this exact question, we don't think there are gods. But if we took that away from the people, what would that do? What would happen? Yes, is an age old question. And what I just personally derived a tremendous amount of comfort in knowing that humanity has been asking both the questions of the existence of supernatural and deities, and what happens when you let go of that. Yeah, for 1000s of years.

Jon Steingard  56:53  
Yeah, in fact, I would actually say that in most religious texts, you see that? Yeah. So like the Bible would, which is the one I'm the most familiar with, obviously, I heard someone say a few months ago, and this sort of blew my mind. So for your, for your audience, when we were talking about the problem of evil, any attempt to sort of solve the problem of evil and talk about God in that way. That's it's known as a theodicy. And I'm sure you're familiar with that. But but someone said, at some point, the Bible is one big theodicy. And, and I thought about that, and I was like, that is true. Because everyone that wrote the Bible, or everyone that wrote a part of the Bible was wrestling with this stuff, you know, look at the book of Job. I mean, that's like the ultimate right. Incidentally, that's probably the oldest book in the Bible. Right? And to think that the oldest writings we have in Christian, or Jewish scripture, is dealing directly with the problem of suffering, right? I mean, that says something. Yeah. Yeah.

David Ames  58:03  
So we've talked a little bit about that your career is in the Christian world, and you were definitely giving something up. When you came out publicly about your lack of faith. I'm curious how your bandmates handle that? What was their response? And then, is there a future for Hawk Nelson?

Jon Steingard  58:25  
Good question. Um, so I should give you a little bit of background. Basically, we were already as a band sort of phasing things out. And that's because right around when I became a father, I recognized that I had been touring full time for 15 plus years, right? Everything that, that within Christian music, most of the things that you can do, or accomplish or experience we had done and accomplished and experienced and, and so, you know, like, I had kind of gotten the sense that like, the best we could hope for is more of what we'd already done. And with the way that I'm wired, I'm so wired to seek out new experiences. So, so I was just like that, you know, like, continuing to do the same thing. The rest of my life does not sound awesome. Plus, I just wanted to be home with my family. And yeah, you know, touring full time when you've got kids, it's just a tough life. Sure. So So I had told the guys, you know, like this a few years, quite a, you know, it is early 17. I think I told them this 2017. And I said, Hey, like, I'm not freaking out. I'm not quitting. But I want to transition my life away from music, and I'm fine for that to take a few years. I don't want to leave anyone because I was the singer at this point. And right, and we had already gone through one lead singer change and we were not anxious to do that again, right. And so so we had already decided as a band to wind things down and it was as we were winding things down gradually, that I started to ask myself these questions about faith and God and stuff like that. And so by the time I started telling my bandmates about my doubts and stuff like that, we were already sort of winding things down. So it didn't feel like it had the same sort of like, Oh, shit. Yeah, exactly. Like it was sort of like, okay, like, they were able to approach it from a more personal place, less of a concern on a band level and more just like they we love each other as friends like, right? Not every band has that, by the way, I bet there's plenty of bands where you see them on stage, and you think they're all cool. But back, you know, they walk off stage, and they hate each other's guts like, that is so common, even in Christian music that's common?

David Ames  1:00:48  
Well, it must be a very high pressure environment to work. Right.

Jon Steingard  1:00:52  
Yeah. I mean, it has its unique challenges for sure. So I know that you know that the all the rest of the guys in the band are still believers. When I posted publicly, I told them that morning that I was going to, but I didn't really prepare them for the fact that I was going public. So they sort of quickly gathered together, you know, with the band's manager and publicist and label and stuff like that. And they put a statement out, which was very, very kind, they actually sent it to me before they released it and asked if I was comfortable with it. And I was like, Well, that's nice of you. I didn't do that for you. But yeah, so they were, you know, super kind. I mean, to this day, we still have a hawk Nelson text thread that, that's fairly active here and there intermittently. And we talked to each other, and we love each other. And there was definitely no love lost there. But I don't I don't see Hawk Nelson, being active in the future. Okay, but but the the way we've sort of approached it is we never really did like a big goodbye announcement or a finale or anything like that. I like to joke around and say like, you know, we're actually still a band, we just don't play shows or make music. Yes. So but I think once I once I sort of came out as a non believer, I think that that probably effectively took that option off the table. So yeah, I doubt that we'll see any more music or or shows from Hawk although, do you just life is weird, man. So who knows? But yeah, I sort of doubt it.

David Ames  1:02:30  
You can do kind of Dixie Chicks recovery from they had the political statement way back. I know. 2004. And, you know, they're, they're back doing things, man. Yeah, yeah.

Jon Steingard  1:02:40  
They just needed, they just needed some time.

David Ames  1:02:44  
So along these lines, and you've specifically said that they are all still believers. So I'm not talking about the band here. But But you've mentioned that you had friends, and maybe other people in professional Christian world who have expressed doubts. I'm curious what their response was, did it make them nervous at all that you came out about this publicly did that? Did you they have to say, Oh, that's great for you. But don't tell anything about me that kind of thing? Did you have that response?

Jon Steingard  1:03:09  
Oh, well, within within Christian music, there's always an understanding that there's things that are private. So for instance, like, uh, for a long time, Christian artists didn't want people to know if they were okay with drinking, for example, right. And I have always, I've never had a moral issue with alcohol. I've never thought it was wrong, right. And I've always been comfortable with it. And I love ending the day with a beer. And that doesn't mean I'm getting shot wasted every night. You know, it's like, it's like, I think you can be an adult about these things. And so but, you know, the Christian music audience as a whole for a long time was very, very uncomfortable with the idea that they're the artists they listened to, you might be okay with alcohol, right? So we'd be on tour, and we, you know, back on our bus after the show, I might go and have a beer on the bus. And right, we usually had a rule that like, once you've had a drink, you just stay on the bus, you just, you know, like, you don't go back into the venue, you don't go talking to people. It's just there's no reason to stir up issues. So just don't but you know, other artists would come on the bus and we'd all have a drink together. And there's this sort of 90% of Christian artists are fine with alcohol. Sure. And, and so there's this sort of understanding that you just sort of like, you keep certain things quiet. Yeah. Not because they're wrong, but just because it's easier to just not go there. Right. So that understanding sort of is is sort of a foundation of my relationships with all these other artists. And so if some of them you know, maybe identified with my journey a little bit like it was always understood that that's a private conversation. Yeah. But I did. I mean, this this was crazy. Like I had multiple Christian artists, who I've known for years, that once I came out publicly and said, I didn't believe in God anymore. Are they? You know, privately said to me, you know, honestly, I haven't believed in years. Wow. And they're like, you know, I just this is my career, I've spent my entire adult life building it. And I don't know how I would feed my family other than this. Right. And like, That is awful to me. And yeah. And, you know, I know of a few pastors who have similar feelings, right. And I would imagine that among, among pastors, that it's actually a lot more common than we think.

David Ames  1:05:34  
I absolutely agree with you, I think just generally, people in the pews there's a lot more doubt and lack of belief, but also, pastors, leaders, Christian singers, what have you, I just think they get stuck, right? Especially if you're, it's the way you feed your children, like you say,

Jon Steingard  1:05:53  
oh, yeah, and like, especially if you have children, like, um, like, I know, so many people that after, after high school, sort of went to Bible college, and, you know, it's like, it was a somewhat natural progression that maybe they didn't think about that much. And they're just like, oh, well, this is, you know, I like my youth group. I like my young adults group. Look, you know, maybe I'll go and be a pastor, and they became a youth pastor for a time, and then they get older, and they become an associate pastor at a church, and then eventually, you know, they become the lead pastor at a church and, you know, their life has taken this progression, and they find themselves eventually, you know, in their 40s 50s 60s. And they've pastored their whole lives, and suddenly they have this crisis of faith. And who are they supposed to talk to about it? Exactly. And so I just feel just tremendous empathy for these pastors. And, you know, people that are visible Christian leaders who just, there's no way that they can explore their doubt without it threatening their livelihood. Right. So how are they supposed to? And I don't have a solution to that problem. I just, I see the problem, and I have tremendous empathy for it.

David Ames  1:06:59  
Yeah. Hey, maybe that's some work you can do.

Jon Steingard  1:07:04  
I would love that's a really good idea. I would, I would love to do that. I mean, I've had I've had very prominent Christian artists call me and ask me to help them walk through a doubt issue. Yeah. It's really strange. And, and also very, like, humbling. But you make a good point. I hadn't thought about that. Maybe. Maybe I should more actively try to make myself available to those people. Not in not in a way to influence them any one way or another, just someone that they can talk to?

David Ames  1:07:44  
It's a soft landing. Yeah. I

Jon Steingard  1:07:46  
mean, that's the thing that I've told my my parents like, I'm actually not interested in pulling anyone away from Christianity, right? What I'm interested in is pulling people away from feeling stuck if they feel stuck, like, if you're someone who feels fulfilled and happy and in Christianity and doesn't want to, you know, doesn't want to leave then great. That's awesome. But there's a lot of people who don't feel like they have the capacity to ask the questions, or the place to ask the questions that are in their heart. And I think that's toxic, right? unexplored doubt and questions. They linger. they fester, they become a source of real anxiety for people. And that's what I want to see people freed from. I'm not trying to free people from religion. I'm trying to free people from unhealthy states. That's something I can spend my life on.

David Ames  1:08:46  
Hey, that's awesome. However, I can support you let me know do I mean, that's what you're doing? Try it. Yeah, I will. I will just say for the people that you do know, that are pastors and maybe even singers as well. The clergy project I highly recommend.

Jon Steingard  1:09:02  
I've heard of this. Yeah. I don't know as much. Maybe you could maybe just explain it for a moment to both your audience and me. Yeah.

David Ames  1:09:09  
Yeah. So yeah, Lindell Escola. And Daniel Dennett started this. And it basically it was just that recognition that there are many, many pastors lay leaders that are financially embedded in the Christian world in such a way that being honest about their doubt would break them financially. And so it is a private group where you can be a member, I'm not actually so I don't actually know the details, but you can join this group and they do a little preview interview with you, and then get you some resources. And it's just a way that a person could express their doubt, or if they're on the other side of deconversion. Just be honest, be authentic. themselves. So it's, I highly recommend it. It's I love the work that they're doing there. But I really want to encourage you, Jon, I think you have a unique position to be able to do some of this work because people know you and trust you. And I think that's, that's great. Which leads me to my last question, which is, what's next for Jon Steingard? What are you doing?

Jon Steingard  1:10:12  
Well, it's been funny because I've, I've been on a number of podcasts and you know, YouTube shows and stuff like that. And typically, you know, it's a kind gesture that people like yourself do, like, Oh, what, what are you up to? What can we point people to? And very often it'll be, you know, someone will say, Oh, well, my new book is blah, blah, blah, or like, you know, if you're, I spent 15 years being like, Oh, well, our new album is blah, blah, blah. But this last six months or so, when I appear on these shows, I haven't had anything to point to. And, you know, I mean, right now, I've been a little bit quieter than the last month or two, I've been a little bit more quiet online, partially, because there's been a lot of really difficult tension in the here in the US with regards to the election and COVID. So I've been trying to resist just giving my hot take on everything. And not saying anything publicly, unless I thought there was something really worth saying. But I have been working on sort of writing my journey. And my my story down. I've considered writing a book about, but I've also been aware that I was living it. So I didn't want to jump there too quickly. But you know, maybe six weeks ago, I started to get that feeling like I I feel like I'm ready. So yeah, I'm actually about 75% of the way through writing a book that I don't know, for sure will ever see the light of day. I mean, I'm definitely gonna finish it. I just, I'm aware that like, its primary purpose has been for me to feel settled in what I believe now and what I'm sure about what I'm not sure about. And there's a lot in that second category. But I do think at some point, it's very likely that I'll be putting that out. Fantastic. I think even even once I finish it, even if it's not public yet or not public at all. I think even once I finish it, I'll want to pivot to talking to people more, because I'll feel a little bit more gathered in my thoughts. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, if anyone's interested in, you know, what I'm up to Instagram and Twitter are the two best places for that. And in both those places, I'm just Jon Steingard, Jon Steingard. And that's all I got right now.

David Ames  1:12:40  
Yeah, we will have links in the show notes. For sure. I think you also have a YouTube channel. Is that correct?

Jon Steingard  1:12:45  
I do. Yeah. And I've flirted with, off and on. I've flirted with putting more stuff there. And that's something I'd like to do at some at some point as well.

David Ames  1:12:55  
Well, I for one will be buying any book that you produce? I think that people, there's probably a great appetite for that. So I hope I hope you very good luck on that. Oh, Jon, thank you so much for the vulnerability and the honesty and telling your story on the show. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode? Well, as you could hear, Jon is an amazing communicator and amazing person. I cannot say enough about the humility and integrity and honesty in the way that Jon tells his story. We've talked a lot about high profile D conversions and the reverberations within the Christian community that they cause Jon's deconversion. And again, his humility and honesty in the way that he expresses it will have long lasting reverberations for quite some time. I'm amazed at the availability that he has given both to the apologists community and to the atheist and humanist community. Jon has just made himself available to tell his story. I'm excited for Jon to do his own project. As I mentioned, we recorded this episode about a month ago, but on January 1, Jon began his own project called the wonder and the mystery of being and I will for one be a subscriber. I think, Jon's perspective and process for seeking after truth is something that is worth listening to and emulating. I will have links in the show notes for Jon's projects, including the Instagram posts, the response to Brian Houston of Hillsong, his YouTube channel, the podcast, and various other links. I'll mention here as well that in the show notes, there are a number of quotes Jon was eminently quotable. So I couldn't help myself, but write down quite a few of those. I want to thank Jon for being on the podcast and for telling his story and for making himself available. Jon, I wish you the best of luck with your project. I wanted to spend a little bit of time to talk about the plans for 2021. I made a plea in the December episode with my wife, Michelle, about an audio engineer. I want to first of all, thank all the people and 2020 who helped me. Several people did the editing of their own podcast, Jimmy, who did a deconversion anonymous episode, Colin did some story editing for me. Jon, early on in the year did some editing for me. So there were several people who did editing. And I don't think I've thanked them enough. So thank you so much for that. For 2021, Mike T has joined, he's already done one episode for me. He's working on the next one. And we are building some rapport. The last part of 2020 was jam packed with people who were interested in being on the podcasts. And I actually have a number of interviews already done. In fact, I'm backlogged. And that's why I have reached out for help. I'm looking forward to clearing that backlog. And reaching out to some other humanists, there's been a number of new humanist podcasts that have popped up in the last year. And I'd like to reach out to them both to be on their podcasts and to have them on my podcast. If you are the podcast host of a humanist podcast, reach out to me graceful and I will have you on. I've also had other people reach out to me and how they can participate. There's a new site called verbal VURB And it allows you to do snippets and what I'm interested in looking for people who are willing to create 30 seconds to one or two minute quotes of pieces of the podcast that are really easily shareable that you could share with people to say, Hey, this is what the podcast is like. I'm not on tick tock, I know, that's a big thing there. But if you're on tick tock, maybe you could share something there as well. copy editing would be another way that you could participate. And mostly the thing that everyone can do is just share the podcast with somebody that you know, my goals for the year are to improve the quality, I want to go from just simply editing to producing something, I want to have better audio quality, better transitions, more musical interludes, that kind of thing, going into 2021. Now, you may not hear that in the first quarter or so. But that's my goal. I am using money that has been donated to the podcast to buy audio equipment here in the first quarter or so. So hopefully, we'll begin to hear a bit of an improvement there as well. I can't believe that the podcast has been going for almost two years now. And I am very excited about the next year coming up. But I want to begin the year in gratitude again to you the listener. There's no reason to do this work if you aren't there listening. So I appreciate you and I thank you and I hope that you keep listening. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from Akai beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application. And you can rate and review it on pod If you have audio engineering expertise and you'd be interested in participating in the graceful atheist podcast, get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and you'd like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings

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