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.

Links

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/jonsteingard/

The Wonder and The Mystery of Being podcast and YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUjFcPl10_QMxoevHL4jLXg

Jon’s deconstruction story

Twitter
https://twitter.com/jonsteingard

The documentary Jon produced while still a Christian

Interact

Deconversion from Christianity
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: A History
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/jennifer-michael-hecht-doubt-a-history/

Clergy Project
https://clergyproject.org/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Transcript

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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the 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 atheist@gmail.com 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 l.com. 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 chaser.com. 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 atheist@gmail.com or you can check out the website graceful atheist.wordpress.com 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 https://otter.ai
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