If you are interested in producing music for the Graceful Atheist Podcast, the sound I am looking for has a strong baseline and beat with gospel church organ, potentially with R&B or Gospel vocal samples. Here is a playlist to inspire you to Gospel R&B Beats. Get in touch.
This week I am being interviewed by Sam and Daniel from the When Belief Dies podcast. The focus is on what I have changed my mind about since beginning work in the secular community. We discuss the following topics:
Letting go of an afterlife for oneself and one’s loved ones
The human desire for an afterlife represented in secular movies
This episode is a sister episode to Daniel and me interviewing Sam on When Belief Dies. Both episodes are dropping at the same time. You can see me in the YouTube version interviewing Sam.
If you are interested in producing music for the Graceful Atheist Podcast, the sound I am looking for has a strong baseline and beat with gospel church organ, potentially with R&B or Gospel vocal samples. Here is a playlist to inspire you to Gospel R&B Beats. Get in touch.
There were several places in the episode where I forgot names. I’ll mention them here.
It is Tim Sledge who talks about “exceptions to the rule of faith” in his book, Goodbye Jesus.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
0:11 Welcome to the show.
5:19 What’s changed in David’s understanding of grace?
10:36 The importance of finding people who are in a similar situation to you.
16:37 Discovering that you’re not alone is the first step.
22:22 The experience of awe is a deeply human experience.
26:31 The best things about religion are the people.
33:50 What has changed about the deconversion process?
39:10 How to deal with cognitive dissonance and cognitive biases.
44:04 What is the process of deconstruction?
50:32 What are some of the crucial things that can help people move from that step of starting to live in a place of unbelief?
58:03 David’s thoughts on the idea that humanism pre-dates Christianity and Christianity borrows from humanism.
1:06:36 Recognizing humans are mammals.
1:11:06 David’s problem with most conversations.
1:18:16 The slow increase of your standard for evidence and why that’s necessary.
1:23:25 Life after death is not just a religious thing. Humans are obsessed with the idea secular or otherwise.
1:30:00 Finite human lifetimes make them precious.
David Ames 0:11
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheists podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As usual, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on pod chaser.com or the Apple podcast store, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Every so often, I beg for some community involvement in the podcast and the work of secular grace. And I'm gonna do that again here. As you know, Mike T has been editing the podcast in 2021. He's been doing an amazing job. It gets a break this week, but he'll be back in the editor seat next week. And Logan from beyond belief is helping me out with some graphic design work. And one more area that I'm really interested in expanding on for the podcast is the music. I have loved the waves track from Mackay beats, that's been amazing. But there is some licensing restrictions with that music. So I am putting out the call to see if anyone is out there who's interested in producing a piece of music for me. For the podcast, of course, you would get credit, maybe a tiny little amount of money to help defray that. However, I am going to be very, very, very picky. I have a particular style, I have a particular sense of what I want, which can be encapsulated in saying gospel r&b with a beat. I am going to add a Spotify playlist that has a bunch of songs that would inspire this kind of idea. And if you are interested in doing some music production for the intro for segways please get in touch with me. Graceful firstname.lastname@example.org This is a long episode, but I will ask that you hang on to the final thoughts a section where I will talk about my first attempt at a Twitter spaces conversation about deconversion. On today's show, today's show is a little different. And I'm actually the subject I have as guest posts today, Sam and Daniel from the when belief dies podcast. And they are interviewing me. So you're going to get probably more than you want me answering questions. I first want to thank Sam and Daniel for participating in this venture. This turned out better than I expected. As the host, I don't always get to spend 15 minutes explaining my thoughts on a particular subject and I get to hear. So this turned out to be more successful even than I expected. Dropping at the same time on when belief dies is Daniel and I are interviewing Sam. So these two podcasts, this one you're hearing right now and the one that is dropping on when belief dies are kind of sister episodes. And why that is interesting is you can see the diversity of thought. Sam and I are good friends. We think a lot of like on a lot of subjects. But there's also little bits of daylight between us. And we explore that in both of these episodes. If you actually want to see my face, the version of Daniel and I interviewing Sam is also on YouTube, you will immediately understand why I do audio. But you can check that out. If you are interested. Please hang on to the final thoughts section and I will talk more about the episode that you can hear on when belief dies. Obviously links will be in the show notes for Sam's podcast and YouTube. Lastly, I do want to acknowledge that I talk a lot in this episode. In fact, I think I overwhelmed Sam and Daniel I apologize to them. They asked a question that I almost ignore that question and go on for 20 minutes. I am definitely a bit self indulgent in this episode, I get to speak my mind. And that was a lot of fun. I was so excited. I think you're going to hear that in this conversation. So without further ado, here is Sam and Daniel interviewing me.
Sam and Daniel, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Sam Devis 4:31
Thanks, man. It's great to be here.
Yeah, it's great to be on the show.
David Ames 4:36
So just to be clear, this is Sam from when belief die. So this is your second time on the podcast. You're coming back and Daniel is the new co host of when belief dies. And we're going to do something a little bit different today. Today, Sam and Daniel are going to interview me and later subsequently we will do an interview where I interview them which will release on when belief dies. This interview here is on my podcast. And so I'm literally going to hand the keys over to Sam and Daniel and I will be the one answering the questions. So Sam and Daniel, take it away.
Sam Devis 5:10
Thanks, man, I feel like I've stolen your car. I'm gonna drive it into a wall now. First of all, it's an absolute pleasure to do this. It's been something that's been on my mind for quite a while to kind of year to have this conversation and to push into a basically what's changed since since these podcasts began? Like, what's, what shifted our mindset? And how have we began processing stuff. So I think just to kind of kick it off, I mean, I would be really interested to hear I know kind of you talk about secular grace, lots on your new podcast. And it's a fantastic thing that I've obviously been heavily influenced by. But I want to kind of get your take on that. David, what's changed in your understanding of secular grace? How's that grown? or diminish? What's what's different these days?
David Ames 5:50
Yeah, let me let me describe what it is very quickly. And then I can tell you how my mind has changed on that a bit. It's hard to tell my story without talking about my mom's story. For listeners, they may know, my mother was drug and alcohol addict, grew up with that, you know, most of my life, and in my teen years, is when she got clean and sober. And it was it was Jesus, she had a dramatic epiphany been a life changing kind of event. So my early spirituality was really heavily influenced by the 12 steps. It really was the humanistic elements of the 12 steps that spoke to me the most, it was this idea of confessing to one another really, you know, opening yourself up being vulnerable about some deep, dark secrets, and the catharsis that one feels in that experience. And I would occasionally ride along and go to an AAA meeting or something, and you would have this person speaking. And they're describing terrible things, terrible, terrible things that they had done, and the remorse that they they feel for having done those things. And then the group shows love back to them. And so I was literally watching this in real time, what it is like for human beings to give grace to one another. So that's really the bottom level of what I mean by secular grace. I think people experience this when they go to therapy, they get kind of radical acceptance isn't another way to describe it. But this feeling of catharsis of I can get off my chest, these things that have caused me shame, these things that are that I doubt about myself that make me feel lesser than. And so what I'm proposing the secular grace is, is just being proactive about this, that we engage with the people, we care about our friends and our loved ones, that we are intentionally vulnerable with one another, and that we are radically accepting of one another. And, of course, I don't mean, you know, airing your dirty laundry, do not do this on Twitter and Facebook, that is not what I mean. I mean, your best friend, right. And when we talk about also the deconversion process, we feel like I am the only one who's gone through this, I'm the only one who is not pulling Christianity off. I'm the only one who is failing to do what is right. And then you discover when you tell someone else, I'm not the only one. And it's that, that experience. So that was a long way to describe a secular grace. What has changed in my mind is the recognition of the dark side of grace. I have often said that when I mentioned the term secular grace, people either get it, or no amount of description will help. But what I've learned is the traumatic experiences that some people have inside Christianity, that grace entails this idea of you're a sinner, you're worthless, your your righteousness is dirty rags. And for particularly for people who grew up with that, as children, and who are now in their 30s, and 40s are feeling the fallout from that internalization of I'm a dirty, bad person. And because I came to Christianity a little bit later, I had just enough buffer to feel a little protected from that. I had that sense of, I'm a sinner. Don't get me wrong, I definitely that was definitely a major part. But I was overwhelmed by the sense of grace, overwhelmed by the sense of acceptance of by God. And so now what I'm trying to convey is, it turned out to be the people in my life all along who were giving me that grace, and now we can give that to each other. But I'm acknowledging that the part of the change is that people can have kind of traumatic association with the very word grace. And I want to make clear not to burden people further with it. Oh, you should also be so kind, not angry and this kind of thing, particularly, Brian Peck has said, how valuable anger is to escape that trauma or escape an abusive relationship or an abusive situation. And again, all of these things, you know, is where I've grown to recognize. Maybe secular grace is the long term goal. But the immediate needs are safety, protection, being whole being accepted yourself, right? Before you get to the point where maybe you're able to give that secular Grace out.
Sam Devis 10:36
That's really interesting, kind of like, I've got a got a good friend. He's from Poland, actually. And he kind of talks about Christianity within they're sort of like a communist mindset, he does my Christianity very much kind of like being being the thing that breaks your leg, and then gives you the crutch to kind of help you get on, it's almost like here's, here's the grace, you can you can just keep going now you've not broken your leg.
It's this idea that I guess kind of finding people who are in a similar situation to you and able to kind of empathize and have a a meaningful conversation where you realize that you aren't alone, like you aren't some sort of isolated being out on the peripherals, you're actually very much included in the whole, but you just weren't aware of that for a while. So would you kind of say that, that that's, that's quite a big part of that was actually that sometimes people can feel like they're at the fringe or having to, like try and reconcile things in their minds. But actually, as they kind of focusing on begin to open up more about their anger, or about their pain about their abuse, or trauma or whatever language you want to use, they're actually begin to realize that there is a, there is a massive group of people that are actually very much already around them and willing to accept them in would you kind of say, that's much more what you're looking at now, David?
David Ames 11:47
Yes. And of course, this ties into the deconversion and deconstruction aspect of the podcast in that within the church, you're allowed to doubt just so far. And then you're given some answers that you are expected to accept wholeheartedly. And when you don't, when those answers begin to sound Pat to you, and you are asking deeper questions. And you go through this merry go round of doubling down, you know, reading the Bible, more praying more, being in accountability groups, you know, talking to the pastor or talking to people who you respect their spirituality, and you're getting the same pat answers over and over again, and you aren't satisfied with those anymore. You can internalize that and begin to feel like, it must be me, I'm the bad person in this scenario. And so this is a great example. And so the minute you start to give yourself permission to doubt a bit, and go look like maybe a query on the internet, follow somebody on Twitter, or watch a YouTube video or listen to a podcast like when belief dies, or the grateful atheist podcast, that can be just a dramatic revelation that you are not the only one out there. And so this is a very specific context of the application of secular grace. But you've hit the nail on the head, Sam, that it can be applied anywhere, I imagine that people that return from military service or a warzone or have PTSD from a car crash, you know, it's finding your people, the people that have had some similar experience, who you don't have to defend yourself. I know, the word has been abused and ridiculed. But this idea of safe spaces, right, if you're a member of the LGBTQ community, just being in a place where you can communicate about that without having to defend it. If you're a person of color, or a historically disparaged group, and just being around other people who understand that they get it intuitively, you don't need to explain why that is necessary. All of that are profound examples of secular grace.
Sam Devis 14:02
Yeah, that's beautifully said, I've, I've often kind of wonder whether this is quite a new phenomenon. I mean, like only really, in the last 100 years or so we've we've began to kind of understand what sort of like post traumatic stress disorder as we began to understand sort of the the sort of ongoing negative consequences of abuse, or, as you mentioned, someone coming back from war and having to deal with this or trauma, they've experienced these sorts of long, underlying psychological and emotional difficulties that we can come across. And actually, I think, as my opinion and feel free to push back on this, but I kind of feel like as we begin to reconcile within our own minds, that we are almost kind of not broken, but but very, very able to be caught up within a certain sort of mindset, we begin to be able to actually think through who we are and what that means for us. And we actually begin to learn more about our own kind of hearts and our own minds and how we can begin to journey out of those situations. So would you say, David conscious pushing into secular Grace probably for the final time now? Like how How do you think people have been able to understand that space within the sort of atheist community and the deconstruction community? And how are they able to move through it to actually be able to accept it, bring it in and then become sort of who they could be due to their ability to process effectively? Does that make any sense?
David Ames 15:20
Yeah. Can I respond to one thing, not in your question? And then come back to the question? Yes. I don't mean to point fingers at you, but you were struggling for a word, and you use the word broken. I specifically talk about that you are human, not broken. And I think this is the Chinese finger trap of Christianity is highly reflective people who are aware of their own limitations, find Christianity, Christianity tells them Yes, you are, in fact broken. They're honest with themselves about their limitations, or their foibles, or what have you. And they internalize that idea of I'm broken. I just like to have really hammer that the human experience is imperfect the human experience is to error. Right? I mean, the the things that we are frustrated about ourselves, were anxious or fearful, or, or ashamed. That is the human experience. And it goes back to that secular grace of finding other people who have experienced the same thing. Coming back to your question, and let me make sure that if I've got it correctly, you're asking how people move from kind of the trauma to being more proactive? Is that the heart of your question?
Sam Devis 16:35
Yes. I don't want to use the term less broken. But yeah.
David Ames 16:40
Time, I really, I wish that I had a magic wand to say, what does this but I think that first step, the discovery is the hardest one. Because again, before you have found that there is a world out there of people who have had the same experience, you feel isolated alone. As soon as that happens, you begin to hear other people's stories. One of the things I love about doing the podcast is just getting this huge range of diverse stories from different perspectives. And someone's going to react to a hardcore Calvinist who is, you know, a woman who's dealing with complementarianism in a way that they are not going to react to my Pentecostal upbringing, and what have you, right? Like, there's just, those are two different experiences. So telling those different stories you can you have that someone I imagine, here's someone's story and goes, Ah, that was me, I thought that way. So that first, that first hurdle is the big one, right? Just recognizing that, that you're not alone. And then I think, is a process of, of learning. So many things have been off the table, you have been discouraged, for finding information outside of the bubble. Anything that was disconfirming, or even therapy is looked down upon in many Christian traditions, a science depending on again, your faith tradition may have been disparaged, or the full conclusions of science are diminished in some way or another. So learning that there is this broad body of human wisdom collected over the centuries of people attempting to answer the very same questions that you have. I think that, again, it's that feeling of I'm not alone. I often recommend this book. This is doubt the history by Jennifer Michael Hecht. My listeners probably heard that 1000 times I'm gonna say it again. And what that did for me personally was, you have that feeling of I'm alone, I'm the only one then you. Maybe if you d convert on your own, some people like in my case, it's pretty isolated. For myself as well. Then you think, Oh, I'm the only one who's ever D converted. I'm the only one who's experienced this. And a book like that goes through the history of doubters and they're you come from a long line of doubters. These questions have been asked for millennia, and ironically, many of the same pat answers the attempts to defeat those questions also are millennia old. And so once you recognize this answer I'm getting that doesn't sound satisfying, wasn't satisfying to Lucretius wasn't satisfying to Epicurus wasn't satisfying to job. We just we forget that we've been asking these questions forever. So again, recognizing you're not alone, finding out that other people have asked these questions, the learning more questions to ask maybe the questions you haven't even thought of yet. I say you know, explore science explore ethics. What are you interested in? You don't have to do this from a rationality bro perspective. But if you're into meditation, go do that. If you are into sports or exercise, go do that. You know? Find a book club, find something where you're just expanding beyond the bubble that you used to be in. And then last, I think, is when you feel, and this is just time, but when you wake up one day and you go, Huh, I don't feel terrible about this anymore. That is the moment when you can start asking yourself, what happens next? What can I do? What can I give back to the world? I sometimes refer to the first interview that I ever did, I did with Steve hilliker on voices of deconversion. If you go back and listen to that, I was thrashing about, what am I going to do with all of this profound insight, you know, or, or, you know, derivative insight that I had, I had to do something with it. And obviously, this podcast is the end result. The other thing I like to tell people is that one of the first things we did was this thing called secular Hangouts. And I used to explicitly say, we will have six seated when we have people who are a part of this, who are not content creators. And my point there was, you do not have to be a podcaster, or a YouTuber, a blogger, or what have you, to give back to the world, there are 1000s of things that you can do. And it is discovering what your particular talents are. I sound like a youth pastor here, but like, you know, find out what you are good at what you can give back with. And I guarantee you that that experience will give you a sense of purpose and meaning and will be as beneficial to you as it is the people that that you are giving to.
Sam Devis 21:39
It's beautifully said, I think I just want to kind of push into one more area of this, which I think could be quite interesting to explore. And if it's too much, let's just park it and move on. But right at the beginning, you obviously talk about your mum and your mom's experience within the sort of 12 STEP program and kind of you know, that sort of grace elements to it. Obviously, she believed that that's was Jesus, that was God and stuff. And also you've kind of how you're talking about grace doesn't involve that anymore. And I'm not really got an issue with that. But what I'm more interested in is, is what do you think your mum experienced? In those moments that? Yeah, what do you think she experienced? And is it actually just the word grace rather than secular or Christian? Or is it just Grace rather than secular? And, you know, what is it that you that you think now that your mum experienced?
David Ames 22:22
Yeah, so there's a couple of layers to that. I'm gonna set the grace bit aside, because I think we might get back to that. But I want to talk about the experience, one of the most important things that I've learned over the last years was a podcast on life after God that Brian Peck again, hosted. And he had a couple of his colleagues in psychology and forgive me, but I don't have her name right off the top of my head, I will put this in the show notes. But she talked about this idea of attribution. And this idea of we have these schemas. So we have this experience of awe. And we've been in the schema, the context of Christianity, and we've been told that I have this experience of awe, and that's God. And the mistake there is the attribution. So the experience of awe is a deeply human experience. And I mean, that in the naturalistic sense, a natural experience for human beings, you can elicit this, by going out into the mountains, being on the ocean, whatever it is, that induces all and you may be looking at the Milky Way in a dark sky is just absolutely awe inspiring. That is the human experience. And it is the attribution of a deity and external deity. That is the the mistake. So when I talk about what happened to my mom, and really to me, too, because I, as I mentioned, was in a Pentecostal tradition, when I eventually got to church, had many experiences that I at the time, interpreted as the Holy Spirit. So from my mom's experience, she had a, again, epiphany is the right word of experiencing God and in hearing God, hearing, sensing, I don't know to how literal she would have described herself but there's a verse in Deuteronomy, choose this day, whether you will live or die, and she understood that she was dying. This was a moment and an opportunity for her to change. I also with 2020 hindsight, recognize that the idea of an ever present God who is literally watching you is very, very helpful for a person in those early stages of recovery from an addiction. Because the very hardest part of coming out of addiction is that first short period of time the first days the first hours the first weeks, the first months are ridiculously challenging, they are incredibly challenging your body is literally fighting you at every stage. If you've ever been on a diet, if you've ever tried to fast, you know exactly what I'm talking about here, your body is literally fighting you telling you do this thing, do it right now drop everything. There's been psychological studies where people will they cheat last they lie last, you know, when they know they're being observed than when they know they are not being observed. So, so having a sense of literally a god observing you. So I think that had a huge part of this as well. But to tie this, tie this up kind of the heart of your question, one of my very, very early doubts long before deconversion. But one of the things that really made me stop and go, Huh, was several years later, my mom went to a dentist appointment. And they gave her a very strong concoction of I believed Valium, but something enough to knock her out. And when she came home, even after the medication had worn off, she was describing having an epiphany, as she was describing having another experience with Jesus. And it was, again, a very early doubt, I didn't hadn't given myself very much permission to really think about this deeply. But I, I was skeptical, I was like, Come on, Mom, you're under heavy amount of value. You have to know that that was affecting your experience at that moment in time. And what I'm trying to get across now, with all of this 2020 hindsight, is that's what it always is. If you're in the middle of a Pentecostal service, and the music's going, and people are raising their hands, and everybody's yelling and screaming, you're high on your own supply, you are having a dopamine experience. And I've come to understand that I can explain all of my spiritual experiences, I can explain my mom's experiences in very natural, perfectly human explanations. And if there is a natural explanation that tightly fits the data. That's the best explanation. Does that answer your question? I've been talking for a long time.
Sam Devis 27:17
Yeah, no, that's good. I think the the only kind of thing I wanted you to pick up on then was the sort of kind of grace, whether it's Christian secular humanism, or just grace on his own life, how would you how would you fit that?
David Ames 27:29
Thank you for reminding me, I keep quoting and I'm going to just keep doing this. James Croft, who is the Ethical Society of Missouri leader. And he recently went to the open DivX conference that was about basically a ecumenical look at spirituality. But after that conference, he in a tweet, just literally 280 characters was able to capture something that I've been attempting to describe for years. And he said, The secular entails the religious, and what I believe he means and what I definitely mean is, if I'm correct, if the natural is what we experience, religion is a human experience. Religion is absolutely a human cultural phenomena. It is something that we want, we want to collectively as Anthony Penn says, collectively search for meaning and truth together. That's religion. And we add on spiritual elements, we add on a metaphysic. That may or may not be true. But what I'm trying to argue is that religion is a very natural thing for humans to do. So having set that up? Absolutely. It is just grace. What I'm trying to differentiate when I say secular, is that I do not mean in a spiritual direction in a metaphysical direction towards a deity, an external mind of some kind. It is between human beings. My argument is that the best things about Christianity the best things about religion in general, are the people in 2020. If you're a believer, what do you miss by watching streaming church service? Is it God missing? Or is it the people? Do you miss being at the potluck? Do you miss being shoulder to shoulder with one another and coffee afterwards chatting about your week? It is the human element. That is what gives us that grace. Even when we talk about the elements of confession, confessing one sin and accountability. It's still really you experienced that more with other human beings than you do alone in your prayer closet. And so what I'm saying is, it's been the human beings they are the magic. They are the spirituality. They are the the thing we've been seeking. We are the thing we've been seeking all along.
Awesome. So it's a people shaped tool rather than God shaped tool.
David Ames 30:04
I've said those exact words we do not have, we have a people shaped hole that absolutely is spot on
for you, as you've know, left behind faith as you've adopted this natural worldview, how do you engage with something like spirituality? Because it seems to be that people either go one of two ways. It's either though that's, that's behind me that's all fictitious, and I can't even touch this stuff. And others sort of find a, a different kind of spirituality, a more personal a more psychological one, where have you sort of found yourself in that?
David Ames 30:57
That's a great question. I've multiple times on the podcast, have struggled with just the verbiage. The word spirituality is going to scare half the odd or not half. But you know, a portion of the audience is going to be like, I don't want anything to do with that. Whether that is because they are hardcore atheists, or whether they have been burned so badly, by either the church or a new age experience, or what have you, they're just don't want anything to do with the word spirituality at all. On the other side of the equation, I've got listeners who are actively, you know, still seeking in some way or another, they are not, they are not closed off to a metaphysical spirituality, something beyond the natural, something transcendent from the natural. For me, I like to just be very clear that when I use the term spiritual soul, I am talking about very human things, very naturalistic things. So when I talk about spirituality, I talk about all which we've briefly touched on already this, that all is absolutely 100%, a human experience, and also a physical one, in that there's been neuroscience where you know, they can wave a magnet over your head, and you experience God, right? If that's possible, then that indicates very, very strongly a physical experience of what we often term as spiritual. So all as something that I think we should seek after, and that will be different for each person, that might be meditation. For me, it is, again, being out in nature, looking at the cosmos, having the literal experience of being small, and witnessing something larger than myself. And I think these are really important, I think humility, falls out of the experience of awe, that humility is the correct response to recognizing the true relative state of you as one individual, and humanity as a whole, or the cosmos as a whole, right? It's a natural response. The B and the ABCs is belonging. I think we're witnessing this in real time in the UK and the United States of our tribal nature as human beings, that we need to belong to a group. This is the real challenge for secular people on the other side of deconversion is, you know, we found each other online, there's there's lots of online connectivity, but finding one another in real life, breathing the same air after COVID is really important. And I'm hopeful that we can facilitate that a bit more as we move on. We've had this discussion about recognizing you're not the only one, going through a deconversion process, even that gives you a sense of belonging. I think, in the mid 2000s, with the four horsemen, there was a huge movement of atheists. Now, I have some criticisms about that, I think that they made some mistakes, they made some errors, but there was suddenly a, Hey, I'm an atheist, and like that meant something you belonged to something and, and prior that, that you may have been very unwilling to say that or it was a much smaller group of people who were open and out about that. whatever label you care to use for yourself, whether you're an agnostic, whether your spiritual and not religious or religious but not spiritual, wherever you're at, you can find a group of people who you can have a sense of belonging with. And then that last one is the secular Grace concept is that connection. And this is that human to human connectivity of being vulnerable with another person and then accepting the vulnerability of someone else with grace, kindness, active listening. One of The things that is kind of the heart of this podcast is, I'm just listening. And sometimes I'm the first person that someone is telling their deconstruction deconversion story too. And you guys don't the listener, you don't get to see the video, but I can see in their eyes, like one of the reasons I have video on is that there's this human connection taking place. And even if, you know, they don't break down in tears, that's not my goal. But I can see that like, the catharsis as they're telling that story, I hope that you can hear it. But it is just that another human being recognizing their story recognizing the experience that they have had. So these ABCs, this idea of secular spirituality, I think does provide a sense of wholeness, a sense of, I'm okay, I'm gonna make it a sense of, I'm not broken. My humanity is normal. I'm well within the bounds of normality. I'm not alone in this, to answer a question you haven't asked. But back to Sam's question about what has changed. I had Bart Campolo, on who really challenged me on this to basically say, you know, I was trying to say, you know, this, I think this is universal, these ABCs of spirituality. And he was like, no, not everybody. Growth element for me is to recognize that some people, the idea of spirituality, whether secular or not, is just a no go, it's a, they're not going to be interested ever. And I think that's okay. If you're satisfied with your life, and you have a sense of purpose, and meaning on your own, whatever you call that, that's absolutely fine. One of my criticisms of some spiritualities that can be secular or not, is the almost proselytizing nature of them. So ironically, what I'm saying is, I think this is a valid secular spirituality, but take it or leave it is absolutely does not affect me, if you don't think it works. You don't find it interesting or compelling. Wonderful, that's fine.
Well, I mean, just to move on from there, because, you know, you're absolutely right, in terms of that connection. And I think what has been so fantastic in your podcast is sort of having all these different stories, which, you know, for me, as I was listening to them, I could recognize elements in people's stories. Like, yes, that's exactly it. That was, that was my experience. And we we sort of see these, these patterns, these the similarities across some of these deconversion stories. I mean, what for you Have you really learned about the deconversion process? As you've had all these different conversations with people?
David Ames 38:15
Yeah, I'll start with what I've learned over the whole time, and that is that the experiences are radically diverse, because the people are radically diverse. People come from completely different faith traditions, that had a different focus or a different barrier to entry or barrier to exit. Some people experience trauma in this process, in the church itself, that some people don't, that some people it's a very rational process of truth seeking. And for some people, it's emotional. For some people it's it's a moral disagreement or argument. Early on, I wrote a blog post called How to de convert in tennis, easy steps, and the title was supposed to be tongue in cheek. Unfortunately, it's one of those things where it's kind of an important posts, so I've kept it. I haven't renamed it yet. But that was my early attempt to describe some of the process that happens. And to describe how your sense of cognitive dissonance or your cognitive biases are playing in each step of this game, again, I'll just reiterate that I've learned over the years that any attempt to classify to delineate steps is kind of a fool's errand and in that sense, it is admittedly wildly incomplete and inaccurate. And at the same time, I think that it does convey something that like you just said, down You know, that tries to get at common experiences that people have. And it talks about these moments of what I call precipitating events, right like this, this can be, for me that one of the precipitating events was what I just described with my mom going to the dentist, wait a minute, that can't be right. I've heard a number of analogies for these AMI, Logan says putting that on the shelf, right? I'm just going to, I can't deal with this right now I'm just going to put that on the shelf. Another analogy that that I've heard is the exceptions to the rule of faith. However you describe these, it's just these moments throughout your believing life where something does not quite add up, it is a blip in the matrix. And you probably aren't prepared to deal or cope with that yet. But you acknowledge that that's not quite right, and you move on with your life. And eventually, you have a lot of these. Eventually, there are so many of them that you can't keep track of them. And I call that the critical mass stage, at this point, you are really feeling the exhaustion of cognitive dissonance. It is wearing you down, you may not be conscious of that fact. But you are experiencing it. And this is what often Christians will call the dark night of the soul. Right? This is the real doubt. And you're going to come out the other side and have a deeper faith once you've learned these apologetics strategies. But what if, what if those answers aren't sufficient to you? And this next step I call permission to doubt and I love X christian.net has a post about this and they called it curiosity kills the cat. I love that that absolutely captures it. The moment you say to yourself, you're not saying I'm an atheist, yet, you're not saying I'm not a Christian yet, you're just saying, Alright, these doubts are real, I'm gonna go look, I'm gonna go check out a YouTube video, I'm gonna go read a blog post, I'm going to read a book that is maybe slightly critical of Christianity, or Islam or Hinduism, or whatever your faith tradition is. It's just that first step. And I can see in my life, long before deconversion started to follow an atheist or to just to hear what they had to say. I read Sam Harris's book, a letter to a Christian nation very early, thought he was an angry atheist and had no I didn't want anything to do with them, right. But I was willing to do those things. And prior to that, I wasn't. That is a slippery slope, I got bad news for you. Once you start that process, it is very hard to stop. And eventually, you have to come to grips with this. This is what I call that deconstruction phase. And I do use the words deconstruction and deconversion. as separate technical terms, a lot of people, I think, overlap those. In other words, I don't think they're synonyms. I think deconstruction is on the way to deconversion. And it is also possible to live in a deconstructed faith and still be a believer, indefinitely for as long as you care to do so. deconstruction is the process of becoming less fundamentalist, it is the process of determining within your own faith tradition, what is true, what is metaphorically true, and what is flat out just not true at all. But I think that deconstruction is a step towards deconversion that for those of us who do finally come to a point to say, I no longer believe, at all, deconstruction was just a point in time. along that process. I used to say that I hadn't deconstructed and that was just full blown lies. My theology liberalized my interpretation of the Bible. I don't think I was ever a hardcore an artist, because I just didn't think that was sustainable. But I gave was authoritative. It had a strong authority and that weekend for me over time, as as I learned more and more things that were in the Bible that just weren't historically accurate in any way. And one of the last steps for me was acknowledging this idea of a soul of having something metaphysically different than my body. Went as I was recognizing that, you know, if I take medication, if I have a lack of oxygen, if I get hit in the head too hard, that I affects my personality, it affects who I am as a person, and ultimately could lead to death. And that seems not to be separate from my physical body. For me, that was the moment and boom, I was done. Back to the 10 steps. So deconstruction was one of those steps, I talked about a liminal phase that you can be, you literally can be in between one day, I'm a believer the next day, I don't, that can go on for an indeterminate amount of time. But eventually, for those of us who do D convert, you may have a moment of what I call self honesty, of recognizing, I have to admit to myself, that I no longer believe. And just a quick note, that's my preferred way to describe this, I hate saying I lost my faith, I know where it was. I admitted to myself that I no longer believed, I admitted to myself, that the intensity of the claims of Christianity that I believed, weren't upheld by the evidence, weren't supported by even a modicum of Skeptical Inquiry into what the Bible has to say into comparative religion. For me, it was about recognizing that I thought of Mormons, I thought of Scientologists, I thought of the Heaven's Gate people as crazy. Right, that's insane what they believe. And it was a moment of recognition that they think that what I believe is insane. And it is, it is just that breakage of one's myopia of only looking at your faith tradition of only looking at what you believe, and taking even a tiny step back to look at the slightly bigger picture. That has a devastating effect. My recommendation for everyone, if you are in the middle of a deconstruction process, is listened to apologists of other faiths of other traditions. Listen to a Mormon apologist, listen to a Scientologist apologist, listen to a Hari Krishna apologist, listen to an Islamic apologist, what you will be shocked by is both the similarities and differences, there will be very, very similar arguments coming to radically different conclusions. And if they are using the same argument, coming to a different conclusion, there may be a problem with the argument. And so again, I just recommend, take a step back, do a comparative religion class audit one, right? It will do wonders for your ability to look at it outside of the bubble right outside of that reinforcing bubble. There are some more more steps, but you can go check out the blog post, ultimately concluding with what we talked about earlier of coming to a point of what can I do now? Not just purpose and meaning for me, but what can I give back to the world? What can I do to positively impact the people around me? That was a very long answer to your question, Daniel.
No, it was, it's fantastic to to hear just an articulation of that process. Because, yeah, I think as I've listened to the various episodes, you sort of see that there's a buildup, there's a discomfort. And I think there's often a misconception amongst many people of faith that always something bad happens, and that cause people to question. And usually what I see is, there is a change. But usually it's because that change means that some of the answers which worked in the past, just don't work anymore.
David Ames 48:55
Thank you for bringing that up. I had neglected to mention that, particularly when you tell your story to a believer in your life, or a pastor, even worse, they are going to focus on whatever the last straw was the thing you mentioned of, and then I decided I no longer want to, and they are going to blast whatever that last thing was right. But what is really important to recognize is that anytime we change our mind, in particular about something so profound as one's religious beliefs are one's identity. That is a very long process. It was not one thing. It was 1000 things. And my favorite analogy of this is the idea of a phase transition. If you raise the temperature in a pot of water, it looks the same for a very, very long time until it starts to bubble and eventually turns in to a steam. What we tend to focus on is that bubbling and steam part of the story, when in fact that temperature has been raising for a very, very long time, small, incremental imperceivable changes in your opinion have been occurring. And so even I, in telling the story earlier was talking about pinpoint moments are pinpoint ideas that changed for me, but it was truly 1000s of changes of mind that led to that moment of, I no longer believe.
And I guess, you know, obviously, there's a lot more in your blog about the different steps. But I think obviously, for most people, the actual step of, I no longer believe, and I'm going to start living a life that reflects that lack of belief, because, you know, for myself, and I've heard that for many others, there's sort of that, that phase where you're going to church, and you feel that like a little bit of an outsider. And then that next step of actually telling people, I no longer believe, and it's often sort of the most difficult part of the journey, although, as you say, it will be so varied in terms of the different experiences for different people, some might feel instant relief and release from that. others it may be a more difficult process, you know, in terms of from what you've seen from other people, what are some of the crucial things that you, you think can help people move from that step of starting to live in that place of unbelief and coping with some of the social changes that brings through to the point where we talked about earlier where it's sort of okay, now, how can I help others?
David Ames 51:47
Daniel, I'm glad that you brought that up, we are back to the blogpost a bit, I talked about being in and out of the closet, you might have that moment of recognition, the moment of clarity moment of honesty, I no longer believe, and it can take a very long time before you tell another human being. And I actually recommend that you do take as much time as you need, I really like to point out, safety is number one. So if you are a young person, and you live in a very religious household, where potentially you could be kicked out or you know, have negative consequences, you are under no obligation to tell someone, if you live in a country where admitting that you don't believe is physically insecure for you. You only have to be honest with yourself, you owe no one, anyone else anything. I recommend that you are internally honest with yourself that you don't lie to yourself anymore, that you recognize how you had been fooling yourself. Having said all of that, telling another human being is deeply catharsis, back to our discussion of secular grace and that connection, it might be easier to tell a perfect stranger, I don't recommend that you on day to do the Facebook posts to the world, that's a bad idea. And you should take a long time to consider the impact. And it may be that eventually you want to tell friends and family who are believers, that is a fraught process, they have done none of the process that you have they've done none of the deconstruction they've done. None of the doubting none of the research, none of the work yet, and you're going to hit them out of the blue, with what to them is the most devastating news they can imagine. So you should be ready. Again, back to what Brian Peck talked about. If this is an abusive relationship, you don't owe them anything. And you don't need to tell them anything. If it's a relationship that you want to keep, that you feel is valuable, eventually, you probably should be honest with that person. And you will probably have to be the bigger person. I hate to tell you that. But that is the truth. Because it's going to come at them from out of nowhere, and they are not prepared, how to handle that. It's a very rare person who can hear that news and immediately be just accepting, right? I recommend telling a good friend if you happen to have a secular friend that's personalized start with if you are really lucky, and you know someone who's gone through a deconversion process, man run to that person, you know, buy them a beer or coffee or the beverage of their choice, and spend three hours with them. It will do wonders for you. And then this idea of being public about this. I kind of I call back to what I said earlier about content creators. You don't have to be public. You don't have to be a non believer or an atheist or an agnostic on the internet. That isn't your job, right. Many many, many people the vast, vast mature already who have either D converted? Or were non believers from the get go. Don't talk about it almost ever. So you don't need to wear I am an atheist t shirt every day right? is good if you are able to be honest, in a scenario if somebody asks you, you know, if you're at a cocktail party and someone says, you know, do you believe, it'd be great if you eventually come to the point where you feel comfortable enough to say, No, I don't. And maybe that will prompt a conversation. But again, you don't owe anyone. So I do think that that telling another human being is a significant step in the process to wholeness for you as a human being. And then, one more step towards what you were talking about getting to a point where you're giving back is doing some research, doing all the things that have been off the table, reading some ethics, reading some philosophy, reading, some science, and even reading the ancient texts of other faiths. Again, this idea of, we were so myopic, that we could not recognize the human wisdom in other faiths. And now I'm not saying that other faith traditions, texts are authoritative in any way or divine in any way. I'm just saying, the collective wisdom of humanity over the millennia is worth taking a look. At we have all been winging it, we've all been trying to answer these questions forever. And learning about how other people or other cultures have attempted to answer these questions in the past can be very useful. Lastly, I think is that looking for a group to belong with, if all you can do is online, great. And my recommendation is to try to find more than just a text base, like, you know, there's 1001 Facebook groups, and they're wonderful. But if you can say, Hey, can you you know, join a zoom call with me for a half hour or an hour, just I just need to vent that will go a long way to feeling her to feeling connection, to feeling like a whole human being. And my hope is post COVID-19 Post lockdowns and things that more secular communities thrive. There are a number of examples of these like Sunday Assembly, various ethical societies. meetup.com is a great way you can just query deconversion, you can query atheists you can query deconstruction. And you might find groups that are virtual right now that eventually will become in person groups. And I highly recommend that as well. And again, back to this idea of you grow as a human being. What I'm suggesting is not new, it's not special. We grow as a human being. And at some point, we recognize I have something valuable to give to other people. When that recognition occurs, you find ways to give back you find out what it is that you can do, and go do it.
Sam Devis 58:03
So powerful, I find the whole idea of you giving something back is potentially you being involved in these groups when you're ready to. And as you say, it's been really hard being remote and stuff. I know I've recently joined a recent joined a foraging group, and it's impossible to do forging virtually so at some point, it'd be nice to actually be able to do that in person.
I kind of wanted to move the conversation on to humanism, which is something that you've spoken about before. David, I know you've got views on the selfish, obviously, this is why I want to push into it. Something that I've been wrestling with recently, I kind of want to push into that, and then we can kind of you can take over and let me know. Your thoughts essentially, is the idea that humanism could be I'm not saying it is I'm saying it could be so we can have the conversation but it could be rooted in some regards within a sort of Christian framework. So obviously, I don't mean kind of just a classic. You know, everything is right within Christianity, therefore humanism is right, correct. What I mean is the idea of loving other people to the extent of self sacrifice, the idea of kind of, of grace, as we view it as today in the 21st century. And lots of different things than humanism could be viewed to be kind of like linked to the sort of early church and the way they expressed love and unity and caring for the poor and all these sorts of things which were looked on with kind of like a bit of confusion and bewilderment like why are these people so obsessed with orphans or whatever like this doesn't make sense these people have no meaning within our culture. So why are we given the meaning and the humanism obviously I can I can look back before Christianity a humanist has its roots in these things as well but I kind of felt humanism really blew up and especially today, sort of 21st century humanism we see. Feels very Christian. It feels very sort of Christian without any kind of Christ in it at all. And I want to get your take on on what you think humanism is, where its bedrock is placed, and How, how it's linked to this idea of Christianity.
David Ames 1:00:03
I thank you for asking that question. I think that's really interesting. And I'm going to answer from two different perspectives. So one is John Gray's criticism of humanism, that says just what you said that we are borrowing too much from Christianity, that humanism can tend toward a teleological progressivism meaning that things are just constantly getting better that they improve over time. And then secondly, I'm going to answer the apologetic criticism that humanism borrows from Christianity and Christianity invented these things. So first John Grace idea, I always feel like I'm late to the party to things, I feel like I was late to the party for humanism, and that I am kind of trying to define humanism on my own terms, which is really just what I was doing in Christianity. So I'm just doing the same bad habits over and over again. First of all, let me just say one of the goals of my work is to bring humanity into humanism. You've heard me in a derogatory sense, talk about rationality bros. And there is an element of humanism that, and I jokingly, I love professors, but jokingly say, conjures the professor with a tweed jacket at Oxford, right? You know, pontificating from his high tower. And that's wonderful. I love philosophy, I love I love Oxford. I love all those things. But I also want to express the fullness of the human experience. This involves our intuition, our emotions, our daily experiences, I want a humanism that lives breathes, sweats and bleeds, right. And so that's what I'm trying to get at when I talk about secular grace. Back to the criticism about the teleology, in that I don't recognize that humanism. I am progressive in my my politics, but I am, in particular, in the last few years, the first to tell you that every movement forward, quote, unquote, that we see as a forward movement is not guaranteed to stay that way, that we could lose what we have any minute for any reason that there is nothing guiding this. And with all due respect, and apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr. If the arc of the moral universe is bending towards justice, it does so only to the extent that we bend it, and it is susceptible to springing back at any second. So when John Gray criticizes the teleology that is, in some versions of humanism, I don't recognize that at all. What I think is important is that after that deconversion process, and recognizing that human beings are of the greatest worth. And I'll mention here just briefly, I just assert that I'm not trying to justify that in a philosophical sense. I'm just taking that as given. That's my axiom. And then I live my life based on that axiom. But given I take that as an axiom, then what do I do with that? How do I love people? How do I respond to people, but nothing about that suggests that I will be successful, nothing about that suggests that that justice will prevail. Nothing about that suggests that racism and hatred and tribalism and war will stop tomorrow, nothing about that. But what has changed is I now have a deep, profound personal sense of responsibility for my tiny part in that process. Whereas before, there was a sovereign God, it was God's responsibility for justice, not mine, I was incapable of bringing about justice. I'm still incapable of bringing about justice, but I still feel the weight of my responsibility in doing so. So that's the atheistic critique. What I hear often from the apologist is humanism is derivative. It gets everything from Christianity. And the short answer to that is, so what shouldn't Christians be happy about that? I find that I find this a really bizarre argument to start with, right. I freely admit that when I use the term grace, I am borrowing people's understanding from Christianity. As I said earlier, when I say the term secular grace, people either get it immediately, and that is something they want or don't want, or I couldn't explain if I had five hours to explain it to you. And I am borrowing on their intuitions from having learned what grace means within the Christian context. I'm tacking on that secular part. I could call it humanistic grace, human grace in some other way, right. But I unashamedly borrow that I could make the argument I do make the argument that This isn't derivative. I think it's a huge claim that Christian apologists make when they say that. No other cultures valued human life until Christianity, that is a claim that can be tested. I am not a historian. So I'm not going to weigh in too deeply. I am deeply skeptical of that claim. I think we could find pockets of cultures that deeply valued human life. Maybe they didn't write it down. We don't we, you know, we don't know that. So in that sense, I think that is an unfair reaction. But my first response is really the one that's the most important. So what what I've been saying is, back to James Croft, that the secular entails the religious that religion is a human phenomena. If religion is a human phenomenon, and Christianity is a human phenomenon, whatever wisdom is entailed there, I'm going to take without guilt whatsoever and use it without feeling like I have to take all of it, I can acknowledge all the bad parts of Christianity, and take the good parts. Because I'm not obligated to live within that framework. Number one, I find that argument really weird from the Christian perspective, and then two, I don't care much. And three, I fully acknowledge that I steal from people's understanding of what grace means. And I don't feel bad about it.
Sam Devis 1:06:36
was watching a video recently on Twitter as you do? And it was this video of these three gorillas, right? There was this, this is mom gorilla that was holding this like this little baby down and there's dad grills coming up the baby. And it was just basically blowing raspberries onto the baby gorillas tummy. And they're all giggling, all of them will often heads off. And I was like, Oh, sugar, I'm a gorilla, because that's precisely what I do. And there was something in this this sweetly, she said, like there's something human about this. And Daniel, a little while ago was sharing this story about basically this, this group of whales that were swimming along, and they're all going this sort of like swimming in this way that isn't normally expected. And basically, after kind of looking at them, they realized that one of the mothers had a dead baby under under her arm, I don't know what they're called fin. And they're all going along, basically together. And there's a really unusual pattern of behaviors, almost like they were mourning or grieving the loss of this young one. And I just find this like this, like so for me. I'm like, of course, my children have value and worth and humans have value and worth and I want to go, where does that come from? And obviously, that used to be going obviously, God gave it to us. That's the obvious answer. But the more I explore the world, the more I kind of go, Okay, this there seems to be this innate desire in all of us to, and I still think it's subjective, but there's this innate subjective desire within all of us to find that joy, and that comfort and that almost humaneness within that which we call family or friend, it's, it's incredible, really, when you when you look at this world,
David Ames 1:08:05
two really important things one, my family loves to watch nature shows. And I'm constantly amazed at the mammalian human nature, right? At the beginning of PBS has nature, they show a clip of a mama monkey, with a baby monkey, and the baby monkey starts to dive off off a tree limb and she reaches out and snatches its leg back. And like the exasperation in the expression of the mama, and it's just such a parental aspect, it just brings So and then, you know, every time they show with a lioness and her cubs, and the cubs are irritating the snot out her and it's just, it's such you, every parent can recognize these things. It's so we, we can deeply recognize our human experience within the mammalian kingdom. It's just it's amazing. So, so that, and then I wanted to just jump off a little bit about wanting to have value for our own humanity for our children's humanity. I kind of threw this line away earlier about that. I just assert that. Again, an argument that I find really bizarre, that we often have with believers, particularly apologists, is they are effectively saying, you can't justify being good to other people, you can't justify human value. And to which I think, What a bizarre thing to say, shouldn't you rejoice that I see value in other human beings? Shouldn't that be the goal? What Why aren't you like excited to come alongside with me? And regardless of our metaphysics and justification, love people, let's go do good in the world. I just I find it utterly bizarre. I have no problem working with a believer, a pastor an Imam, anyone who Who wants to do good, and love people and actually affect suffering in the world? I am 100% behind those people, I do not care what your metaphysic is, right? So it is bizarre to me that the argument is that we can't justify this, but this is constant. So having said all that, one of the things that I've really come to learn is when people do convert as particularly the rationally minded, very, maybe slightly more educated tend to lean towards the philosophical bent. And what I see when you go deeply down that road, is everyone is trying to find the metaphysic that is self justifying. Christians make the argument that God is a brute fact, naturalist make the argument that the physical universe is a brute fact, I leaned towards that naturalistic argument, but I am almost as unconvinced by the philosophical arguments for naturalism, as I am for the philosophical arguments for theism. And my point is, everything has axioms, everything has a presupposition. And my problem that I have with most conversations is that those presuppositions and axioms are on both sides of the conversation. But they are unstated, they are not explicit, they are implicit. And so we are talking past one another. So what I like to do is just say, here are my presuppositions. I think the physical universe exists, I think humans have value. Now, what do we do, right, and jump from there. And you could spend a lifetime trying to argue to justify those positions, and only convince people who already agree with you. And I want to be very clear, this is nuanced, what I'm trying to say, if you're a philosopher, that's wonderful, that's important work. Don't get me wrong. But for the vast majority of us who are not philosophers, that isn't our job, you don't need to spend the time wasting trying to justify why you think people are valuable. Just accept that and move on. So again, I just want to be super clear here for the very, very smart philosophers who are listening to the podcast, you're doing great work. I'm not saying don't do that. I'm saying that isn't my job. My job is trying to express the humanity of humanism and how we can apply it in the real world. That's what I do.
Sam Devis 1:12:34
Cool. It's really interesting. I think this is this sort of about isn't it's about hearing, hearing your views and how things have either been really reinforced or shifted and changed. I think that's really powerful.
You've mentioned a few times actually, that sort of the way that we view the sort of landscape of faith or the landscape of even deconversion to some levels, which is almost like a cathedral where, where we're looking at this pillar, we're looking at this sort of stained glass window or trying to lay the rug down a different way. But actually, more often than not, is the thing that this cathedral was built upon. That is the sort of area you want to dig into and, and explore. And I wonder, could you kind of just pop that open for us and explain that a little bit more, David?
David Ames 1:13:22
Yeah, I've tried to express this analogy a few times. And thank you for the opportunity. What I'm trying to convey in this is that Christianity is a deeply compelling idea. It's a deeply compelling story. And I've talked about before, the idea of laying your life down for someone you love, whether that comes from Christianity or predates, it really doesn't matter. But we inherit that in in Western culture that is so deep in our psyche. And I often refer to, you know, if you watch any movie about a dog, I mean, it's just absolutely conveying sacrifice. And, you know, any movie about war, you know, pulling your body out, you know, just recently lovely Netflix show, built on a very controversial short, short story called stowaway, that's called stowaway. And in the Netflix version, the female astronaut sacrifices herself. And it's just what I'm trying to get out of this is so deep in our psyche, that when you then tell the story of Jesus dying on the cross, it speaks to us at this deep level that we're just unconscious of where it intuitively reaches out to us in a way that is deeply compelling. And so I use this analogy of the cathedral to say that Christianity is like this beautiful cathedral. It has flying buttresses and turrets and stained glass windows. And it's just, it's just beautiful. It's deeply compelling. And some of the conversations that we have on this side of the conversion with believers This is arguments over, where, you know, should this turret be here on the west side or should be on the east side, we're arguing about this miracle or that miracle, we're arguing about speaking in tongues, or Calvinism or in this maybe goes back to John Grace criticism, we are ceding the grounds to the Christian by having the argument in their space, we are debating the cathedral. And the point that I want to make is that the cathedral is beautiful, we can acknowledge the cathedral is beautiful, and also acknowledged that the foundation has problems, the foundation is built on things that are not true. And the claims that Christianity makes, and the evidence that they provide to back up those claims don't match. But what I'm trying to say here is nuanced. I'm not saying that there is no evidence, I'm saying the evidence, such as it is, is completely incapable of matching the intensity, the uniqueness of the claim. Often, apologists will want to have it both ways. While Jesus was an itinerant preacher, in the rural parts of Israel, of course, we don't have much documentation about him. Oh, but the documentation that we have clearly clearly indicates that the resurrection took place. And the dearth of contemporary historical evidence is negative evidence, right? It's not proof, but it is negative evidence. And so we have to take that into account. The fact that, since the enlightenment, we have been trying to prove miracles, we've been trying to prove anything supernatural, ESP, there are huge incentives to do. So. The Templeton Foundation is set up purely to give grants to people who can try to prove spiritual things in any way or another. I can tell you that from a scientific perspective, they have not been successful. And again, huge sums of money are at stake here. That is not that the incentives are not there. And imagine if they had imagine if a double blind study about intercessory prayer showed a significant a statistically significant change. Imagine what you would hear from believers, that would be the first thing they told you every time you talk to them. The fact that they cannot do that is because there is no statistical significance. If they know about it, it's the placebo effect or no better than the placebo effect. And if it's double blind, there's no effect whatsoever. And so that is negative evidence. It is disconfirming evidence, and we need to take that. So my point is that we can acknowledge the beauty of the internal story of Christianity, and also acknowledged that the claims that it makes are not backed up by evidence. And if you come to the point where evidence is important to you, you might be justified in rejecting the claims of Christianity. I came to that point. And I think one of the descriptions of deconversion is the slow increase of your standard for evidence. I can't help but quote it. I've been reading I'm almost done with Carl Sagan ins demon haunted world. And before I had read this, I you know, I talked to Randall browser. And you could just hear the vitriol from Randall Randall. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he does not like curl. So I didn't get it. I was like, I don't get why, right. And now that I've read this book, I get it. He just dismantles the apologetic arguments. And he's not even addressing Christianity directly. He's addressing specifically the analogy of the potential existence of aliens, which is possible, but we have no evidence for he addresses things like New Age claims, homeopathic claims. And he talks about the excruciating ly high standards that science has, for what things are true, and why that's so necessary. And so one of the things I want to say to the apologetic classes, the question is not why is my standard of evidence so high? I'm not being unfair to you. I'm trying to be consistent. The things that I accept as true have high degrees of evidence for them. And the question is, why isn't your standard that high? Imagine if theism was true. And a god was intervening in our lives on a daily basis, what that world would look like if we had evidence of an interventionist theistic God You wouldn't be a question you wouldn't have to doubt. That is not the world that we live in. That's one of the things that I that I say is my God, the God that I've used to believe in. And the reason I don't believe in that God anymore is that he was bigger than the apologist. God, the apologists have neutered God, they have God in a box they have God is they understand him, and they can explain away every disparity, every question that you have has an explanation, that God that I thought of as real, was infinite, all powerful, all loving, intervened in our lives, conducted miracles. But as I became willing to acknowledge the reality of the world that I lived in, I had to acknowledge that that is not the world that I actually see.
One, and this might be quite a difficult question. But obviously, for a lot of people have one really key thing that comes from their faith is how they deal with the topic of death, had to deal with grief, how they how they deal with collective trauma, I mean, even even now, we're sort of recording this near the end of COVID lockdown, or at least what we hope is the end of COVID lockdown. But I saw that, as it started, the Google search term for prayer spiked. And, you know, it seems a lot of anthropologists have looked at sort of how times of trauma, both on an individual and the collective scale seems to drive this drive people towards faith. So now coming out on the other end, and looking from that sort of secular that human, our human natural position, how do you engage with questions like death and grief,
David Ames 1:22:10
I want to just respond very quickly to the 2020 COVID-19. I will be very fascinated over the next 10 years to find out, the D conversions go up. But I don't doubt at all that also, many more people will become religious, that it is kind of an either or you either do one or the other. We are looking for comfort. And again, to talk about the cathedral. It is comforting. I'm not I'm not trying to pretend like it isn't. It is comforting to believe that God has your back that he's going to protect you. Someone I love very dearly, often will say, Oh, this good thing happened because I prayed about it. And I don't challenge them. But in my mind, the first question I asked myself is what would you have said, if that hadn't happened? What would you have said if something deeply negative happened instead. So we tend to count the hits and not count the misses when it comes to that. I believe that many, many more people will become religious as well. It'll be very curious to see the studies over the next 10 years. The topic of death, I think is so deeply important. I wrote a blog post called the beginning of religion is death. And this was a few months after I lost my mom. So I D converted in 2015 and 2016 I lost my mom. So it was very real. This is not a philosophical debate. It was the utter lack of being able to fool myself into any comforting thoughts whatsoever. She was gone, I no longer will ever get to speak to her again. I no longer will ever hear her voice, hear her laughter be frustrated and mad at her I will never again have any of those experiences because she is gone. And the full weight of that hit me with a few years hindsight, I recognize that that also meant I was able to grieve I was able to let go of her. I love in Sasha seconds book. The book is for small creatures such as we she talks about, we kind of experience two deaths, the physical death that we experience. And then the last person who knew us who dies. You know, this idea of, of life after death is kind of true like we live on my mom lives on in my memory. I tell stories about my mom to my children. They have some sense of her. They knew her as young children as well. They have some sense of her. But someday, they will grow up and they will die. And their children will only have stories about my mom and someday those stories will Just stop, and no one will remember her, I someday will go down in obscurity and no one will have any idea who I was or what, what I had to say. And this is psychologically very, very, very difficult to accept. Number one, that that I will cease to be that I will no longer be living, that my personhood will stop, that there is no life after death. And to that, the massive odds are that no one will know my name in 100 years, that I will die in obscurity. A second death as it were. The thing I want to acknowledge, again, going back to the cathedral is, this idea of life after death is so profoundly human. When believers sometimes say that, that religion is in every culture, and every time and in every people group, and that kind of rationalist atheists have argued against that I often just agree with them. I think you're right, because it's a deeply comforting thing. And I think the beginning of the ideas of religion is coping with those two things, I will cease to be, and my loved ones have ceased to be and I will no longer ever get to see them again. These are hard, hard truths. And we are looking for anything to make that more comfortable. What I want to bring up here is that this is not just a religious thing, I've been really struck and actually took notes about this. Lately, I'm a huge, huge sci fi fan. So I'm constantly like, looking for the latest, dreaming sci fi movie. And over the last few years, I've been struck by how many sci fi very secular non religious, sci fi movies are about getting to see your loved ones after death. Just to name a few. Jason seagulls, the discovery was this idea of a machine that could attach to a dead person and you could, it was trying to revive them. And that turned out to be just the, in the in the movie physics, it just turned out to be just their memories. But it was this deep needs to be able to talk again with your loved ones. Movie just recently on Amazon Prime called archive where the idea that conceit is that you have archived the consciousness of someone after they die, and you get to say your goodbyes for some extended period of time, before they are turned off. Time travel movies recently, there's one called diverged, where it was all about the guy in this post apocalyptic environment going back to the world where he was able to see his wife and children. Kind of teeny bopper movie that I loved with called the map of tiny, perfect things, which I'm gonna spoil, which ultimately turns out to be the driving impetus is a young woman who is reliving the same day that she loses her mother, her mother dies that day, and she's reliving the same day her mother dies every day, I'm all breaking down in tears thinking about this. And my point is that we have this deep need and the such profound love for the people in our lives, that we cannot accept that they are gone. And I get it, I'm empathetic. But what I'm trying to say is that the truth will set you free, that dealing with that grief, accepting the reality of the true loss, accepting the reality of of your own mortality, accepting the reality of the likelihood that you are going to die in obscurity someday, is deeply freeing. I'm not obligated to feel one way or the other about it. I can be sad, I can be angry, I can rail I can. I can feel anything I want. And I don't need to protect God in this process and say that my mom's in a better place. I don't need to protect things that I know are not true. I can just grieve. I can experience sorrow. And I can grow through that. We talked about earlier, growing as a human being. I am different. Now. I have grown as a human being after losing my mother, and it has prepared me for future losses. I don't want those I desperately want not to lose anyone. But the reality is that I will and I will be gone someday and being able to just be prepared for that is a human experience. It's a deeply important one.
Sam Devis 1:30:00
Yeah, this is such a powerful and potent thing to be processing. I've been quite flipping with it recently and been talking about on the podcast with Daniel actually. So it won't be out for quite a while. But um, this idea that it all ends in a box. It sounds brutal when you say it, right, it sounds absolutely brutal. But actually, I think it helps you get get things into perspective a little bit more and to begin to actually work out what's important. And you know, where you want to spend your time because your time is really the only resource that you can't get more of in this world. Like, it's actually it is what is one of the things that you won't be able to, yes, store away and spend at some future date, right, you got to go to use your time today. And as soon as you get your head around that concept, you can begin to actually start living more in the now which is actually a really powerful thing, I'm sure convinced that when you guys talk to me, David, I'm going to hand back the keys to the car. I hope it's not too battered and smashes. We've wrapped it around the park a bit. But um, yeah, there you go. It's been so good talking. And I've, I've really enjoyed. Yeah, hearing your reflections and stuff. So yeah, there are the keys. Thank you.
David Ames 1:31:05
I am gonna respond to just two things really quickly, two things that you said that really interesting that the acceptance of your mortality does bring things into stark relief. I think, again, believers make the argument that, well, if it doesn't continue on forever, then it's not worth anything. And the opposite is true. I have a much more immediate, imminent sense of my love for my family and my friends, because I know it won't last forever. And then too, there's this sense that by scientific or naturalistic view of the world will destroy your sense of wonder, and I find the opposite to be true. I am constantly amazed at the wonder of nature. We talked about recognizing the parental aspects of mammals, like just that's just amazing, you know, would you when you try to ponder the distance to the nearest star to us other than the sun, Alpha Centauri is four light years away, that there is no concept of now, both on Alpha Centauri and here at the same time, is mind boggling. I mean, I live in a constant state of wonder, the experience of hearing people's stories, having the gift of sometimes people telling me their story for the first time is Wonder inducing in me. And I just think my listeners think thank you, guys. But thank you for the opportunity to share all these stories with you today.
Thanks very much, David. Thank you.
David Ames 1:32:43
Final thoughts on the episode, I'm actually not going to talk about this episode, I'm going to talk about the SR episode that is dropping on when belief dies. As I mentioned, there is a diversity of thought out in the world. I think it's important to highlight that. So Sam from wind to lift eyes, and I have a lot in common, we talk a lot about secular grace, both of us find it really important to be kind to the people that we are interviewing, even if they are believers or theists, then we have similar approaches. But there is daylight there. So longtime listeners, you will know about my skepticism towards meditation, you might also hear some of my skepticism about psychedelics and that kind of thing. These are things that are really important to Sam. And so the interview that Daniel and I do interviewing Sam, we delve into these, and Sam gets to explain in detail why those things are important to him. Obviously, I highly recommend when the leaf dies podcast in general, and this episode, in particular, you need to go check that out, it really does complement the episode you just listened to. I want to thank Sam and Daniel for participating in both conversations. This has been amazing. As I said at the outset, this turned out even better than I anticipated. I really appreciated the opportunity to really express myself and feel like I got it all out there. This last week, I tried out Twitter spaces for the first time and I titled it deconversion talk. I sat there by myself for about 10 or 15 minutes and I was just about to give up when a couple of people popped in and out. And there was definitely a bit of awkwardness as I was trying to figure out how to get people to participate because they didn't know they were signing on for that they thought they were just signing on to listen. One brave soul. I just want to thank her very much for responding and being willing to talk to me. And we got rolling in a conversation. She told me a bit about her deconversion experience. And it was one of those amazing connections that just out of the blue. And by having two of us talking then other people joined. Other people started participate. We had a few people who just listened but it was great And that was spontaneous. I gave a couple of hours notice, but I doubt that anyone showed up because they had seen that message, I think people just show up because they see it in the app. So the things that I learned are, I need to have at least one other person to begin the conversation with so that we jumpstart the conversation and people can join and just listen if they want. And then they can be invited to speak if, if that's interesting. And then the other is maybe to find a specific time. That is always the challenge as a lot of my free time is spent producing the podcasts. But I'm going to look for more opportunities to do this kind of thing. But the last thing I want to say here is that I just encourage you to do the same. There's nothing special about me. You can host these kinds of things as well. And whether it's on Twitter or YouTube or whatever platform you prefer. What I really recognize is the hunger and the need for people to connect. If that can happen between strangers who don't know each other and in an hour's conversation, then it is amazing if that were an ongoing, planned process. So I would encourage you to do the same. Maybe I'll join your Twitter spaces hang up. Until next time, 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 for 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 chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on restful atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate, podcast, please get in touch. 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 would 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 deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email graceful email@example.com or you can check out the website graceful atheists.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
I begin every streaming interview with a question, “hi, can you hear me?” Never has an affirmative answer to such a mundane question been so profound as it was with this week’s guest, Caroline Schwabe. Caroline had progressive hearing loss and eventually could no longer speak on the phone even with hearing aids. Almost by accident, she was referred to a Cochlear implant program in Canada during a routine hearing test. January 28, 2018, was her last deaf day. She has been on a three-year journey of rediscovery after receiving a Cochlear implant.
Along with her husband, Andreas, Caroline co-hosts a podcast called My Beautify Cyborg about her Cochlear implant journey. It describes the hopes and fears leading up to surgery and the joy and rediscovery after turning on the implant. Caroline’s gratitude and joy is infectious and comes through in each episode.
Caroline and Andreas had experienced major disappointments and hurts from the Church. At the same time she was going through the implant process, both she and her husband were slowly leaving the Church. If not a full blown deconstruction, they have been asking very hard questions and wrestling with the answers. This episode is unique in that there are two parallel stories: one of regaining hearing and one of questioning one’s faith.
Podcasts have played an out sized role in Caroline’s rediscovery of hearing and language recognition, including this one.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
David Ames 0:11
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As always, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on pod chaser.com or the Apple podcast store, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, at the beginning of every streaming interview that I do I say something along the lines of Hi, can you hear me? Never before has the affirmative answer to that mundane question been more profound than in the case of my guest this week. Caroline's Schwabe. Caroline's progressive hearing loss was expected due to family history, but no less devastating. The expense of hearing aids and testing and all of that work was daunting. And she was beginning to lose her ability to be in a conversation. She couldn't speak on a phone anymore. Until that is she became eligible for a cochlear implant, which transformed her life. Along with her husband on dress, Caroline co hosts a podcast called my beautiful cyborg that is about her journey of hearing loss and the cochlear implant and the regaining of her hearing. Caroline is about to tell us that story. But intermixed with that is devastation about her husband wanting to attend seminary and that falling through, and various church failures that affected them deeply. So in the midst of regaining her hearing, Caroline was also in some forms of deconstruction. The thing I want you to listen for, and the emphasis is on the word Listen, is the joy that Caroline expresses. When I'm trying to talk about secular grace, it is about thriving, not just surviving, and Caroline is thriving. And you can hear the joy for life, the joy for regaining her hearing, the joy for the simple things that she had at one point in time lost and has now regained. Here's my conversation with Caroline Schwabe.
Caroline's Schwabe, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Caroline Schwabe 2:48
Thank you, David. Thanks for having me.
David Ames 2:51
I will acknowledge here that we have had previous conversation and we may refer back to that a few times. But Caroline, you have such a very unique story that I'm gonna let you get into in just a second. But what was really kind of tugged at my heart. It was telling me that my podcast and other podcasts that deal with faith deconstruction was such a major part of of your life. So I'm kind of just teasing here. We'll get to why that is. But let's begin with what was your faith tradition.
Caroline Schwabe 3:27
I was born to German immigrants to Canada, and they raised they baptized us kids into the Lutheran tradition. So I grew up going to Sunday school and got involved with the youth there. My parents weren't really involved in the church, weirdly, but I enjoyed it. I actually, the Sunday school thing was kind of the obligation that my parents wanted to fulfill their baptismal promises that they made during my baptism. But as I got a little bit older and got involved with VBS, it was all me I wandered over to the church by myself and I, and in terms of the youth group stuff, I got involved on my own too. And, you know, I, I just liked it. There was a sense of community and I liked the tradition. I liked the ritual, actually, of church, and just the feeling of being there with people that I knew and just I was kind of a spiritual kid, if that makes sense.
David Ames 4:29
It makes complete sense. Yeah.
Caroline Schwabe 4:30
Yeah. I kind of had deep thoughts when I was even just a little girl. And, um, and then just carried on with that through high school and stuff. And when I was 19, I went to like the first national Canadian Lutheran church youth gathering that was in in Thunder Bay. And I had met this guy at the sandwich machine, and I was like, I'm not here to be boys. Yeah, I'm gonna go now and And my friend and I were sitting in the bleachers at Lake had University and we heard this unbelievable beautiful piano music just resonating through the auditorium there. And I was like, Where's that coming from? So we, the two of us ran down to the piano was this guy had just met at the sandwich machine. And he's playing this just gorgeous music. And someone like rang the lunch bell, and everybody disappeared. And it was just me and this guy sitting at the piano. So I, I actually settled up next to him. And I played piano at the time, too, had taken, like the, the more regimented route to playing music. So I read music, and I practiced, and then I would be able to perform a piece but only after several weeks of practicing and learning. And this guy was just playing. He's he says, oh, yeah, it's original. I'm like, What do you mean, it's originally so I wrote it. And he had these beautiful hands, and I couldn't believe he was single. So we fell in love immediately. And Andreas and I got married apart me engaged the very next day. So we were engaged very, very quickly. And, you know, when as, as we have talked about that, it's been really interesting, because the day after we were engaged, so like, the third day of knowing each other. We all just sort of laying it all out and telling each other the things that might be we were trying to be very, very honest. Okay. And, and so he told me some stuff. And I said, Yeah, well, I'm probably going to be deaf one day, too, because my mom's deaf and it's genetic. And it's on her side of the family. And he's like, Oh, by the time that's happening, they will come up with a solution for that. Okay. So he, and and that gives me some comfort, you know, knowing that he was okay with it, and that there would be something for that later.
David Ames 7:04
Right? Can we just acknowledge that that's a pretty big deal. That's a pretty Yeah, after three days of knowing each other, you're engaged, and you drop the bomb that you have genetic propensity towards deafness.
Caroline Schwabe 7:19
You know, I agree with you wholeheartedly. And at that moment, because it was such a big part of my life. I mean, my mom was just deaf. So that was just normal for me. Yeah. It's really hard for me to explain. But to me, it didn't seem like the worst thing in the world or a big deal. It was like, when this does come about, you're going to have to learn to deal with that, like, we're going to figure out how to communicate. And I'm going to read lips just like my mom does. And I'm going to probably have hearing aids and all this stuff that, to me was kind of normal, it was just had always been part of my life. Obviously, from the time I was born, so my mum was a little older. She was 36 when she had me and so by then she was already wearing hearing aids. And I didn't know any other way to go through life, but to have someone in my life with hearing impairment. So yeah, I do absolutely acknowledge it now, but at the time, at the time, I didn't think too, too, too much of it. So anyway, he was pretty brave. Yes, in that regard. And he also told me, and we were both very much on the same page in terms of our faith and our approach to life and our outlook on the future and just the things that are important in a marriage. So he told me, he wanted to go to seminary and be a pastor and I was interested in going to university and working towards becoming like a deacon s or what they call it in the Lutheran church at that time was a parish assistant. Okay. So and that was like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was was the the sort of mother organization from which the Lutheran church Canada had been born. So in case anyone's interested, that's the flavor of Lutheran. Yeah,
David Ames 9:20
no, I think that's important, right? Like the the diversity of faith backgrounds is important. And so there's going to be somebody out there who's, you know, Missouri citizens or candidate literally from Canada. They're going oh, that's my story.
Caroline Schwabe 9:35
That's exactly right. And you know, it does make a difference in terms of some of the, the understanding of faith and theology and all that stuff. So when I moved out here, the plan was that we would work for a couple years and then Andres would go to seminary and then we would be a pastor and I would be pastor's wife, you know, usually plays piano and teaches Sunday school and helps out in the church. And so I'd basically be a church worker, whether I liked it or not. And I was I was all up for that. So that's, yeah, that's where we came from. But I don't know if you want to go into how we left the church right away, or Yeah, I
David Ames 10:21
think just because I know a little bit of the story. The plan to do seminary didn't pan out exactly the way you intended. Correct. So you want to tell a little bit about that story?
Caroline Schwabe 10:31
Yeah, yes. And no. Because it was a pretty, it's a pretty terrible strike. So we saved up all our money, and we made all the necessary arrangements to take that step and go to school. So we moved, and Andreas quit his job. And he was ready. And it was, he was supposed to start right away. And he went in to the seminary for something I don't even know what and they said, Oh, you're just on time, the President just waiting to see you. Or, sorry, the one of the deans, okay. And he's like, I don't have a meeting. And they said, Oh, yeah, you do. You went in. And they. Now I just need to preface this with all of the years that everyone we knew, had encouraged Andreas to go into the ministry. These were people from the Concordia University where he had attended, where he was he had graduated from these were parents and family, friends, these were professors at the seminary itself, anyone within our churches, I mean, it just goes on and on. Every single person encouraged him to go into the seminar. And he goes, he goes into this unexpected meeting. And he's told that his application has been declined. And they and they wouldn't tell him the reason. So I think that a lot of listeners might be able to understand just how devastating that news would be. This is the future that we have been dreaming about for at least five years. We were already married five years by this time. This is the only thing we've ever intended to do with our life together. And now we're being told that that's not going to happen. And not only not only is it impossible, but there's no there's no reason that we're going to tell you Ouch. Yeah. Andreas. I mean, I think it's very understandable that he struggled tremendously. And so did I just kind of went through life like a zombie for the next little while, and he suffered all sorts of physical and emotional difficulties from, you know, anxiety and nausea and sleeplessness, and just suicidal thoughts. And I mean, he was quite devastated.
David Ames 13:13
Yeah, justifiably so. Yes.
Caroline Schwabe 13:15
Yeah. And I think for my, I can only really speak to what I was thinking at the time, but I remember, I was angry, but more so I just felt a sense of powerlessness. I was like, you know, there are these powers that be these lead, quote, leaders of the church. And they clearly pull all the strings here. And I'm just a little it's gonna say, peon member, like, I'm just a plebe. And I, you know, I can change things in my household, and I can have an impact on things that happen on my street and in my community. And, you know, maybe even in my congregation, but after that, I just felt a sense of, Wow, I'm just, I'm powerlessness here in this situation. And so I made a decision for myself in order to protect myself that I would no longer get involved in any of the politics of the church. So or, or even really get into any of the committees and leadership. So I did teach Sunday school. I think I sang in the choir a couple times and sort of, I don't want to say a state at the periphery, but I didn't get into the meat, the nitty gritty of church stuff. I kind of I closed my heart a little bit at that point. I was just so injured.
David Ames 14:42
Understood. Understood. Yeah. So you said explicitly that the the people in your lives were, you know, pushing Andrea not pushing. We're encouraging Andrei is to go to seminary. Did you also both of you have a sense that God was guiding you to do that?
Caroline Schwabe 15:00
I certainly did for myself, like I, more than anything to be honest, I wanted to be a mom, and, and raise kids. And that didn't work out either, by the way, but that's another story. So I can't speak for Andreas, I know that his faith was very deep and very strong. And he was very committed to not only his, his faith, and his, you know, personal faith life, but also to the church in quotes that the church the you know, we believe that or sorry, it's hard to change your language when you change your thinking about spiritual things. So when I say we, I mean, the tradition in which I grew up the Lutheran tradition, they, yes, believe that all believers are the church. So Right. And that's the quote, but there's also that concept of the institution, so the Lutheran Church in Canada, and then we have sin, it's within. And you know, that there's, there's always going to be church politics. So that's what I'm talking about. Andreas was very, you know, involved and committed to the organization as well.
David Ames 16:19
Right. I guess the the impetus of my question is, there's an element of feeling rejected, feeling rejected by the organization. But there's this added layer of this is supposed to be something that that God is guiding you to do. And so there might have been, and I'm curious what your experience was a sense of God rejecting you as pastors.
Caroline Schwabe 16:45
I know that he's most certainly felt rejected by the organization. And I think that we always, to be truthful, I think that we've both of us have always kind of separated in our minds. And in our hearts, there is a difference. There's the organization and the earthly. That's the best word organization of these people that believe the same thing. And then there's, there's your personal faith in what you believe, who you believe God to be. So I didn't personally feel rejected by God, I was like, this world, this earth thing, and these people are Turks. And there's something wrong here. And you know, you talk about, in general, it's I was like, yeah, there's still you're still gonna find problems in the church, because it's made up of people and people are sinful. And that's, you know, that's always jammed on you throw it is how sinful we are. Yes, so it wasn't a huge surprise that oh, there's, it's not perfect. So that I always kind of wrote it off to that. I didn't, like I said, I didn't personally feel the sense of rejection from God. And I don't think Andres did, either. But I can't really answer that question for him. I know, he was devastated. And he was very depressed. And he certainly felt he has had lasting repercussions from that. In fact, he has PTSD from that incident, because of that sense of rejection, like, just shame and self hatred, and lots of really ugly stuff that came out of that. And I suppose that must tie in with his sense of who he is, and his value as a person. But again, I think maybe one day you're gonna be chatting with him as well. And
David Ames 18:38
yeah, absolutely. And I'm sorry, to it feels like this was a very leading question. And I didn't mean for it to be that way. So I think I read you loud and clear. That was devastating enough as he is. And so Oh, yeah.
So you mentioned earlier, you were kind of feeling like a zombie for that time period after that. Is this the beginning of the hearing loss as well?
Caroline Schwabe 19:10
Yeah, I'm actually the hearing loss started a little bit before that. So I was only we were only married for a year or so I was 21. By the time I had my first pair of hearing aids, and that hearing loss continued as the years went on. So my hearing just degenerated year after year, I would get tested regularly, and we would spend we spent an awful lot of money on hearing aids which is really important you need to aid your hearing if you if you have a loss. What happens is if you don't aid a hearing loss, your brain kind of forgets to understand to be able to interpret words and so it's a use it or lose it type of situation here. Yeah, and Andres was very encouraging And, in fact, he was most often the one who said, hey, it's time we need to, to upgrade your hearing aids. He convinced me to get my first pair of digital hearing aids all those years ago. And I didn't believe that they would be that different than analog AIDS. But he played a clip online of sound recorded through these new swanky new digital hearing aids. And I said, I said out loud, I call bullshit. And he said, Caroline, let's just, let's just try it. And we're talking about a lot of money we're talking about,
David Ames 20:36
and you're young, and you'd probably don't have the cash on hand for that kind of thing.
Caroline Schwabe 20:39
No, it was always a burden. But we that's what I'm saying. He was very, very supportive and always said, like, nothing's really more important than this, Caroline you, you need to be able to hear to function and to have the kind of life that we enjoy. So a social life, and just, you want to give yourself the best chance. So we did we bought those aids, and, um, you know, just to kind of give you an idea, we're talking about $7,000 for a pair aids back then. It's a lot of money. So it was a big decision. But yeah, it was great. And to be truthful, also, that was the last pair of hearing aids, that made a big difference for me, because my loss just continued over the years. And by the time I was 1448, it was time to get a new pair again, and both of us that, like, we're going to spend a lot of money again, and is it really going to help? Because I've already got the best, most powerful aides available right now. And I'm suffering,
David Ames 21:50
right. And you said, I think specifically 15% speech recognition in ideal conditions, that's kind of where you were at?
Caroline Schwabe 21:59
Yeah, can you imagine that. So just to give you an idea of how this works. When you go for hearing test, you they put you in a sound booth. So ideal, right, like you should be able to hear a pin drop in there. But as a hearing impaired person, you don't. So you're sitting there and they do the series of beeps, and you just click a clicker every time you hear a beep, and those those tests are fine. But then they do a word recognition test. And they start where you can still see them. Okay, so my word recognition, when I could read lips was actually pretty good. It was like in the 90 percentile. So 94 or something like that. But the minute they covered their mouth, and I could not see the words
David Ames 22:47
Caroline Schwabe 22:49
it was, I hated it, it was the most frustrating thing is like failing a test, but you've got no chance of passing it in the first place. So yeah, 15%. And in my left ear and 11% in my right ear, for Yeah, so it was really, really crappy and awful. And I will also mention just that, since since we're talking about faith in the church and all that it was no secret in our congregation that that I had hearing loss. And Julius would advocate for me and try to get them to put a new sound system in and because I mean, I wasn't the only one. There were lots of all these in our congregation, mostly all these people. And, you know, hearing loss is invisible. He can't see it, I look fairly normal somewhere. And there's, there's no visible disability there. And a lot of times, those of us who do you struggle with hearing, it gets embarrassing after you ask two or three times, pardon me. So you, you, you, unfortunately, adopt this bad habit of faking it. So you're not and you smile a lot and you laugh on cube and everybody else laughs even though you didn't get what was said. So the problem is that we make it worse for ourselves because we make it look like we're normal. And we can hear when really, that's not what's happening. And we're being left out of social situations and any conversation and I couldn't hear the sermon. I couldn't hear anything that was going on at church. So the one accommodation that was made for me was that a few pastors would print up the sermon, and I could follow along while they preach. So that was like the only accommodation that ever happened for me in church, for my hearing loss. But we did keep going to church even after the seminary thing and we kept going and we kept going because we were faithful and we wanted to do the right thing. Yes, you know, so yes, the hearing loss just continued and it just go Kept deteriorating. In the meantime, we got really involved with cycling and kayaking. And we had this other group of friends. And yeah, it was great. It was actually a good time of life and a weird time life because I was getting different differ, but our group of circle of friends was getting bigger and bigger. And it was really exciting. And we would go on these beautiful kayaking trips to like Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park, I mean, take a gang with us. And, and, and I did these crazy bike races and endurance. It was like, sort of an interesting time really, to be not able to hear but so physically active and socially, actually engaged, right? So our friends were pretty good. They would try to include me and make sure that I knew what was going on. But it's it's really hard, because like I said, people forget it's invisible.
David Ames 26:01
Forgive me, sometimes I like to find an analogy of just my own experience. And I don't mean to minimize in any way. My experience trying to learn another language. When I speaking to a native speaker, it isn't so much that I don't know the words, it's that my brain doesn't pick up the sounds they're making. And I wonder if it's analogous. Is it similar?
Caroline Schwabe 26:25
Well, you mean being deaf? Well,
David Ames 26:28
I mean, yeah. Again, obviously, this is a totally different thing. Make that 100%? Clear. But But yes, the loss of speech recognition specifically, yeah, you're hearing something. But it isn't translating into words for you.
Caroline Schwabe 26:43
Yes, it that is a lot what it's like, and it's also there are so many Monty Python sketches and others. Oh, if you think about Charlie Brown's teacher, wah, wah, wah, like you're just you're hearing some sound. But no, consonance. That was my experience. And in fact, in fact, when I took my hearing aids out towards the end of my deafness, which sounds weird, but we'll get to it. I took I took my hearing aids out, and I remember going
I would make all the constants and I got nothing. Oh, wow. There was just silence. And I thought, Wow, I'm so like, How can I be this? And how can I be this Dev? Without even realizing that I'm here that I got this death now?
David Ames 27:51
Right? It snuck up on you.
Caroline Schwabe 27:54
It sneaks up on everybody. We're sadly, the person experiencing the hearing loss is always the last one. To know it. It's always a family member or colleagues or somebody who says, you know, something's going on, you know, you're not catching what I'm saying. And I know people try to be gentle about it, but the person with the hearing loss is going to deny it. Left, right and center. Yes, there they will, every time. And so I was no longer in denial. I just didn't realize how little I was catching despite, despite the frustration, and the isolation and the difficulty following any instructions, just as an example. There was so much it was so obvious. And yet when I couldn't even hear continents at all, it was still pretty striking. So to answer your question, it is like another language. It's like just hearing someone with marbles in their mouth or someone brushing their teeth and trying to say something to you. You're like, Oh, I know you're speaking but those sounds aren't making words. Right? Okay, that's what it's like. So you there's no information being transmitted. The only information I got was through lip reading, and body language. And I was pretty good at it. I mean, I was working through this whole entire time. I was serving tables in hotel restaurants. That's what I have been doing. For for my work for all my life. And so to think that I manage that is actually kind of remarkable. I just have found a million coping mechanisms. And just so many people asked me, How did you do that? How did you work as a server while you were Dev? And I tell everybody well, first of all, this the the Clients are sitting. So they're fixed. They're in a fixed spot. One of my pet peeves with certain people get up and walk around and then ask me for stuff. I'm like, you have to face me and speak clearly, we don't understand what you need right now. Anyway, they would, they would be in a seat, and I could move myself around to the place that I could see their lips and understand. And usually people, when they put their order in to their server, they'll point to the item on the menu. So I would you always use that as a clue. And just several other things that I made work for me and my colleagues were always really wonderful and helpful and understanding and compassionate. So that was, that was good, too.
David Ames 30:42
What I always hear when I hear someone describe the compensating mechanisms that they have to do for whatever they're overcoming, is what a genius you had to be, like, how many other forms of information you are gathering, in order to make, like you say, information out of that data?
Caroline Schwabe 31:00
Yeah, I received a few compliments from some dear friends before it's like, my one girlfriend in the States. She was in Seattle. And she said, Caroline, I think you're brilliant. I mean, I don't know how you can come up with considering how little information you're getting. You're still able to carry a conversation. I mean, wow. And later on, that wasn't even possible anymore. i One of the things that happened during a hearing test once Andreas came with me, and he sat with the hearing a practitioner who was doing the test at the time. And during the word test. I was you know, bombing Right. And, and this, you're supposed to say, whatever you can hear. So if you only get a portion of a word, say that word. The the practitioner says the word ditch. Okay. And I find your laughing I know what you think. But I heard I just didn't care. I just didn't know what he said. So I hear I said girge. Like, I just was like I heard Gert So ever since that day Andreas and and he just about fell off their chairs laughing at this made up word that I came up with. And so anytime I misheard a word after that, we would say, oh, yeah, Gert, like it was just, you heard something that wasn't actually said. And then sometimes the conversation can go on this tangent. And you start talking about this other subject that you thought you heard, I thought we were talking about this. And so I carry on that conversation, and you're going on in a completely different direction. When really were originally, you're talking about another subject entirely.
David Ames 32:49
I can relate to this from just family members who were older, who the same thing, you're having a conversation with them. And it veers off some direction. You're like, I don't know how we got here, but I'm going with it. I'm going to wing it. Good for
Caroline Schwabe 33:02
you. Good for you. Because that is the correct thing to do. Just go with it. Yeah, it's absolutely embarrassing when you when that happens. I recall several incidents when in a social situation, that's what happened and it and just mortified. And I think I just didn't say anything for the rest of the night. Because, you know, you feel so stupid, even though it has nothing to do with intelligence. You're just absolutely buried in this. Being being mortified that you you've made this horrific social error. I'm gonna give you one example because I think it's funny. This is Long time ago, and I was on a Skype call with my mother in law. And we were discussing the this 25th anniversary that we were going to put on a dinner for Jason's sister, and talking about the dinner menu and blah, blah, blah. And I hear mom saying, oh, yeah, because they have they have chickens. And I can just let it go. And we continue talking about the menu in the day and all of that. And at the very end of the conversation, I said, Well, Mom, what about the chickens? Andreas turns very slowly looks at me. And he's like, I'm completely out of my mind. What are you talking about Caroline, and Andreas had this way over the years of being able to sort of memorize everything. Every conversation we're having every every sound in the room, he would just somehow make like a mental record of that of the the audio. And so he after looking at me like I was insane. Went through the conversation with ah, they have tickets, they have tickets for Friday night for a choral performance or something. And same thing I felt like such an idiot like How did I get chicken out of tickets? But we're talking. So one of the things that, you know, I like to say is, hey, context really is important. And especially when you're talking to somebody who cannot hear, if you just say, we're talking about the date now, okay, so we can't do it Friday, because they have tickets, it got it as a hearing impaired person, you just, you're so lost all the time. So just if somebody just takes that one minute, to catch you up, and give you some context, do you have a hope of going forward? Right and being included?
David Ames 35:43
Okay, I think we've got a bit of a visceral feeling for that hearing loss, obviously, not to the depths that you experienced, but we're starting to get a picture for that. We're going to get to very quickly here how technological solution that has changed your life. But before we get there, a quick question about faith. Obviously, you've had the devastating experience of being rejected by the seminary. But did you associate the loss of hearing as with with your faith in a negative way? Or or was it just not an issue?
Caroline Schwabe 36:20
It was it had nothing to do with that? I am, to be honest, no, I, it was one of those. So I'm kind of a positive person, just generally, I'm, I'm happy. Just in general, I like to embrace the beautiful things in life. And so I always said, you know, I couldn't have picked a better time in history to be deaf. If I have to be deaf. This is a good, this is the time to do it. I don't have to use a big horn. Right, right. Not only not only do we have sophisticated amplifiers that we put into our ears, these hearing aids and they become they're getting better and better all the time. Technology's advancing, but also, we use email, we use texting, every pretty much anything you want to watch is going to be closed captioned, or you can find a way to get it closed caption. So there are all these tools that we can tap into. And I always just said to myself, Oh, there's worse things in life, you know, and frankly, it blows me away that I didn't even realize the devastation. You know, you, you realize that in hindsight, that oh, man, my life was a disaster, like, maybe not a disaster, but
David Ames 37:46
it was suffering.
Caroline Schwabe 37:47
It was suffering. And I do remember at one point, I said, I suggested to Andres, that we go to the Deaf Church, because I was like, I can't. I'm not part of the hearing world anymore. But I'm not really part of the deaf community, either. So I felt really stuck and trapped between two worlds. So at that point, yeah, I felt I felt the devastation, but I would say that I leaned on my faith where I, I, it wasn't a reflection of God or anything. It was just life. It was just the burden I had to bear. And I didn't realize how heavy that burden was until later. Till now. Right?
David Ames 38:43
So obviously, we're, you're able to hear me this conversation
Caroline Schwabe 38:52
I have to take every single time I have a video or a phone call now. It I get a charge out of it. It's thrilling to me that I can do this. You get just you know, to highlight how great that is. I also have to just mention, I couldn't make a phone call to make an appointment. Just like I just need a dentist appointment. Andreas, can you please call the dentist so that I can make an appointment? And it's this rigamarole every single time and then also just a little complaint? In general, there are these webs a lot of places will say Oh, you can book online. So you go you click to book online. And you know what the message that comes back is Oh, thank you. Thank you for your appointment request. Someone will phone you shortly to confirm and abort to set up the appointment. I'm like that is now what's called booking online. I was so pissed off every time that happened, including my hearing aid practitioners face I was like, Are you effing kidding me? Seriously. You deal with Deaf people all the time. You This is bullshit So I actually ended up getting the the personal phone number mobile number of the receptionist, the lead receptionist, and she would just she and I would just email or text back and forth. I was like, this is really stupid. This is not catering to your client. Oh, but anyway, so that's just my little pet peeve there that I had to mention. It's just ridiculous.
David Ames 40:36
So do you want to tell us then about the technological solution and how that changed your life?
Caroline Schwabe 40:41
Yeah, absolutely. It's the most exciting and it's the thing I love to talk about most. So as I mentioned earlier, and I'm 48, and it's time for a new pair aids, oh, man, here we go again. And this time, we just really didn't have the seven to $8,000 to drop. So we decided that we would pop in at Costco, and they do have a really decent Hearing Center and a lot of Costco locations. So we ran in there to see if maybe they had some less costly solutions. And I booked a hearing test with a really lovely girl, who I did not notice had any hearing impairment, but she did. Okay, her name is Melanie and she is Alberta's second pediatric cochlear implant team 30 years ago, and she made my appointment. And she also is the art She is a certified audiologist. And she is the person who did my testing. And at the end of the testing, she asked me if I would mind whether she did a few more tests. And I said not at all, you know, yes, please. Right. And then she asked me one question. She said, Do you still use the phone? And I started just tears rolling down my face. I'm like, Nope, can't do that anymore. And she very gently said, Caroline, I, I'd like your permission to refer you to the cochlear implant program at the Glenrose hospital. It's called the Glenrose rehabilitation hospital. It's like the only hospital in Alberta devoted to rehabilitation. So I was walking out of there thinking, This feels like hope. Well, I I didn't know I was deaf enough to potentially qualify for a cochlear implant, because anything I'd ever learned up until then was that you had to be completely like, like 99% Zero sound. So the way that hearing is measured is by they call it thresholds. So, you probably need a typical hearing person requires 20 dB of sound to to hear to understand any that that information coming in. As you lose hearing, you require higher DBS. So my audiogram indicated that I required 75 to 80 dB of sound just to perceive it. Which which means, I mean, that's really pretty tough.
David Ames 43:19
Something to me, like I know that's relatively loud,
Caroline Schwabe 43:23
at DVS. quite loud. And then if you anyway, so it occurred to us at that moment walking out of Costco, wow, we've arrived at this place where we're that depth. And I say we because Andreas and I have always, he's always shared his hearing with me. You know, he's always been been there to help me as we engage in any social interactions. And he's always just made every effort to help me, as I've continued here, and so that was amazing. That was May 2017. And through the summer, I was invited to the Glenrose. I was, you know, the appointments were just made for me, I just showed up. And there's a series of testing that they do. First, I should say that after my first hearing test at the Glenrose, I was approved to enter the program, meaning now we're going to test you further. It looks like you could benefit from a cochlear implant, but now we're going to find out whether that's true because there's there are several factors that could cause an issue or just problems that might mean that you would not be a good candidate. So they did all that testing through the summer. And by the fall, we received news that I was indeed approved. As a candidate, so now, I'm going to get a cochlear implant. And this news was riveting. I mean, we, we were hopeful, but you, you always kind of hold back that bit of hope. Because you could still be rejected from the program, you could still be, they could find something in the way that your physiology is, or they do. Like they test the way your synapses fire in your brain and says anything, could be something that would mean an implant would not be beneficial for you. So when we got that news that I was actually accepted as a candidate, we were just floored, and I was immediately, profoundly grateful. And I said, we have to do something to express that gratitude. So that night, we started a podcast. And it's just, it's called my beautiful cyborg. And we just started talking about how we were feeling about going into this journey, what the process was, and we were basically doing a play by play about every appointment and every new thing that came up and everything we learned about the journey and, and I was still deaf at the time. So the fact that I got through those podcast discussions is kind of remarkable in itself. I mean, we we recorded, oftentimes, we would record an hour and a half and get maybe 20 minutes out of it maybe. Right, right, because I would just do that thing where you go off on another tangent or I just miss your the question. Yeah, it was, it was challenging, but really exciting to see.
At the same time, that year, all that year, Andreas, had been writing a blog. And it was pretty controversial. And I have to backtrack a little bit to the beginning of 2000. I think it was 17, it might have been 16. So he might have already been writing that blog for some time. But the Lutheran church, Canada, Alberta, British Columbia district, had this church extension fund. And you might be familiar with that type of thing. And some of our listeners might might be familiar with that. So it's where members invest money into this fund, where the churches can access for things like building a new building, or perhaps a church extension, or, you know, those types of projects that banks aren't really happy to lend churches money for. And what happened was this fund in Alberta, British Columbia had been mismanaged. So, so greatly to the point that they had lost $80 million of investors. Wow, yeah. And these are old, faithful Christians who are just giving their money to the church for for God's work. And a lot of people that was, for a lot of investors, this was the retirement fund. This was this was, what they how they were gonna, you know, get to stop working, or whatever. And they had a lot of trust in this thing, in this this organization that was supposedly caring for their cash. And so, Andreas blog was a source of information for the victims of this crisis, this financial crisis, and he was not loved at all, by the leadership in the church. In fact, he received David he received death
David Ames 49:02
threats, oh, man,
Caroline Schwabe 49:04
he was cajoled. He was he they, you know, various people tried to get him to stop this blogging and and then on the other side, the victims were calling them and emailing and trying to get more information and really being supportive of him. And this went on for a long time. And we kept going to church. Despite this thing, and this, this, the the, the church did nothing for the victims, you know, they they didn't reach out to them at all. They weren't even they were halfway honest about like the first letter that they received from the Senate was get this that the investment had a sufficient cash shortage. And what does that even mean? Are they even into bankruptcy? Right? So bankruptcy protection. And so, needless to say, we were upset about this. And, and it was a big deal in our something that we talked about a lot at home. And eventually, right around the time that I was receiving more information about my implant, the Lutheran church Canada had its national convention in Kitchener, Ontario, and my family, I grew up in Toronto, in Mississauga, Ontario. So I went to see my family, while Andreas went to the convention. And when he came back to me, from the convention, he was like despondent, he was just, I couldn't believe I've never seen him like this before. And he said, a motion was made to discuss this financial loss. And it wasn't even seconded. They won't talk about it, they won't talk about it. And I looked at Andreas and I said, I wouldn't be part of any organization that treats people this way. Not a community League, not a social club. Not a work organization. I we have we are leaving the church, we have to leave the church. And this wasn't a brand new novel idea. I mean, we had suffered, we had suffered all kinds of just negative situations in the church, even after the seminary incident. So it's not it's not like this was a novel idea that it was time for us to leave.
David Ames 51:36
But this was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.
Caroline Schwabe 51:40
Absolutely. And that's exactly what it has it what it was, and we hadn't yet informed our congregation. So but we knew we were on the way out. So mid December, my surgery was booked for December 12. And shortly before that, like a week before, our then pastor came to do a house visit, and just check in with me do a little prayer before surgery, right? And he said, Well, Caroline, you must be You must be feeling some fear, you must be a little bit afraid, because any surgery, you know, has its risks. And I say, You know what? I'm not really scared. This isn't. This is something that I'm choosing to go into. It's not I don't mean surgery, because I have cancer, I need surgery, because I want the best tool, the best, the very best technology to give me a chance of hearing better, and improving my my life in general. And I'm not really I'm not really afraid, well, he's basically trying to convince me that I should be afraid. And I said, You know what, Pastor, if I, the worst thing happens, and I die on the table, well, then I guess that means I get to go to heaven, and I'm gonna here. And if I make it through the surgery, and my implant is activated, I get to hear so either way, it's like a win win. I'm really excited about this, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. And honestly, he was confused. He just didn't know where to what to do with that. It was it was a short visit. And he took off. And so I had to convince him that there was no no reason to fear here. Which is bizarre to me.
David Ames 53:27
Sounds like just utterly lacking in empathy to, you know, to read what you were trying to express was your experience in that moment, rather than his his idea of what it might be?
Caroline Schwabe 53:40
I agree, and at the same time, I think it would be I think that would be a difficult thing for anyone to hear. I think that, you know, if you're a good friend of mine, or if you're, you know, Andreas said that was hard for him to hear too. Because what I was saying was, If I die, I'm willing to take the risk of death to get my hearing. I mean, that's, that's pretty profound. Yeah. That tells you how bad it was.
David Ames 54:11
I think you're hinting at what a dramatic moment this is for you literally contemplating. Even dying, almost feels worth it to you at that point in time. What was the experience going through the surgery or and even before we turn on, so to speak, the switch? How did that feel?
Caroline Schwabe 54:31
The surgery is kind of a blip. Like anyone who goes through the experience is terrified of the surgery like you're just you just are your, your body reacts to you. And every single recipient recipient that we've talked to, has had the same story. You usually get sick, like four days, three, four days before surgery, because you're so stressed out and you're and the lead up is is exciting, and you're anticipating what it's going to be like I can of course, you can't imagine, and there are no promises when you go in to receive an implant as to what how much you will benefit from the implants, there's a great variety of outcomes, they're getting better and better and better. And so you the chances of it being an improvement were excellent, really, really good. But there's still no guarantee. So the physical aspect of it, I mean, I could go into the, there was a little bit of pain, but discomfort and some tinnitus, and some, you know, you feel isolated, because you you're as deaf as you you've ever been, right? What happens is through the surgery, you'll typically lose any residual hearing you might have. So now you have zero sound coming into the ear that's implanted. And that was the case for me. So it was a very quiet seven weeks and seven weeks is very long between surgery and activation. But because it was December, Christmas was in there. And the schedules were kind of all over the place. So typically, from surgery, to activation, it's around four weeks, three to four weeks, you know, they let the scar the incision heal up a little bit so that you can put the processor onto this. So there's an internal component, and an external processor that is attached magnetically to your head through so there's a magnet in the head and a magnet on the processor opposite magnets, and they just attach easily. Yeah. So that seven weeks goes by what we tried to keep ourselves busy. With like some crafting projects, Andres bought a 3d printer, which he has used extensively and become really proficient. And so but we pretty much hunkered down. We were at home for the majority of that time. And I did work for part of it too, which was a challenge. I know. Crazy. But anyway, you do what you would you need to do, right? And the lead up to activation is just so exciting. And you're just dreaming. I remember thinking it's like, knowing that you're going to pick up your brother who you haven't seen for 25 years, and you're gonna see him at the airport again, he can't wait to see that dear, beloved person again. And as like, I can't wait to meet my hearing again. What's it going to be like? And how much am I going to get? And what's it going to sound like and oh, you're just full of hope and anticipation. And on the 28th of January 2018. Andreas held up a piece of paper in front of his mouth. And he said, boat, car, dog house a couple of words. And it's Marley doing this. We know I'm gonna get zero. I can. I don't know what you're saying. Yes. And you said it's just we just need to do this just because January 28 2018 was my last Deaf Day. Wow, the 29th They turned on my implants. So now I've got sound coming in. And it was unbelievable. First of all, the sound when you're first activated is not like anything that you've ever, ever ever heard before. It's just completely foreign. And I don't know how to describe it to you. It's, it's, it's like an otherworldly sound. But as time goes on, and your your brain makes an adjustment, and mine did it very, very, very quickly. Within a couple of hours, I was eight I was perceiving words. And in fact, I have some accessories that come with my implant and my processor. So I I'm we're having this conversation right now, using a phone clip that transmits the data via Bluetooth to my processor and that's how I'm hearing so I'm not wearing headphones. And I'm I'm just dreaming to my head.
David Ames 59:31
So is so amazing.
Caroline Schwabe 59:34
It really is and and the other thing I have is called a Mini Mic. It's called the mini my to buy cochlear and I can attach it to someone's lapel and they can be quite a distance away and I'm just getting it's a microphone so it's streaming directly to my head also. So Andres took the Mini Mic out into the hallway app activation like at the audiologist at the Glenrose and he In the hallway with the door closed, and I'm hearing him saying random numbers, and I'm getting the numbers. Wow. So he's the day before he's standing right in front of me and I can't get any single word. And after with my implant, I'm hearing random numbers. Without seeing. It's just absolutely incredible. By that evening, I was able to hear every word streamed to my implant that we were, we were watching a YouTube video about sound and hearing and actually concerts for hearing for cochlear implant recipients. And I remember thinking, I'm getting all the words, but I, they're just like, it was just a wash, but they were just kind of, I'm hearing them all, but I'm not getting any meaning. So, so I thought to myself, I'm going to have to just memorize, remember, memorize a sentence so that Andreas believes that I can hear this. So I'm in the kitchen streaming. And I heard the words spectral and temporal resolution. And I run into the living room. I said, Andres, she just said, spectral and temporal resolution. I don't even know what that means. And he just looked at me like, it was just unbelievable. I don't know how else to express that was like a light switch from one day to the next. I was deaf. And then I could hear Yeah. So after that, I had a hard time sleeping. I didn't want to go to bed because I just want to be listened to. Right. Especially having conversations with Andrea's so we would stay up till one in the morning. And I mean, I had to get up at 430 to go to work, you know, the next day. But it didn't faze me. I was I was on adrenaline.
David Ames 1:01:57
I think a really interesting story you told in our first conversation was, you had the first experience of talking to one another in bed at night with a light off.
Caroline Schwabe 1:02:07
It was actually in the living room. But yeah, okay. No, that's okay. Yeah, but same thing. Like, can you imagine there's no such thing as pillow talk, and all of a sudden there is Yeah, yeah. Wow. So yeah, we're in the living room. Because we have long conversations. Now. We just can't. So why wouldn't we? Almost like getting to know your spouse again? For the second time, and it was time. Yeah, it was time for me to like, really, I think it was midnight, and he's just turn the light off as a signal like, time to go to bed. It's it. We've been doing this for hours and hours, and you need some sleep. But I could still hear it. Just stayed. And we just kept talking. I think it was another hour and a half before I finally said, Well, how can you believe we just did that? Yeah, we just had a conversation in the dark. Yeah. I mean, maybe for hearing people that sounds ridiculous, because that's just normal. But it's not normal when you're deaf, and you can't talk between rooms. And now we can just think, or just as an example, I'm preparing some food in the kitchen. And I can now I can have a conversation while I do that, where it that was completely impossible before I would have cut my fingers off, for sure. Guaranteed. So it's anything I was doing, I needed to stop and face the speaker and try to understand what they're trying to tell me. Right. So our life has changed in tremendous, beautiful ways. But the other thing that changed was that I did continue to try to listen to music when I couldn't hear. I just cranked up the volume as loud as it would go, whether I was wearing earbuds or if it was like a speaker in the kitchen. I would just it was blaring all the time. And we listened to familiar songs. So that I would just know I would my brain would fill in a lot of the sounds right? But music with music with my CI was a completely new world. In fact, it was a little bit disappointing at first because I couldn't quite I didn't recognize certain songs that were very familiar to me.
David Ames 1:04:21
Caroline Schwabe 1:04:22
Because I was only able to hear a portion of the song and now I was getting all of it. Right. So just to give you an example, it's like seeing a class picture and, and, and you're zoomed in on one face and then all of a sudden you can see the whole the whole class. Yeah. So that does not look the same. And it takes the brain a little bit of time to be able to put everything in place. And then once I got music, I got a handle on music, which took probably three months. I mean, I got music pretty quickly. Yeah, but it just got better. Better and better to the point where it felt like now I'm just listening to music normally like you do, right? Which is also pretty remarkable for CI recipients a lot of times they never get there. But after that, I started listening to podcasts. Yes. And wow, this was a, it just opened up a whole, completely new world for me. I hadn't listened to the radio for years and years and years. Now I get to listen to the things I'm interested in. And, specifically, you know, ideas about life and impressions of the world and just learning I was voraciously consuming podcasts and loving every second of it. And I would wake up in the morning and wonder what I'm gonna get to listen to today. What can I get me ears? Yeah. So. So I felt like there was this, this huge learning curve happening. And my brain was just opening up. And I felt like I was coming back to life. In fact, I caught myself saying at one point, before I was alive, like it just it was a slip of the tongue, though. Wow. And what I meant was before my implant. So that's the kind of difference that it made to me.
David Ames 1:06:28
Can we say here that one of the things that the podcast as a podcast as rather than just music is for that speech recognition. And you had gone through that seven weeks being totally deaf as well. And so you were kind of relearning how to understand speech?
Caroline Schwabe 1:06:45
Yes, I was getting that quite a bit, just from my daily life. Because Andreas and I do talk a lot. And also, I was working. So there was a lot of conversation happening with my guests. And I was so excited, I would talk about my implant to anybody that would listen. But you're absolutely right, that it was excellent practice for a speech comprehension. And in fact, I was struggling with the phone. And listening to podcasts most certainly helped me become more adept with hearing on the phone, through Bluetooth streaming. So after several months of, okay, first of all, after a failed attempt at using the phone, or several failed attempts, I just had a limited understanding. And it was it was very challenging. Then I listened to podcasts for probably three months straight, like every second of the day. And then I tried the Phone Clip again. And it was like almost like magic, almost instantaneous, I was able to make a phone call normally, without any problems. So that was definitely a rehab tool, as well. One of the weird things about CI sound is that often, in the beginning, especially there's no discrimination between male or female voices. So that was something I was working on with podcasts, because often there's two people like to a co hosts talking. And so I was learning how to decipher the informant, the format of the voice, so the character of the voice of the person speaking and yeah, it was, it was a really exciting, beautiful time. Unfortunately, at the beginning, I was looking for Christian podcasts. So I listened to a lot of sermons early on. And, and that was, you know, but it was just all sort of more the same. And as we began to grow in our understanding of the world, and just our take on life. And the further away we got from our active involvement in the church, the more I started feeling liberated, intellectually. So I felt I no longer felt the constraints that the church tends to put on people about what we're permitted to exactly engage in and what we're permitted to learn about. Yeah. So I was like, first of all, the one of the pastors that I was listening to ended up being fired by his congregation. I mean, it was a huge debate. I don't even it was so bad I thought, oh, yeah, just another one of those guys. Wow, why was I listening to his garbage when he's actually just a shitty person? Yeah, he's a shitty person.
David Ames 1:09:44
Yes. file now free to say that. Yes,
Caroline Schwabe 1:09:48
completely. Yeah. So in in that liberty in that freedom. I started exploring and I think Andrea suggested, the mind shift. podcasts and you were a guest on their podcast. So that led me to the graceful atheist podcast. And since then I've been listening to several others as well. But one of the things that struck me very deeply and very profoundly was that I felt comforted by so many things that you had said, specifically, one time, in the the anonymous Jeremy episode, I remember you saying, now if you feel foolish for believing this stuff, don't beat yourself up. Like, you know, if you have these regrets, or something, basically, that was what you were saying. And I was just bawling in the backyard listening to this. Because at that moment, I was I was filled with regret about all these years that I had, I don't want to say wasted, but certainly considering constrained myself by continuing in this organization that we cultured, and I realized then that I felt so liberated to just love without any condition, and not feel the necessity weirdly to be judgmental of people. I could just love them as they are, where they are, how they are exactly who they are. Yeah,
David Ames 1:11:30
I know, I know exactly what you mean. Like, you don't anticipate that that is going to be one of the results of letting go of religious dogma as, Wow, I can just love people, and there's no restraint, there's no guilt, there's no feeling obligated to correct something like, and that is incredibly liberating and freeing.
Caroline Schwabe 1:11:51
It's, it's wonderful. And you're right, you don't anticipate that you. In fact, it's it's a fearful thing. And that's the other thing that I've benefited by, through through various podcasts and specifically yours, that there's no need to feel that guilt anymore. There's no, you're just sorry, I sort of lost track of what I was gonna say. But what I'm, what I'm really getting at is that sense of freedom and liberty. That's what I was gonna say, actually, you're fearful and you're scared, because you're gonna lose this thing that you clung to, for all these years. Yeah, whatever that thing is, whether it's the ritual or the community, or the other the habit, frankly, of just having this faith tradition, or the practice that you do, you're just used to doing that, and you do it. And that's the way that you live. And that's what you that's how people that's their impression of you that your church going person and all this other stuff this. So it's really actually scary to leave, and to take that big step. But you're right, that liberty and the freedom that comes from that, too, is off the charts. So not only is my life completely brand new in terms of this hunger for every single sound. But also, the shackles have been shattered and reduced and just they're off, right? There's no limits. Ah, and so I was listening just this morning to your most recent episode, and you were talking about the concept of meditation. And I have to say that the kind of attention I'm able to pay to certain sounds that I get just in regular life, that type of thing that you probably or most people would probably just walk by, right? Is is very, very striking. So I'm on my way home one day, walking down the street, and it's spring, probably March after activation, and the snow is melting. And I'm walking by a storm drain and I stop in my tracks. I'm like, Ah,
David Ames 1:14:25
this is so beautiful. Yes. Just listen to
Caroline Schwabe 1:14:29
trickling her land to plunk. Yeah. And oh, it was just the most magnificent sound hearing the water running down the storm drain like this ugly thing, this horrible, ugly thing. Or we have these old old doorknobs in our home. They're the crystal doorknobs that we're in old homes, and we just kind of think they're cute, so we kept them. But you know there's a spring in a doorknob. So I get up really early in the morning and I'm I'm just exceeding the bedroom. So I'm trying to not make any sound for Andrea so that he can just keep sleeping. And I'm slowly turning the knob back to close the door. And at the very end, there's this barely audible and yes. Tell somebody that makes it being like it's a beautiful spring sound. So these are the kinds of things that I would almost call that a type of meditation. So I spent all this time just contemplating all the beautiful, magnificent things that that come to us by sound waves. And I want to say, like, it's soul touching. And I know this is an atheist. But But it's interesting, because you guys talked about the soil this morning to on the episode that I listen to this morning. And it was the Depo bit deepest level of experiencing. And I thought to myself, there's something about sound and music. That is, that is soul touching, it is the deepest level of what we can experience in this life. And I can't really emphasize that enough, like, when you don't have it, you don't know you're missing it. But let me tell you, in this situation, when I'm getting back, it's just so striking her moving. Sound is. And I have to think about that more. And, you know, I feel as though I'm at the very early stages of if you want to call it a deconversion there's there's a lot of stuff going on in, in our understanding of who we are as human beings, and part of this beautiful universe. Yeah. And I have a lot more work to do, in terms of, you know, everybody talks about how it takes years and years to get through a D conversion process. And I really believe that wholeheartedly because, yeah, it's already been a couple years. And I feel like we have a long way to go yet.
David Ames 1:17:28
I think you're at an exciting point in that you have all the questions. And and there's nobody telling you, you have to come to these conclusions. You get to go explore it, just like you've explored the new soundscapes that you're experiencing the music, the podcasts, the intellectual pursuits that you are interested in now, there is nothing that stops you from exploring your curiosity to find out and so I absolutely respect. You know, you don't need to come on the podcast and say I'm a hardcore atheists, you know, wherever you're at, you're asking really important, deep, profound questions. And wherever you land is exciting and up to you. That's the exciting part.
Caroline Schwabe 1:18:11
It really is. And just that opportunity, I feel as though not only am I finding myself, again, through my hearing, but also I'm finding myself again, in in the context of faith, faith, or whatever you want to call that. Because I know that it's difficult to choose the right words for that journey.
David Ames 1:18:37
Yes. Well, and the episode you were referring to as Michael Mahvash. And we basically, that's what we were talking about is that like, these words are useful for a reason they express something about the human experience. And even if I personally stripped them of supernatural elements, they still function in some way or another. And so it's hard to express things without them. So
Caroline Schwabe 1:18:59
I agree. And also, you know, we get, we get in those habits of using lots of words that are associated with the church. And so it's tricky sometimes to just shift them or think about them differently. But But you're right, absolutely. They are useful. And I'm grateful for that.
David Ames 1:19:16
Yes, Caroline, this has been an amazing story, I have to tell you absolutely unique. One of the most interesting stories that I've heard, and I appreciate, I can't tell you how grateful the I Am, that this podcast has done anything been any part of your discovery of your hearing of the new areas of intellectual pursuit that you can explore in any comfort that that is giving you I just am incredibly grateful for that. I would be remiss if we didn't give you an opportunity to do a bit of a public service announcement announcement about about hearing loss. What would you tell People that is important for them to do.
Caroline Schwabe 1:20:04
Thank you for that opportunity, I think it's extremely important. So the first thing that I think it's just so important is just get your hearing tested. Even if you don't feel that you experienced any loss at all, it doesn't hurt just to know where you're at, it doesn't physically hurt at all, it doesn't cost a lot of money. And if you find out, you've got great hearing, good for you, go get tested again in a couple years. And just make sure that's still the case, it's really important hearing health affects us in a multitude of ways. It's it's physiological, psychological, social, emotional. Also, as I mentioned, if you don't eat last year, you could run into a lot of trouble, including having a greater propensity to dementia and other cognitive issues in the future. So get your hearing tested, just just be mindful of it. And if you do have any hearing loss, find a way to aid that, find a way to make it happen to get yourself a pair of hearing aids, not only will you appreciate being more connected, but also those around you will appreciate the fact that you can communicate better get your hearing tested. It's an also, if I may two things, I guess when you get your hearing tested, it's very important. But also, if you're ever in a situation, where you think, Oh, that's really loud. Or if your ears are ringing the next day. Please, please don't, don't do that. Again, like learn from that experience. If you're if you're having ringing in your ears, you have put yourself you've traumatized your ears, right. So protect your hearing, make sure that you're going to be wearing earplugs when you're in that kind of environment. If you go to a concert or anything like that. It's more valuable than I can tell you.
David Ames 1:22:05
Right here. Yeah, I hear that literally. If you the listener are interested in hearing more of Caroline's story, and I think the the wonder and the awe of the process that you went through, you can check that out at my beautiful cyborg, the podcast. And I believe that's just available on all podcasting systems. Yes,
Caroline Schwabe 1:22:29
it is. And there's also a blog that is available to read, especially if you do have hearing loss and you struggle with podcasts. That's a good way to go. Or I know oftentimes, it's a family member that hears about the podcast or the blog, and then that person refers the hear the person with a hearing impairment to the blog, and then they can read about it that way, because the whole story is pretty much there, too.
David Ames 1:22:55
That's amazing. And we will of course have links in the show notes for you. So Caroline, thank you so much for sharing your story.
Caroline Schwabe 1:23:02
Thank you David, too. It was a joy to chat with you today. And I really appreciate our conversation. Thanks.
David Ames 1:23:13
Final thoughts on the episode? Wow. Caroline's is an amazing story. And Caroline is an amazing person. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose one of my senses. And then to regain it. Imagine the gratitude that you would feel Caroline expresses that gratitude and that joy for life, joy for listening to the creak of a door or the drain of a sewage system. That's the kind of joy I want in my life. And I am inspired by Caroline. I greatly appreciate the honesty with which Caroline tells her story. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with both her and Andreas earlier before the recording of this episode. And the devastation of the rejection from the church leadership Andreas trying to go to seminary and their hopes for going into ministry. The devastation of the financial failure of the church that they were a part of came through so deeply they were crushed by these events. No wonder you begin to ask some questions. I do want to make it clear. Even Karolina and I discussed that maybe the word deconstruction is a bit too strong of word. I think Caroline still believes on some level. And that's okay. As I said near the end of the episode, she's getting to ask those questions and go search for the answers and follow wherever that search leads. That's the exciting thing is that nobody is telling her or you where you need to land. I also find it fascinating that the hearing loss wasn't the real beginning of deconstruction. It was in some ways after she regained her hearing with the cochlear implant, and listening to podcasts. And from Caroline's first email to me through our first conversation and the conversation you've just heard, I am incredibly humbled, and incredibly grateful that this podcast played even the tiniest part in helping Caroline through that process of language re acquisition. I love the story of podcasts being a major part of her life, as she learns to hear again, regain proficiency at language acquisition. Caroline, thank you so much for being on the podcast. This was an amazing conversation, and I have been deeply affected by it. Thank you to both you and Andreas for your honesty, and your willingness to tell your stories. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about gratitude. I love the way that Caroline expresses such great gratitude and joy in these very small things. The creek of adore the click of a knob while it turns the water in a storm drain. These wonderful things surround us all the time, and yet we don't see them or hear them or acknowledge them. I often say that is very difficult sometimes to be grateful for the big things to really feel gratitude for big things like like the privilege that you may have, or the house that you live in or the job that you have. But the little things can have a profound impact on your attitude of gratitude. Being thankful for waking up in a warm bed on a Saturday morning, being thankful for talking to your partner until midnight, being thankful for the rain falling on your face. Being thankful for being out in nature and hearing the wind blow through the trees. These little moments if we can stop and acknowledge them, will greatly impact our attitude of gratitude. I for 1am Grateful for Caroline, I am grateful for you the listener, I am grateful for those of you who write me your stories and who are willing to come on the podcast and tell your stories that I get to be a tiny part in that process for you is incredibly humbling. And I am eternally grateful for that. Thank you. As always, I have some amazing conversations that are coming up. As I've mentioned before, I have Sam and Daniel interviewing me, I've just finished editing that. And I'll be interviewing Sam and just a little bit. And so both of those will be out shortly on our respective podcasts. I've recently interviewed Michael from Reverend bones who has a new album out called Escape from heaven. Michael is an activist focused on the damage that purity culture does to everyone. And that was an amazing conversation. And then I just recently had a conversation with Amy Rath, who runs the nun life podcast, which is a great podcast please check it out. She is amazing and inspiring. And I can't wait to share all of these conversations with you. 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 for 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 chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please 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 would 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 deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email graceful atheist At gmail.com or you can check out the website graceful atheists.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
My guest this week is Brette. Brette was so serious about her Christianity in junior high her goal was martyrdom. In her young adulthood, she followed her pastor’s advice and attended Master’s Commission, similar to a discipleship training program. Her experience there was nothing short of psychological torture.
Of course, everything was always very spiritualized there and this was no exception. Everything was either god or demons. One part of the program was that we all we went through deliverance (exorcism) while we were there that we spent weeks preparing for.
Her faith began breaking down as did her physical and psychological health at Master’s Commission. It included deliverance sessions and enumerating her demons. It wasn’t until she saw her younger brother being treated poorly that she began to question. She and her brother left: “leaving was the BEST feeling!”
But I had finally given myself permission to question things and it all unraveled pretty quickly from there.
After a brief stint in “spiritual but not religious” land, she finally admitted she no longer believed in god. She let go of “trying to make it be true.”
Since then it’s been really interesting to me to look back on my past experiences and understand them from a purely naturalistic and psychological perspective. It was really helpful to learn, too, about Religious Trauma Syndrome.
Brette has since discovered naturalistic and psychological explanations of her experiences that have given her more closure and comfort.
My guest this week is Arline. Arline became a Christian in early adulthood. She went to a Christian college where she met her now-husband. Her faith tradition was a severe version of Calvinism. She was taught complementarianism. The roles allowed for women and complementarianism were not a good fit for Arline’s inquisitive personality.
Years later I realized that [complementarianism] was a very new thing and I was so angry because I had been taught it was this Bibilcal idea. So in my mind biblical means it has been around for thousands of years. No, it was like 1987. What is this?
Her husband went through an emotional deconversion first. Arline did not take this as well as she would now like. Alongside this was the long slow deterioration of her mother’s health. She slowly began to deconstruct. First by exploring other versions of Christianity. Eventually exploring other faith traditions including meditation from a Buddhist perspective. In short. she was letting her curiosity and intelligence explore all the areas of interest that were previously prohibited.
Here’s the succinct version: Christian fifteen years, since college. Super loved Jesus, the Bible, church, all the things. Tried my darndest to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Happily married to super Christian guy from campus ministry. He slowly (felt suddenly to me!) realized he had to be agnostic because god of the Bible is a monster. Sent me on a two-year spiritual meandering. Finally caved and am now figuring out what atheism looks like for me.
In the end, for her own personal intellectual integrity she admitted to herself she no longer believed. She has since discovered natural human habits that have helped her far more than her faith ever had.