Troy and Brian: I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist

Atheism, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Podcast, Podcasters
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This week’s guests are Brian and Troy of the podcast, I was a Teenage Fundamentalist. They interviewed David at the end of 2022, and now it’s our turn to hear from them.

Brian and Troy “used to be loyal Christians megachurch leaders. They’re not anymore.” Their parallel stories are fascinating, as we are given a glimpse into their past lives and the Pentecostal movement in Australia.

Today, Brian and Troy’s “honest and often hilarious podcast peeks behind the curtain at the weird, the worrying and the sometimes traumatic world of Evangelicals and Pentecostals.” This is a great episode that you won’t want to miss! 



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IWATF interviews David from the Graceful Atheist Podcast


“I say, ‘I started to deconvert,’ but I think I had started to deconvert the day I joined…because as you’re studying, as you’re looking into it all, you come across these issues, these contradictions…”


“I would say I felt accepted [in the church]. I would say it was absolutely conditional…on me behaving and conforming. But I was happy to do that at the time as long as that meant connection.”


“Bit by bit, I just started to think, This just isn’t actually true. But I didn’t want to come out and say it.”


“When you’ve been in Christianity for so long. When you’ve operated in such a confined environment…[and then] you open the floodgates and start to use some of your brainpower, sometimes it can become a scary place for people.”


“Anyone can tell their story. There’s such a power in human connection. There’s such a power in sense-making and story-making in our lives.”


“Pentecostalism is a very small slice in Australia, but it’s a very influential slice of Christianity.”


“I would bet there are more ex-Pentecostals than there are Pentecostals.”


“[In] most of the progressive groups, most of these progressive denotations, there are very few converts. It’s mostly refugees from conservative theology who…end up there.”



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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. It's part of the atheist United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest patron Ruby, thank you so much for supporting the podcast. You too can have an ad free experience of the podcast by becoming a patron at any level at atheist. You don't have to go through the deconstruction and deconversion process alone, please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, which includes various Hangouts, book clubs, discussion groups, you can find that at A quick shout out to my sibling podcasts on the atheist United studios Podcast Network, amusing Jews beyond atheism, and the humanist experience. Please check out those podcasts you can find them on the atheist United website at atheist Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. My guests today are Troy and Brian of the I was a teenage fundamentalist podcast. Troy and Brian have done some amazing work, you can hear the experience of having had faith and having experienced the downside and coming through on the other side. They both deconstructed at different times. But they've remained friends. And after they found each other after deconversion they decided to make a podcast and talk about it. They are from Australia as you will immediately recognize and the Assemblies of God was the faith tradition that they were both a part of at one time or another. Try and Brian have created a community much like our own the deconversion anonymous group for this podcast. They have the I was a teenage fundamentalist group on Facebook as well. Please check out their podcast, I was a teenage fundamentalist. There will be links in the show notes. Here are Troy and Brian to tell their stories. Brian, Troy, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Brian  2:31  
Thank you. It's awesome to awesome to be here with her chat that we have with you late last year. So it's great to reciprocate and come on your podcast. So thank you.

Troy  2:41  
Yeah, it's fun.

David Ames  2:43  
Yeah, you guys are part of a really popular podcast called I was a teenage fundamentalist. And I think you're very authentic, the the fundamentalist experience that you guys had, I think really comes through, then your experience. On the other side. We're kind of a sister cousin podcast to one another. And I think this is a really great crossover.

Troy  3:03  
We've watched your podcast for a little while. And when I say watch, I mean watching what you've been doing, but also, you know, listening and stuff. So yeah, it's really cool to be to be connecting with you because I just feel there's such a synergy. And what you're trying to achieve is very much with what in line with what we're trying to achieve to so thanks for having us on, David.

David Ames  3:21  
Yeah, absolutely. And I love to give the opportunity to, you know, cross pollinate our communities, because I think our communities can benefit from listening to each other's podcasts. Yeah, absolutely.

Brian  3:32  
Well, quite often cities have like sister cities don't those. So that's right, let's let's have a sister podcast. There you go. Graceful? Yeah, here we go. With forging new ground, this is what we do.

David Ames  3:43  
That's right. What is very typical on my podcast is to begin with people's stories of their faith experience. So if we can, we're going to do like 10 or 15 minutes each on your personal stories of what your religious faith is like, and maybe a bit about your deconversion story. And just because of the ordering that's on my screen, I'm gonna have Troy go first.

Troy  4:04  
Yeah, cool. Well, I was converted to Christianity through school. I was brought up in a family where we were told that we were Christians, but we didn't even go to church on you know, Easter and Christmas. And that kind of thing. I know that my mother had bought us all a Children's Bible. But Australia is very, it's a very secular nation and a lot of ways or at least post Christian in a lot of ways. And so whilst we wore the label, it didn't really matter. Even at Christmas time, Christmas was more about Santa than it was about anything else. But my mother had a friend that had been involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. And I used to listen to my mother and her friend tell stories about being involved in this and not so much my mother's stories but her reaction to her friend being involved in this so I'd heard about speaking in tongues and healing and these kinds into things. And so I was quite open to the idea of this. And when a Christian band came through my school telling us all about Jesus made a bit of a kerfuffle in, do you say that in the US kerfuffle? Is that a word that you use? Do you? Okay, cool. So yeah, made a bit of a kerfuffle in my school and some kids got converted. And then through a Fallout, I also, you know, ended up giving my life to Christ, as we say, and then I joined a Pentecostal group, which turned out to be quite an extreme cult, very similar to what's called the United Pentecostal church in the US. So we had to speak in tongues to be saved, we didn't fellowship with any other churches. And I was involved with them quite heavily, till about 17. And at that age, I'd started to realize that this was not how I wanted to live, because my family had never joined. And so I still had this, this measuring stick at home that I could say, This is what acceptance looks like, this is what love looks like. And so I ended up having myself kicked out and please go back and have a listen to my, my podcast stories about that. I don't want to bore you too much. But I had myself kicked out, I worked out how to how to do that. And then, as I was leaving, they were like, Oh, by the way, you probably damned to hell. And I was like, ah, and that didn't quite sit so well with me. So I went started doing, you know, clubbing and partying and all the things that you would do at sort of 17 until I came to a point in my life where I didn't like where I was, where I'd landed, I didn't like where this lifestyle had sort of taken me even though I was still quite young. And I had a friend of mine who had by this stage joined in Assemblies of God church, which is where this original group that I was a part of, had had come from. And so I went along with him and, you know, got a good dose of guilt and also saw the idea of, you know, the things that I've done over the last few years could be forgiven. And as I said, I wasn't really happy with the way I'd sort of journeyed and the way I sort of become. And so I recommended my life to Christ and, you know, join the ARG basically. And long story short, ended up Bible college, finishing Bible college, involved in church plants, involved in a series of different churches left the EOG became involved in in Baptist, the Australian Baptist union, later in the Australian Churches of Christ. And then my, my marriage really hit the rocks. And I started to D convert. It's funny, because it's even saying that now I say, I started to D convert. No, I think I started to do convert the day I joined. Really, yeah. And because as you're studying, as you're looking into it all, you come across these, these issues, you come across these contradictions. But the other thing was what Josie MC skimming, who was one of the guests on our podcast, I don't know if you've heard from her yet, but she She's wonderful. She's a clinical clinical social worker who specializes in religious trauma. And she said to us, there's these sites of injury. You know, there's these incidents that happen that just build up over time. And I think that's what happened to me, David, I think the sites of injury built up the inconsistencies of the religion. My study was probably the worst thing I could have done for my for my faith, because I took it seriously and studied the Bible and studied theology and looked at the contradictions and yeah, long story short, I d converted in about 2004 Stop church in about 1999 D converted in about 2004. Back in the day, where it was, there was no such thing as deconstruction. I mean, that was, you know, that was Jacques Derrida talking about art and things, you know, let alone religion. But yeah, then found my way into the hole. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, that that kind of stuff and the infidels website and there was a back in the day, there was a bulletin board online called walk away, which was for ex fundamentalist. I don't know if it still exists anymore. But it was a very isolating experience. And I'd headed overseas just to sort of leave everything behind. And yeah, you know, here I am. Now, I, as I said, I really came to a point of deconversion 2004. So we're nearly coming up on 20 years, but I'm still unpacking it. David, still, to this day, I'm unpacking things and, you know, stepping into in and out of therapy at times to talk about some of this stuff. But yeah, that's my story.

David Ames  9:40  
I really liked that idea of sites of injury, that that's really evocative. We say sometimes that it's, it's not one thing, it's 1000 things so that's an interesting way to express that. Yeah. So I mean, I relate to so much of that and I will recommend to my listeners when Troy says go listen to his his story. He literally did get him stuff kicked out intentionally. So you gotta go listen to that story. It's really good

all right, Brian, let's hear it. Let's hear about your story.

Brian  10:16  
Well, my story was I grew up in a home where spirituality was there, but certainly not church, certainly not Jesus or God. And I tell this in my story on the podcast as well around. We grew up having seances as a family that yeah, that would that was, we'd like to we'd like to connect with the dead cousins. So that was, I guess, my experience spirituality in it would also we'd speak about the afterlife would speak about reincarnation, I was always fascinated by those sorts of things growing up, and I had this book called unexplained mysteries, and it was all of those sort of things about, you know, portals and, or it was rubbish. But it was it was fascinating. And that was probably the thing that primed me for my Christian experience, which didn't start till I was 17. I hadn't really been involved in a church at all, or well, not really, I haven't hadn't at all, most of my siblings, I've got a, I've got seven siblings, and most of them grew up with some sort of, you know, nominal Catholics sort of connection to the church, they'd be pulled along on the occasional Sunday. But the next sister, my next sister up in me in the level, she was never exposed to it either. And neither was I. But when I was probably, I reckon 14 or 15, one of my brothers became a Christian. And it was one of those conversion stories, you know, he was a, he was a fan of drugs. And, you know, everyone saw him convert, and the drug use stopped, and very much like you spoke to us about your mom's conversion story. It was a very similar thing so bad. He used to evangelize the hell out of us. And he lived in another state in Australia, and he would ring and we would have to hang up on him. Like he was just so fearful. We're all going to die and go to hell. Yeah. So I just I thought it was bullshit. I thought that there's, you know, it's all rubbish. But anyway, when I was 17, I decided to go and visit him he lived in, in Queensland in Australia, and he was a surfer. So it didn't serve community. It's the sort of place you you'd go for a holiday. So I went up there and I got converted to this bullshit. I went up actually, with all these providers that if I stayed with them, they weren't allowed to speak about God or Jesus. They weren't allowed to have a Bible around. And if they had a Bible, it could be in their bedroom only. I was just a prat. But they stuck to that, you know, to their own credit. And it was me through seeing the contrast on of how that brother had been. And by this time, another brother had become a Christian and another sister had become a Christian. It was just like, it was spreading this revival in our family brother. So I gave it a shot, I became a Christian, and I was 17, you know, did the thing. Then I came back to to Melbourne, where I live in Australia. And back back then. I didn't have any connection with church. So I had to seek something out. It was pre internet. This is 1991. I was having no wasn't it was 1989, actually. And so I was just basically going around and seeing where these churches were. It was a church called Christian city, which was a large Pentecostal church. I found one connected with it just kept dropping in and out till I was about 19 and then connected with Pentecostalism through an independent church, and really felt part of it. I think it was, it was the connection that was the community. It was the ability to be able to, I would say I felt accepted, it was absolutely conditional. There was no doubt. It was conditional on me. Behaving and conforming a bit. I was happy to do that at the time, as long as that meant connection. But then I ended up at nao G church where Troy and I met and when I was I don't know, I was maybe 19 By that time, and that was my Pentecostal experience was very, very short really it was three and a half four years. I had a devolution very similar to Troy's be then left that that experience. You know I was the same I went to Bible college was on that trajectory to become a pastor. saw that as a career path, you can be a career Christian, why not? Why not get paid for it? So I tried all that. But then I ended up halfway through Bible college thinking, I just can't survive on this money, like, I'd become engaged around that time. And I thought, I'm just gonna go back to work. I'll come back to Bible college later. But I've just got to go work a while, and I never went back to Bible college. But I did stay connected with the church. The Toronto Blessing started to happen around that time. And for me, I just that repulsed me, I just I call bullshit on it. So that actually caused me to have a bit of a fallout with at that time, I was in leadership in youth leadership in the ARG church. And the pastor there, I just said to him, I can't stay, I think it's rubbish. And I left went to a Baptist church, so a bit more moderate. You know, obviously, they weren't Christians, because there was no Toronto Blessing happening there. So I felt I felt again, connected, but drifted and then ended up at a church of Christ. So Troy and I, even though at this time, we were hanging out a little bit, we it was just the same journey out. And it was more moderate, more moderate, more moderate. I was involved in churches of Christ, I lived into state for about 11 years. And that's where I ended up connecting with church of Christ, and then came back to Melbourne, where I then went to the church of Christ here. And really, it was quite progressive. And there was a lot of experimenting with church, there was a lot of there was meditation sessions. There was, hey, let's not have any preaching this week, let's all just hang out in groups and talk about shit that happened this week. And you know, how we can connect as community.

Troy  17:10  
No wonder you fell away. They stopped what was what worked? Brother?

Brian  17:17  
That's, that's exactly right. And, you know, and my, my university training as a social worker. So, you know, social justice is incredibly important to me. And so at this time, you know, it's it was really connecting with the Social Justice Mission of the churches of Christ, I was involved in a few different offshoots of social justice groups. And I think it was just bit by bit, things started to fall away in literal resurrection. Look, seriously, that she didn't happen, you know, personal relationship with God, really? How does he have a personal relationship with 7 billion people if everyone converted? That doesn't work. I'm just putting, when I'm praying, it's just going out in the ether. So bit by bit, I just started to think, I don't think that this is actually true, but I didn't want to come out and say it, there's a lot of fear sitting behind it. So I was married. At that time, I'd met my now ex wife, in church in the Pentecostal church. So but we'd both sort of journeyed out and probably started to Deacon for to some degree, we'd had children. The kids were involved in church, but probably not at the degree where others thought that they should be. So things were falling away, but then, probably 12, B 12, ish, maybe even 13 years ago, my marriage broke down. And it was at the point where my marriage broke down, that I walked away, because it gave me an out. There was your habit, we were habitually going to church. I hadn't had really, I don't think any real belief for quite a while. And so it gave me the ability to cut that but I was still very afraid at the time to go. I actually don't think I believe the Jesus story. I don't I really don't think that there's a literal heaven or hell, I don't and that took me a while on it's probably even a 10 year deconversion journey. Post that 13 years of completely leaving the church and and I'm still deconstructing and still trying to work it out. And so you know, what do you do when you do that, will you and and when you're close mates, you start a podcast. That's right.

David Ames  20:01  
So I think it's fascinating that both of you, it seems like an inflection point was the end of a relationship. And, you know, kind of a theory that I kick around a lot is the the idea that faith is very much a community sustained thing. And that, for example, during 2020, when we were doing lock downs, I theorized that, you know, I bet a lot of people are going to deconstruct during this time, because they're out of the context of church. So Brian, you said you, you were habitually going to church. And so the second, you're not doing that, that that kind of sustaining force of that faith goes away? And I think for many people, that gives them a little bit of space to then think, you know, is this something I really believe or not? And without someone right over their shoulder saying, of course you believe, of course you do.

Brian  20:50  
Yeah, absolutely. And particularly in Australia, we're not a Christian nation. You know, we weren't found, it's not like the states where, you know, God is everywhere. So he there, you don't walk out the front door and bump into something or someone else that's going to keep you in that bubble. And I definitely the bubble sustained me for a long time. And it was just the fact that my social connections, my community connections, were all within that church bubble. And you're right, as soon as I left that, I didn't, I didn't fear not believing necessarily, anymore, I might not have come out and said it. But I didn't have that fear. Whereas a lot of even though I was at a very progressive Churches of Christ, it was still fear based. It was still if you stopped believing if you had that formula that was there was there for a reason. And that kept you within the salvation bubble. And if you leave it, well, you know, your risky, so

David Ames  21:49  
yeah, and it also sounds like that having a brother who really believed it, who if you take health seriously, that's actually the correct response. Right? If this is real, you had better be on everybody's cased, to convert, because they're going to hell. And so I think I sometimes say that it's not that Christians take things too seriously. It's that they don't take them seriously enough, like, what it actually says what the actual core of Christianity is, is deadly. And, you know, if you take that seriously, there's a certain reaction that would be appropriate to that.

Brian  22:24  
So it was a strange time to live. And we, we often talk about this on the podcast, Troy and I have very different responses to our Christian and Christianity. I wasn't into evangelizing, I wasn't even into sharing my faith with people. And in hindsight, I'm not quite sure that I had a depth of belief. Even back then, I was just going through the steps, I was connecting with community, I was feeling like I belonged, that I was accepted. So I kept, I kept taking that stuff along. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was very sincere, in my belief, but I'm not sure about the depth of it. And I think that's why it was probably easy for me to walk away in the end, because I don't think I'd ever truly, because I always struggled with this, you know, that attitude of the other. You know, that other person out there, they're not saved, or someone so you know, we should treat them differently, because they're not a Christian, that they haven't said these 15 words that make them a Christian, you know, it, I just always struggled with that I struggled with that sense of the other and that you had to rescue them because I didn't necessarily see what they were involved with, is dangerous, or need rescuing from so I was bad Christian, really trying to say,

David Ames  23:47  
when you see the humanity of out atheists, or out LGBTQ people, and you just realize actually, they're really good parents. They're really good people. Like, you know, I'd kind of like to be like, it's hard to hate that that person.

Troy, what I want to hear is, you guys were friends at one point in time, and you've kind of gone on your journeys in parallel tracks, how aware of each other were you as you were going through this moderation and deconstruction process?

Troy  24:23  
Well, when we were in the Assemblies of God, towards the end of my time, Brian had sort of grown up in the ranks or grown up into the ranks of the youth group and I had gone away to be a youth pastor of another church. So when I came back, because that didn't quite work out when I came back, you know, talk about this, you know, away from the, from the supporting community. When I came back, I felt like they had changed. The whole church had changed, but actually it was probably more me that you know, that my experience had changed me and I disconnected from from that community. median, and that communities norms. And so I started to challenge what was going on in that church, but from a Christian perspective, and that didn't land that didn't land at all. And so I, you know, ended up out of my ass, as we say, in Australia and really looking for, you know, a better version of Christianity, and Brian was was still quite embedded in that still quite enmeshed in that. And then, uh, only a few months later, I think he started to sort of go, you know, which we heard in his story started to say, Oh, this doesn't quite add up for me. And so we connected again, quite quickly, because we had grown up in a similar part of town, we had very similar socio economic backgrounds, we enjoyed the same music, you know, this is before church. And then I think we we connected on that, because we hadn't been raised in the church, we had a genuine friendship, I think is a good way to put it. And so when I, when I had journeyed away, when as often happens, as you know, with people that leave, you know, the religion, they reconnect with people who have also left and you know, reforge relationships, and that's when you find out who your real friends were, and who were just who were just church acquaintances. So yeah, I think as soon as that happened, we reconnected in the, what we call the Baptist hostel space, because it was still Pentecostal ish, but it was also not. And but but then I think when I finally walked away from religion, Brian was still in it. And I think we, we stayed in touch, we sent emails to each other, I was living overseas. But then when I eventually came back from overseas, which was about 12 years later, by that stage, Brian's marriage had broken down, and we were in a place where we could reconnect his friends and his religion. I don't think you quite walked away yet, Brian, I think you were still holding on to it in name only. But I was happy that he's saying I'm an atheist, I think this is all bullshit. And that wasn't an issue. And so we, you know, continued on as friends and then we, we maintained our friendship, as unchurched as non believers, we both, you know, re partnered with non-believing women and had kids and all the things that you do. And during the COVID, lockdown, because Melbourne, where we live is one of the most lockdown cities in the world, least one of the most, one of the biggest cities. Although now with what's going on with China, that may not be true, but at least up to that point, it was. And I was listening to a lot of deconstruction podcasts and listening to a lot of these and I say, young people, because compared to me, they were and they were beginning this journey. And they were sort of moving into sort of this progressive space and, and I realized that some of the fear was still there. So I reached out to Brian, I said, Hey, I want to join this conversation, and no one's going to have me on the liturgist podcast or any other kind of things. So let's do our own with it with a uniquely Australian voice. And so and so we did, and you know, here we are, as you as you heard, in our in our episode, nearly two years later. And and we're still going and like you were never going to run out of content, I think the only time will probably stop this is when we've had enough because exactly where he is going to continue to be told and and as you said to us in the episode, when you came on our podcast was this is not new. And people have walked this road hold denominations have walked this road, you know, where they have become liberal and, and then become, you know, secular humanists. And we look at them and go, how could we ever become like that? And yet, here we are, in that exact space, you know, so yeah, so that was our journey.

David Ames  28:39  
And then we also talked a bit off, I think Off mic about how doing this work benefits us as well, that there's a, you know, an aspect of this is our outlet, that kind of thing.

So Brian, I want to hear what the focus of the podcast was like what you Troy mentioned, uniquely Australian voice, what were you guys trying to accomplish? And what is the background to the podcast?

Brian  29:12  
I think we set out to tell our stories and tell you know, you know, our podcast starts with and we sort of cringe when we look back at our first couple of episodes, just to you know, obviously your craft you grow into it. But we start out telling our stories and how we actually became involved. So it's a bit of a deeper dive into that than the the blurb that we just gave at the start here. But you get the sense of who we are, where we came from. But then we started talking about our experience and some of calling out some of the absurdities, calling out most definitely our experience of cognitive dissonance, you know, there's a lot of things that we toed the line I knew that, you know, it just didn't make sense. But you did it because you did it for Jesus. So it notes that sort of rubbish, but we just started to dive into, you know, talking a lot about our experiences. But then, very, very quickly, I think like you You described in the episode with us, you start to think about, well, this could be others, who do we start to have a conversation with about their experience? So we'd bring people in, and we'd start to talk about, hey, what was your experience? How did you go through this, this space? How did you navigate it. And then people started connecting, we started an online community, where people come together to process and to talk about the stuff that is happening for them in their lives. And quite often, it's pegged to an episode. So we'll drop an episode and, and people will go Oh, when, you know, so and so said that, you know, I really connected with it, but I just don't know how to work through this. And you'll have a bunch of people who will jump in, really help each other, try and navigate what they're going through, try and make sense of it. As you know, when you've been in Christianity for so long, you've operated within such a confined environment, that where you can process things that when the floodgates are open, and you can actually start to use some of your your brain power. Sometimes it can become a scary place for people. So we've we've done that with the podcast, it's been storytelling, it's been a lot of our storytelling of our experiences, it's been guests coming in. Sometimes it's been a therapeutic bent, where we bring someone in who's an expert in a particular area, but Josie mix gaming that we spoke about. And, you know, that religious trauma, we're recovering from religion. With Darrel Ray, you know, we've we've had all of those sorts of people come in as well to talk about their experience. But I think the story connection is a big thing. The stents making is a big thing for people being able to know that they're, they're not alone. And we want to continue that. And it's become far more popular than we thought it would become. A lot more people have connected with it than we ever thought. And I think it's it's the beauty of the current environment where you can anyone can have a voice, and it's something in the church where unless you're actually anointed to have a voice, then you don't get one. But yeah, yeah. So now anyone can tell this story. And I think there's such a power in human connection as a power and sense making and, and story making of our lives. And that's, I think that's where we are.

David Ames  32:57  
It definitely that what comes across is the honesty and the vulnerability. And, you know, as we've said a few times, you know, I think that is really a powerful thing, people come along, and they can say, I'm not alone, these people have experienced this as well. And it comes from that willingness to kind of, for lack of a better term, bear your soul a bit. And I think that's that human connection. That's super powerful.

I want to ask a question, and I want to give you the opportunity to tell me to eff off if this is too personal, but I noticed that you guys began with a level of anonymity of just your first initials. And at some point, you began to use your first names. Talk me through that, what were you trying to accomplish there? And why are you a little more open these days?

Troy  33:47  
Yeah, when we first started, I was afraid because we were going to be bagging out Hillsong and bagging out Australian Assemblies of God now called the Australian Christian churches. I was a bit worried about us getting sued. years before I was involved in a group called the revival centers and years before in the 90s. When I was what we called, you know, deprogramming isn't it funny the way it's gone from deprogramming to deconversion to deconstruct Yeah. But I was involved in, in, I guess, bringing down this revival centers movement, and we were threatened with legal action a number of times. So I wasn't sure how far this was going to go. I didn't think we were going to go quite as as blatant as I did in the sort of counter revival center days. But nevertheless, let's set up for that. The other thing too, is we both have professional lives, and we didn't know how this was going to be received in that space as well. And both of those have proven to be not true. Both of them have proven to be positive. So we have just recently started well, not just recently at the end of last year, we started using our first names, and then recently when we have been promoted We've even used our last names in some of the things that we've done as well. So it was it was sort of an opening up, it was a testing of the waters and to see what's going to happen, because you know, Hillsong, for example, is quite litigious. And they do try and shut people down. But we've sort of made the decision as well that we won't come out with any sort of accusations, etc, that aren't firsthand, or that aren't already on the public record. And in that sense, I don't think we're going to be sued anytime soon. But yeah, that that was where we were coming from, and that has come at a cost. Like I've had my ex wife contact me and being very concerned about what I've got to say, podcasts, things like that. So you know, that does come at a cost. But I think we've pretty much weathered that storm, I don't think anything's going to happen anytime soon.

David Ames  35:50  
I definitely went through a similar process, I wanted to protect my family, you know, you're doing this on the internet, then, you know, who knows, and growing a bit more comfortable, maybe even naively. So we'll see. We'll see if that ever turns out to have been a bad decision. But I understand that impetus delight. I want to have my voice out there, but I'm not quite ready to be fully known.

The next topic I want to get to is, you know, we clearly have similar backgrounds, both in kind of Pentecostalism, charismatic, and the general and specifically Assemblies of God. What I don't know as as clear to us listeners is how big a deal Hillsong is in Australia. So I'd like to talk about the experience of you guys call it the great big A OG for samples of God, but Pentecostalism in general, and Hillsong, specifically within Australia.

Brian  36:49  
Yeah, look, I think Pentecostalism within Australia is quite a small thing. Like it's a Yeah, it's a fairly small slice. However, it's a very influential slice of Christianity. And some of that has been through Hillsong. And its success, particularly with its music, you know, hit the the Australian area, the area charts, it's hit billboard, over in the stage, you know, I mean, it's been hugely, hugely successful. So I think that has been part of his exposure and influence here. But we also recently, until about a year ago, had a Pentecostal Prime Minister, who was part of the Australian Christian churches, and he very much bought his his beliefs into the way that he governed Australia, he connected and you know, he had been to Hillsong. He denied he'd been to Hillsong. But someone shared photos of him with Brian Houston, the then senior global pastor at Hillsong. That was a very strange denial. He, you know, he tried to get Brian Houston into a meeting with Trump when Trump was your president. So you know, he definitely tried to leverage it. So I think Pentecostalism got an exposure through that. But Hillsong it's been a huge thing. I mean, we had a Royal Commission into Institutional sexual abuse. So it looked at a different institution such as churches, homes, you know, the the environment that people had been in, in foster environments or whatever. And Hillsong came to the fore through that as well because Brian Houston, the the global senior pastor, as he likes to call himself of Hillsong, his father had sexually abused children in New Zealand, which is the country that Houstons came from, and that had been covered up covered up by Brian Houston. Of so it was, he's actually been charged with covering that up is looking at a prison term. And he also has been thrown out as pastor of appeal sung in Hillsong, I know has gone crazy over in the states to in New York, and, and also LA and, you know, it's been the Church of the stars with Justin Bieber and, and many other artists becoming involved with them. And with the practice involved as well. Christopher proud of something like that. And there's quite a few Hollywood stars involved. And

David Ames  39:35  
the music too, I think, I mean, I think non Pentecostal churches that are evangelical like will do lots of Hillsong music as well. So it's been it's had a huge, huge influence from that perspective.

Brian  39:45  
Yeah, it has. It's been massive. And I think that was the watershed moment when they first started hitting the charts here. And you know, it's a massive church. I mean, it meets in a stadium. It's your typical type of mega church, and it's in the media Like we actually have journalists here who their focus is Hillsong. So, someone in Hillsong farts and they report on it, you know, it's quite nuts. But I don't know what you'd say Troy about any further about that. I mean, we weren't necessarily connected with Hillsong it's it hills, some came out of the Australian Christian churches or that ARG. And we were, I guess the church were involved with at the time was definitely fit the bill of a mega church, it was probably bigger than Hillsong at the time, before Hillsong really broke. But Hillsong was sort of an offshoot, it was something to solve we've been involved with. Okay.

Troy  40:41  
I think I think the thing to note, though, is that there's a, there's a revolving door with Australian Pentecostal churches, even though they may be small numbers, there's a lot of people go through them. And come out the other side, I would dare say that there's more X Pentecostals than there are Pentecostal. So our story is not unique. So in that sense, I think there is also an influence. Most people in Australia would know someone who's been involved in a in a mega church or in a Pentecostal church, even though they don't have the numbers they don't have the political clout that you see in the US.

David Ames  41:17  
Yeah, I think in the US, probably someone will correct me the minute I say this, but I would say the Southern Baptist Convention has kind of as a single entity has the kind of the biggest influence in the US. But you know, Assemblies of God is still widespread throughout the US as well. I've had people ask me this question, I'm gonna ask you guys this question. Had you been a part of a more progressive tradition a more? And actually, I want to get to this concept of the difference between liberalism and progressive, but I just mean, less theologically conservative, do you think you would have had the same deconstruction experience?

Troy  41:52  
I think the answer to that, for me is, the question is really moved to because I was recruited via a Pentecostal cult, I had no experience of, of Christianity in any sort of meaningful way. I journeyed out of Pentecostalism into more moderate eventually to becoming a sort of progressive, but it was always a journey out. So I think the the attraction of community, the attraction of forgiveness, the attraction of it, a meaning and a purpose. I remember in Bible college once a pastor said to us, he said that the problem with liberal churches is he said, they don't convert anyone that don't bring anybody in. And he said, as a matter of fact, they are what did he call them a a parasite on the true church. And and I think there's some truth to that without the vitriol. I think there's some truth to that, that most of these progressive groups, most of these progressive denominations, there's very few converts. It's mostly refugees from conservative theology that sort of ended up there. So, so no, I don't think I don't think that I would have even possibly been recruited into that sort of church. But ultimately, when I did journey out of Pentecostalism, or out of fundamentalism out of evangelicalism into something more progressive, I made a conscious decision. It's like, well, what, what's here, nothing. There's nothing here that I need, I can be a good person I can be, you know, a humanist, I can be a giver of my time and energy and effort and money to charities, etc. If I want to do good, I don't need fairytales. I don't need, you know, mythology. So, so I don't think I would have ever been drawn into that kind of church in the first place. David,

David Ames  43:42  
that would probably be similar to my answer. But I still want to hear Brian's as well.

Brian  43:46  
Now very similar. I came into the bright lights and the band of a Pentecostal church and, you know, the really cool acceptance and, you know, I got a, I became a Christian in a surf community. So it was very cool. You know, it's a bunch of very cool people, their ex hippies, you know, I think that connected me into it, there was a bit of a reality in what they were doing. End up, it was a performance. And I connected to that performance, I journeyed out, as we heard before the same route as Troy through the Baptist hostel through the more progressive Churches of Christ. So even when I tried to make sense of what I will try to make sense of what I believed, it still didn't work, like I was always going, I was on a trajectory to journey out and the day that I do need in,

David Ames  44:36  
you've said that a couple of times, it reminds me of a quote from BART Campolo that somebody asked him, you know, when did you start to doubt? And he said, about 15 minutes after I started to believe, and, and I think there's some deep honesty there, right. Like lots of people would jump on that and say, See, you didn't really have any faith, but I think there's just honesty in that statement and the way that you're expressing it as well.

Troy  44:56  
David, can I just footnote I think that's exactly where I got that. Comment from I think it came from BART Campolo that the day I joined was the day I started to leave. So yeah, footnote there.

David Ames  45:06  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Trash I heard you working through and we're gonna get to the source of this, but in a minute but a difference between liberal versus progressive Christian, I wonder if you would expound on that. And what you were trying to capture in describing that difference?

Troy  45:33  
Yeah, I look, it could just be semantics, it could just be a matter of terminology. But back in the day, to be a liberal Christian was worse than being a non Christian. You know, because you didn't believe in the basic tenants of the Christian faith. You didn't believe in the basic Creed's? Why are you even calling yourself a Christian? You know, it's a wolf in sheep's clothing would have been the way that we would have used it. And I think that term became for most conservatives. For most evangelicals. It was a term that you never wanted to wear. And you never wanted to believe that you were ever going to become a liberal, or a liberal Christian. And so I think what happened is that as that term became more and more pejorative, people just came up with new terms, you know, and we see that all the time, we see that in political correctness, we see that in the even we talked about it before from deprogram to deconversion. to deconstruct, it all seems to become a little less offensive, and then it'll come full circle, and people will start using it again, I think it's the same kind of thing with that term. So people adopted this word progressive. And I think, you know, you know, John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, all these poster boys for liberalism would be quite happy to wear the modern label of progressives. And I think a lot of progressive Christians would be wearing that label. It's very happy to read those books, if they really got in and had a look at what those people were saying, because as you said before, Nothing is new. Right? This is this is all the same. And so the journey into liberalism, the journey into progressivism, it's the same thing. So ultimately, that was the long way of saying I think it's basically the same, but there are cultural reasons why we've abandoned that term.

David Ames  47:15  
And then I think what led to that discussion is you had a couple of people on and we're going to talk about one of them in depth here. But yeah, Brian McLaren on and Philip Yancey. Brian McLaren, I think would give himself the moniker of progressive Christian. Yancey might not, Yancey might still think of himself as a evangelical. The reason I bring up Philip Yancey in particular is that he had a profound impact on me during my Christianity that Jesus I never knew hit me right at that time, when I was a youth pastor, feeling very isolated and alone. It expanded Christianity for me in a way that probably made it drag on a little bit longer for me. But he was kind of the intellectual outlet for a Christian who is a bit of a skeptic, a little bit of doubts, that kind of thing. And so I have a soft spot in my heart for him. Well, you guys got the opportunity to interview him on this side of deconstruction. deconversion. And it was quite an experience for you. So I'd like you to talk about why you had him on what what it was like having him on. And then you guys had to process it after it was done as well.

Brian  48:18  
Yeah. I think it was the same for us. And Troy even spoke to Philip in the episode, and saying the the profound influence that he had on him was to a point where he actually got a tattoo of the word grace in Chinese. So it was, you know, I think that what's so amazing about grace, that book that he wrote, for me, was one of the most impactful books that I ever read as a Christian. And I think it was because I read at that time, where I was just going, I was bought in through this whole forgiveness and grace story. I'm not feeling it. Like I'm actually feeling judgment. And I'm feeling an incredibly constrained environment. So I was questioning that. The book was, yeah, it was powerful. And but he also dropped another book, which is his memoirs where the light fell. And it was reading, reading that, that I actually felt a deeper connection to him because he was incredibly vulnerable in that book. He told the stories of growing up he tall, he told the warts and all of the church. So having him on was, we were fanboying. Both of us were absolutely fanboying. And the conversation was, it was great. It was deep. It was authentic. But he very much still does identify as an evangelical. He's disappointed with where evangelicalism has gone in the States. And you know, he's vocal about that. But he's still deeply evangelical and believes in the roots of it, and he's still very much a Christian. He still believes in The tenants of Christianity we were really clear before we got him on. And we were having conversations with him saying, we are not Christians, we do not believe anymore. And he said, Great. These are the sorts of people I want to connect with you guys. These are the you know, I would his words he said to us with I would hope that the Expand Jellicle community would connect with my new book. That's that's who I want to reach there to I want to read my story. So it was a it was an interesting episode because you can't dislike Philip Yancey, he's the one he might be touting beliefs that we don't any longer believe but He's genuinely doing that and genuinely engaging. However, cognitive dissonance all the way through the conversation. But you couldn't not like him. But then when we dropped that episode, it was a real polarization I think with with our listener community, which is their Facebook community of people going oh my god, I loved Philip, what a great conversation and others going What the fuck? Why did you talk to him? You know, he's still deeply in it. And and people really wrestled with the content there because we we also you know, we did connect with him I think during the interview and for us that was a real unsettling after it like we spoke after him when our goal wasn't that amazing. And then listen back to the episode and went, What the fuck? What what happened there? We're, we're under a spell. But we had to so we dropped that episode. And then next week, the next week, we dropped a debriefing episode and a deconstruction of that episode and what was happening for us. It was full on but like, if you haven't listened to the episodes, which it sounds like you have like, we really tried to process it and we're going what went on here. Troy, what are your thoughts around it?

Troy  51:55  
Well, yeah, it's, it's, it's even hard. Now thinking about it and thinking how much we did fanboy him. We were just all over him. You know, we just it was like, Oh, we got Philip Yancey. Because there was a part of us that was you know, all of a sudden we were 20 something again, and we were interviewing Philip Yancey. For God's sake. It was it was really, really cool. But that said I was afraid he was going to see us as a mission field. I'm sure he did on some level, but I was afraid he was gonna come on and, and you know, high and mighty but he didn't and his book is really, really good. I mean, his book, you could read that as a as a non believer and just think this is, this is amazing. As I've said before, it's a combination of To Kill a Mockingbird, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It's, it's just wonderful. It's a really, really good book. I think he it still comes through that at the end. There is crazy religious mother, there's crazy atheist brother and there's middle road Evangelical, Philip Yancey kind of thing. And I think that that implicit that this is the right path. And I don't know necessarily that that's that's the case, even for his own family. But yeah, it it challenged us to say what do you do with evangelicals who aren't Trump supporters who aren't politically motivated to, you know, tear democracy down, and yet are good people and are doing good things and, you know, intellectually addressing the inconsistencies of their faith. And that's when I thought, I think it comes down to labels again, and this is what I said. I think he's a liberal. I think he's a progressive, maybe not theologically, but socially. And even politically, he's quite progressive. And I think that's where the rubber hits the road. It's what people are doing, not what they, you know, sort of believe in, in their own private world.

Brian  53:56  
I think that I think that's the cognitive dissonance bit like he's, he's definitely is talking the words of Christianity and evangelicalism, but he seems to be living the life of the progressive. And I can't remember in the episode if we put it to him, of where he he sees himself out. I can't remember any of that. But we'll have to go back and have a listen to

Troy  54:22  
you. I think he did. Because we asked him, you know, what about the term evangelical? And he said, Well, maybe one day I'll have to stop using that term if it continues to go the way that it's going. So you know, he's aware, but but it is its labels, its its badges.

David Ames  54:39  
If I could be so bold as to talk about a way to process that. There's a leader whose name is escaping me other than his first name James of the St. Louis Ethical Society. He made a statement once on on Twitter that he probably has already forgotten but it's stuck with me. Basically, that everything is secular. Everything is a human endeavor, and And that religion is included in that. And so what we do when we're religious is still secular still humans trying to figure out the world to connect with each other. And, you know, I think Yancey is well within within that in the sense that, you know, he has a religious humanist and he cares about people and he's expressing that. And so just the same way that you know, meeting atheists or or LGBTQ people, when we were within our faith shook that you meet Nancy and it's kind of the opposite of it. It's just because it's, this is a good human being you're talking to and so that's what you're connecting with is it would be my interpretation of the of the experience.

Troy  55:38  
I think so. And I think also, you know, hearing what you were saying about your experience of Philip Yancey and also our experience of Philip Yancey is he's doing a good thing. He's actually helping fundamentalists be less fundamentalist. And as I said, if we hadn't gotten his book from the Christian bookshop, we probably would have said, This is too liberal, but they did a bait and switch. You know, we went into the fundamentalist bookshop bought a fundamentalist book, and we're impacted with humanist ideas. Oh, my God. And and it did push. both Brian and I, and from what I'm hearing from you as well, it did push us in the in a good direction. So. So kudos to him, you know, kudos to him. Yeah.

David Ames  56:21  
And I think you guys said that he probably wouldn't like to hear that, but that he was a part of your deconstruction. Quick, I don't want this to turn into a fanboy session about Philip Yancey. But quick sidenote, when I went to buy the Jesus, I never knew, very, very conservative Christian bookstore, and I got just glaring looks. As I was buying the book from the bookseller, it was understood that, you know, he was definitely more liberal. And there's something different about him, even at the time.

Troy  56:54  
One of the things that I wanted to ask him, which I didn't get to ask him was that Marcus Borg wrote a book called meeting Jesus again for the first time, which sounds a lot like the Jesus I never knew. And I wondered if Philip Yancey hadn't read that book, and thought, I want to bring an evangelical version, because it comes back to the person of Jesus, you know, aside of, aside from all the religious stuff that we've gone through, and all the doctrines, etc, let's come back and look at this, this person of Jesus and and meet him again for the first time or the Jesus that I never knew. And and I would really like to know if Marcus Borg had actually impacted Philip Yancey, or if he would even admit that because Marcus Boggs book was first, I haven't actually

David Ames  57:37  
read that. So you know, maybe someday, if I'm interested. I'll do that.

As we wrap up, guys, I want to focus back on your podcast and the community that you're building, how can people find the community and maybe just talk a little bit about what is going on in the community that you guys are building?

Troy  58:02  
Sure, well, the podcast is available on all the good platforms. And as Brian likes to say, some of the bad ones too. Yes. We have, obviously where, you know, we're on social media, we're on Instagram, we had to be pushed onto Instagram, because we're both in our 50s. We didn't, didn't know about the Instagram. We are now on Instagram, we're on Twitter, we'll see how long that lasts. We're on Facebook as well, we have that Facebook community. You know, and look, we have communities of people that are you know, volunteering behind the scenes to help us out. People can connect with us in the in the different social media platforms, because we do tend to respond, we read pretty much everything. Matter of fact, there's time to have to say I've got to I've got to put this down for a while it could become an obsession. But we try to make it meaningful, and we try to make ourselves available to people. I think the fact that we have this uniquely Australian voice makes us different. And I think some of our American audience, sometimes grab their pearls, you know what I mean by that they're like, they just say that. And that's that's very Australian. And I think that's unique. And some people have actually said to us from from foreign audiences, it's nice to hear you guys saying stuff that we would never dare dare say in our own accent. And that makes it kind of distant yet the same in the same moment. So, you know, we welcome people from around the world, but it's uniquely Australian in our experiences. But as you've said, David, and we've said to you, it's still the same shit different bucket. Yeah.

Brian  59:37  
And I think it's the great thing about living in a nation that was founded for convicts is that we were just a reverent, it's in our DNA. We, we definitely dwell in that irreverent place. But I look, I think that the Facebook community is definitely a place where people connect most. As I think I said before, it's about 800 people within that community as we speak, the podcast has gone mental, in compared to our expectations, you know, nominated for an Australian best podcast award for current affairs. By the time this goes to air, we'll know whether we got the gong. But it's, you know, it's just amazing to, to actually think that people are connecting with two ordinary blokes living in Australia.

Troy  1:00:27  
And if we do when I think we need to stand up the front and say, we just want to thank God for his podcast, because if it wasn't for God, the podcast wouldn't exist.

Brian  1:00:40  
If it wasn't for a God that doesn't exist, wouldn't exist.

David Ames  1:00:45  
I think that is the ultimate Mic drop. And Troy and Brian, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thanks. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode. You might notice I'm a little subdued, my voice is a bit subdued. I have not been feeling very well. I'm feeling a little better now. But if my voice is different than that is why I really love what Troy and Brian are doing with our podcast and particularly with their community. It is so much like this podcast, it's a it's amazing. You can hear in the interview, the realness that comes through in their stories. They both had experience in the Assemblies of God, and we're around the influence of Hillsong, if not directly at Hillsong. And then I thought it was interesting that during their deconstruction they called themselves Baptist hostels that they were going to a theologically Baptist church, but that had charismatic leanings. Troy's story of getting himself kicked out so that he can have sex is well worth it. You've gotta go listen to that episode, for sure. I've really appreciated Brian's discussion in this interview about the influence of his brother, his brother becoming a evangelical Christian and him going to visit assuring them that he was not going to be converted, and he got converted. So there is the acknowledgement of the power of religion and the message and love bombing and all of those things. I really appreciated Troy and Brian's humor, they're Australian humor. They're distinctly Australian voices, they say. I think that humor is a fantastic way to overcome what can be seen as tragedy. And they are doing that. Well. I've obviously related to both Troy and Brian, because of reading many of Philippians C's books, it was really interesting to dive in and talk about their experience interviewing him and the misgivings that they had after interviewing Philippians. See, that is a fine line that I walk constantly of who should be on the podcast, who should we platform, it is not always obvious what is going to work and what isn't. You can find I was a teenage fundamentalist on all the podcast platforms. They also have a YouTube channel called I was a teenage fundamentalist. They also have a Facebook group that is associated with their Facebook page. So check that out. I will have links in the show notes, I will also have their link tree that has links to all kinds of their content. I want to thank Troy and Brian for being on the podcast for being so honest. As we said, This really feels like a sister podcast, so many similarities. Definitely check them out. Thank you for sharing your stories. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about acceptance, accepting yourself accepting others. I keep finding people in my life who when they finally realize that I accept them for who they are entirely without reservations without misgivings completely open up and and I get to see that person for who they really are and they stop hiding. Then that lesson is definitely true for myself, when I have had the opportunity to really tell my story to someone to really tell where I'm at where my heart aches are. That has been a profound and cathartic experience. And actually mean this in many areas beyond just religion. But what we're doing here on the podcast is giving a platform for people to tell their story. And telling your story is profound is cathartic. And becoming a part of a community where people express their acceptance of you is life changing. I want to encourage you all to do three things. One and to accept yourself for who you are. And not to beat yourself up and brace your humanity. You don't need to be something else or someone else you can be yourself. And that is not only enough, that is fantastic to try to show secular grace for other people that they need that much acceptance as well, and be the person who is safe for others to come to and tell their story and be vulnerable. And three, if you haven't yet told your story on this podcast and you have had a faith transition of one kind or another, I'd love to have you on. And I'd also love you to become a part of the deconversion anonymous Facebook community to experience that acceptance in the group reached out to me at graceful the Facebook group is at Next week, I have Rachel hunt from recovering from religion. That was an amazing conversation. I can't wait to share that with you. I've got a number of community members lined up and a couple of interviews done. I still have Jennifer Michael help coming up. The interview will be later this month, and that episode will come out in early March. Her new book is The Wonder paradox and it is fantastic. Go check that out. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast be part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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