This week’s guest is Rachel Hunt. Rachel is both the Support Group Director and an Ambassador for Recovering From Religion.
From her RFR bio, “Rachel is a motorcycle-riding ballroom dance teacher from rural Texas. Married with two adult children, Rachel has a strong interest in psychology, philosophy, and communication, in addition to the creative arts and home improvement. She was raised in Christian Science but drifted off as a teenager. She explored Scientology, Law of Attraction, and a variety of Protestant churches before settling comfortably into atheism.”
Rachel shares her personal story and how Recovering from Religion is serving people all over the world.
24/7 RfR hotline: 84-I-Doubt-It (844-368-2848 )
Recovering From Relgion
Secular Therapy Project
“It is because people in religious communities are taught to suppress them [doubts] or hide them.
Everybody around you could be doubting but you will never know it because they are afraid to show it to you.”
“What I find, the more I do this, is that people just need someone to listen and not judge and not tell them they’re wrong.”
“The more I learned about science and evidence and developed my critical thinking skills, the more I realized: This just doesn’t make sense.”
“[Religious people] will sell you the snake oil to what ails you. They know what people want and need, and they’ll just promise it. They have absolutely no evidence that they can provide it, but that doesn’t stop them from promising whatever you want.”
“A church shouldn’t be the only place you can go where people are nice to you.”
“Critical thinking is a just thing that people lack, even in general society. But religious organizations…[they] really consider faith and childlike gullibility to be virtues…”
“[At Recovering from Religion,] our job is to meet you where you are and to help you get to where you want to go…”
“Changing the way you think doesn’t automatically change the way you feel.”
“Refusing to have boundaries and refusing to respect that your body needs…autonomy. It’s almost like taking the doors off of your house and telling yourself that it’s your responsibility to let anybody who wants to, to walk through and take whatever they want. It’s damaging.”
“As bad as all these issues are, just having someone to talk to—who understands and may have experienced something similar—is so healing. So soothing.”
“You can self-gaslight.”
“The reasons to believe are so ephemeral. They’re all social and behavioral.”
Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!
Support the podcast
“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
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 United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my patrons on patreon.com. If you too would like to have an ad free version of the podcast become a patron at any level at patreon.com/graceful atheist. Please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group where we are trying to provide a safe place to land to doubt to question and be supported. You can find that at facebook.com/groups/deconversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Rachel is both the support group director and an ambassador for recovering from religion. Rachel's bio says she's a motorcycle riding ballroom dance teacher from rural Texas. Married with two adult children Rachel has a strong interest in psychology, philosophy and communication. In addition to her creative arts and home improvement, she was raised in Christian Science but drifted off as a teenager, she explored Scientology law of attraction and a variety of Protestant churches before settling comfortably into atheism. We get to hear Rachel's personal story, we get to hear about the beginnings of recovering from religion, the beginnings of the secular therapy project. And I will note here that recovering from religion provides a 24 hour hotline you can call eight four, I doubt it. That is 844368 to 848. Or you can make a web call on their website at recovering from religion.org. If you're in the middle of a crisis of deconstruction, doubt deconversion give them a call reach out they can support you. Here is Rachel hunts to tell her story. Rachel hunts Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Rachel Hunt 2:13 Thank you so much. It's great to be here. David Ames 2:15 Yeah, thank you for reaching out. You are the Support Group Director for recovering from religion. And I think that you all are doing just amazing work. I'd like you to just introduce us briefly about what recovering from religion is and a little bit about yourself. And then we're gonna jump into your personal story thereafter. Rachel Hunt 2:34 Absolutely. Recovering from religion is a nonprofit organization that our mission statement is really simple. We're here to provide hope, healing and support to individuals struggling from issues of doubt and non belief or from religious harm. So we basically have a range of programs that are designed to just give people someone to turn to when they don't know what to do. Man, David Ames 3:00 I know, I've talked to so many people who talk about how lonely this is. And it really can be. Yeah, it's great that you all are there. We'll dig into lots more in more depth here in a bit about what you all are doing. But I want to hear just briefly about your story like, like, did you have a religious background? And did you go through a deconstruction or deconversion process? Rachel Hunt 3:23 I did for me, it was kind of slow. I remember having doubts when I was very little. In fact, one of my earliest memories about religion was being in Sunday school when I was maybe seven or eight. And I just kind of piped up and said, Hey, this idea just popped into my head. Why? How do we know there's a God? The the look that I got from the Sunday School teacher told me all I needed to know that that is not the place that you find those answers. You're not supposed to ask that kind of stuff in church. And, you know, from then on, I would I would kind of be, you know, I tried to do what they told me to do. And I tried to understand and the older I got, and the more I learned, the more I realized it just didn't make any sense. My background is a little bit different from some of the others that you hear because I was raised in Christian Science, okay, which isn't unusual religion. Most people if they've heard of Christian Science at all, they have heard of some of the more extreme stories where maybe people, you know, had severe health issues and their community or their family did not take them to the appropriate resources. And they, you know, had some sort of very dramatics into that story. And I never witnessed anything like that. In my church, most family, most families had at least one or two family members that were not members of Christian Science, and they would just sort of insist that, you know, if you have a broken bone, you go to the hospital, the only things that really made us different from my peers were that we did not get vaccinated at a time when almost everybody else did and evacs was not a thing. This was in the 70s and So, you know, it was really it wasn't a big deal because there was herd immunity. So we never got sick because everyone around us was vaccinated that didn't cause this problem. And then also, my mom gave me a religious exemption to biology class in high school. Okay? You even now, to this day, sometimes I'm like, why don't I know the difference between a phylum and a family? And I go, Oh, yeah, cuz I didn't take biology. David Ames 5:28 Interesting. Very, very interesting. Yeah. Rachel Hunt 5:31 The weird thing about Christian Science is that it was it was founded by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy. And she was she fancied yourself an intellectual. She was part of the new thought movement of the turn of the century around the end of the 18th century. 1800s, beginning of 1900s. And, you know, people like Norman Vincent Peale, and Wallace Wattles, she was she was part of that group where they all decided that you can just control the universe with your brain, right? And she derived her, you know, inspiration from the Bible. She wrote another book called Science and Health with key to the Scriptures. And it's all about healing, basically, right? But it wasn't like that charismatic healing that you see, like with Evangelicals today, it was more like, oh, just pray and read your Bible and hear these passages from science and health and read those and you'll feel better, you just have to change your thinking so that you can see the world the way God sees it. And while pain and suffering will disappear, no. And of course, it works a little for minors, David Ames 6:34 right? Yeah. Yeah, the placebo effect is a thing. Yeah. Rachel Hunt 6:38 Yeah, it does. So you know, but the more I learned about science, and just, you know, evidence and develop my critical thinking skills, the more I realized, this just doesn't make sense. So I stopped going to church, as soon as my mom, let me, but that didn't solve all my problems. Life is still hard. And there are still many, many people that will tell you with great confidence that they have the answers and that they don't have any stress and worry, because they have God in their life, including many people that I admire greatly. Yeah. So you know, my mother is still very religious. And she's just one of the most serene people I've ever met. But I just couldn't buy into it. So I kept looking for other things. Like New. You know, what people do that. I tried other churches, I tried Scientology. That was an adventure. Again, I did not encounter any the really extreme stuff, but it's, you know, it's different. It's kind of, they present themselves as kind of an alternative to psychology. And so I looked into it, I'm like, well, maybe this will help me feel better. You know, I'll try that. Moc just didn't work. So, you know, I moved on, I tried law of attraction. I did. I was really all into that for a while till I realized it was clearly confirmation bias. Yes, yeah. It took me a while to figure that out. Yeah. Yeah. You know, and, and after a while, I discovered the atheist community, and I go, Oh, that's me. David Ames 8:06 interested? Yeah. You know, I think you've tapped into something there of just the, you know, as human beings, we, I mean, you know, the existentialist that's all they were writing about us, you know, we have this Melis that we can't identify, you know, and, and there are various religious organizations that are just ready to weave out the answer for that. And you know, you don't feel quite comfortable, we know why I'm here. Oh, Rachel Hunt 8:29 absolutely, they will, they will sell you the snake oil to what ails you, you know, they know what people want and need, and they'll just promise it, you know, they have absolutely no evidence that they can provide it that doesn't, you know, that didn't stop them from just promising whatever you want to do that, you know, draws a lot of people in, David Ames 8:48 for sure. And then just the love bombing concept of, you know, people who are lonely and then all of a sudden, here's, you know, 20 people who are saying that they love you, and they, they bring you up a potluck mate. And for some people that may be the first time they've experienced that, and it's manipulative in a way it is. Rachel Hunt 9:05 And it's, it's really fun in our society, that people have to go to a church to get something like that. Church shouldn't be the only place you can go where people are nice to you. And unfortunately, it's short lived, right? I've never walked into a church where people weren't super nice and welcoming. But then, you know, after a while, it starts to become apparent that that love is conditional. You eventually have to profess that you believe what they believe. And you have to behave the way they want you behave and dress the way they want you to dress and do all the things they asked you to do, otherwise, you are no longer part of their organization. And it's it's really sad when people discover that after they've invested a lot of emotion into it, David Ames 9:46 you know, something that I've been trying to articulate recently is is that there's such a community or or social aspect and you know, that beliefs kind of are tied to the social group, and even your description of being in Sunday school and having a Yeah, you know, an unorthodox thought, as a child, you would recognize, oh, that's out of bounds. You know, I'm not allowed to say that. And so those kinds of things are socially enforced. So even if you're new to the, the spiritual religious community, you learn very quickly what you can and cannot say what's allowed. What's not? Rachel Hunt 10:16 Oh, absolutely. They don't even have to say it out loud. Just the look on someone's face, or even just a silence and the fact that no one agrees with you. I mean, that's really very powerful. And, you know, I was a young child, and I picked up on that. And, you know, it's not subtle, you know? David Ames 10:39 One last personal question. Did I see in your bio, that you focus on philosophy a bit, Rachel Hunt 10:44 I enjoy philosophy, I have a few philosophy classes in college, I didn't finish college, so I didn't, you know, major in philosophy or anything that I like it. And I did, I remember having a class, my first philosophy class 101, I was 18 years old. And it's so funny how, to me it was so obvious. We're there to study ideas, were there to study what people thought and why they thought it and what we think of it now and, and people just could not wrap their brains around it people raising their hands going. But Aristotle can't be right, because that's not what it says in the Bible. Yeah, it was so strange to me that people were absolutely incapable of understanding that we were just exploring ideas, and there can be more than one thought about the same subject and was insane. To me. David Ames 11:31 It's interesting, we might circle back to this, one of the things that I think is an issue that as a secular, a more pluralistic society that we need to, to worry about, and I think this is not new, right? This is all a philosophy kind of deals with this is that as we become more secular people can be susceptible to variations on on, you know, these, as you said, snake oil kinds of things. And I think a philosophy of religion, as a kind of a base part of education would be very important that we recognize, we learn what other people have thought in the past what other people have said in the past, as almost an inoculation against what someone might say in the future, that kind of thing. You're Rachel Hunt 12:11 absolutely right. I've noticed that. You know, on the Helpline at recovering from religion, we get a lot of people calling for a lot of reasons. But one of the things that is I've noticed lately that really bothers me is young people, maybe 1314 years old, they go online, they find some Christians screaming about how the world is about to come to the end, and you must get Jesus or you're gonna burn in hell forever. And these kids, maybe were never religious, they weren't raised with these ideas. But they are terrified. And they're contacting us going, is it true? Is it real? What Why are they saying this? And they get, you know, they get just as traumatized as anybody that was, you know, suffered from some sort of abuse because they're so scared, and they have no defense against it. It doesn't even occur to them that someone maybe just made it up. Yeah, no. David Ames 12:57 And I realize we're a bit far afield here. But also, I just think it's relevant for our moment in history with the disinformation misinformation, even non religious aspects of that. Rachel Hunt 13:08 Critical thinking is a big thing that people lack, just in general in society, but But religion, a lot of religious organizations, particularly the high control ones, really de emphasize education. They almost villainize it, they consider faith and childlike gullibility to be a virtue, you know, obedience. These are all things that you want from someone they want to control. And when you teach people that it is wrong to lean on your own understanding, it is wrong to seek out external sources of validation, then people just absolutely do not develop their critical thinking skills. So many of our clients who, you know, come to us, you know, just trying to figure out how to live their lives without religion. They'll ask us for resources on developing a critical thinking because they just don't know how to decide what's true. They have never done it before. David Ames 14:01 And then I'm sure that you've seen in your support groups, something that I've seen, it's the, that people come out of this and they they doubt themselves, that takes a long time for them to trust their own kind of internal communication. And, you know, they've been taught all their lives that you're wrong, you know, you're Yeah, Rachel Hunt 14:19 yeah. Yes, yes, that you're sinful and broken and that you are nothing without God, you're nothing without this community. You can't possibly accomplish anything on your own. You're, you're not capable of understanding things by yourself, we hit you have to be told what to believe. These are, it gets even more than that. It's not just that you're not capable of doing things but that you are fundamentally unworthy of love. You have to earn your place in the world. And that's incredibly damaging. You know, religion isn't the only place people absorb that message. Obviously, capitalism tends to do the same thing. You know, you're not worth anything unless you can contribute to it. You know, some somebody's pocketbook or, you know, you know any, anybody that's been the victim of any sort of abuse gets that same message that they're unworthy and unlovable and it's a horrible way to have to live. It's just a horrible feeling. David Ames 15:15 I don't know how much you know about the podcast, but I started it with a few ideas. And you know, almost immediately, what I found was it was just kind of a landing place for people to talk about the trauma they have experienced, which wasn't my personal experience, it surprised me. It's something that I learned in the process. My understanding that is that recovering from religion started with Dr. Darrel Ray, because he was seeing these kinds of trauma responses from people, and that that just barely existed as a thing. I want to talk just a little bit about what recovering from religion does, how people can access it, and then really want to get to the specifics of what you're doing with your support groups. Rachel Hunt 16:01 Okay, great. Yeah. It's a great story, how recovering from religion developed, Dr. Darrel Ray was an organizational psychologist, he'd written a couple of books about teamwork, and I actually have him on my shelf here. And then he wrote a book called Sex and God. And he wrote another book called The God virus actually can't remember what order he wrote those and but, but he got a lot of emails from people who had suffered religious harm and wanted to talk to him about it. And so he said, I think there's a need for people to, you know, receive some sort of, you know, support for this. So he, he, I believe it was about 13 years ago, he just created an event for people to come and talk to him and an IOP, he say, just invited some people and said, Hey, you want to come talk about religious trauma. And he got 11 People at the first meeting, this is in I think it was in Kansas City. And so from then on, that's how the support groups got started. It's actually the oldest program of recovering from religion is the support group program. Yeah, so from then on, I mean, then he created this nonprofit and and now we've got the helpline, and we've got an online community, and we've got a podcast, and we've got a YouTube channel and a blog. And, you know, it's a huge, pretty big organization, and now we're worldwide, you know, but it's, it's funny how you don't even realize how much you need something like that until it exists. And then you go, Oh, my gosh, where's this? Ben? Yeah, exactly. So many people that we've spoken to who deconversion, before recovering from religion existed, you know, really say that they wish it had been around for them, because it's can be very lonely trying to do this by yourself. David Ames 17:46 Exactly. And I do want to just mention really quick, you mentioned the hotline, I don't remember the number off the top of my head, I'm sure you do. Maybe give that out to people. Yeah. So you know, listener, you know, if you find yourself in in need, you need somebody to talk to in the immediate, there are someone on the other end of that phone line, who can talk to you. And I think that's super valuable work that you guys are doing there? Rachel Hunt 18:06 Absolutely. We do try to man that helpline, 24/7 obviously, that we're all staffed by volunteers, that 100% volunteer organization. So sometimes you may try to call and no one answers, but please just keep trying, because we do have a lot of people that want to help you. David Ames 18:24 So the support groups begin with Dr. Ray, just having a few people at an IHOP Oh, that sounds amazing. I constantly I said that all the time of like, you know, if people want to do something in this space, you know, just set something up on meetup.com. And people will show up. I think that's really that's really interesting. Yeah, talk to me about how that has developed and what the support groups look like these days. Rachel Hunt 18:45 Well, I haven't been around for the whole thing. So I can't tell you all the details of how we got from point A to point B. But I can tell you that during COVID, the support demand for support groups and a willingness to or an ability to volunteer really exploded. So we had, we have each of our support groups this numbered. So we have 6870 support groups. Now I should have looked that up before I talk to you, I think we have 70. But many of those have gone inactive because the people who were volunteering during the pandemic had to go back to work. And so some of those have gone inactive. But we do still pay for all of those meetup groups. So if there is a meetup in your town, you will find it by going to meetup.com. And even if we the group itself is inactive, there will be links to a lot of our virtual support groups. So when I took over the support group program in March of 2021, yeah, I guess that's what I want. No, it was March of this year, March of 2022. Sorry. There were a lot of inactive support groups, and there was demand for some specialty support groups. I guess I should mention that, you know, most of those support groups did go online, they were all originally in person, they all went online during the pandemic, and now, we only have five that have gone back to in person, okay, so there might be an in person group near you, there might not be. But more and more of our support group leaders are considering going back to in person. So that is not out of the range of possibility, you know, that will happen. And of course, you know, we can provide more support groups, if we have more volunteers, that's the bottleneck. So, if you are interested in volunteering, go to recovering from religion.org/volunteer. And there's a thing on there that tells you what it's all about. And we go through an interview process and a training process, and there's lots of support, and we definitely need you if you are willing and able to do that. David Ames 20:54 Yeah, for sure. We will, we will make a big deal about this. I constantly have people asking, you know, how can they, again, do something without never really knowing what answer this definitely sounds like a practical aspect that that they could they could do? Rachel Hunt 21:08 It is and we we have a nice community within our volunteer group too. And, you know, that can be really powerful. I remember, you know, I've tried volunteering for a few different types of organizations, you know, and I even did local politics, and oh, my gosh, that is so frustrating. I can't. With politics, you just can't even imagine. Politics and politics, it's just me and personal. And just like nothing ever gets done so bad. So, you know, I just bounced around looking for things. And when I discovered recovering from religion, and I looked into the volunteer training, the community is just so I mean, you know, we talked about love bombing, it's not love bombing, they're just nice. And they're just fun and funny, and they really need you and appreciate you. And there's a there's so much flexibility in how you can volunteer, there are lots of different ways you can do it. And you can kind of create your own schedule and do what's comfortable for you. And if something comes up and you can't do it anymore, it's no big deal. And, you know, it just gives you people to talk to you about things that you care about that care about the same things. And anyway, I just really enjoy it. I stopped going on Facebook, and now I'm just I talk to my volunteers all the time. David Ames 22:30 Yeah. I hear you definitely we, we've started a community as well. And like that has provided a lot of what I was missing personally. Yeah. What are some of the things that people come to recovering from religion with and or discuss in the in the support groups? Like, what are the kinds of ways this presents itself to people? Rachel Hunt 23:01 That's a great question. A lot of times when people first come to us, either in a support group or on the helpline, they're just, they're just lost and upset. And they're almost to the point of not even being coherent. You know, they're just like, I don't know what to do. I be so confused. There's pressure on all sides. I don't you know, I don't know if I should tell people if I should not tell people, I don't know what I believe, I don't know what to call myself. I don't know, you know, how to live my life. It can be really disorienting. But, you know, once we start talking to them, we're normally able to break down their issues into some some fairly clear and common challenges. You know, one of the challenges is, if you're beginning to doubt, do you tell the people around you who seem to so strongly believed you tell them that you're doubting? You know, sometimes it's as easy as, hey, I'm not sure how I feel about that. And you can have a discussion with someone because they're open minded. Sometimes it's absolutely unacceptable to question at all and you know, that, just as we were saying, you know, if that were your community, or family or churches, you know, that and you have to sort of do your study and secret because you can't, you're not allowed to tell anybody that you're even considering doubting. So there's, you know, what to do about your relationships is a big deal. There's How do I figure out what to call myself? Am I an agnostic and my spiritual but not religious? And like Christian, but not evangelical? Am I, you know, am I an atheist? Those labels, we don't think they matter that much. We want you to, you know, whatever you believe is what matters. And we want to help you figure out, you know, help you sort through your mind and your thoughts so that you can figure out what you believe we're not here to tell you what to think. But we can offer you some definitions like you know, what do people usually mean when they say they're agnostic? What do people usually mean when they're say say they're atheists, but really, the labels are not that important. The secular community is pretty open David Ames 24:59 on that. notes, I know that you all are going to try to make it very clear that you are not in the business of D converting people that, you know, if you're a believer and you're questioning, you can still come to recovering from religion, express those doubts, and nobody is going to try to convince you to change your mind. Right? Rachel Hunt 25:15 Absolutely, thank you for saying that it is true that most of the volunteers are formerly religious, no longer religious, a lot of us are atheists, but, but we are training is very clear on that. On that point, our job is to meet you where you are, and to help you get where you want to go. And sometimes what people want is just to feel better about the fact that they doubt a little bit, but they don't want to leave their community, they don't want to leave their church, they're not really changing their beliefs, they just want to, they just want someone to tell them that they're not crazy for having questions. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, sometimes people come out of a very extreme religious group, and they still want to be religious, they just need a church that's going to be more welcoming for them and not so controlling, we can help with that, you know, we can send you someplace, that's not going to be so difficult, you know, occasionally we get people that, you know, are offended that we exist at all, you know, don't like the idea that somebody might possibly need to recover from religion, and, you know, but, but most most of those people don't Don't cause a problem. Another really big issue that people have is mental health issues. A lot of times, religious organizations try to fix you through prayer, they, they, they try to, you know, they like to believe that God can cure anything, and that if you are not cured, yet, it's because you didn't have enough faith, or they want to send you to a religious counselor who's going to tell you to pray, and you need more Jesus in your life. And that's why you're bipolar, you know, they, you know, they don't diagnose you, and they don't really treat you. And that can be a problem. And another big thing that can last for years, sometimes if it's not properly addressed is fear of hell, or, or Armageddon or fear of dying. These are things that people are taught in religion, this is real, and then it's going to happen and, and when your brain has grown around those fears, it's very, it doesn't just go away, because you change your beliefs, you know, changing the way you think doesn't automatically change the way you feel. David Ames 27:21 I throw rapture and anxiety in there as well. People have legitimate anxiety about that. Yeah, Rachel Hunt 27:27 absolutely. Rapture is another thing that we get sometimes people that were not even religious before, you know, seeing something online and getting scared, you know, was the rapture happening? Well, you know, it hasn't. Yeah, we know, they've been wrong every time so far. So what do you get? That? Yeah, yeah, those are really common, we get a lot of issues with people who are in the LGBTQ plus community. And, you know, they really wanted to be, you know, good Christians, or, you know, good Muslims, or, you know, whatever religion they were raised, and they, they want to comply with what their community wants from them, but they're just simply not capable. And it was so harmful to them, when they are constantly told that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. And that the only way that they can be accepted is to just change who they are. And they, you know, that's really difficult and harmful. And a lot of times that'll be the pathway out of religion for people's well. David Ames 28:27 I imagine beyond just LGBTQ is just purity culture in general that we've got. Oh, yeah. I think this is the thing that I was surprised. You know, I'm Gen X. And I've just got a ton of millennials who are just suffering from that 90s era, kiss dating goodbye purity culture. And it just really hurt people. Rachel Hunt 28:46 Yeah, it's so bad. It's so bad. I mean, there are people who, you know, did everything they were supposed to do, they did everything they were told, and then they get into a marriage that is, you know, they love their spouse, but they just cannot figure out the sex thing. They just it's so consumed with shame. And they just don't know how to make it work. And it's terrifying for them. And if you happen to discover that you need something different sexually than what your partner needs, nobody wants to help you, you know, and especially if you're, I mean, I don't know, maybe it's, it looks different from the male perspective. But what we hear a lot, particularly in our women's group is that is that women are just taught to please the man, it's just your job. And your pleasure is secondary, if at all. Sometimes the idea of women enjoying sex is, you know, bad, like if you enjoyed it's bad. You know, you're only supposed to do it to please your partner and and you are required and expected to do whatever he wants. Whether you like it or not. That's just your job. David Ames 29:47 Yeah, that's so ripe for abuse there. Yeah, Rachel Hunt 29:51 absolutely. Absolutely. And even if your partner isn't abusive, it's you're almost abusing yourself by refusing to advocate for yourself You know, refusing to have boundaries and refusing to respect that your body needs some sort of autonomy. You know, it's just incredible. It's almost like, it's almost like just taking the doors off of your house and telling yourself that it's your responsibility to let anybody who wants to just walk through and take whatever they want. You know, it's, it's just damaging. David Ames 30:22 Yeah, that's a painfully accurate analogy. Rachel Hunt 30:24 Yeah, it's, it's really, it's bad. The good news is that as bad as all these issues are just having someone to talk to who understands who may have experienced something similar, is so healing, and so soothing, and, and so helpful for people. David Ames 30:43 Yes, absolutely. Yeah. It's so it's such a lonely experience, you think you're the only one and no one else could possibly have had these kinds of doubts before. Rachel Hunt 30:53 It's true. And it's because the people, because people in religious communities are taught to suppress them or hide them. And so everybody around you could be doubting, but you'll never know, because they're afraid to show it to you, you know. But I was, what I started to say is that I remember as a new volunteer was really nervous that I wasn't going to be good enough for what people needed, that I wasn't going to be able to, you know, answer their questions or find resources for them, or I just wasn't going to be what they needed. But what I find the more I do this is what people need is to someone to listen, and not judge not tell them, they're wrong. And a lot of times, it's even, it's even better if you don't try to fix it, you know, because jumping to solutions too quickly, doesn't give people time to express themselves. And sometimes when people join our organization, as volunteers, they are a little overwhelmed, because there is kind of a lot of training. And it can seem like a lot to learn. And sometimes people feel like maybe they're not adequate to the task. But all the training is really just there to teach you to set aside, all your need to help and your need to be something and you're need to have all the answers. And just let people tell you their story. David Ames 32:07 You're telling my story. So like, I started the podcast, because I needed to tell my story. And I was on steep hill occurs, voices of deconversion early on. And it was such a cathartic experience. I was like, I want to provide that for other people. And like, just being able to talk through even verbalize, maybe for the first time to another human being is just super cathartic. That's what you guys are providing, it helps Rachel Hunt 32:35 so much just to get it out of your head and out into the world. You know, yeah. And of course, some of the other things that we're trying to do as volunteers is to ask specific kinds of questions, just to help people sort through what they're thinking and what they're feeling. And it just helps you sort of get your get all the chaos that's going on in your head sort of more organized so that you can kind of break it down and go, Okay, you know, these are the things that are bothering me, these things are more important or more urgent, and those are the things that I can attack first. And, you know, these are my options, and I can, you know, figure out what's best for me, you know, again, we don't, we don't have to tell you what to do. Because you know what to do, really, usually, we just have to, you know, help you get it all organized so that you can look at it, and think clearly and calmly and you know, then you can make your own choices David Ames 33:36 I think you said earlier just the you know that you're not crazy that you're not, you know, alone in this. It's all that cognitive dissonance that you're experiencing while you're trying to keep these competing ideas, your own doubt and the orthodoxy of your faith tradition together. And you know, it's falling apart, you can feel that it's falling apart. And just have someone come alongside and say, Yeah, that's that's normal. Is that really a powerful thing? Rachel Hunt 34:01 It really is, you know, gaslighting is a thing. And you can self gaslight too, you know, you know, when people when you're taught that, you know, there's only one way to believe there's only one way to think there's only one way to feel there's only one way to look, there's only one way to behave. And you start to feel like you don't fit in that box anymore. You can really, you know, this is why people feel like they're going crazy, because they think but I've always been taught that this thing that I feel doesn't exist, or I've always been taught that if I do A, B, C and D, that x will disappear and it's not working, you know, and we we delude ourselves into thinking that what we were taught is real and what we believe and think and our own experiences are not real. You know, it really can drive you crazy. It's bad. David Ames 34:51 And I definitely have come to the to the point of view that that doubt in in most circumstances is a pretty good thing. It's kind of your brain telling you to do And the truth, right? Like, you know, there is risk. But questioning, ultimately is a good thing. You know, either you're going to be more convinced of your faith, or you're going to learn something new in either of those is good in the long run. Rachel Hunt 35:13 Yeah, yeah. Well, lots of people have changed their beliefs, or sometimes deepen their beliefs by looking critically at what they were taught. And, you know, there's an old joke that if you want to make an atheist just gets give somebody the Bible to read? Yes. No, it doesn't have an effect on everyone. Obviously, there were plenty of people that are very well educated in the Bible that are still very strong Christians. But there are a lot of people that I've spoken to who started reading the Bible and started studying, you know, whatever religion that is really deeply because they wanted to get closer to God, they wanted to be better, you know, they wanted to understand better, and they were very committed to their faith. And the more they studied them more, they realized that there's just not much there that the reasons to believe are so ephemeral. They're all social and behavioral. Really. Yeah, I don't know if you saw this recent video essay by Drew of genetically modified, modified skeptic, he was talking about belief, behavior and belonging, and how the belief meaning the intellectual part is the smallest part, that's what kind of gets tacked on the top of it. But the belonging the behavior, the things that really are what faith is, David Ames 36:35 yeah, yeah, no, I totally agree. Yeah, it's another statement of the community aspect of belief that, that social aspect of it, yeah, absolutely. Rachel Hunt 36:43 And that's not even counting some of the really coercive, shunning and, you know, strong behavioral requirements that some of the very high control groups have, even if you're in a, you know, relatively benign religion, that community aspect, and that sort of peer pressure is pretty strong. David Ames 37:10 I wanted to point out that not only does recovering from religion, have the immediate needs settled with the hotline and the support groups, but you also are like kind of the source of the secular therapy project, which is something that we mentioned on this podcast probably every other week, that, you know, if somebody needs a therapist, and as we've already stated, not someone who's going to just tell you to pray more that they can find a therapist through the secular therapy project. Rachel Hunt 37:36 Absolutely. Yeah, secular therapy.org. It is a database. This is another organization, we call it a sibling organization to recovering from religion. It was also started by Dr. Darrel Ray, and we've worked pretty closely with them. But it's just a database of vetted, licensed trained, secular therapists who are committed to not using any non evidence based treatment methods. So they're not going to hand you a crystal, they're not going to talk to you about your chakras, they're not going to tell you to go home and read your Bible. You know, they're, they're going to use actual treatments that will help you with whatever your mental health challenge is. And quite a few of them, they're not required to know about religious trauma syndrome, but quite a lot of them are familiar. So if you have religious trauma, looking for a therapist through the secular therapy program, Project is a pretty good idea. And that the service is free, you know, putting the client together with the therapist, that service is free. Everything that recovering from religion, and the secular therapy Project does is free to the client. We don't charge for any of our services. But of course, the therapists themselves have to make a living and they have private practices, and they charge whatever they charge. One of the most common questions we get with regards to the secular therapy project was how much do they charge? And do they take insurance? Well, it depends on the specific therapist, and we can't we don't have control over that. You just have to contact them and and see what we can do it. I mean, I wish we could just offer free therapy to everybody. Everybody needs it. And yeah. When it snows, and you know, especially in the United States, most people do not have access to get therapy, if at all, and it's a big problem. But, but we do our best with peer support. And this might be a good time to talk a little bit about peer support. Yes. You know, the, the support groups that we do and the helpline, you know, these could be considered mental health services, but we're not trained. None of we're all just volunteers we have training but it's in pure support reflective listening and, and things like that. We're obviously not qualified to diagnose or treat mental illness in any way. But we can do a few things that you just wish your best friend would do. You know, or you know, when you sit down with your spouse and you want to talk about your day and then they jump in and want to solve that for you. Like, we don't do that we will listen, we'll ask you questions that will help you sort through it yourself will, you know, and we can also point you to resources. We have a vast database of all kinds of articles and videos and books and podcasts like yours, that that can answer questions and just give people a sense of what's out there other than what they've been exposed to. And these are very carefully curated. So they're, they're not going to be triggering. For the most part, I mean, obviously, depends on what triggers you, but it's not gonna, it's not going to be a critical thinking book that you pick up and go, Oh, look, a critical thinking book for kids. And halfway through, you realize this is a Christian book, they're telling you to think critically, unless it conflicts with the Bible. So those resources, don't make it into our database, you won't get it. Yeah. Anyway, so yeah, we we, we just keep adding things so that we can help people more and more, we have an online community, which is so private as to be almost secret, okay, you cannot, you can't reach it through our website, there's no link that you can follow. The only way that you can join this community is to talk to a volunteer like myself, or go to the helpline, and ask to be added in, they will ask for your email address, and then they will send you an invitation and you can't invite your friends, they have to go through us as well. And that just helps us keep it safe. For our clients that are at their most fragile, they need to have people to talk to and they need to know that some troll isn't going to pop in and start telling them they're gonna go to hell. And they need to know that they're not going to have some scammer, start asking them for their address, and you know, soliciting them for money and things like that. This is a very, very safe, supportive environment, we use the platform Slack. So it's like a social media, we have channels for different different topics and things like that. But it's a really good place to go if you need to have people to talk to you on an ongoing basis. Okay. David Ames 42:05 Very cool. Rachel, are there any other topic that I haven't asked about that? You would definitely wanted to get across? Rachel Hunt 42:12 Cali, we have so much. We talk too much about support groups. I don't know if you want to talk about that in more detail. Sometimes people want to know exactly what happens when they join a support group. Sure, let's do that. Yeah, so the way that works is you can go to meetup.com. And look for recovering from religion support groups in your area. And there'll be links to lots of different things in there. Most since most of the support groups are virtual, you can join any support group that suits your schedule, it doesn't have to be near you. And we have some that are specifically online that aren't even on meetup. I mean, they are on meetup, but there's not a meetup page because they're not centered in in a place like our women's group and like our LGBTQIA plus group. So we have so many that they really, there's one almost every day, if you look at the calendar, there's a support group somewhere in the world almost every day, most of them are centered in the United States, we do have one in Europe. And oh, this is something I wanted to say we're trying really hard to reactivate an inactive group in the UK. And we're having trouble finding a volunteer who's able to take over that group. So if you live there, or know someone who lives there, and is interested in training and support group, we would really love to have somebody from the UK, so we can reactivate that group. And we have several in Oceania. So we've got two in Australia and one in New Zealand. And we have one and Mexico, Mexico City as well. So we're national and one in Canada. So we're International, but you know, we're kind of growing out from the United States. We're working on it. But what happens when you join is you it's you'll go into a Zoom meeting, and you do not have to have your camera on if you want to, you do not have to give your real name. We'd like you to give some sort of a name. But it doesn't have to be your real name. You don't have to speak but you will be invited to usually we just do a few brief announcements about what the rules are, which is basically no proselytizing, no disrespect. And then each person is invited to briefly tell their story kind of like what I did at the beginning of this podcast about your religious background and what brings you to the group. And then we have open discussion about just whatever what people want to talk about. And it gets very emotional sometimes there. There are usually at least a couple of people that have had some very, very dramatic and traumatic experiences and it can be kind of gut wrenching, but it is so healing for people to realize that they're not alone. The other thing that's really funny is that a lot of times people feel like no one can understand them unless they came from that exact religious brat background. You know, like, Oh, but I come from this very specific small family culture. Oh, they come From this very obscure, you know, off shoot of Hinduism or something. And it's true that there's going to be some things about your specific group that are different from everybody else's. But those core feelings of needing to be heard. And having been taught that there's something wrong with you and feeling like you're not allowed to be honest with the people around you. And feeling like every your every thought and move is controlled. Those things are pretty universal, that can happen in any high control group has that. And even if the person you're talking to doesn't know anything at all about your religion, they can understand your feelings. David Ames 45:38 For sure. I think that is a commonality that people hear their stories in a diverse range of experiences that include different faith traditions that include somebody from different gender from a different race, you know, what have you like, just hearing the human experience of this is super, super valuable? Rachel Hunt 45:55 Absolutely. I mean, Orthodox Judaism, and you know, Amish and Muslim and Orthodox Catholic and evangelical like these, they all have the same core experience of being told who they're supposed to be. And that's really tough thing to get out of, it's hard. David Ames 46:25 Well, I think you guys are doing amazing work, Rachel, hunch, the Support Group Director for recovering from religion. I want to give you just one more opportunity to tell people how they can reach your support groups and and the site itself? Rachel Hunt 46:38 Absolutely, yes, the easiest way is to go to recovering from religion.org. Our main webpage has links to everything we talked about today. And if you're interested in joining support group, that main webpage does have a link to the map, the meetup map where you can kind of see what's near you. And it also has a link to the calendar where you can just see which groups are meeting at a time that's convenient for you. It also has the all the phone numbers that you can reach from anywhere in the world. And it has the chat line. So if you just want to chat into someone, it kind of looks like it's sort of a Tech Support Chat. But it's our helpline and you just chat in and there'll be someone that can talk to you about whatever's on your mind. David Ames 47:22 That is awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. Rachel Hunt 47:24 Thank you. Oh, it was a blast. Thank you so much. David Ames 47:33 Final thoughts on the episode. If you are having the dark night of the soul, if you are having a crisis of faith, and you need someone to talk to immediately, please reach out to recovering from religion, they have a phone number 84 I doubt it that is in the United States 844-368-2848. Or you can go to their website recovering from religion.org and have a web call with them. There are other numbers for other countries as well. And the main thing I want to point out here is that they are not going to try to D convert you. They are there just to listen. So if you need someone to talk to and someone to listen, reach out immediately. I love this conversation with Rachel, she is absolutely amazing, you can tell that she's in the right spot, helping to direct the support groups at recovering from religion. Rachel's personal story is really interesting, going from Christian Science to dabbling in Scientology, the law of attraction, various other things that I would put in the category of Woo, and eventually landing and realizing she was an atheist and that these were her people. I also really appreciate the volunteerism of recovering from religion and what Rachel specifically is doing gathering people who, like us, like you listener have been through this process. You can volunteer for recovering from religion and be on that crisis hotline. And my favorite quote of the conversation is Rachel saying it is often because the people in religious communities are taught to suppress their doubts or hide them. Everybody around you could be doubting, but you will still never know because they are afraid to show it to you. And then she said, what I find the more I do this is that what people need is just someone to listen and not judge and not tell them that they are wrong. That's all it takes to be a listening ear to help out. Please consider volunteering, as well as the recovering from religion.org site you can check out secular therapy.org. Secular therapy has the list of secular therapists that you can go to if you're having these kinds of doubts and you need professional care. I want to thank Rachel for being on the podcast for telling her personal story with honesty and integrity and inspiring us to do something to volunteer to be a part of helping people recover from religion. Thank you, Rachel. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about volunteering. I get asked often, what can I do in the secular community and I often give you ideas about how you can support the podcast. But Rachel has given us an even better idea. You can volunteer and be a part of recovering from religion. You can be the receiver of people's stories, you can be the person who listens and does not judge and does not tell them that they are wrong. As Rachel pointed out, recovering from religion is not about D converting people, it's not about convincing them that their religion is wrong. It is about just hearing the person story and what is working and what is not working for them. Rachael pointed out that she needs a volunteer in the UK to lead some groups. I know we have a number of UK listeners, if you are interested at all, you can reach out directly to Rachel or you can reach out to me and I will get you in touch with her. And more than that, I think the idea of just doing what Darrel Ray did start something, put it on meetup.com and see who shows up and just listen to people. I think this is acting out secular Grace if we can actually provide that safe place to land for people, a safe place for people to express their doubts to express their worries to not be judged. That is making an impact on the world. This is secular grace. Next week, we have our Lean interviewing Brian, the week after that we have community member Taylor Yoder after that, Stephanie b and so on. I will be conducting my interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht coming up here pretty quick and that episode will be out in early March. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful atheists.com This graceful atheist podcast a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network Transcribed by https://otter.ai