This week’s guest is Taylor. Taylor grew up in a small church in a small town, surrounded by Christianity. She had family devotions at home and a private-Christian-academy curricula at school.
By twenty-one, however, she moved out and stopped attending church completely. Her “personal relationship with Jesus” was more important than church-going.
While watching a loved one live with cancer and then face death, Taylor’s faith gave her hope and meaning, until it didn’t. Depressive episodes came for a while and Taylor knew she needed to get mentally healthy.
Once her head was “out of the fog,” and she began reading the Bible again, she was shocked at what she read. It had been there all along, but now she could see. “[People said,] ‘Well you just need to dig deeper in the Bible.’ It had the complete opposite effect.”
Now Taylor has let go of many childhood beliefs. She doesn’t have all the answers. but she has peace—a peace that hasn’t come from supernatural help but from doing her own inner work. She is her own savior, no one else.
Watching online debates
Encouraging myself rather than praying
You are Your Own by Jamie Lee Finch
“I feel I am currently in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion.”
“While digging deep to heal my trauma, it got really hard and it is strange to say, the happier and more at peace I became with my healing the more I doubted my faith.”
“This is such a hard time for me but I have found that talking about this out loud is very helpful to me,
as I can not do that often since every single family member I have is a serious Christian.”
“It felt like I really didn’t have to deal with [death and grieving] because I was given this idea that life is just very temporary and the big part of life is going to be after we die…”
“The second I started healing and unpacking stuff, I had the motivation to really look into my faith and my religion and start asking questions…I was like, Wait. I did this on my own. I helped myself, and that’s the only reason I got better.”
“[People said,] ‘Well you just need to dig deeper in the Bible.’ It had the complete opposite effect.”
“Well, that makes sense why [Christians need apologetics] because some of the stuff is awful.”
“I started looking at my earthly father versus my heavenly father, and I was like, The stuff that God is doing and threatening to do, my dad would never do to me.”
“[Not having to have all the answers] gives me the opportunity to keep learning about stuff and also learn from my experiences.”
“Taking all my morals and thoughts from the Bible stopped me from growing as a person.”
“I wasn’t willing to give up my true morals and values just to stay part of that community.”
“Religion really pushed me to be critical of myself…and I was doing that to others.”
“I can mess up as a human without it being this inherently evil thing. I can just mess up and make mistakes and that’s okay.”
“For me, if the Bible wasn’t correct, everything else was just done for me. Whether there was a god or not didn’t really matter…”
Heather Wells interview mentioned in Taylor’s interview:
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. 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. And thank you to my newest patrons Sharon, Ruby, John and Joseph. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast, please become a patron at any level at patreon.com/graceful atheist. The deconversion anonymous Facebook group continues to thrive. We are trying to be a safe place to land to doubt question deconstruct and even reconvert the Tuesday night podcast discussions are now happening on Zoom. So please come and be a part of the community and part of the Hangouts. You can find that at facebook.com/groups/deconversion. Friend of the podcast Matthew Taylor, who is the co host of still unbelievable was recently on the premiere Christianity podcast unbelievable with Justin Brierley. And he did an amazing job talking about Mike De Virgilio those uninvented. Matthew is stellar in that discussion. I just wanted to shout him out and have you all listen to that episode. I'm going to be featured on the beyond atheism podcast in the next week or two. They were on this podcast in November and they have returned the favor so look out for that episode as well. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Taylor Yoder. Taylor describes herself as being in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. Taylor grew up as a person of faith she had a personal sense of her relationship with Jesus. But watching her father die of cancer, she began to ask more questions. She looks out to apologetics to find those answers, but the answers she found were very weak. And then Trump and ultimately the pandemic took place and Taylor found herself in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. You can find Taylor on Instagram at skeptical underscore heretic. The link will be in the show notes. Here is Taylor Yoder to tell her story. Taylor Yoder, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Taylor Yoder 2:45 Thanks for having me, David. David Ames 2:46 Taylor, I loved your email to me, you said that you were currently in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. And that's kind of the sweet spot for the podcast. So I'm excited to hear your story. We always begin with what was your faith tradition growing up? And what was that like? Taylor Yoder 3:05 So growing up as a child, I went to a church called Maranatha brother in church. And during that time period, I would say like during elementary school years, I was also going to private Christian school. And then my dad was very adamant about, you know, bringing devotionals to like the home and stuff. So every night after dinner, we would have a routine of doing devotions after after dinner, and that that's a constant my life until I moved out. And then when I got a little older, my around middle school, my parents one do switch to public school and they switched to a non denominational church. I think they thought we I think the non denominational church they did because I think they saw at least me I don't know about my brother struggling a little bit. And the first church we're in. So we went to non denominational church. I was good for a while I was excited because I could wear jeans. That was like my first real excitement. I didn't have to dress up anymore. And so that was good at first. Then a little bit into it, it got pretty rough in the way that I had. ended up liking one of the I mean, as much as you can like someone at 13 years old. boy who was the son of the two youth leaders at that church and something I don't really remember it was so long ago when I was so young. I just remember something had happened where like, I guess I didn't really like him anymore and things kind of went awry after that. David Ames 4:57 Oh no, you have the audacity to break up with the youth, Taylor Yoder 5:02 I didn't know what I was getting myself into that young. But yeah, that was actually the first time the the whole purity culture thing kind of hit me in the face because I got called like a horror and youth group and I didn't know what that meant. Like, I had never, I had never, I never, like, I never knew what that word meant I had, I was like, I don't know, I barely knew boys at that point. But it got bad after that point, because his parents didn't like me, then the whole youth group, he was so involved with the youth group that, you know, they kind of followed his lead type thing. So then eventually, I was old enough to leave the youth group, thank God because I didn't want to be there anymore. And my youngest brother joined the youth group at that point. And I remember he came home and told me like, they told me that I shouldn't grow up to be like you and hopefully I don't grow up to be like you. And I was like, Oh, that's David Ames 6:05 nice. Wow, wow, that is so terrible. Taylor Yoder 6:09 That was like my first I guess, bad experience with like, the Christian community. But then thankfully, after that, my dad allowed me to pick my own church. So I was able to pick a church, that so my friends went to, and I felt more comfortable. So that was good for me, because I felt like I could feel I felt way more of a connection when I got to pick for myself. Because my dad's role was like, you know, as long as you live in this house, you have to go to church. So I was like, okay, I'm okay. And then I moved out of my parents house around 20, like, 21 years old, I think. And after that, I kind of didn't go to church anymore. Church wasn't really important to me. And I think a reason for that is my dad always emphasize the, like, personal relationship with God. I don't even really know what that means anymore. But like, at the time, I felt like I knew what I meant. Um, so yeah, that's kind of all there was with that. David Ames 7:10 So I mean, that's a pretty god awful experience with purity culture, but did you? Like you say, who knows what it actually means a personal relationship. During that time? Did you have a sense of a connection to to God? Taylor Yoder 7:24 Um, yeah, I was thinking, Yeah, I think I really did, especially when, when I was moving out, my dad had, um, we found out he had stage four glioblastoma, and that, you know, it was terminal. And that, thanks. And he, and that was, that was hard. But I think at the time, it actually made my faith stronger, because I really clung on to the idea of, you know, seeing him again, and that he was gonna go to like, a good place. And I feel like, in a way, it really put a bandaid on grieving, even like after he passed, it was a big, like, it felt like I didn't really have to deal with it, because I was given this idea that life is just very temporary. And the big part of life is going to be after we die. So I, I feel like what I know now, I would have cherished a lot more moments. Back then, like, while he was sick and stuff, but um, yeah, during that time was hard. And then my mother during that time also had a very bad drug addiction. And during, when my dad was got sick, it was kind of like, this time where we're like, okay, she's either gonna, you know, change and get better for the sake of my father or it's going to explode and it definitely exploded. David Ames 8:50 Taylor I, by the way, I can, I can relate. I've got many stories. My mother as well. So very similar. Taylor Yoder 8:58 Yeah. I never really had a good relationship with her. It was kind of weird. I lived in the same house with her my whole life, but I, she like, was a mess in her room all the time. But I didn't realize what was going on and tell us about like 1718 Even though I saw her go to rehabs, but I didn't know what they were. I know that sounds strange. But I just, I wasn't aware. I knew something was going on. But I was never really told. But so during that time, when my dad was sick, things got so bad with her that we actually like, I got a townhouse for my dad to live in to kind of hide him from my mother because he had he had gone so long without having any peace in his life because my mom that like, we just wanted to give him the gift of like dying and peace essentially. Okay, so she was like, actively trying to find him and it felt it felt really intense. Like some days it felt cruel, and in other ways were like, you know, he's put up with so much he's done so much in his life that he deserves this type of piece at the end. So that's what we decided. And then after he passed away, I just ended up not like speaking to her anymore at all, I think the last conversation with her was she said, You have to forgive me and you have to keep me in your life or you're not like a true Christian. And that was kind of like the last like straw with it, because I felt like it was another form of manipulation, like attacking my face so the past like five or six years, that's when it happened. Like about six years ago. I feel like I was just kind of in this weird period where I was super depressed, but I just, that's just kind of how I lived because I was used to it at a certain point, it was just like, my, the standard for me. And then the past, like, couple of years, it got really bad to the point where I was like, Okay, I need to be in therapy, I need to maybe be in medicine or get on medicine. And so I did that. And it was very strange. Because the second I like started healing and like unpacking stuff. I miss had the motivation to look like really look into my faith and my religion. And start asking questions. As in before, when I was really depressed, I felt like I needed that religion, like I needed it to make me feel better. And like now that I was feeling better, I was like, wait, I did this on my own, like I helped myself. And that's the only reason I got better. David Ames 11:47 Yeah, and that can be both really empowering and a little bit terrifying. Yeah. Taylor Yoder 11:52 Yeah, yeah, it was definitely terrifying. But those past like four or five or six years, I had struggled with it, because I'm, while I'm going to school, I'm also working at Starbucks. So I came from like a really small town. And Starbucks is obviously like really liberal. And I got to work with all sorts of people, all different genders and sexualities, and just everything you could think of. And I felt so strange feeling like I couldn't fully accept the people I was working with, like eight hours a day, every day. And I it didn't feel right to me. So stuff started changing for me in the way that I was like, I was told, like on paper, these are my morals, or these are my values, but I didn't feel that way. And I was like cherry picking to the point where there was like, hardly anything left. And then I realized towards the end, I was like, ashamed to call myself a Christian. I was embarrassed. I can relate. Yeah. I was like, Do I really belong to a community? If I'm embarrassed to say that I'm part of that community? is what I was asking myself. So yeah, that it got to that point. And then so like I said, when I started actually being in a good headspace to investigate about how I really felt because I actually had the energy. I just like, couldn't believe what I was finding, like, I was honestly just researching in the Bible. And people my family had told me that I told them, I felt kind of weird about things. And I didn't really know what was going on there. Like you just have to dig deeper in the Bible. And I was like, Well, okay, but it had the complete opposite of So, yeah, and I just, I felt so I don't know, I felt so shocked. Like, there were so many things I was reading and finding out that I felt so like, I felt like I was crazy. I was like, Why didn't anybody say anything about all of these things that are awful? David Ames 13:54 Yeah, you know, I think for a long time, I was aware of, you know, some of the things that were in the Bible that were awful. And I always thought, well, somebody smarter than me, someone else knows how to explain this or like, you know, understands this. And I had very similar experience to you in that when when I went, I finally on my own went to go look for okay, what are these answers? It was just, it was amazing. It was turtles all the way down. You know, there was no substance to it. And like, it was just shocking to discover that. Taylor Yoder 14:27 Yeah. And I didn't even know like, I was researching a lot. But I didn't even know what apologetics was like that was I never knew what that was. And I was like, Well, that makes sense why they need that because some of this stuff is like awful. And not only that, but I got really specific into like translations and stuff. And when I started doing that, the whole idea of hell like really fell apart for me because I also was hanging out with my friends when I am one of the one of them it was June one them is Jewish. And I was asking the questions I was like, so why don't if you believe in the Old Testament, why do you why don't you believe in hell? Because hell is in the Old Testament. And he was like, No, it's not. I was like, What do you mean? And he was like, yeah, it's not that was added later. And I just, it's like, it just, that was like the straw that broke the camel's back. I was like, Okay, wow. And then I also thought about, like, how many times I had heard that, like, the Jewish people were God's chosen people. And I was like, if they don't believe this, then how am I believing this kind of thing? David Ames 15:36 Yeah. Yeah, that is definitely with hindsight, again, you know, to think about how often Christians oppose Jewish theology. And yet they're simultaneously saying, These are the chosen people. And I, that is just a bizarre, a bizarre way of thinking, Taylor Yoder 15:54 right? It's very bizarre. Yeah, so like, when I was researching that, and like, the origins of like, hell, and just different ideas in the Bible, I was like, wow, I was seeing how a lot of it was taken from like, Greek mythology and things like in the New Testament, and that just felt like a kind of, like, people taking ideas from other, like religions or stories, and it, it just, it felt so off, but at the same time going through this thing, and I'm sure a lot of people described this, it was honestly really scary. It was a lot of emotions at once. But the reason I was holding on to faith for I feel like a long time was because of my dad. And my dad was just such a good guy and important person in my life, that the idea that I wasn't sure if I would see him again, or where he was, or what he was doing was really intense for me. And I was talking to a friend about that, actually. And he, he looked at me and was like, Taylor, you're gonna have to grieve your data all over again. And I just like, it came, I came to that realization, I was like, wow, like, you're right. And I really don't want to do that. But like, I feel like I have to. And, but then in that process, also, I felt like I didn't really grieve him the first time because of what I said about, I feel like sometimes Christianity puts the bandaid on grief, where it's just kind of like, this is temporary. Yeah. David Ames 17:24 This is a common theme that, yeah, you aren't allowed to grieve the loss, because you have to say all the right things that you know, they're in a better place, and what have you and, and just like you say, then, at some point in time, you experience grief on another level, when you let go of the idea of heaven. Taylor Yoder 17:45 Yeah. And that level felt real, because to me before, it was kind of like numbness and some sadness, but the second time felt very real, very deep, intense feelings. But it also felt good to finally feel those feelings, because I think they were there the whole time. But it was hard to feel them with that kind of ideology, I guess. David Ames 18:07 I do think that's the point is that, as human beings, we have to grieve, we have to feel the feeling of loss, and experience that and go through it. And when we're masking that when we're pretending, like that's invalid in some way, it doesn't make it go away, it just postpones when that's going to hit you. Taylor Yoder 18:27 Right? And like when I feel like when you see other Christians around you being like, it's okay, this is temporary, you're just like, okay, and it's just kind of a like, convincing yourself type thing. Like along with that, when I was because I had been thinking about my dad a lot during this process, I thought about, you know, what a good dad he was, what a good relationship we had. And then I started looking at my earthly father versus my heavenly Father. And I was like, yes, stuff that God is doing, or the stuff that God had done and is threatening to do, my father would never do to me, I feel like my, my father was like, I felt true unconditional love from him. So I knew what it was like to have a good relationship with my father. So the relationship with God felt like abusive, because it it didn't feel the same. And I also couldn't. I couldn't grasp the understanding of having to fear someone you love like saying that you should fear God and also love him that felt weird and not right to me because I couldn't think of one example in my life where I was afraid of someone and also just love them so deeply. And so like that, that was a big idea. That was like that was a big thought for me growing up was everyone seemed okay with the concept of being afraid of someone and but then Somehow, out of the goodness of their heart, just choosing to love them. And I'm like, but I feel like we just love him because we told him to get out. So it felt Yeah, not genuine. David Ames 20:10 Well, and you're being you were being honest with yourself, right? Yeah, I think it's easy to not be honest with yourself and just follow along with what what you're told, Taylor Yoder 20:19 right? The whole deconstruction thing was also scary for me, because every single person in my family is a very strong, devout Christian, even like, all of distant relatives, like every single relative that I have. So I was like thinking to myself, Do I really want to go down this path and be the first person in my family to be this kind of giant like, elephant in the room every time we get together, like, I'm the one who doesn't believe. And this was all around the same time. It's like the Christmas and Thanksgiving that just came up. And all of a sudden, us all praying in the same room together felt so strange. I was like, I've done this my whole life. And now it was like, so weird. David Ames 21:05 Can I ask, who knows? Have you talked to people? Is that something that you've been public about? Or Taylor Yoder 21:10 I'm not really but like, at this point, I'm okay with like, I'm starting to be like, I will only kind of talk about it with people who ask. But um, I talked to it about some with my sister, who's a very devout Christian. And she tried to answer some questions for me, but she was also truthful in the way that she's like, I don't have all the answers for this, which like, I appreciated that. And I did end up getting a debate on Christmas super fun, and with some of my aunts, and my brother, and I did I know my aunt is very devout Christian. So I wanted to know, like, I was curious, it wasn't kind of It wasn't to, you know, say this isn't true. I just wanted to know, you know, her answers for things, but kind of what I feel like I got was a circle of, you know, God is God, I will never understand him. And then I said, well, then can I not question him? They're like, Oh, no, well, you can I'm like, But how, how can I if I will just never understand and write, I just, the questions didn't satisfy anything, it kind of felt like it was just blind faith, which I knew, like growing up, and for some reason, all of a sudden, it was like a shock to me, but it's because I wasn't really like looking into it. David Ames 22:28 There's a term for that the discussion ending phrases, like, God is above our ways, you know, like, it just stops the conversation, and it protects the believer from actually having to dig any deeper, right? You can Google this kind of thing, but like there's, you know, lists of those, and you start to recognize them when you're in a conversation with someone. And, you know, it's debatable whether or not you're going to, you know, move that person. But you can recognize it for yourself, ah, this conversation has been shut down, you know, not not take it personally, that it's, you know, it's not about you. It's right there on faith. Taylor Yoder 23:05 Yeah, exactly. There are a couple of things that now that I'm starting to realize that there are a couple of things that Christians will say that, that you're right, they're like conversation, Enders, I'm like, Yeah, well, there's nothing else I can say past that, because they don't really want to engage in that type of conversation. And I understand because it's hard, and it's difficult. And I think one thing they struggle with is that I'm okay with not knowing things like they think because I don't believe in God, I'm gonna have an answer for the other things, but I don't, but I, I'm growing a lot more comfortable with that rather than believing in God. Because I feel like either way, I don't know. Anyway, so David Ames 23:46 that is incredibly wise. The thing that is so important to understand for the people who are listening that are in the middle of, as Taylor says, the trenches of deconstruction is that the believers will ask you to have a fully formed philosophical argument for non belief or, or what have you. And you don't have to have that you don't have to know you just you can acknowledge that you no longer believe what you've been told, without having a full set of answers that are complete and perfect. And you can then go on to discover what it is that you believe and why and you have time in other words, but the believers in our lives want to say, No, you've got to have you have to have an answer for this. And not knowing is yeah, like that's actually humble and, and realistic. Taylor Yoder 24:33 Yeah. And I feel like it gives me the opportunity to always be, like learning about stuff and also learning from my experiences, because I felt like taking all of my morals and values and thoughts from the Bible kind of stopped me from growing as a person because I felt like my thoughts and values and morals were almost kind of always morphing with how much I knew and how much I listened to other people. little interest. And I didn't want that growth to stop. And I felt like if I kept believing in the Bible, it would stop that. And I wasn't really interested in that. And on top of that, my family was very, and I know you hear this a lot in your podcast, but I'm, the Donald Trump thing did change a lot. For me. It was, it was very strange. But it made me realize that was like a realization I had where I wasn't conservative anymore. And I was like, I can't be a part of this. But there's such a strong people act as if there's a really strong relationship between being a Republican and being Christian. So I felt like a fraud at that point, because I'm like, here I am saying, you know, gay marriage is good, and abortions are fine. But I'm also being told I can't really be a true Christian and believe those things. So that was part of it too. And I'm not willing to give up, I guess, I wasn't really willing to give up my true morals and values, just to stay a part of like that community. And that faith. David Ames 26:09 Again, the two things over the last six years or so that come up as themes constantly is the acceptance of Donald Trump by the evangelical community. And then the pandemic being away from church and the combination, that one two punch of things has really affected kind of an entire generation of people. And that theme comes up on the podcast over and over again. Taylor Yoder 26:34 Yeah, and like, I felt like the one part I did like about Christianity was, was about being good to people and helping people. And it felt like with that type of change with the Donald Trump thing, and some other political things, it felt like there was no room for that anymore. It felt like it was like a us again, or me against the world type of thing. And that's not how I felt. And I was realizing, with discussions with people I was surrounded by that my empathy or wanting to accept people was looked at as such a like weakness. And I felt the opposite about it. So that was definitely really frustrating. But I just, that was difficult. Because I had also, at the same time, I was also volunteering at the rescue mission. And what I saw an experience there was like, the closest I'd ever felt to a type of God was like, actually being able to help and interact with these people and like a sense of community. And that was like, that was huge for me. But it also changed my mind about a lot of things because I'm like this. This is the type of person I want to be, and not what the Christians in my life are telling me that I need to be instead. David Ames 28:03 The major theme of the podcast is what I call secular grace. And you've just eloquently described it, that when you were participating, helping other people and you feeling that connection, feeling a part of something bigger than yourself feeling like you were giving that secular grace, right. And then there's nothing spiritual or you know, Transcendence about that. That's just humans being good to other humans. And we get to keep that is the thing I want to say right? After deconstruction, you're a human being, you experience all you experience connection with other people, you experience community, and all of those things are the best parts of what church were, and you get to keep all that. Taylor Yoder 28:44 Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, that's, that's also something I struggled with was, you know, being told, as I grew up, and I'm sure a lot of Christians experienced this was like, you know, atheists don't know where to get, or they can't really have good morals, or they can't really pull from anything, because they're not being told to. And that also didn't sit right with me, because I'm like, why do we have to be told to be a good person, like, just so that we don't like, suffer the consequences instead of like, just wanting to. So then my view changed of like, I almost felt like the atheist doing it from the good of their heart were better in a way because they weren't doing it for really any kind of gain. And that's why I felt as well. So that was big for me. David Ames 29:34 Again, back to the apologetics. I think another thing that we say on the podcast is, you know, if you want to be good to people, you want to be kind to people and do good in the world. And your justification is Christianity, more power to you go do that. My justification is that human beings have value. So let me go do that right instead of arguing with each other's justifications and in regards to morals, specifically the apologists will say that non believers don't have justification or grounding for their morality. And my point is that neither do they. Right I like I can, I can have the conversation with with that person and point out that they are just as subjective as they're claiming that I am. So like, That conversation is just a waste of time, right? We're all human beings. We're all winging it. We're all we're all figuring it out as we go. Taylor Yoder 30:27 Right? Exactly. Yeah, I, I was just a lot more interested in that when it came to the religion. But like I said, the more I was reading the Bible, I saw like less of that it felt like, or, you know, any sort of contradictions to it? Or, you know, and like I said, the the biggest part for me was I'm like studying to go into mental health. And I thought to myself, I'm like, How can I truly be a good therapist, if I have all these biases, and I, and I, I mean, I know everyone has biases. But if I kind of have this judgmental thought process, because I felt like, religion really pushed me to be overly critical of myself, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with like depression and stuff like that, because I was constantly just nitpicking at everything I did. Because I think those kinds of teachings that lead you to think you're inherently bad is going to do that. And then, once I was doing that to myself, I was doing that to others. And I'm like, Can I really accept people and love people and help people with their mental health have this is how I'm thinking of them? And I just felt like the answer was no. I felt like I couldn't be a Christian and also be a good therapist one day, if that's what I end up doing. David Ames 31:42 And that's surprising, right? Like, the the expectation is, or what we're told in the bubble, is that you can't love people without Jesus. And so I think part of why this is this process is so difficult is you are discovering that you are able to love and care for people better outside of the bubble without Jesus as it were. Right. And that's surprising. Taylor Yoder 32:09 Yeah, it definitely was surprising for me. But then, with all of that, I felt a extreme sense of freedom and like a weight off my back. And the way that I didn't have like an invisible ghost following me around being like, Oh, you did that wrong, you did write that wrong. And I'm like, Oh, my God, no one's following me around anymore. This is great. Like, I can just, I can mess up as a human without it being this like, inherently evil thing. Like I can just mess up and make mistakes. And that's okay. Because I felt like I always was trying my best. But when I did make any kind of mistake, or mess up, it was like this huge thing that I was taught that I was just inherently wicked, and it was sinful, instead of it just being part of being human. And that really took some weight off my shoulders for sure. David Ames 32:59 Yeah, absolutely. I don't think Christians appreciate how damaging the concept of sin is. And for anyone who is self critical, or even self aware, that feedback loop can be really, really dangerous. And the dark side of the concept of grace within Christianity is that you have to really lean into I'm a sinner, and that does deep damage to people. And again, one of the difficult parts of deconstruction is letting go of that and accepting yourself as just being human. Right? Right, the extension of that as accepting other people in their humanity flaws, and all Taylor Yoder 33:37 right. Another part that it was kind of relieving to me is I never really, I felt as if I never really fit the Christian woman expectation and the way that I never, I was never really big into getting married, I was really never big into getting kids not to say that stuff will never happen. But I think that it'll probably happen later in life for me, and it's not my, like, main goal in life. And then also, I'm pretty stubborn. I'm not a submissive person at all. So I always feel kind of weird, because a lot of women in my life, you know, that was a role like they, I mean, they, they had careers and stuff, but they, you know, the husband was the leader, and you know, having kids was like the greatest gift and stuff and, and it is a great gift. It just, I felt like I was being kind of the odd man out by just like not really caring about those things right now. Because another thing with I feel like that happens with purity culture is people getting married pretty young. And I'm like, Yeah, and I'm like 28 now and I feel like some people in my family are looking at me like, What are you doing? Like? Yeah, and it's hard. It's kind of hard to tell them that I'm not even really trying to do that because it seems like it's It's not right with how I grew up. But so that's kind of difficult. David Ames 35:04 Yeah, and again, a very, very common theme of purity culture, damaging people. And two things. One, the immense pressure to get married, especially if you're in a relationship with someone because of sex and the guilt and shame that's put on on you. And a sense of like, you need to be breeding for Jesus kind of thing, you know, is is definitely in that message. That's inescapable as well. Don't know if you heard a few months ago, my conversation with Heather wells, she wrote a book called trustworthy. And it's her memoir of getting married young and having kids young. And she's kind of describing the flip side of the coin, of your experience of actually doing the thing that she was supposed to do, but also being a very strong woman also wanting to needing to, to lead and felt felt like she was held back and trying to live up to that impossible standard. Yeah, so it hurts everybody, regardless of what you choose, right? Taylor Yoder 36:11 Yes, yeah, I've definitely heard a lot of stories like that. And I am glad that I wasn't pressured to the point where I felt like I needed to do that, like right away. Because I feel like my family, they don't really outright say it. It's just kind of like a, you know, reoccurring theme. But then I also started thinking about, you know, if I were to have my own children, how would I want to raise them and stuff like that, and the idea of telling them about hell at such a young age, because I was, I was also thinking about how I was like, wow, in the Christian community, there's no kind of age for you to finally learn about how it's like, as, at least how I grew up is just like, as soon as they can, as soon as they can form a thought you can tell them about it. And I'm like, wow, that's really intense, because they're shielded from Ms. Everything else, at least how I grew up, and then but this like, really massive, terrible thing is like, told to them so early, and I'm like, yeah, that feels wrong. And it feels like something I couldn't bring myself to do. And I also was thinking about, like, if any of my kids you know, ended up being gay or transgender, I'm like, I wouldn't be mad about it. So if I was a Christian, I would have to pretend to care. And I'm not going to pretend to care about it, like, in a negative way. David Ames 37:32 In just like you described your relationship with your dad and how much he loved you and was showing you unconditional love. If you choose to have children, someday, you will feel that that just is a thing that happens to us when we have kids. And yeah, it is unimaginable to you know, threaten them with hell or, or make them fearful that just it it doesn't compute. I don't understand how that is a thing, right? But it is it is damaged many, many young people who have grown up with that because kids take it as literal and the adults can have some separation from it. But our five year old can't write five year old that is a real thing. That is a threat waiting over their head. Taylor Yoder 38:13 Right. And I also didn't want to be if I had a daughter I also didn't want to teach her that her value as a person is like tied to her purity because it feels it feels so wrong and like I'm already objectifying her at that point. And it I don't know I just I can't imagine doing that. So that's where I'm like if I'm not willing to also raise my children and the like Christian way then I don't really have any business and like staying with something like that. So yeah, along with that was the was the idea given to me that like you know, the unequally yoked thing and not you know, marrying someone who's an atheist and that was always really hard for me because of like, what I said how my values and morals changed I was way more likely to end up with an atheist so the thought of like having to date a Christian man or you know end up with a Christian man was like really stressing me out at that point, because I was like, we're not gonna have anything in common at least. Yes, yeah. Normal Christian man. I David Ames 39:23 feel like Yeah, and you know, back to the pressure to be married, often the pool of available partners is very small. Some people you know, they grow up in one church and they never they never leave that church and in they feel obligated to select from that very small candidate pool of people and there's a big wide world out there. Right. You know, like, you know, recognizing what you do and do not like in a partner is a huge part of growing up and becoming an adult and if outside pressure, is is trying to tell you tell you What you like that is doomed to failure? Taylor Yoder 40:02 Right? And like, yeah, I, I have definitely seen people like get married because they feel like it's the right thing to do. And they really struggle. And I'm not saying you're not going to struggle, either way, but it's just definitely not a place I wanted to be at. But also I thought I thought about, it seems so normal to me growing up. But I thought about the idea that it's almost like Christians feel like getting married is less of a commitment than having sex or living together. And I was like, this feels all backwards. This feels like you should be doing some of those things before you commit to somebody because that's less of a commitment than marriage. Right? I feel like marriage is like one of the biggest commitments but they want us to do they want us to get married before any of those things. And that terrified me, because I'm like, I don't want to know. I don't want to not know what it's like to live with someone before I get married to them. That sounds awful. It sounds scary. Yeah, it feels like a gamble. David Ames 41:04 Again, back to Heather wells, and sexuality, like, you know, you don't know if you, you and that partner or get together well, sexually or not. And that's a big deal. That's a major part of a partnership. And so yeah, Taylor Yoder 41:17 yeah, it's funny to me that I feel like, they act like some sexual compatibility is just like a fake made up thing, or they just like, don't even think of it. Like, I've never heard of that. But I'm like, No, it's definitely a very real thing. And I feel like, you know, the struggle, like those struggles can happen, you know, if you get married in the, like, the, the traditional Christian way. And also, one thing I had, I learned about while researching and listening to different stories is like, how hard it can be for couples who you know, stay abstinent stay, like, completely away from sex or sexual thoughts. And they get married later on down the road. And it's like they, they have trouble doing it, or they have trouble getting to a point or being intimate with somebody. And that made a lot of sense to me, because I'm like, you, you tell your body and your brain to completely shut down from those things. And then one day, you're like, Okay, turn back on. You're good. Like, I feel like it doesn't doesn't work that way. So it made a lot of sense to me. Exactly. Yeah, that changed my mind a lot about about a lot of things too. David Ames 42:29 I guess I want to ask a couple questions, clarifying Was there a particular moment or not moment, but like a realization that you no longer believe? Did you say to yourself, at some point, I think I'm gonna I'm gonna leave Christianity. Taylor Yoder 42:44 Um, so like, like I said, before with my job and stuff, I feel like part of that was a really slow burn in the way that I was. Picking things that I wanted, and like throwing away things that I didn't. Yeah, but when I really did start doing the research is the translations were like a huge thing for me. I don't know why. But like, I was very concerned about if the Bible was translated correctly, and if we were getting the right information, and because for me, if the Bible wasn't correct, everything else was just, it was done for me. Like whether there is a God or not, it doesn't, it didn't really matter, because we didn't know the exact way of how to do things or what he would do or what he was like. So when I started to get into translations and research about it, and then, like I said, with the translation of hell, that's kind of when it was done for me, because I felt like that was the one thing kind of clinging me to it was the idea that I could go to hell. And if you believe in hell, it's an absolutely terrifying place. And even the thought of it, I feel like would keep you in your religion or your face. And if that was kind of falling apart for me, I'm like, Well, I don't, I don't even have to do this. Like, I don't have to do anything I can, I can choose what I'm doing. And that was huge for me. Like I was very happy to learn about the health stuff. So that really helps me out. David Ames 44:15 And then it I'm sorry to even go here. But you can say no, this is too deep, but like, how are you feeling about the acceptance of the loss of your dad is the loss of the idea of having more painful, less painful, Taylor Yoder 44:29 um, I feel like it was really painful at first and I definitely did have a lot of like hard days and hard nights and I definitely have been like, thinking about him more than ever, but I am not wanting to completely discredit the idea that we'll see each other again, like I have no idea. Okay. So the idea that we might see each other again is there for me and honestly, and then on the other side of the spectrum, if it's just like absolutely nothing. I'm becoming more okay with that because I You know, everybody dies, the end comes for everything. It is hard some days, but in other times I'm like, I don't know, it kind of feels good not to have the pressure because I'm like, what if I go to hell, and he's in heaven and whatever, like, because I feel like Christians like to believe they they know for sure which one they're going to. But even if you believe in it, I feel like most people aren't completely sure, or else that health anxiety and stuff would not be there. So it feels better for it to be unknown, honestly. David Ames 45:30 Yeah, it might Yeah. Taylor Yoder 45:33 It is strange thinking about, because my dad definitely lived out his life. Like, that was his entire life. So thinking about that can make me upset in the way that he did. Like, everything he thought he should all the time. And that's how I ended up like it ended up for him, which was it was pretty rough at the end. So that kind of makes me angry thinking about it. But you know, that's just part of it. David Ames 46:02 And again, Taylor, I'm very sorry for your loss. I know how difficult that must be. Thank you. I want to hear a little bit about the other side of I know, you're you say you're kind of still in the middle of things, with a bit of acceptance of this deconstruction for you. What is giving you meaning, what is what is been helpful for you on this side of that? Taylor Yoder 46:32 Yeah, so like, research for me really helps. I like to, a lot of times, I'd like to hear unbiased things I know nothing is completely unbiased. But I do like to hear from both sides. Like I listened to a lot of debates, that helps me. And I notice a lot of times I will, this is funny, but I will start praying. And I don't even realize I started doing it. Because it was such a habit for me, like, at the end of the night, or like, whatever, I would just start praying. And sometimes when I go to sleep, I automatically start it. And then I kind of stop and I'm like, what are things that I could say to myself that like, encouraged me or make me feel good about where I'm at. And that, I guess it's like a form of meditation. I've never really done meditation, but it kind of feels that way. Just kind of talking myself through things. And that kind of helps, because I feel like I was kind of talking to myself the entire time but, but wasn't really utilizing it. And it's, I feel like it's good to check in with yourself. And now I'm like, actually using it to check in with myself. And I feel like it's extremely beneficial. I also read, I know it's a pretty popular book. Do you are your own by Jamie Lee Finch was pretty good for me. Yeah, just kind of like wrecking, like even just the title got me excited. I was like, wow, I didn't really I always thought of it like, we weren't our own. I even thought about that with my dad. I'm like, well, he wasn't really mine. I can't be upset that, you know, God took him back type thing. But even the title, and the entire book was pretty empowering. Because I'm like, I can, like take things back for myself and choose. Like for myself, which was a pretty big deal for me. And I was pretty excited about that. Very cool. David Ames 48:23 Taylor, thank you for telling your story. This is this has been amazing. I think, as I said at the beginning, this really is this kind of the sweet spot of the podcast, I think a many, many people are going to relate to your story. Do you have any recommendations you have for us? Taylor Yoder 48:40 Yeah, I am. Like I said, I kind of like listening to like factual things. So there are two YouTube channels I really liked the one is genetically modified skeptic and the other one is religion for breakfast. Sometimes they're not all about Christianity, but they're very good if you're like wanting to do so stuff on the research side of things. So I found that really helpful. And then but besides that the born again, again, podcast, I know that they're like, done with that now, but just read or listening through that really did help me because they were also like a younger couple. So that helped me too. And then like, just being very honest and transparent was pretty helpful. David Ames 49:19 Those are great recommendations. Taylor, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Yeah, thank Taylor Yoder 49:24 you so much for having me. David Ames 49:30 Final thoughts on the episode. I really appreciate Taylor's story. I think the loss of a loved one the loss of a parent is incredibly impacting and she had the added worries of mental health and drug issues with her mother and trying to protect her father from that in his last days. My heart really goes out to her how difficult the time that must have been. I'm struck As always at how the most faithful look to apologetics to find answers and how unsatisfying, apologetic arguments are. That is that doubling down impetus to Jesus harder and make it work to keep the plates of faith spinning. For many people, it is inevitably leading towards deconstruction. deconversion Taylor story also includes the impact of purity culture, both on herself and people that she knew the role of women was a ridiculous restraint for her. We continue to hear from people who have been devastated by purity culture. Her story of participating in feeding the homeless, and experiencing community and awe was a perfect demonstration of secular grace. That is exactly what secular grace is, it is loving and caring for people and feeling that sense of belonging within a community. And Taylor exemplifies that quite well. My favorite part about this interview is Taylor describing the huge weight lifted off her back and the freedom that she felt, she says, I didn't have an invisible ghost following me around telling me how I had done things wrong. She said, No one is following me around anymore, I can mess up as a human without it being this inherently evil thing, I can just mess up and make mistakes. And that's okay. Reminder that Taylor has an Instagram called skeptical underscore hair tech find her there, the link will be in the show notes. I want to thank Taylor for being on the podcast for telling her story, and sharing with us being in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. And surviving. Thank you, Taylor. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is the surprising nature of the human ability to love. In the conversation with Taylor, that topic came up. It is only surprising because Christianity tells you that you cannot love people without Jesus. And yet Taylor's description of recognizing that she couldn't be the therapist or the type of therapist that she wanted to be, and be a Christian because she would be judging the people instead of actually caring for them. It is that recognition on this side of deconversion that we can embrace our humanity for ourselves, we can embrace the humanity of everyone around us, and in all of its beautiful diversity, without having to feel like we are obligated to judge. And as I pointed out in the conversation, that is surprising if you grew up in the bubble of evangelical Christianity or some other traditional faith tradition. And the main thing I want to get across here is that religion doesn't own grace. Religion does not own gratitude. Religion does not own all, religion doesn't own community. And if you really want your mind blown, Christianity doesn't own Jesus. By looking critically at the words of Jesus in the New Testament. We can take what we want, and leave the rest. Coming up, we have a number of community members. In early March I'll have the episode with Jennifer Michael hacked about her book, The Wonder paradox, as well as our four year anniversary, which is officially March 14, but we will release an episode on March 12. Just celebrating the four years of the podcast. And after that we have our Lean interviewing David Hayward, the naked pastor, really looking forward to that. 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 beats. 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 part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network Transcribed by https://otter.ai