This week’s guest is Anne. Anne grew up in an English family whose Christian history goes back generations. As a young child, Anne and her twin took their beliefs seriously, even the damaging ones.
Her parents’ divorce shook her up, though. Her family had been “that Christian family,” and it felt like her parents had become strangers. Still, she clung to her faith throughout her teens and twenties.
Anne married young, meeting an American missionary while in Scotland, but it seemed her partner wasn’t as devout as she’d hoped. His was on his own journey through deconstruction, but she didn’t want to see it.
In her thirties, Anne began to acknowledge the questions and the psychological distress she’d had for years. “It’s almost like this pressure had been building and building and building and finally it broke through, and I just thought, What if it’s not real? I had not allowed myself to ask that question.”
It took a little googling, excellent therapy and other people’s deconstruction stories for Anne to see that she no longer believed. It’s been freeing for her to see the world as it really is. No more “magical thinking.”
She and her partner are asking whole new questions, and it’s growing and changing them in ways they never could have imagined.
Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole
We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle
“I often equated feelings of anger with sin—feeling angry is sinful.”
“I think a lot of it was magical thinking. I really wanted it to be true.”
“Looking back, I think there was a lot of clinical anxiety and depression…[but to] me, everything was a spiritual problem.”
“Everything was a spiritual fight, so…if I felt bad, then maybe this is a test from God!…It made me double-down rather than thinking something’s wrong.”
“It felt like praying was escaping to a magical place where I felt like things were going to get better, but that was the opposite of how to heal myself.”
“It’s almost like this pressure had been building and building and building and finally it broke through, and I just thought, What if it’s not real? I had not allowed myself to ask that question.”
“It was a total ‘on the road to Damascus’ experience. It was like, all of a sudden I could see. I could see the real world.”
“I feel like the hardest thing to undo is this feeling of ‘badness.’”
And so I persisted. And I persisted in spite of negative feedback.
You are not broken, you are human
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 trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Thank you to all my patrons, if you too would like to have an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at any level at patreon.com/graceful atheist. And as a quick note, where we're spending the money, I'm using a tool called otter AI to get transcripts of our episodes. So now the show notes have transcripts as well. I am trying to backfill those that's going to take a while to get to all of them. But this is a great way for Google and SEO to pick up the website. Thank you to the Patrons for making that happen. The deconversion anonymous Facebook group continues to thrive if you are looking for a safe place to doubt, to question to deconstruct and even D convert find us at facebook.com/groups/deconversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show. My guest today is an content warning that N gets into her mental health including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. If you need immediate help, you can call 988 in the United States and get immediate assistance. We also talk about being very pro therapy, you can reach out to recovering from religion if you want to discuss elements of deconstruction and deconversion. As well as reaching out to the secular therapy project to find an ongoing therapist and grew up very serious about her Christianity took her Christianity even more serious than her parents. She continued to believe that God would participate in her life. She went to why wham, she chose missionary style work. Even in her secular occupation. She was constantly trying to live up to the standard of Christianity. Things began to break down as after she was pregnant, and the pandemic hit. And she was out of context of church, the key line of the entire episode as she says, and so I persisted, she continued to try to double down to make it work. And yet it did not work out in the end. Here is Anne to tell her story. Anne, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Anne 2:57 Thank you. It's great to be here. And I'm really excited to be able to tell my story and thank you for this opportunity. I really, I really think it's great what you're doing. David Ames 3:07 I very much appreciate it. I really think that this is the the magic is hearing people tell their stories. And and I promise you that there will be people that recognize themselves in your story. So I'm excited to hear it. I understand you've already prepared an answer for this. But you know that our first question is what what was your faith tradition growing up? Anne 3:26 Okay. Yeah, I tried to think how to how to summarize this. I guess the very short answer is that from my dad's family, I inherited this fairly conservative and evangelical And I, I, I'm fairly sure from kind of limited stories that have been told that it goes back actually to my great great grandfather around there, who was apparently an alcoholic who lived in a very kind of deprived life. And apparently he was out in the streets and heard a call to repent from the Salvation Army and kind of immediately dropped to his knees and repented. Okay, and that's apparently where this this comes from. And since then, everyone, everyone that I know in my family has been an extremely kind of committed Christian in that sense. And so his son or grant son, I'm not sure he was a pastor for the Manchester City Mission during the Second World War. And, and his son, my granddad, I knew very well and was always very, very serious about his faith, kind of have memories of going to his house. And he would have like the study guides to each of the books of the Bible lined up in order, okay? And yeah, like after church would be like discussing the sermon very seriously. And, you know, that kind of thing. So that's where my dad, where my dad kind of came from and what was handed down to me. David Ames 5:28 Okay. And, like a question that I like to ask is, did you feel a personal faith? Did you have a sense of this was something that you believed or that it was just handed to you from your parents. So Anne 5:41 I did. Strangely enough, it was only after I D converted that I really realized that this was a family thing. Like, I always had the sense that I had converted, okay. And it goes back to a very young time in my life. And we were going along to a church a time when there was this. And it sounds so old fashioned and ridiculous that it makes me laugh. But it was this group, this couple who traveled around with an accordion, and songs with actions for children, and they do these missions. And they came to our church and did this mission, where I guess it was like, every evening for a week or something, okay, yep. And they were all like, you know, children's songs, and then they would do the altar call at the end. And my parents must have given me the option to go or not, and I have a identical twin sister. And she had gone to this last session, and I chose not to, and I was kind of convicted, I must have been about four or five, I was convicted that, you know, I, she'd gone and responded to this call. And every all the parents were talking about the children that had gone up and gone to the front and said the prayer. And they'd given us these tracks that I carried around with me for for my entire childhood. It was inside my NIV Bible. Interesting, that was falling apart. And this tract has picked had pictures of hell in it. You know, it was really like outlining, like, you know, sin, hell, this prayer that you have to pray. And so that evening, I asked my twin sister. You know, please remember the exact prayer, I want you to do it exactly how they did it, but you do it for me. So that was my kind of conversion experience. And I was I took it very seriously. David Ames 7:47 It sounds very much. Yep. And then, you know, throughout your childhood and into like, The Age of Reason, was it still like a major part of your life at that point? Anne 7:59 It was. So I guess a detail that feels like in retrospect was probably relevant is that that conversion experience happened at a time when our family had quite a tragic thing happened, which is, so my, my parents were very, very young. When they had me and my sister, in fact, they were kind of teenagers, like, weren't married, and they got kicked out of the church youth group for it. Oh, no. Okay. When they when they found out it was twins, apparently, it turned from being a sin to a gift from the Lord. Everything was fine. Yes. So. So that was kind of the origin story of our family. So they were pretty young. But when we when me and my sister were about four, we had a baby sister who only lived for about a month, and then she sadly died. So we were obviously very young and too young to be able to appreciate that. But in the work that I've done since I, I feel that there was something about the way that I responded to this message about sin in the the environment that I was in, and I think I felt it was easy to feel that I was bad, because I was surrounded by a lot of very intense kind of emotions associated with obviously extreme grief. And I see. So I think I really internalize that. David Ames 9:47 So on top of the fact that Christianity kind of tells you that you're bad that you're a sinner, were you also feeling like, because you were around this grief that maybe somehow it was your fault. Is that what you were feeling or Anne 10:00 I think I felt that I didn't feel it was my fault. But I think I felt that, you know, if I invoked bad reactions in people, it made me bad. Or if I had bad feelings they were they were bad. So I often equated feelings of anger with sin, for example, feeling angry is sinful. David Ames 10:21 Got it? Okay. So the adults around you are in grief and probably not responding in the most healthy manner. And if you've elicited that response, you felt like that was on you in some way? Anne 10:32 Yes, yes. Okay. David Ames 10:33 So, okay. Anne 10:35 Yeah. So I think I think, you know, that's something that I I thought about in retrospect, but obviously, at the time, you know, you've kind of experienced it as a child, you just kind of absorbing it all. David Ames 10:50 Yeah, absolutely. It's all very, very real when you're a child, and especially if someone tells you that hell is real, and gives you a graphic depiction of it in a in a track tends to leave a mark on a child. Anne 11:03 Yeah, and for a long time, but you know, I was, I really believed that God would judge the soul of my sister, and I would never know if she had gone to hell or heaven, but God would make the right choice. And it wasn't till a couple of decades later, that good friend, who was also a Christian said, Well, of course, your baby sister's going to heaven. And I kind of thought, oh, but you know, at the time, like you say, kind of taking it on as a child, it all is kind of internally sync it consistent in some way. Yeah. So, yeah, so I guess that probably played into it. And the other aspect of that was that it felt like the church was what we fell into, like, they, you know, the very few memories I have of that time, include, you know, my mum being really, you know, grieving and, and weeping in church and the church ladies coming in taking us away and looking after us. So it felt like they were they were the safe place where we landed. And so that's, we always saw them that way. David Ames 12:20 Yeah. And again, I think it's important to recognize the human need for community and sounds like the church responded in a time of need for your family in that aspect. Anne 12:32 I think so. Yeah. Yeah. And, and our family also, always, the I saw my parents always having a very kind of generous and fun loving way of looking out and to the world. And my mum tells stories that when we were babies of Jehovah's Witnesses tend to the door, she'd say, take a baby, take a bottle, and you can sit here and talk to me while you feed a baby. And then she, and then she gives them the number of, oh, I have a good friend who you know, left the Jehovah's Witnesses. And now as a Christian, if you ever want to leave, you can take the number. And we had all those kinds of people in our church who had all sorts of backgrounds. And we even had in one very deprived place that we went to church, we had kids turn up without their parents, and my parents kind of took them under their wing and turned out they have a lot, I had a lot of social problems. And we kept in touch with that family. And we and I even visited one of them in prison with my parents, because, you know, that was that level level of social issues. And my parents kept in touch with them and and kind of, yeah, they sought you could tell those that kind of mission orientation, you know, the appeal to them? David Ames 14:01 Well, I think you can encapsulate it with the social gospel concept for some of the evangelical listeners, you know, there are versions of Christianity that are more focused on feeding the poor, you know, housing, the house less said in visiting the prisoners, that kind of thing. And so, there are some people who actually do try to do what Jesus literally talked about. And it sounds like that's the environment that you that you grew up in. Anne 14:27 Yeah, yeah. Suddenly, suddenly start with at least Yeah, okay. So we were involved in a lot of different organizations. We used to go on like Christian family holidays where we'd stay in, you know, big old house with other Christian families, and there was tons of things like that. And, you know, I really had the sense that we were, we were always in this small Churches so they always used to welcome us because like, my mum would be happy to do the Sunday school and, you know, the we would join the Sunday school and they'd ask us to play Mary in the, in the Nativity or whatever. And so I always I thought we were that Christian family and, you know, it was all good. And then my parents got divorced, and very quickly remarried. And it was I was 12 at the time, okay. And it was like a really devastating shock to me like it really. I felt like I'd been betrayed, because I had these very strong convictions, like at that age, it was very black and white for me. Yeah. And so, the other thing was that because my mum didn't come from a Christian family, she had kind of converted around the time that she met my dad. And because my grandparents on my dad's side, were very kind of devout and very kind of serious. I think, well, that was the way it was explained to me anyway, they decided that the story would be that my mum had left and, you know, she'd note basically left, and just kind of abandoned the whole Christian life at the same time. So she did everything that she didn't do when she was 19 and pregnant and a Christian. David Ames 16:36 I say, Anne 16:39 Well, maybe not everything. But to me, to me, it seemed like wild living. David Ames 16:45 And you know, that, that's honestly, though a common thing, right? People who lost some of their teenage time or young adult time to the restrictions within Christianity, they come out the other side, and they go a little bit wild, and maybe maybe not make the wisest choices. Anne 17:04 Yeah, yeah. And, and so we went with her, and we were, you know, some distance away from my dad. But really, it made me double down in my faith. And so me and my sister at that point, we were living in a different town. We were actually near my mom's family, but none of them were that just tall. And we kind of independently like, went to church hopping found a church and would go along, every every week. All right. David Ames 17:37 Wow, you guys were really dedicated. Yeah, Anne 17:39 we were Yeah. And yeah, we didn't have any kind of mentor or any kind of like connection. And, honestly, I think it made me feel quite disconnected, because it was very weird attending this very family, church without your parents, okay. People, I almost felt like people didn't quite know how to treat us like we were doing. We were kind of quiet. Nobody asked and nobody said anything. And we just went along every week. And we would walk there because obviously we can try. Yes, yeah. So yeah, we'd walk down the hill every morning and, and then like, walk back up again. And we didn't really have a lot of Christian friends, because in England at that time, you know, as you will know, like, the kind of state religion I suppose the Church of England is, was extremely loosely kind of held on to by most people. So they might be christened as a baby, and they might get married in church, that might be very common, but other than that, most people they might call themselves Christian, that that's really kind of it David Ames 18:55 more and more of a cultural moniker rather than a internal thing. Anne 18:58 Yes. Yeah. And we certainly would see them as in need of being saved, like absolutely kind of thing. So yeah, so we felt like I grew up feeling kind of isolated in that way, because it was rare that I would have friends that would understand at all right, kind of evangelical background. So yeah, me and my sister went on this kind of journey. And we ended up that was the first time that I was exposed to charismatic Christianity actually, through through the we went to this Methodist, kind of this Methodist church, we talked all around we've been to Baptists, Anglicans, you know, in the past after after these kinds of small evangelical churches, but we ended up in this Methodist Church because just because it was in walkable distance, and they took us along occasionally to this end. I'm very charismatic church, and I don't actually know what denomination it was. But it was the first time I really experienced it. And I think the first time I experienced it, I just felt like, I felt scared. But I interpreted it as a sign that then maybe that's because this is something that it's almost like, I felt scared, therefore, is something that I should do. Because maybe like, the the maybe like, the devil would make you scared. And maybe this is like it. So this is maybe something that like, hey, you know, maybe this is more spiritual, more, and I was all about anything that would lead me to be more spiritual, more kind of closer to God more, whatever. And we moved a lot growing up. So that's kind of part one reason why this story hops around a lot. I went to kind of eight different schools and Oh, wow. Yeah, I've moved about 30 times in my life altogether. So it's one that was kind of throughout. Yeah, yeah. So anyway, we ended up moving somewhere in the south of England, which has a lot traditionally has a lot more kind of evangelical Christians. And we ended up getting hooked in the new school with like a little group of people who were quite kind of on fire with the very kind of eclectic backgrounds, okay. And that we were kind of tangentially connected the sole survivor, which runs a big festival that's quite well known in the UK, but also has a fairly small church in Watford. And they are very charismatic kind of think, connected to the kind of Toronto Blessing movement. Federation's. In name Anglican, but somebody went, and somebody went to Toronto, and then somebody came back, and there was this kind of like movement within that little group. David Ames 22:09 In those kind of early days, especially after the Toronto Blessing a lot of churches that are denominations that you wouldn't expect, took on some charismatic elements, probably because of that. And if you start to trace all the lines of the church history, and you know, you can tie things back to events like that, like you say, a pastor goes and experiences something like that, and wants to bring it back to their church, even if their denomination isn't known for that. Anne 22:36 Right? Yes, yeah. And I know that my parents were influenced by Billy Graham, as well. So that was another thing that came over from the States. Even though we were in these little very, like English places, there was a, there was influence, right, and these different movements. So yeah, I ended up going to one of the festivals in the summer. And I really think I just was very, like tortured teenager, wanting to not miss out on anything and wanting to be so kind of close to God. And I was still quite scared of these charismatic kind of things going on. But I ended I think I tried so hard, it was so intense, that I had this kind of experience, where I felt this new sense of being in this kind of spiritual realm and being close to God. And so that was kind of another chapter in the life of kind of. And, and it's funny, because when I look back, when I was much younger, I would read these books that my parents had on the shelves that were from, I think 70s 60s, maybe even earlier, the kind of missionary books so there was, well, that's how I think there was the Cross and the Switchblade. Yeah, okay. They can't David Wilkinson, I think. And then there was Brother Andrew, who like smuggled Bibles into behind the Iron Curtain. And there are all sorts of miraculous stories in those books. So although my family did not really have those charismatic beliefs, or they wasn't happening at church, I had it in my, in my mind that kind of miraculous Sure. And so I did definitely at that, from that point, really kind of started to believe in God speaking directly to me and things, but I didn't have any looking back. I didn't have like I said, I didn't have like a mentor. My dad wouldn't have held those kinds of beliefs. My grandparents certainly didn't. So it was quite internal internalized. Yeah. And I think that when I look back, I think a lot of it was Magic of magical thinking. Yeah, now you realize, yeah, yeah. And I really want this to be true. David Ames 25:08 I think you've hit on something that's really important that if the children can take on something much more seriously than even the parents do. And so it sounds like not to question their faith in any way. But like you were taking it, another step forward, right, another another step deeper, as it were, of more more truth more reality in your life. And even though that wasn't your parents experience, this was becoming yours. And I think that's relatively common as well. Anne 25:37 Absolutely, yeah, definitely see that. Yeah, in many ways, I really felt I had feelings of resentment towards my mum for leaving, because I saw her as a rebel. You know, I remember her telling me at one point that she had thrown away the Bible, because it was like it was shouting at her from the shelf. And to me, that was a sign of, you know, maybe there was something demonic going on. Right. Okay. It was how I interpreted it, obviously now, I don't think that, you know, it really, it made me will often protect my faith and feel that I had to David Ames 26:20 double down. Okay. Roughly, how old are you at this point? Anne 26:24 So I was having these kinds of experiences and sole survivor and things around 1718. Okay. Okay. Yeah. So we're coming up to kind of finishing school and deciding what to do next. And I'm very much feeling like God speaks directly. And this crazy thing happens, which is that I am a chaotic, messy teenager, and I happen to have a leaflet about a YWAM Youth With A Mission Discipleship Training School, lying on my bedroom floor. And I am applying for universities to get into vet school, which is very competitive. And I'm getting these rejections. And I'm thinking, what am I going to do, I'm planning to reapply next year if I don't get in, and it's all kind of stressful. And then one day, I just kind of look down and see this leaflet. And of course, it's a direct like, word from God, it's a message. It's a message from God. I know, all I've wanted is to be a missionary on adventures, like all like, like, all I wanted, like these stories in these books. And David Ames 27:42 yeah, sounds like Anne 27:44 great. That's it, that that's exactly what I'm gonna do. So I did get into vet school, but I actually postponed for a year because my heart had already, like, totally fallen for the idea of going and training to be a missionary. So I postponed for a year and I went there. And it was a weird year a little bit because, well, firstly, I went to Scotland and I went to Scotland because that's where the leaflet was advertising. But I learned afterwards that useful, the mission is really global. And I could have gone to Hawaii or India or anywhere in the world. But I went to Scotland. David Ames 28:22 It's a long way to go really? Yeah. Anne 28:27 And it also happened to be just a couple of weeks after 911 happened as well. Okay. All right. And of course, a lot of Americans went there are a lot of Americans who wants to go and discover their Scottish roots and travel to Scotland. And, you know, it was an adventure for them. But of course, when we arrived, there was a lot of like, nobody knew exactly what was happening with air travel and things. So we ended up doing our mission that originally could have been anywhere in the world. We ended up doing that in Scotland as well. Okay, I see. And so there was a couple of months of training, which was like these lectures and a lot of kind of prayer sessions very charismatic, a lot of a lot of pressure to speak in tongues, a lot of like, looking for the miraculous and really like people making projections about kind of about suddenly seeing the whole town like saved and things like that. And I was just very, like, taking it very seriously. And it just so happened that there was this American guy there who looked kind of like this in retrospect, he looked kind of like good looking American Jesus, like you have the long hair and you had the bright blue eyes. White Jesus. He was he was white Jesus. And of course like my dreams. Like, fulfill, because all I wanted was this like Christian man and like this missionary life. And so one thing led to another, and we ended up getting married like very, very young. Same as my parents really, I'm really against the will of my parents, my parents were very strongly against. And we also did not have very much money, or like, everything was very much kind of in the moment. And so the way it worked was that we basically, were in a long distance relationship for a year. And then he hopped on a plane, and we moved into a single room basement in the middle of London. David Ames 30:48 Okay. I imagine that was a shock. Yeah. Anne 30:52 Neither of us had any previous relationship experience. Yeah. No support from my parents, his parents were a long way away and thought that he needed to become a man and be responsible now. And that was that was Yeah, so that was kind of an I had this like, vision that we were going to be this kind of missionary family. And we were going to travel the world. And, in fact, I really wanted to live in that location in London, because it was very socially deprived. Okay. And I had been going during my first year of university, when we'd been in this long distance relationship, I'd gotten involved in this, really in a city church that had this big Salvation Army mission, where they said homeless people and like treated dread, drug addicts, and homeless people in the basement. And then that was really like, I was really drawn to that. And they really wanted so much to kind of forgot to use me. And so we ended up doing that I ended up volunteering us in the first year to get involved in a, a summer mission. Like on top of my veterinary school. We were involved in this summer mission, which I decided that God was leading us to plan, which involved hosting young people to go door to door, which we did. And then on top of that, the same summer, I also planned and found funding for a trip to Central Asia to go and explore being missionaries. So I was kind of like, David Ames 32:30 wow, well over a little over Anne 32:33 a little over achieving. Yes, David Ames 32:36 exactly. Yeah. Anne 32:38 And this is where the I think the first real cognitive dissonance really came in. Because in reality, my husband had already begun the process of D, of deconstruction, okay. And I was completely unable to see it or recognize it. Because I did not want to see it. But also, he didn't believe that God spoke in that way. And again, I couldn't see it because I didn't want to. And so every time we'd have like this feeling, I have this feeling like I was forcing these things. And I didn't feel it didn't feel spiritual. It didn't feel like God was answering, it didn't feel like there was no fruit that I expected from this level of commitment. Like I had gone against my parents, I had taken this risk. I knew nobody who'd got married at that age, because like I said, it wasn't there wasn't a normal part of my culture. So none of my friends, it was crazy thing to do. Okay, so my friends, I think, so we didn't have any network and that sense of other married couples. And on top of that, there was a lot of them. And I guess the word is psychological distress, I think, because we were dealing with adjusting to a huge life transition. And so my partner, it was the first time living in the country, first time living in an inner city. It was the first time managing a budget, really. And we were in this very enclosed space. And like I said, no prior relationship experience at all. And so, I think, you know, there was a lot looking back again, I think there was a lot of like, clinical anxiety and depression, and neither of these us even had the thought to reach out for help. I don't think we even we didn't even kind of categorize it as a medical problem. Like to me everything was a spiritual problem. Virtual fight. And so yeah, it's kind of shocking to me looking back now, I recognize a lot of distress. And I remember as going to a Christian conference, and we were surrounded by other students, and I remember coming to in the morning, really having suicidal thoughts. But I didn't even really recognize it. I just thought that's, that's strange. But I was, think psychologically, I was looking for an escape, because it felt I think the cognitive dissonance of being in this, like, we were, like I said, at a Christian conference, we were signing up to everything Christian, and yet nothing felt like I was getting any feedback from anywhere, anything good was coming out of it. David Ames 35:57 You know, I do think that this is important, as well as that the most faithful, that people who take it the most seriously suffer from it the most, because God made these promises, and you believe that God is going to come through and going to be there for you and then participate in the ministry that you feel called to. And then nothing happens or reality, just normal reality hits. And it's this deafening silence. And that can be really traumatizing and difficult to get through. Anne 36:29 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I didn't have an eye everything was, like I said, as a spiritual fight. So in some ways, when I felt bad, I felt like well, you know, maybe this is a test from God. And it's going to come later down the line, that fruit, and so maybe double down rather than thinking something's wrong, I signed that I need to do more. And so I persist it. And I persisted, in spite of, in spite of like, a lot of negative feedback that like, this reality was not going to emerge. And I tried to make things happen a lot. And I thankfully, both of us graduated from university, which I'm really grateful, but and feel credibly grateful, listening to other people's stories that I was, have had access to a lot of education, that has been very much secular. But I what I did is every chance I got to make my career closer to being a missionary, I took that option. Right. So I went back. Yeah, after being a vet for a couple of years, I went back to university to study epidemiology with this idea that like, if I can't go and be initially I was like, I'll go and be a vet overseas, and I'll use my veterinary training to bring good news to like, livestock farmers and and when it I just wasn't getting the kind of enthusiasm from my partner. And so I went back and trained to do epidemiology thinking that if I can't go and do that, maybe I can do some kind of public health research that will allow me to travel and in and I actually did that I ended up doing a PhD, which involves me doing fieldwork in Central Asia. Okay. Okay. And I, I also traveled quite a bit during that time, again, I was very lucky. And everywhere I went, I would go and find the church. And in places where it wasn't, you know, they didn't have where it wasn't acceptable to be overtly Evangelical, I would use my contact networks to find the advertised church. And I would go so I went to those churches and like China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India. I went to a lot. And I also felt like maybe I was being a missionary, like I carry a Bible and I remember I left a Bible somewhere in the in the like an apartment that I rented, and things like that. But again, it felt like I was making it happen, and like doors weren't opening and I still wasn't getting the enthusiasm from home and things are still difficult. And then, I ended up after I finished my PhD, I ended up accepting a job as a postdoc researcher in the States. Okay. And so we moved I dragged my reluctant partner back to the states and promised he was only committing to a year David Ames 39:59 okay, Uh, yeah, Anne 40:01 within the year I was pregnant. And, and kind of the rest is history. But I do think that was an important part in my deconversion because it removed me away from everything I knew on the Christianity that I knew. By that stage, by the way, we've just set taking the steps to more or less charismatic and more. More liberal Christianity and churches, mainly to keep my partner happy if I'm honest, yeah. But increasingly, I felt that sick feeling like the sick feeling that something made me feel uncomfortable, but I never would have labeled it. But I remember the day when a friend shared something on Facebook about how women should be really equal to men. And I remember kind of thinking, yeah, do you know I actually think that? Yeah. And and I had insisted, as a 19 year old that we would that we I wanted the old fashioned vows where I promise to obey. Very seriously. Yes. So there was a kind of, there was a move to more liberal sure things. And trying to accommodate and find like, what, what would work and what felt right. And then when we came to the States, I, we tried to find a church that felt right. And a lot of it was because my partner was really falling away, and really not wanting just had no enthusiasm to go to church. And, and some of it was health related, like he could find excuses. But really, he just didn't. And so I was often going on my own. And it felt very foreign, which was a really weird feeling. Because church had always felt like the place where I understood the language. And I understood the culture. Yeah, and then just going to a church in America, I felt like, I don't, I feel uncomfortable. And I experienced situations where I felt like people were superficially trying to, like, bring me into the church. Yeah. And that felt really uncomfortable, because like, I was the one who was like, the most saved. Like, and yet, I felt like this outsider. And it all felt very, like superficial. And I noticed, it was like, I was noticing that it had a lot to do with money. And also, obviously, I was going for a time with a very young baby. And I was realizing that when you're there with a baby on your own, it's limited how much you can really interact during a service, you're just trying to keep a baby happy for the whole service. And then you're exhausted and not able to do much or suddenly for me for the rest of the week, either. So then it was like my role changed. And I felt like I was the one in need. And yet, whenever I asked for help, I felt like that was just a way for them to get me in. David Ames 43:04 And I can feel what you're describing, like. So there's several things happening at the same time, just what you described, obviously, being a mother with a baby is one element. But coming to the United States had to have been a culture shock, like you say that the language of church was different. But even more than that, like you're beginning to have that cognitive dissonance and that need to church hop or to find something that feels right. And then it just doesn't is so painful is so it hurts so bad. And like, that is really common. I hear that all the time. I know that I've experienced that myself as well that you're looking for the thing that you know, should exist, and you can't find it. And then on top of all of that, like you're describing, you've been the giver and here you find yourself in a place where you need and recognizing the superficial nature of the response. So oh, man, I can feel for you that that was a rough spot to be in. Anne 44:01 Yeah, yeah, it was. And then the pandemic came. Yeah, I think before the pandemic came, I really hit a low spot mentally with the small baby. I was on a work visa. And so I had no option but to carry on working. And I come from a culture where it's normal to take a year off after you have a baby but this was kind of six week deal. And no, not much support around and trying to match up like where is God's plan or purpose in all of this. It just feels so far removed from what I was trying to get to and I've tried so hard to stay on course yeah. And so I started experiencing like signs of over clinical depression at that point. And I had access. Yeah, I had access to free clinical psychotherapy, which again, so grateful for it through my job. And so I was able to go along. And that was huge for me. Because she did not, it was it was just very skilled, very professional. Really good therapy. And she didn't touch the religion thing, because I remember her asking your what does it mean to you? And my response was, it's everything. Yeah, it's everything. And I remember her asking, you know, you've had kind of a difficult time what, but you're kind of resilient. What, what are your resilience factors? And I said, Jesus, and my twin sister. David Ames 46:04 Like, interesting. Anne 46:06 Yeah, she didn't. She didn't press that further. But she just simply like, did the, you know, the, whatever. They're kind of like, psychotherapy kind of tools, and listening and things like that. And I started to feel like, a lot of it was to do with internalizing things. And I remember having a moment when I felt like, when I was praying that I was actually doing was like, working my way out of my bad feelings. Okay, I started to feel like that's the opposite of what my therapist is trying to get me to do. I like felt like praying was like escaping to a magical place where you felt like things is gonna get better. And that's the opposite of how to heal myself. Yeah. And so I kind of, without even thinking about it, I just kind of thought, I've got to stop doing that for a bit, I need to actually be present, and work through what's actually going on, then I think that was a step. And there was no thought of leaving Christianity or anything. I just felt like I was just following my intuition, purely, I think. And then the pandemic. David Ames 47:24 First, let me just say how insightful that was, and self aware to recognize that to begin with, is really quite impressive, honestly. And I know there's the pandemic probably makes things much worse, but just acknowledging that, that it is a bit of fantasy, it is a bit of Magical Thinking prayer is and then to the need to remain in reality and deal with the emotions that you're experiencing, or the depression or what have you. It's really quite insightful. Anne 47:53 Thank you. I appreciate that. And it took me a long, long time together. I mean, we're talking about like, 30 years after convention. Yes. Yeah. And I honestly think that one of the reasons I was able to get to that place, because I was so far removed from my place of origin. And I also think that it was because my therapist created a kind of safe place, like I felt some level of safety of emotional safety. That allowed me to do that. But I remained as far as I was concerned, a Christian. Yeah. And I never had conversations with my partner about him D converting, even though he kind of, well, I don't know if he would say D converting so much as deconstructing. But he, I think he knew that I couldn't deal with it. And I subconsciously knew that I couldn't deal with it either. And he was incredibly gracious in that respect, that he did not push me. And he was able to kind of contain it himself, okay. And then, basically, anyone who's kind of been through the academic system will know that, as a postdoc, you're always on temporary funding, or you kind of you don't really have job security. And so with the small child and the pandemic, we also needed to find a job. And I had been kind of like, looking low key, but it all kind of came to a head. When I had I had this offer in the midwest of a permanent job as an assistant professor, that would be the like the way for us to finally have this kind of stability and security. And so we came here and so bizarrely, we've come to this place that is just surrounded by these huge Churches, they literally put messages in my mailbox. And it's so strange. And I hear people talking about church when I'm like in a restaurant or something, which is so bizarre to me. And I can almost like I can spot them. I'm like, Oh, they're Christians, I can see. See the way the smiley, I can tell by the T shirts. Yeah. And instinctively I had this like, reaction to the mega churches in the big churches, I just could not stomach it. And I tried zoom church for a little while for, like, Anglican church that I just felt like, what's the point of trying to do a zoom church with a small child, and yeah, just pointless. And then, one day, I had this distinct memory, I have this distinct memory. I was just on my laptop, just kind of, I guess, doing that kind of Googling, zoom, zoom, Facebook, whatever thing. And I just kind of, it's almost like this pressure had been building and building and building. And finally it broke through. And I just thought, what if it's not real? Wow. And I had not allowed myself to ask that question. I was too scared. Like, I know, when people had questioned theology earlier on. I'd felt like kind of sick feeling like I can't do that to the idea of like, there being no help had been so disorientated. I just feel this kind of dizzy feeling. Yeah. And but at that moment, I just felt like, Oh, that's a question. Yes. And I immediately, you know, just immediately googling these like words. I didn't have the word deconversion or deconstruction or anything. I just started Googling and I came across how I should have written down her name that she's well known in this community have has kind of written a book called leaving the fault. David Ames 52:15 Yes, Marlene? Well, that's right. Yes. Yeah, I Anne 52:19 came across her YouTube video of her, her story of how she kind of D converted. And it was almost like, as soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer. It happened that fast. Yeah. And so yeah, I just did lots of research. But I had this, it was total, kind of like, on the road to Damascus experience, I felt like I felt like all of a sudden, I could see, I could see the real world, I could see everything and like, the weight is just kind of gone. I was like, free. I was just able could discover just kind of living without the weight of the, what is God telling me? What should I be doing it? And my, you know, I think that was the main thing for me a feeling like I was not on this spiritual track, but I still wanted to be. Yeah. Um, and so yeah, that was really like the main thing that happened. But that opened the gateway to like, a lot of discussions. So that have been very, in a way kind of as life changing in terms of it's allowed us to discuss the reasons why we got married, and why certain things have been so hard and allowed us to discuss well, do we want to stay married? Like, and in a completely a way that just was not possible? David Ames 54:01 You're being honest with each other? Anne 54:03 Right? Yeah. Yeah. And I also kind of, I think I also discovered that I am not. I had always just assumed that I was this very normal, straight Christian. And now I'm kind of more feeling like, I'm probably bisexual and doesn't have like, you know, that doesn't necessarily change a lot. But it's like, something that I would for all these years. I never even asked the question, right, because it was not even a thought that David Ames 54:44 was allowed. Right? Right. You can't even think that thought, Anne 54:48 right. Yeah. And so that feels like it feels like there could be more to come down the road like it still feels quite early. It's kind of Who, maybe it's coming up to two years. But it feels like this kind of these kind of surges of like, realizing that I'm freer than I felt like I was for so long, David Ames 55:18 it's almost being introduced yourself, right, you get to suddenly be authentically yourself, whatever that may be. And the discovery process of taking off the layers of kind of mental protection that you have been carrying around up until that point, I always say it's terrifying and absolutely wonderful. That you that this discovery process that it sounds like you're still kind of in the middle of so Anne 55:45 yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I feel like the hardest thing to undo is this feeling of, of badness, you know, like, and I feel like that might be something that I am still working on, like in therapy, and just in my, the way that I'm processing and trying to kind of move through this is trying to separate myself from those beliefs that were introduced. So Young. Yeah. And, and to realize that, I don't have to, like be trying really, really hard not to be bad. David Ames 56:29 Yes. What, you know, what we've talked about on the podcast a lot, the idea of secular grace of humanism, for me is about embracing our humanity. And religion takes that away. Not all religions, most, most traditional religions take that away, they strip you of your humanity and tell you that you're bad that you're no good. And like, so I think a part of this coming out of it is, is embracing who you are, and accepting yourself for who you are without having to have these external expectations placed on you. And that, again, can be very freeing, and also very scary. Anne 57:09 To Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I feel again, so lucky that I'm able to access therapy, the good therapy here as well. And also that I have a career that's not really reliant on my face, right. Which allows me to have it allows me to have a domain of life, which wasn't dominated by the Church, which I think it was healthy for me. David Ames 57:39 Absolutely. So we are very pro therapy here and often recommend the secular therapy project for people to find therapists beyond therapy. What other things have been helpful for you any any particular books or podcasts other than this one information that you found? Inspiring or useful? Anne 57:59 Hmm, yeah. I mean, I think I, a lot of the things that I've found just by following, you know, your podcast and others, has led me to similar things that have been mentioned before. Now, I didn't mention that in the early days. Before I deconstructed I found Rob Bell really helpful. David Ames 58:22 Okay. Yeah. Anne 58:25 As a kind of stepping point. Yeah. And also an he has a podcast and lots of books. Also, let me think I'm terrible at remembering things. I have actually opened up my David Ames 58:42 that's fine. Take a second time. Right now. Anne 58:46 Yeah. So I won't mention all the bisexual podcasts that I've been listening to you because maybe it's niche, but maybe it's not. David Ames 58:56 Please do go ahead. Yeah. Anne 58:58 Oh, my gosh, there's a ton of so there's one called coming out with Lauren. And they call and a lot of the people they speak to have a religious background. A lot of them don't. Yeah, but the ones that do you really see that intersection between you know, the oppression from religion and the oppression from society and figuring out who you are. And I just love hearing people's stories. That's one of the things that I love about this podcast. Yeah. So the coming out with Lauren and Nicole is kind of like that, but for for quite a queer people. Fantastic. Yeah, I love expand Jellicle I love I love Glennon Doyle's podcast. We can do hard things, which I put in the kind of category of like, self help a little bit. Yeah. And I'm not like, I don't believe everything they say. Like, I don't think we should make a new religion out of self help. Right, but I find it I also find a lot of humor. mentality in the podcast. I like that. Yeah. And yeah, and it feels like it feels like that thing of like being in a small group and being able to buy your soul. David Ames 1:00:09 Yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Anne 1:00:12 Yeah. Well, then my real kind of go twos, David Ames 1:00:18 I think. Okay. Yeah, yeah. And I can't tell you how much of your story that I related to like just a lot of touch points along the way. And you were incredibly eloquent, I could feel what you were feeling. And again, that's the magic. That's what we're trying to get to. I talked about an honesty contest you came, you came with that honest, authentic part of your story telling your story. So I just want to thank you so much for being on the podcast. Anne 1:00:47 Oh, well, thank you so much for this opportunity. Yeah, once again, I just think it's great what you're doing. And I think it helps people on so many levels. So thanks for David Ames 1:01:00 final thoughts on the episode. And so I persisted, that is such a great line with with a nod to Elizabeth Warren, but captures that desire to double down, I'm going to make this work. I love Anne's honesty, she, as I said, there at the end, I could really feel the experiences that she was going through as she told her story, I think you the listener are going to have felt that as well. And it is the honesty of telling one story that really is the profound part of this work. There are so many elements of Anne's story that are incredible, growing up and being more serious about Christianity than her parents getting married to another why Whammer the focus on more social gospel actually reaching out and helping people picking her careers based on the missionary effect. Ultimately, going into epidemiology and traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. And then the depression and anxiety that she experienced as she was at the beginnings of the deconstruction process. And her pregnancy and the pandemic so much happening at the same time. As many other guests have said the being outside of the context of church having to have zoom church or streaming church begins to allow one to reflect and and it. My favorite part of her posts. deconversion is the hardest thing to do is the feeling of badness to separate from beliefs introduced when she was young. And she realized she doesn't have to really try really, really hard not to be bad. She's just a human being. And that's okay. She discovered her bisexuality, she's becoming herself. I want to thank you and for being on the podcast and again for telling your story with rigorous honesty, with passion and letting us feel what your experience was like. Thank you, Anne, for telling us your story. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is you're not broken, you're human. I have a blog post of the same title. From the early days of the blog. I'm going to link that here, but ends discussion of letting go of the feeling of badness of the need to constantly be on guard to feel judged. The human experience is difficult. The human experience can be tragic at times, the human experience can be joyful and wonderful. But Christianity in particular, and traditional religions in general have a tendency to warp that normal human experience and to say that it is because of one's brokenness, it's because of one's unrighteousness. And that message is internalized, particularly for those of you who grew up with a more traditional religious background, and that is very difficult to shake. The core message of the podcast has always been embracing your humanity and the humanity of others. And that includes the human foibles the Nui the the desire for more the mistakes and the human error is all a part of being a human being and it can be a meaningful part of your life. As soon as you're not fighting yourself. You are not broken. You are human. Next week, we have our Lean interviewing Stacey who goes by apostasy love that moniker still. The week after that is my interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht. And the following week will be the four year anniversary of the podcasts. So March 14 is officially the anniversary of the podcast. Please join us as we celebrate we're going to talk about our favorite movies and television programs and books that have elements of deconversion or killer grace on them and it was a blast to have that conversation. Check that out. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI 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