Cat Delmar: Former Seventh Day Adventist

Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Purity Culture, Race, Spirituality
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This week’s guest is Cat Delmar. Cat grew up in a nominally Seventh-day Adventist family. The SDA churches, however, were anything but nominal. They had all the rules, from no caffeine to no pierced ears. 

“There’s a lot of control of the body [in Seventh-Day Adventism].”

At sixteen, Cat took ownership of her faith and started going to church on her own, but she never quite fit in. By her twenties, she realized that the difficult questions in adulthood don’t have easy “Biblical” answers. Before she knew it, she’s figured out that the SDA church doesn’t have the answers and that perhaps no one does.

Today, Cat doesn’t need solid answers. She finds peace within herself and in her connection with nature. Cat’s story is one you’ll want to hear!







Link Tree


“There’s a lot of control of the body [in Seventh-Day Adventism].”

“There was definitely this dark cloud of shame for getting my ears pierced at sixteen years old.” 

“[The Bible] is literally a bunch of fairy tales that we’re using to dictate people’s lives.”

“You aren’t supposed to lean on your own understanding…The damage of that? It has lasted for years.”

“Christians really have a monopoly on this doctrine that their way is the only way, and if you don’t believe this religion, you are going to hell!”

“I guess it was this ‘longing to belong;’ why I kept going back every couple of years…” 

“…you can’t apply what’s happening [in the Bible] to the twenty-first century. It just does not compute.” 

“This religion was forced on my people…[and it comes] with the racism, the sexism, the homophobia. All of those are intricately tied to the Christianity that was taught to my people, to really all Americans.” 

“‘Forget what you know and conform! So we can control you!’ I don’t even know if all pastors know that’s what they’re doing, but even if it’s not conscious, that’s what they’re doing.” 

“If Christianity is all about love and light and about peace, why do you have to wipe out other people’s religions?”

“The audacity of these fundamentalist religions to tell people that they know you better than you know yourself.”


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcasts wherever you are listening. If you are having doubts going through deconstruction, you do not have to do it alone. Join us in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find us at If we just met at the Portland pod calm 23 Welcome. I'm glad you're here. I hope you enjoy the podcast. And if you're a regular listener, I'm really glad you're here as well. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, our Lean interviews our guest today, Kat Delmar cat grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, there was a lot of bodily control from everything from caffeine to purity culture. As Kat grew up, she realized that the pat answer she was given within the Seventh Day Adventist Church didn't fit the reality of the world she was living in. Today cat has a spirituality around nature and the fulfillment that she gets being in nature. Cat has an Instagram it is at cat mangrove, as well as a link tree and we will have the links in the show notes. Here is our lien interviewing cat Delmar.

Arline  1:57  
Cat Delmar. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Cat Delmar  2:00  
Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Arline  2:02  
Yes, I'm super excited. I have been following you on Instagram since sometime last year, I have no idea how I found you. I'm sure Instagram or someone else that I followed was like you would like this account. And yes, I've enjoyed your content. Yeah. So thanks so much for being online and putting great things out there.

Cat Delmar  2:19  
Yes. And thanks to the algorithm for bringing us together. Yes, every

Arline  2:25  
now and then I'm like, okay, I can I can be okay with this AI. This worked out for me. So we usually begin with just tell me the spiritual background that you grew up in?

Cat Delmar  2:37  
Sure, yeah. So I'm Kat and I grew up as a Seventh Day Adventist sect of Christianity. I was raised Adventist, and my dad was raised adventus. And you know, his mom and his dad. So at least on my dad's side, from his grandfather, all the way down to me and my sister, we've been Adventist. So you know, a few generations back. And the thing is, it's like my mom had to convert Adventism to marry my dad, I mean, had to convert. I say that kind of loosely. But for all practical purposes, yes, she had to convert. But my dad was really one that was raised that way. So because my dad was more culturally Ventus. And my mom kind of did it out of I would say obligation, not necessarily because she believed in it. There always was this kind of like tug of war, a little bit between the parents. So it was a pretty inconsistent, like situation with us like a pretty inconsistent rearing as far as religion was concerned, because for instance, Seventh Day Adventist, they refrain from working on Saturday or on the Sabbath. So from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, you're not supposed to be going to work doing any labor like around the house. Some people don't even want to dry or go to restaurants or anything like that. pump gas on Sabbath. So they try to the people that really adhere to that Sabbath, they really try to get everything done during the week, so that by Friday, sundown they can start, you know, opening the Sabbath with prayer and all that stuff. We never really did that. Only sometimes when like family would come to visit or friends of my dad, you pretend to be a little bit more pious. But like Mexico, my mom often worked on Saturdays, but my dad really did not. My dad was pretty good about not working on Sabbath. And, you know, because my mom was working on Saturdays. My dad would kind of inconsistently take us to church, and then we kind of fall out of it. Take us and we go to Sabbath school then not go for months, like and then by the time that was during my childhood. And so then by the time my mom and my sister and I we moved away from South Florida to North Florida, we really weren't going to church at that point. Like, sometimes my dad would bring us whenever he would come to visit, or whenever we would go down to South Florida to visit, but it was really inconsistent as we were like in our preteen area, like that era.

Arline  5:18  
So how did your mom grew up? What was her religious background?

Cat Delmar  5:21  
Um, like, because they're both Jamaican. So, obviously Christianity is the predominant religion in Jamaica. I would say like Anglican Baptists like that kind of, like a general Protestant but probably more Anglican. Okay. Yeah, her, I would say her family wasn't as devout. Yeah, I think they would consider themselves Christians. Even back then they would consider themselves Christians. But from what I've heard from other family members, there was a little bit more of like religious syncretism, like there was, perhaps some people were practicing some Obeah, which is the Jamaican version, I guess, for lack of a better term than Jamaican version of voodoo. So there were some dabbling in that some religious syncretism, but mostly Christian.

Arline  6:07  
Okay, my family were kind of what nominal Christians like, you just go to church, I grew up in Georgia. And every one you just go to church, there's no, nobody really asks you whether you believe or take it seriously or care. It's just that's just part of what you do. Exactly. But then thinking about the like syncretism, there were certain just little superstitions that my family had that I thought, I feel like when I eventually become became a Christian in college, I thought, why are you superstitious about this? Like, how did this get pulled into your beliefs? This feels like it should be something that they would if someone else were superstitious, they would judge them for they're kind of superstitious stuff, but just little things that I wish I could think of an example. But just Yeah, strange things that it was like, you've combined this with something else. And you're okay with it. It didn't, didn't seem to bother anybody.

Cat Delmar  7:02  
Definitely, like, was my mom, she was always interpreting dreams. So if I said, I had a strange dream, she would take that as something superstitious and use whatever knowledge that she had about that, and interpret the dreams. So maybe it was something similar to that.

Arline  7:19  
Yeah, there were things like that, like, not necessarily dream interpretation, but my mom was funny about not talking about dreams if they were bad dreams, or not speaking certain words, like it was it was just strange things that didn't feel biblical. It was like it would conjure some kind of demonic thing, which, I guess some people could consider Christian, it just felt different. But I was also I became a Christian in college. Yes. And it was Calvinism and very, like, head knowledge type stuff. So it was different. I did not grow up in the church what what my family believed

so you guys moved to North Florida? You said your mom and your sister in you? Yeah. Was your dad in the picture? Or?

Cat Delmar  8:14  
Well, he stayed down in South Florida. And so we ended up having two houses, there was one down here and and one in North Florida. So it was kind of like, you know, latchkey kid, almost like a single motherhood situation. I went from, essentially a two parent household to now it was more like a one parent household. And, you know, I was young, and my mom was working. So, you know, my sister and I would be getting, I mean, we weren't getting ourselves up to go to school when we were very young, but we get ourselves up together. No, would be home when we got home from school. You know, making Kraft macaroni and cheese, like, I can't really eat that anymore, because I ate so much of it as a kid. And, you know, a lot of weekends spent, obviously not going to church because my mom was working, but a lot of boring weekends just left to our own devices. And so then by the time, like, as far as the adventure story is concerned, by the time I was like, 16 1516, and I had my permit. That's like, when I entered a different phase of my religious like, life, I guess. Because at that age, people are trying to people teens are kind of starting to contemplate like what life is and like, what the meaning of it is. And like what kind of person they should be, I guess. And so I was thinking, Oh, to be a good teenager, whatever young adult, I should start going to church by myself. So and my sister wasn't really interested in going to the Adventist church because I think by then, she huh, by then she kind of was on her own path. She's she's still a Christian, but she's a non denominational Christian. So by then she was already kind of kind of starting to leave You've Sunday Adventism. So I just went to church by myself, there was a local church in the area. And yeah, I kind of was pretty close with the people there. They were a few young people in the church, around my age and, and a couple of them are really nice because it was a very small church with a new pastor who was a young pastor. And so it felt a little bit like a family. Especially because yeah, my dad wasn't at home. And Mom was always at work. I was in a pretty rigorous high school curriculum. So that was nice to have, like, Oh, these are some people that maybe I can look up to. But you know, also when you're 16, you're starting to come into your own as a person and there's a rebellious nature that comes into play, when I'm not sure how rebellious it is to wear pants want to have a piercing or to just like little things like that became a problem. Because Adventist again, they're very conservative, not only with the Sabbath Keeping, but with like, dress, like they really don't use the years that tattoos are forbidden. There's a lot of control of the body. You know, I mean, we we know all about like purity culture, and that kind of stuff. Like that's something that I'm sure a lot of people on this podcast or other people in the deconstruction community talk about. Because yeah, there's a strain on the relationship with the body. Like even event is they don't want you to eat caffeine. And they follow a lot of the Leviticus dietary laws that even a lot of Jewish that I know don't follow most of the Jews. I know don't follow those rules. But Adventists are they add? They don't eat shrimp? No pork? No, Doc. You know, only animals that chew the cud and all that, like it's just all this extra stuff. Wow. Yeah, yeah, I was following all those rules. You know, I was a virgin, whatever. But I just wanted to get my ears pierced. And I remember having to hide my ear piercing because I felt like I was going to be shamed about I mean, they found out but there was definitely this, like dark cloud of shame for getting my ears pierced at 16 years old. Oh, my

Arline  12:17  
heavens are almost an adult. Yeah. And your ears pierced. There are so many, far worse things that teenagers would want to do. And I'm so sorry that there was such a cloud of shame for such a simple thing.

Cat Delmar  12:34  
Yeah, I'm so glad that I'm out of that. Like now like, I'm so glad I'm much older that I can just see it for what it is, which is yes. Did literally a

Arline  12:44  
bunch of made up stuff that someone thought we don't like this. So we're going to make a list of the things you can't do. Because we don't like these things. Yeah,

Cat Delmar  12:51  
it's literally a bunch of fairytales that we're using to dictate people's lives. And to control people, that's really what it's all about. It's about control. Like I said, control the body control of your mind, control your spirit, literally like and when I say spirit, I don't necessarily mean like spirit in the religious sense. I mean, like, your essence, who you are. So yeah, I just kind of got fed up with the control aspect. And there were a few people in the church that were like, vaguely racist. And I just, I just thought I was finding it to be boring. And just like, I didn't really fit in, like, I didn't want to be that devout. So, yeah, yeah. And also school was pretty rigorous. Like, as I was entering those last couple years of high school, I was like, I don't even think I have time for this. Because they're saying, don't don't study on Sabbath. I gotta study like, so that's another thing school. And that's kind of that was kind of a recurring theme. As I got a little older, but I just fell fell out of that situation

there was a, there was something else that actually happened as well. Um, two other things that kind of made me pull away. The pastor, he was from South Africa. And he was, like I said, a young pastor, he seemed pretty genuine, pretty, pretty kind. I did like him as a person. But there was some rumor about how he definitely didn't want to have a black wife because he was looking for a wife because he was about 40 Something and unmarried, and he was a white, South African, and somehow that became the rumor. And I was like, Okay, I know, I was 16 I didn't really understand much about racism at 16. I mean, I had some experiences that were racial, but I didn't understand like, society and like social the social construct of racism to well, like the system Demick situation. And I was like, this is weird, like, I'm a black person and this pastor is using race as a criteria for who's worthy of marrying him. So I was kind of all the way turned off by that. Yeah, yeah. And yeah. And then there was a deacon in the church, who, I don't know. If something happened one time at church camp, where like, we were eating breakfast, and he like, fed me some of his food. And I thought that was friggin weird.

Arline  15:30  
Yeah, that feels very bizarre. And it's not, you know,

Cat Delmar  15:35  
why? Like, what? Um, I don't think I even asked if it was, well, maybe I may have asked Is it good of whatever he was eating was like, I think it was applesauce with peanut butter and jelly or something like that, I think was bread with peanut butter and applesauce, or apple butter. And I don't think I've ever tried apple butter before. And he offered it to me, like with his forte and I and he fed it to you didn't let me just take it myself. Which, I don't know. Maybe I'm reading into it. But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do that to somebody at my big age. Now that I'm in my 30s I wouldn't feed a kid from my spoon feed them. Like a teenager. Maybe a young kid like a baby. But I just found that to be strange.

Arline  16:22  
That is strange. I felt uncomfortable. I don't even know how to wonder about it. Like that just feels bizarre. Yeah.

Cat Delmar  16:29  
I mean, it was giving me just unsavory vibes. So that was a good one. That was one of the last straws. And I was like, Okay, I'm out. Like, I don't feel comfortable. Yes.

Arline  16:39  
And before we started recording, you and I were just talking about how our bodies know things. And there is truth in like, when our bodies are like, some something doesn't feel right. We often not, they're not perfect, but we often need to pay attention to that.

Cat Delmar  16:53  
I'm so glad you mentioned that. I've had a hard time with that, like all my life. And literally my upbringing was such that you're supposed to not lean on your own understanding. I've literally that's one of the most quoted phrases in the Christian community. And like the damage of that it has lasted for years. And even though I'm more aware, I still because I have really good intuition. And it's got better. But I still second guess my intuition because of that upbringing, where like, I'm not supposed to trust my humaneness? Because that's evil.

Arline  17:29  
Yes, because that's evil. We're supposed to trust other humans who apparently aren't evil and know things because they have heard from God or even, even like, I think back to the times of when it's, we were told to read the Bible more or pray more. If we could only know if it was from God, if it went in line with the things we already believed, from the people around us. And the way we have been told to interpret the Bible in it still, it still came down to other people's interpretation of the Bible, or what prayer is or however, but But it never occurred to me to trust my own judgment. And question the other people's judgment, if that makes

Cat Delmar  18:16  
sense. Yeah, definitely, definitely, like, as if some people have revelations or have access to revelations that I don't have access to. It's just it's a power structure. It's, it's all about securing power. Because if they're the ones that have preferential access to these revelations, then they can delegate out and dictate what everyone else is supposed to do, because everyone else is beneath them, because they don't have access to these insights or whatever.

Arline  18:49  
And I think back to, like, we believed in we were Presbyterian for most of the time, but as an adult, and we believed in what, what was it called? Oh, the priesthood of all believers. So we believed that like everyone had access to God's revelation, like nobody was above, but someone like John Piper or Matt Chandler, or the pastor or just anyone if they said something and interpreted scripture, it was, even though we weren't supposed to think it was probably more holy and more correct. We still did. They were celebrity pastors, they knew all the things. So yeah, our functional theology was very different than what we said we actually believed. For sure.

Cat Delmar  19:31  
And that kind of reminds me of how like, even if we kind of zoom out a little bit to Christianity as a whole Christians are really I mean, I have more Sprint's of Christianity, but from what I've seen, Christians really have a monopoly on this doctrine that their ways the only way and if you don't believe this religion, you're going to hell

So and by that time by 16, I was already thinking to myself, I just don't think that's true. Because what about people that are, you know, living in I don't know, Bangladesh, or, or on a deserted island somewhere in Ghana, not deserted, but like some island that doesn't have access to missionaries or whatever? Are they just going to hell? Because they didn't hear about the European version of Christianity? How does that even make sense? Why would the only divinity if there is such a thing? Why would that be just relegated to just this little area of the Middle East? And so it just, it was starting to make sense. And I even talked to one of my aunts about this, who was an advantage on my dad's side, and she's like, yep, well, I don't think those people are going to help you there. So even she, as an as a pretty decently developed event, didn't believe that you had to believe in Christ to go to heaven or whatever. So I was already starting to think that by the time I was in my mid teens,

Arline  21:10  
yeah, I was going to ask, were you asking questions outwardly, as a team? Were you asking other people? Or was or were these just internal questions that you were curious about?

Cat Delmar  21:20  
Well, I think the main thing they asked about was, yeah, what if you don't believe what if you're, you're coming from somewhere where you don't you don't have access to this particular doctrine? And even like, Yeah, my dad said, Oh, in the Bible, it says, you know, God will wink at you. Or there's, there's some I forget where exactly, I had my Bible years. But yeah, that there is this idea, this ideology that you will receive some type of mercy. Because you just didn't know. Oh, like if you're a baby, or if you're from somewhere that doesn't have access to this information.

Arline  22:02  
Okay, we had, I don't know, if we had a name for it. We had a similar idea for people with like, cognitive special needs. It was like, Well, God will somehow reveal himself, you know, or babies or children and even elderly people, anyone who, I guess was not just neurotypical adult who can understand all the theological things were well, we're sure God will take care of that somehow. Yeah, yeah. Like, we'll just make up something we don't know. So we'll just have something.

Cat Delmar  22:30  
Just to shake your question down. Yes,

Arline  22:33  
yes, we really don't want to have to think through all the mental gymnastics of how we can possibly make this work.

So you said you're in your 30s. Now, so what were your 20s? Like? Was it still working? Christianity still working?

Cat Delmar  22:53  
Well, okay. So I took a break from the Adventist Church, probably for the rest of high school. And then once I got to college, I was like, Okay, maybe we can try this again. So, and I don't know, I guess it's this like longing to belong, why I kind of went back every couple of years and tried to be a little bit more devout. So you know, I got into college, college is very difficult. Academically, and then just being on my own, just having the independence and having to navigate friendships and relationships in a more complex way. Like I just did not have the skills for that. Because again, harkening back to the religious upbringing, you're not really told about. I mean, the Bible is not. I'm not saying that there aren't any good principles in there. But you can't apply what's happening there. To the 21st century. It just does not compute. You know, so it just, yeah, so it doesn't doesn't answer a lot of the burning questions and like the practical situations that you might get into, like, it's not really well applied. So in college, I, there were a lot of events there because there were a lot of Caribbean Americans and a lot of Caribbeans tend to be Adventist, so I did not know that. Yeah, yeah, for sure. For sure. Especially like Jamaicans so when I got into college, I was rooming with a roommate that was a high school classmate of mine and she was a Christian and but like a non denominational Christian. And you know, kind of more conservative, right wing leaning as much as you can get 18 at 18. You're just following what your parents tell you to do. Okay, like I was too. And now I have my own thoughts, obviously. And you know, I've able I've been able to flesh them out a little bit more because I've had more experience, which is used more kind of on that side, and in the very, very beginning of college. After the first couple of months I experienced the sexual assault Oh, and oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So my whole world kind of like got turned upside down. And I think I wasn't like going to church in the very beginning of college. But after that, I was like, okay, maybe I can try to get in cool with these adventus go to church go to their potlucks join their club, but they have to have events or whatever. And I met, again, a couple of nice people that were around my age that were, I think, genuinely good people. And they were just trying to their best, and they're young and young and dumb. We're all young and dumb. But again, I was going through that sexual assault, and are these people that I can really talk to about that? No. Are they going to blame me? Yes. So it's like, I really couldn't relate to them. And I don't think they could really relate to what I was going through as far as like, the trauma that I experienced. So and you know, I didn't have a car. So to get to the church was all due on the other side of town. So I would have take the bus that only ran every hour on a Saturday. And if some event ran late, then I was going to be SOL. And even some weird things happened. Like I remember I had dreadlocks in the very beginning of college, or I started them. Like, in the very beginning of college, and I remember one of the guys in the church, he said to me, you know, like what, what man is going to want to have a wife or girlfriend that has dreadlocks. Meanwhile, all the girls love my hair, like, like, the girls are always touching my hair, they love the hair. But But this man who is a black man, a dark skinned black man, he says to me that my dreadlocks are not appropriate for to be a woman to be a wife.

Arline  26:52  
That is, I don't know exactly that experience. But I don't even know how to articulate my question. You know, like, he has the privilege of being a man. But he also understands the systemic, like with racism. And yet here he is feeling this is okay, to tell you how you should do your hair, because that's because it matters what some imaginary future spouse may be remotely interested in. I'm so I'm sorry, I don't I don't know how to

Cat Delmar  27:21  
what to say. It leaves a person speechless. Like kind of to hear these things. And for me to even repeat it back. I'm just like, wow, like, if someone were to say that now I would just rip them a new one verbally, you know, because I've been able to come up with clap backs as as I've gotten older. But when I was younger, I was just so shocked. And again, you know, having this religion, it teaches you to be modest, and to be quiet to shut the EFF up. You know, you're a woman, you're places to be quiet. So even though I didn't really fully believe those things. I wasn't fully invested in that, in that doctrine. It's still had an effect on me to be quiet and to not rock the boat and to not be controversial. And then it's the it's the self hatred piece for me as well, because and I learned more about my history as as time went on, but being a person of African descent of West African descent, because I know that Ethiopians have a different relationship to Christianity than West Africans do.

Arline  28:27  
Ethiopian Christianity is very old, isn't it? It's much older, very much, much older. Okay, that's

Cat Delmar  28:32  
much older. Christianity didn't come to West Africa until the Portuguese brought it there. And like the 15th century, I believe. So this religion was was forced on my people. And, and it comes with the racism. You know, the sexism, the homophobia, like all of those are intricately tied into the Christianity that was taught to, to my people, to really all Americans. I mean, you know, in the Americas, it's really the same thing. We're all we're indoctrinated with this BS. So then for someone to say that to me. I mean, it's just par for the course for this religion. Like how could he be uplifting me as a woman as a woman as a black woman as someone that has dreadlocks? That's not fitting into the status quo? How could he How could he uplift me? He's literally been fed his entire life. A racist, homophobic, sexist. Prejudice prejudicial doctrine. Yeah, so it's not it's an I was shocked back then. But I'm not surprised now. Yeah, it's just another arm. But what we've been taught is just another arm of, of supremacy. That's what it is. Christianity, the way it's functioning the West. I'm not saying all Christians are this way. Oh, yeah. But it is an unconscious bias. And it's and they're unconsciously being too Hot. This rhetoric, they're not even aware of it. Even if they have good intentions, they think they have good intentions.

Arline  30:07  
We're swimming in it, we have no we don't. We don't even know that it's there until someone points it out. And then as as a person, like, as a white person, I have a choice. I can be super fragile and embarrassed and like, have all my feelings and center them and be like, because it's what I want to do. Oh, my goodness, I just got embarrassed because this person called out something that I said or did, or I can be like, okay, they are showing me that I have been swimming in this. And now I either pay attention to it or I don't. But moving forward, what no better do better. No better do better. Or worse.

I don't know where you were headed. You were?

Cat Delmar  30:54  
Yeah. So this is me in college. And it kind of remind me of something a quick tangent, but then I'll bring it back to college. I'm pretty good at staying on task pretty good. But it just reminds me because we're talking about how we're swimming in this. And it's not really I don't think any white person, black person, Asian person, Spanish version, you know, purple goo, whatever, should feel like, well, I'm just the scum of the earth, because I am what I am. But we all have a responsibility to like you said Know Better do better. But for instance, the other day, I went to a church service, because my cousin had a baby dedication for her baby. And I was going there to support my my cousin, and my family. It was at a nondenominational church, a pretty large one, I would even consider probably a mega church. And the sermon was racist, it was homophobic to a predominantly sexist. He even talked crap about progressive Christians. And he's saying this to a predominantly Hispanic and black American slash Caribbean American congregation. And everyone was like, yes, Pastor. Yes, say that. We're enjoying this like repeating what the pastor was saying. Because I didn't want to repeat what the pastor was saying, because I wasn't in agreement in agreement with what you were saying, my aunt hit me with a pen that she had in her hand, she hit me because I wouldn't repeat what the pastor was saying. So again, talk about swimming, it's swimming in hatred. Yeah, and someone has to be put down. For other people to be elevated, that is the Western Christian, theocratic way, like that is Christian supremacy, we got to put these people down, to lift ourselves up, we have to have an enemy to rally around. So Let's rally around, let's talk crap about you for being from the Caribbean. You know, if you practice any sort of voodoo, whatever your piece of crap, you're not going to be saved unless you come to this site and do what we tell you to do. To practice this religion in this way, that has nothing to do with your culture, forget what you know, and conform so we can control you. I mean, I don't even know if all pastors know that's what they're doing. But even if they're not conscious, that's what they're doing. They're trying to get you in line to forget yourself, so that you don't feel anything. You don't feel that you're being that hate is being, you know, spat at you from the Pew. You just, were just, everyone was just internalizing these hateful messages. Imagine what that's doing to their bodies to their souls, their minds, hearing those messages day in and day out. I was aware, but I was literally having a panic attack in in the church at the time.

Arline  33:54  
Who because again, your body knows it. And it makes you wonder how disconnected the congregation members have to be from their own bodies, their own consciousness, their own, like your own morality, to be able to just suck it all in and think it's good and think this is good and right.

Cat Delmar  34:13  
Sometimes it really just hits me like how sinister and insidious all of this is. And the thing is, sometimes it's difficult to feel these feelings everyday because I have a job to do. I've got to take care of myself. But when I'm in those quiet moments, maybe when I am in the shower, or before bed, sometimes it really gets to me, or I'm driving, you know, on a dark road or whatever and Movie Night. I'm like, this is really actually evil, that the goal of these people, even if they don't know it, is to make us feel disconnected from ourselves. Because when you're disconnected from your natural spirituality, that is when it's very easy to subjugate you. That's one of the ways to subjugate somebody is to disconnect them from their natural spirituality.

Arline  35:02  
I love that. What do you mean by that? Because, yeah, what do you mean

Cat Delmar  35:06  
that to disconnect them? Well, to disconnect them from their connection to themselves and to their desires, to their physiology for one because like you said, these people, maybe they weren't noticing their heart racing or their breathing, breathing, quickening, maybe those maybe those anatomical responses were suppressed for me. I was like, wow. I'm also like, he talked about how nature was evil. So when I say natural spirituality, I even mean like your connection to actual nature. Because he was he talked about how crystals were evil. Hello, crystals grow on the ground? How are those evil? What? How does it make sense? He talked about how Hurricanes were evil. They're a natural phenomenon that has no consciousness or like, you know, he was like, so what? Like, it doesn't even make sense. Like, how could he even say that he's not, he's not a meteorologist or anything like that. He was just, he was just going off in about incense was evil. So is perfume evil to? Who gets

Arline  36:19  
to decide which versions of different things are good and which ones are bad?

Cat Delmar  36:25  
Exactly? If instance, is evil, how come holy water is not? You know, if Mala bees are evil, why are Catholic prayer beads? Okay? It's just, it's like, there's a lot to me. There's a lot of witchcraft and Christianity, a lot of magical workings in Christianity, but it's their version. That's okay. Yeah, kind of like the superstition. Just like a superstition. The Christian ones are okay. You know about the angels and the demons and all that stuff. That's okay. But if it has any sort of indigenous African sway to it, that's evil, is because they don't want you to actually connect to your roots and to connect the land. Why do you think we have so many people fighting about? Or how about this? Why do you think we have so many people? Yeah, fighting so that we don't know America is real history. Why are the American Indians all but erased from general society? It's, I'm not trying to be a conspiracy theorist. I'm really not because my place is not really in the political realm. I really more about like, if, if what I say can help somebody, undo some of the brainwashing that they've experienced, then, then I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose. Because I don't want anyone to have to go through what I went through for as long as I did. And just the ramifications, you know, especially like, yeah, the physic ramifications just like trusting my body. Eating Disorders, it was a lot, a lot most physical. Yeah, eating disorders, you know, sexual assault, maybe that would have been prevented if I were more grounded in myself. You know, I have a fiance now. And I know a little bit of our tangent, I'm trying to get back to like, where we were talking. But yeah, with my fiance, I sometimes have a hard time. Oftentimes, I have a hard time being intimate, in in the moment with this person. Because I've been taught that this is wrong, this is evil. We're bad. Like I can't even I can't even mesh with this person the way I want to. Because, again, that disconnection from self was a byproduct of this religious upbringing. And I will be damned if my relationship has issues because of this stupid, religious upbringing.

Arline  38:59  
You are not alone in that. And I'm sure you're aware how many people assume a little bit older than you. But it's like, there's a generation plus of us who our marriages and our sex lives and our just friendships, relationships, monogamy, non monogamy, so many things that people are like, I'm just trying to figure this out. Because I spent the first 20 years of my life being told there's good there are good things and there are bad things. There are holy things in there are simple things. And suddenly now I'm like, Oh, I don't believe any of these things. But but they don't just magically go away. When you change your thinking. It doesn't it doesn't work that easily.

So how did you get where you are now?

Cat Delmar  39:52  
Okay, so, um, so in college, essentially. So I'll kind of fast forward now. So in college I broke away from that group of adventurers that I was kind of hanging out with. And because I couldn't, I wasn't living in my body. Because I didn't know how to, I would do a lot of things to self medicate. And that lasted for years. Although I'm a decently intellectual person, you know, I'm, I'm a little bit of an academic, but I'm also not like a type a weirdo. But yeah, I want to be a smart person, I want to have a career, whatever. So in college, I struggled in college, because with that sexual assault, I couldn't focus on school. So obviously, I turned to alcohol, I turned to to abusing drugs. I turned to sex with people that I wasn't happy with, that I didn't have a real connection with. Because the thing is, I'm not a person that's like, oh, you know, non monogamy is a bad thing, or serial dating is a bad thing or anything like that. I don't, I think you have to do what is edifying to you. But for me, I was trying to fill the void. I was trying to numb myself out. And so I ended up moving back down to South Florida and taking some classes in order to apply for medical school. But I ended up switching so that I could go to vet veterinary school. So I was taking my classes and just trying still trying to figure it out. And then I got into veterinary school. But I hear I'm struggling string struggling, I wasn't healed. You know, I still was self medicating. So that the veterinary school and you know, I'm alone, you know, in the Midwest, it's cold, I have no family. I am. It was not a very diverse school, like I was in a class of like, 160, something I was the only person with two black parents. So you know, so it wasn't very diverse. There were a lot of microaggressions. There's a lot of racism. And it's a lot of prejudice there in Midwest. And I remember all those shootings of unarmed people were kind of making the news cycle more regularly, like he was, that's when it really like and then I would say like the mid 2010. That's when it really started hitting the news cycle a lot more. And it was very disheartening, because I felt like the Christians that I knew, because that's kind of when I started trying to go back to the Adventist church one more time, because there were a few of the Adventist churches in the area. And there was one that had a young pastor. It was a predominantly African American church. And I was like, Ah, I guess I'll try this one out. And of course, he did speak to some of these issues of police brutality. But the classmates that I had that were that were Christians, they were very conservative and didn't think he's brutality was a real thing. They just weren't safe people to talk about about these issues, you know, politics or not like they weren't safe, and they didn't seem to have much sympathy or empathy. For what I was going through, like, my Luckily, I had my dog, like, that's my soul dog. He got me through, like, and that's why I became a veterinary in the first place because I don't know animals, they just have this light about them. They're just so pure. Even the ones that are trying to kill you, in the clinic. Are friggin pure. Like, I know, you're trying to check me out right now. But it's fine. Yeah, it's like, there are times where he was all I had, like, I'm just crying, crying on to him. His face is what with my tears. So I was like, okay, these people are supposed to be Christians are supposed to be all about love. And wasn't Jesus supposed to be about justice about the little person? Supposedly, but I'm not feeling that at all. Right now. I'm feeling very isolated. And I just don't think these people, whatever doctrine they believe, I don't think that is aligned with who I am as a person, my heritage, like my, my values. And so that's when I was like, okay, like, I need to start researching maybe more about, like, what were Jamaicans like, what did they believe? Maybe indigenously

Arline  44:14  
like, oh, wow, yes,

Cat Delmar  44:17  
you believe the indigenous people of Jamaica, but also like, the Africans, like, What were their belief systems? What What were they taking from like, what what kind of things were maybe preserved? Because that's another thing if Christianity so I'm all about love and light, and about peace. Okay, so why do you have to wipe out other people's religions? Why do you have to, you have to make Obeah illegal and punishable by death in Jamaica, if you're all about love, and light and peace? Why did you take these Native American children and forced them into these boarding schools, take them away from their families, and try to make them mold them into whatever you want them to be? That's not right. Hmm, part of Western Christianity has been about erasing histories and creating new dogmas and new standards. So in that, it pissed me off like so much like how much of our history was taken away? And like, where maybe all of us where this nation could be now. Generally, if we did have we didn't have this overarching I know there's no main religion United States, but there's a de facto religion in this Christianity.

Arline  45:37  
Christianity, I think, at least for now is still the majority. Yeah, know how it's changing or anything.

Cat Delmar  45:43  
Still the majority for sure. So yeah, sometimes that just pisses me off so much. I was thinking about that in in veterinary school. And so I researched more about that. And I talked to some people that were more like indigenous practitioners like that practice, Voodoo or practice of nature be spirituality, or they practice witchcraft and things like that. And I was like, Okay, this is more edifying to me, because it, it speaks to the connection with nature, it's uplifting to people of all genders, and all races, all sex orientations. It's really about looking within and not just like taking what someone tells you. And when I say, like nature based spirituality. I'll use that as the catch all because a lot of things fall under that. Yeah, it's really about looking within during your shadow work. And not just taking what someone tells you as truth, like you, it's about finding your own truths, through through your experiences. And through opening yourself up to these experiences, taking that quiet time to meditate, or being out in nature, or to write or to read, listen to your body, body, paying attention to your breathing, feeling your heart. Like just those simple things that you don't need, or want necessarily some crystals or some stage, those things are are ways to get yourself into the headspace and to create a setting. But really, all you need is yourself, you know, to practice, to practice on a nature based spirituality.

So and so then over the years as like, like towards the maybe the end of my graduate studies, and then go up until now that's kind of what I've been trying to do. And that the pandemic helped a lot with that because it gave me a chance because I was struggling a lot like mentally still struggling. But the pandemic just gave everybody a chance to just sit down and shut the EFF up and to evaluate what was going on. Like, you know, why are you still self medicating, with bad relationships? Like you deserve more than that? I know that you weren't told that when you were growing up in this fundamentalist religion. But yeah, you deserve to say no, you deserve to do things that only feel good for you. You know, not everyone has access to your time or space. These are like radical thoughts for me. But yeah, the pandemic really gave me a chance to and connect with like minded people that also were on a similar path of like, internal work, shedding the lies that we were all fed as children.

Arline  48:36  
Now, were you able to find real people to have these conversations with or resist online? Because I know for me, it's been only for the most part online.

Cat Delmar  48:44  
Oh, well, yeah. Yeah, for sure. I think mostly online. But I do have I'm very lucky to have a few people that I know like IRL, like in real life, that are also kind of more on the nature based side there's like spiritual but not religious, that are just on on this earth to try to figure things out and to try to do the best that they can without dictating other people like what's the right way? Yeah. I have a few people in my life like that. You know, online like Instagram with the whole like, hashtag deconstruction and everything has been so helpful, because everybody's different like this podcast is the graceful atheist right? But there and there are people in the deconstruction community that yes, are atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, there are people that are still Christians, there are US Hindus, Buddhists, and X X then juggles of all sorts. But we all respect each other. And we're all just we're all invested in the idea that your spiritual path is yours and yours alone and no one else can tell you what's right for you. It just the audacity of these fundamentalist religions. tell people that they know you better than you know yourself. It's just, it's really so I feel like an obvious feeling of disgust right now when I think about it. But that's not what, you know, all of us that have kind of, you know, for lack of a better term woken up, the rest of us are like, you know, she's an atheist. She's doing her thing. She respects me, I respect her. That's the Yeah. And I always say, use this phrase, that's the reasonable conclusion that she came to, based on her life experiences. You know, my reasonable conclusion was nature based spirituality, because, you know, what, to me, water is life. So if anything's going to be God, it's going to be water. So that's kind of how I would sum up what I believe. But, yeah, so and that's what I can't. That's the conclusion that I came to, because when I was suffering and crying, and, you know, depressed, where did I go to find healing and defined edification, I took my kayak out, by myself exposed to the elements. And that's where I found peace. So that's what I came to. And that's me that I would not say, Oh, you have to be a sea witch to to be, you know, right with with the world like, no, that's just what I decided to

Arline  51:21  
do. And it makes sense. Thinking back to the ancient times, people worshipped the sun, they worshipped the seasons, they worshipped water. And it makes sense. I mean, these are the things like you said, that give you life. Without them, we will die. If we can't guarantee that the sun is going to come back in the springtime in a way that's going to make everything start growing, it's going to get warmer. That's bad for everyone. I love springtime, that's one of the things that gives me hope is just every spring, I know, like today, my boys and I went to the State Park. And we walked by some plant, I don't know, plant was a plant. But it had little buds. And I was like, ah, spring, like, I know, it's only February. And it's kind of a faux spring in Georgia where it's warm, and then it'll be cold again, but it's, it's like it's coming the birds, I can tell the birds are changing and, and getting excited about finding a mate. And I just love it. It. It sure totally makes sense. And it's funny, you know, the, the atheist world. We're very, like sciency. And we just like research and blah, blah, blah. But it's like, there is so much science and research behind like, oh my gosh, just go outside and be around trees, go look at water, just quiet yourself sit somewhere, that there aren't other people or there aren't buildings like you just there's there's so much truth in all have that it is very healing for our bodies and our mind. And yep, everything that you said definitely.

We're coming to a close. Is there there anything I should have asked cat that I did not ask that you would like to talk about? We have a few more minutes.

Cat Delmar  53:06  
Oh, I just have like one other thought, I guess. Because I do think that like my beliefs isn't for me, it feels. Not saying that it's concrete. But like, again, like you were saying, though, the water, the sun, all these things are things that we can rely on that we need to live. And there are things that I can touch and that I can access. Whereas, right so that to me that that is concrete in that we can physically access these things. A lot of the more lofty things like if I'm going to place like an actual deity onto it, those are things that are can't necessarily be proven, you know what I mean? So for someone to use their deities as not just a personal like totem, but to try to expand that to everybody else. And to try to make it fact, it just falls apart every single time. And maybe that's why I would maybe consider myself more of an agnostic theist. At this, at this juncture, just because I cannot say with certainty, where the heck we came from, why the heck we're here, or where we're going. I can't say that. And I say that to my mom all the time. Like we don't know where we came from. Where the heck did that Big Bang come from? Like, whatever created us, entity or whatever. It's beyond probably our understanding. It's beyond the time and space probably of this dimension. So I'm not even going to pretend to apply what I believe to every single universe and all time and infinity. So it is to me foolish for any religion, to again claim to be the only one And that's what I hold on to. Because once I started to think more along those lines, that's when I started to feel more freedom that I could leave. Seventh Day Adventism. Because they don't have they don't know the truth, none of us know the truth. They're just using this doctrine, because it's a way, it's popular enough, enough people are invested in this belief system, so enough people can be controlled with it. So that gives me some sort of peace that I know once I started to believe the way I do believe, that's when I was able to stop drinking, stop having relationships with people that were sucky for me that we're emotionally unavailable, you know, start working on my career and like being where I am now where like, I have money to eat, and I live in a nice enough place, and I can afford to bring my fiance from his country over a year, things like that. I wouldn't be able to do that if I were still being harmed, really just being harmed by this religious indoctrination. Yeah. So it's given me a peace, a taste of freedom. And I'm craving and yearning and reaching for that every day.

Arline  56:18  
I love it. That's awesome. I love it so much. Cat, how can people connect with you online?

Cat Delmar  56:23  
Okay, well, I have an IG. And so the name on there is Cat Delmar, but the handles at cat mangrove cat like the animal with like the chain. And so it has my link tree. So I have a Twitter and a little YouTube channel that I have a couple of videos, I might post a couple more. But I'm really not like a camera person. I like to write way more. But I have a couple of things I want to get out. And I rant a little bit in this interview. But I just feel like I wanna at least have a space where if someone has been feeling like me, like they're questioning Adventism or questioning their religion, like at least they can be like, Oh, so this person went through this, this and that. And they came to this conclusion. Cool. Alright, so it's possible. So yeah, the Instagram is probably the best. And then you can find all the links from there.

Arline  57:12  
That sounds great. And yes, we'll put everything in the show notes. So Kat, thank you again for being on the grace faith. Yes,

Cat Delmar  57:18  
no problem. Thanks for having

Arline  57:25  
me, my final thoughts on the episode. I really enjoyed this episode with Kat. This was a fun conversation. I love hearing how passionate she is the things that make her angry and frustrated and the things that that when she was younger, she had so many questions that couldn't get answered. They just they couldn't get good answers. And now she can think through things and ask questions, and wonder and seek all and hope and beauty, in nature in her own body in her relationships. Without the shame and guilt. The shame and guilt may still come every now and then. Because years and years and years of being indoctrinated with things like it doesn't just magically disappear out of your body. When you change your beliefs. That's just not it's not a true thing. But she is finding hope and beauty and wonder in the world. And it's fabulous. I just love it. This was a wonderful, funny, enjoyable conversation. And Kat thank you again for being on the podcast. It was a pleasure.

David Ames  58:40  
The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about meeting new people. If you've listened to the podcast at all, you know that I definitely an introvert. And all of us have just gone through an incredible amount of time during lockdown and COVID. And it just feels like we are now coming out of our cocoons for the first time. This weekend, I had the opportunity to go to pod camp in Portland, Oregon, where a bunch of independent podcasters got together and we got to share ideas with each other. This is the first time for a non work event that I've been in a public venue and it was amazing. I got to meet really very interesting people. And I also had the opportunity to share about the podcast with literally brand new people, people who had no context and see in many of the people that I got to speak with the sparkle in their eye. Just the title graceful atheist, the concept of secular grace, something that my motivated reasoning leads me to believe that people really want and people really need and it was really exciting to get to share with people who had never heard of the podcast at all, as well as share a bit of experience of building a podcast And what that is like. But the point I want to make is that we may need to make an effort, particularly those of us who are introverts, to connect with people to connect with people who we don't know, connect with people who are literally strangers. A little bit of effort on our part will go a very long way. Trust me coming from an introvert, it was absolutely worth it. We should make that a practice in our lives. I am very interested in in person connections with people who are in the deconversion anonymous Facebook group and or just people who have listened to the podcast. I really want to encourage you that if you are interested in all in starting something in your area is super simple. You can just throw something out there meet at a library or a coffee house and you will be amazed at the connection that you will get. I'm trying to figure out how we can make this more practical and easier for people to do. I'm very much interested in your participation. Let me know your experience. If it works, what doesn't work. And let's see what we can do to help build human connection in the secular Grace Community. Next week is Joanna Johnson, who has written the book silenced in Eden. It is a painful story of sexual abuse and recovery as well as her deconversion you're not going to want to miss 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. Do you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show? Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Stephanie: Deconversion of an MK

Atheism, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Hell Anxiety, Humanism, Missionary, Podcast, Secular Grace, secular grief
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Stephanie, a Deconversion Anonymous group member. Stephanie grew up in the Assemblies of God church as a Missionary Kid. Her younger years held all the trappings of white American evangelicalism, from conservative Christian school curricula to a paralyzing fear of going to hell forever.

“The ‘hell belief’? It’s a sticky one.” 

Stephanie’s beliefs, however, had been set on precarious foundations: Christians are good and everyone else is bad; the Bible is true and inerrant; the Earth may look old, but it is only thousands of years old. Stephanie made friends outside the church as a young adult, and these new relationships plus great documentaries and books cracked open the bedrocks of her faith. 

It’s been a long time since she deconverted, and she is living a life she loves by loving others without reservation. This is true secular grace, Humanism 2.0.


“I have always felt strong emotions when I was participating in any of these very charismatic services, a lot of crying, a lot of emotion, but I’m not one of those people who really felt like I was talking to God, that He was talking to me. I was wishing desperately to feel that, [though]…”

“I had a very severe fear of hell.”

“I was jealous of the Baptists because they had the thing called ‘eternal salvation,’ that once you were saved you were always saved.”

“The ‘hell belief’? It’s a sticky one.” 

“You can’t raise a kid in one culture and then drop them off in another and that be okay…You can’t do that to a child.” 

“If you don’t hold to the [inerrancy of the Bible] very strongly, you can hold onto your Christian beliefs much longer.” 

“If you are raised that the Bible is inerrant—We stand on it firmly!—and then you [hear] all this evidence that it’s just not inerrant…then it all just kinda tumbles in on itself.”

It’s over. I don’t believe. I don’t believe any of it. It was just a quiet moment inside my head with no fanfare, no tears, no nothing…”

“I can hold out that there’s a possibility that some sort of entity out there may or may not have sparked everything, but I don’t see any evidence for it, and I’m not wasting mental energy on it.”

And then last fall, I finally managed to get a position as a nurse scientist where I helped design studies help other nurses put studies together, help them look for evidence, help them critically evaluate the evidence. I love my job. I can think of nothing better than I could do.


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest patrons on Melissa and Susan, thank you so much for supporting the podcast. I also want to thank my existing patrons Joseph John, Ruby Sharon, Joel, Lars Ray, Rob, Peter Tracy, Jimmy, Jason and Nathan. Thank you to all my Patrons for supporting the podcast. If you too would like to have an ad free experience of the podcast you can become a patron at atheist. If you are doubting or deconstructing, you don't have to do it alone. Please join our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous. You can find it at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Stephanie. Stephanie is a missionary kid she grew up in Brazil. At 18 She was dropped off back in the United States where she experienced a lot of culture shock. Stephanie admits that she was not very much of a Christian humanist. Her deconstruction and deconversion began with simple things like nature shows and science shows. Stephanie was a nurse for many years she went on to become a nurse scientist where she does research and supports her nursing staff. And today she is very much a humanist and concerned about secular grace and caring for people. Here is Stephanie to tell her story. Stephanie, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Stephanie  2:10  
Yes, thank you for having me.

David Ames  2:12  
Stephanie, I appreciate that. You. You reached out to me. I think you had heard me on the I was a teenage fundamentalist podcast and I told a bit of my story. And it sounds like it touched a chord for you. And you reached out.

Stephanie  2:25  
Yes. And at that point, I started listening to your very first podcasts and it. I mean, I listened to a lot of podcasts. And I listened to a lot of nonbeliever podcasts, and this one has just really aligned best with my way of looking at things.

David Ames  2:47  
That's awesome. Thank you. Yeah. I cringed a little bit when people start with the first ones. The first ones were ROVs

Stephanie  2:55  
were but hey, I've gotten I've been kind of kept. Whenever I have spare time I catch up on them. And I'm up to I'm up to like about a year ago, I can see like enormous progress. But heart was always there. And that's what kept me coming back and listening.

David Ames  3:14  
Well, thank thank you for saying that. I do feel that that the core idea of secular grace, the core ideas of caring for each other. And through this process, not having people go through it alone was there from the get go, whether we executed well on it or not. So we're not here to talk about the podcasts. We're here to talk about us. As we as we always do want to hear about your faith tradition, when you were growing up.

Stephanie  3:39  
My faith tradition growing up was a sin was Assemblies of God, just very, very always in the Assemblies of God. My mother literally went into labor as they were heading out the door to go to church where my dad was pastoring

David Ames  3:56  
Okay, okay, so you were a PK as well? Yes,

Stephanie  3:59  
I was, uh, yeah, I was a PK. But I don't have memories of that. Because we left. My father felt a, you know, call to the ministry. And when I was about two and a half years old, my parents moved our family to Brazil. They were Assemblies of God, missionaries there. I'm gonna try to think it's 3040 years, something like that. Oh, okay. Yeah, it was I want to say it was probably 40 years because hey, I was two years old. When it started. My middle brother was already with us. My youngest brother was born in a hospital in the Amazon region of Brazil. So that was a challenge. My parents, we live for a short time in the Amazonian region, but the vast majority of their the time that I grew up was in the southern Part of Brazil which is very urbanized, big city, certainly was not technologically up to the US and had lots of poverty. But it was a very modern city. And in fact, it was probably more of a big it was much bigger city than I've ever lived in and even till now. So it was big city living when people think that you're out in the jungle.

David Ames  5:23  
No, no was that the experience of like the, forgive me if I get the term wrong, but the favelas like the very shanty kind of housing

Stephanie  5:32  
was favelas were just all over? Yeah, it just wherever there was land that nobody was protecting, a shantytown would set up. And that was part of life, if there were floods, the favelas were getting washed away. And I didn't really even understand that. And I also, even though my parents in the US lived a very meager lifestyle. I mean, missionary work doesn't pay well, in Brazil, because of the way that just what you can buy. With more with less money. We were considered upper middle class, we were we were way wealthier in Brazil than we were in the US making the same amount of money. And therefore we had a lot of luxuries that we didn't have in the US. We had a maid who worked like, I don't know, 50 hours a week, and we paid her better than any of the other maids. But we still didn't pay her a lot. Yeah. And she lived in one of the shanty towns close to our house. That was generally kind of how it was those were the folks who wanted to come work for us. So my faith tradition was assemblies to God, we were. We were braised Assemblies of God, I had a salvation experience when I was six. for what that's worth, yeah,

David Ames  6:57  
okay. Yeah, deep sinner at that time. Yeah.

Stephanie  7:03  
I knew that it was very important. My parents who made it very clear that this was important, but they are really wonderful people, they really, were never going to be like, on my case, to do all the things that needed to be done. They really thought that it needed to be something that you wanted to do. So I give them great credit for that. As I grew up in Okay, so the missionary thing works different with different denominations. The one that we were with you were generally in your country of ministry for four years, and then back in the US for one year to visit all the churches touch base, tell them what you're doing and pass out those pledge cards. Yeah. Which was a lot times the child's duty, the children's pledge cards and stamped nicely at the front,

David Ames  7:53  
just to jump in here. I don't think most people understand that. People who haven't done missionary work themselves that missionaries have to raise their entire salary themselves. And so it's like a politician, you have to, you have to raise your own money in order to go to the country. And that can be super challenging.

Stephanie  8:13  
Well, that's for some of the missionaries, not those lazy Baptists. I say this very tongue in cheek, but the Baptist some and I don't know which set of Baptists because there's so many flavors, but in general, they have like a missionary fund that everyone contributes to and then I mean, it sounds really communist, I think, yeah. So yeah, but the Assemblies of God made you raise your funds individually, and you could not go back to the field if you had not hit your goals, and made your budget, which is wise. Because plenty of other people that are at the Assemblies of God mission is very well run. It's a very organized, we got to see lots of bad from other missionaries with a bigger denominations. And that's it's a really well organized mission organization. But we would come back to the US we tended to live in the southeast

it was around, oh, when was it? 1112 years old, that I had a big praying through at the Michigan School of missions that we would go to holy hill of Springfield, Missouri, and I received the baptism in the Holy Ghost with speaking in tongues. I wasn't even going to say anything to my parents, but my brother's ratted me out. I just it was a very personal thing. And our parents just were very respectful that yes, we had nightly devotions we do I had intense religious instruction from them, they they did all these things, but they did not push these items. I never had pressure from them to do any of these things.

David Ames  10:13  
And just a real quick question was did that feel real internally to you that felt like,

Stephanie  10:18  
I always have experienced strong emotions in when I was participating in any of these very charismatic services, a lot of crying, a lot of emotion. But I don't I'm not one of those people who really felt like I was talking to God. He was talking to me, I was reaching desperately to feel that and I believed other people were feeling it. I believe that what they they felt something I couldn't. I couldn't tell you that it was something for me. But I also knew I really needed to do this. My parents particular belief was that you needed to be saved. Baptism in the Holy Spirit and water were optional, but very, very good options. Very strongly recommended options.

David Ames  11:12  
Yes, for the listener, who may not have grown up in the Assemblies of God, like it really is. You're kind of a second class citizen. If you if you don't speak in tongues. Yeah,

Stephanie  11:22  
yeah. I mean, they need to at least Yeah, you need to, as far as like, the experience of glossolalia. As I came to find out it is later. I don't believe I was making it up. But I do believe that it was a psychological reaction, a kind of group. Think type thing. Because I never experienced some people do experience it when they're not in groups. I did not. That was not my normal prayer. preteen, I wasn't good at that. I tried to follow a lot of routines of developing my spiritual life, my my relationship with Christ, I was very good at doing all the things I needed to do. I would read the scriptures, I would pray on a very regular basis, even when I didn't want to, because I knew I needed to, because I had a severe fear of hell. Okay, theory severe fear of hell. And as you know, with the Assemblies of God, they, I was jealous of the Baptist because they had that thing called eternal salvation. That once you saved you were always saved. I came to find out that that's a little bit nuanced man to understand. But I, you know, there was, there were people that were getting rededicated to Christ all the time, because they had fallen away. And you know, what, if the rapture happened, they were getting left. And so anytime my mind would be wandering, and I wasn't really good with my relationship with Christ, I would be terrified. I would cry to God to please save me. Forgive me for my sins. Yeah. I literally used to have a thing as I'm sitting on a plane taking off, because you, some people do have existential moments then. And I'm like, Okay, no, this is a good time to make sure I'm good with God. Salvation back, just in case, we're not good god checking in, forgive me my sins in case we go down.

David Ames  13:27  
It really does. Like, with hindsight, you realize that it is fear based, that it's driven by fear. And that's not really a great way to live.

Stephanie  13:38  
No. And so I started struggling with really severe anxiety in my middle teens. I believe it was somewhat prompted by the thought that I was finishing my coursework pretty early, which was in the accelerated Christian education system, which is a whole different topic that I can't even get into. But, yeah, it's on par with Abeka. If that's all you're very, very conservative Christian curriculum with extremely slanted Christian nationalist views, didn't know that that was a thing. But yes, it was there. And I was going to leave my parents and I was going to have to go back to the US because it wasn't really a thing that you stayed in the country with your parents.

I really relied on them to feel okay with God. And I was starting to have a lot of doubts. And I have really struggled to try to think what started these doubts. When did they start because they did? Definitely, were not always with me. I was a very solid believer as a child as a young teen. And I did actually hear somebody speaking on your podcast. stuff about the ancient Oh Akkadian gods or something. And one of them was L and I'm like, oh, you know what? When I was in my mid teens, I was a vigorous book reader. I was reading a James Michener book. Yes, I loved those things. Called the source and it was about you know, if you know, James Mitchell, he does vast historic fiction covering decades, if not centuries, and this book covered the the beginnings of even I think it had like prehistoric humans, like non human human creatures. And it covered like the first people who started to realize religion and one tribe meeting another tribe, and the one tribe believed in this spiritual B, they call it L. And how this woman brought the belief of God and I kind of wonder if that didn't start to make me think like, wait. Yeah, yeah. I don't know I now looking back, because the time was pretty coincidental that it would have been around that time that that would have been the probably the first time I would have ever encountered any kind of literature that would have caused any doubt because I was very sheltered. I read only the things that I was doing. And James Michener is good, you know, all these books. So I wonder if that had something to

David Ames  16:32  
do with it. So I read all kinds of secular stuff. So I read a lot of fantasy novels and science fiction novels. It It amazes me now in hindsight how almost all of that genre, or those genres have elements of critique of religion, that I was somehow I have this deep in the bubble, I was I was somehow able to say, well, that's not that's not what I've my relationship with God. And I was able to just push it off to the side and ignore. And you know, now with hindsight, it's like, wow, that was just a major theme and all of that literature.

Stephanie  17:04  
Yes, I need to get into some of those. Because yes, it is. And I became very good at eventually locking down those bad thoughts. Because it led to pathological paralyzing anxiety. I could not, couldn't function. I couldn't go to school. I couldn't do anything except cry. I mean, it was really like at night when things would quiet and the thoughts would crowd in. And I was most terrified of going to hell, because if you don't believe in God, you're going to hell, the hell belief. It's a it's a sticky one. Yeah, it doesn't. You know, and I, there was a lot of me that believed I should believe in God. But I was struggling, I wouldn't say I lost my belief in God. At that time, I was just wracked with doubts, right? Yeah. And that kind of persisted. Until I was probably 16, my youngest brother had a very bad health scare. He had a rice syndrome. And he was he was bad off. And I saw my parents really struggling with that. I mean, they, they were, I mean, as you might imagine, they're in a foreign country, and their child is having a severe health crisis. And so he did pull through that, and I'm just like, I, I gotta get my stuff together. I can't, I can't. And I know that my anxiety and psychological condition was distressing my parents intensely. And they were thinking about having to leave Brazil and not come back until I was fixed or whatever. And I did share with my mother that I was having doubts about God. And she took it pretty well, because it wasn't like I said, I don't write. Anyway, we, I just decided, You know what? I'm done with the doubts, I believe, and any thoughts that rise up in your head. I've never been good at meditation, but it's almost like what they tell you about meditation about like, kill that thought. That blocked focus, kill that thought focus. I was able to do that. For a long time. I was able to pull through that and graduate from high school and then yes, then my parents left me and they left me in the US as an 18 year old who was really probably not ready for that. But

David Ames  19:42  
can I ask it what you know? If you grew up in your teen years in Brazil, was their culture shock coming back to the US?

Stephanie  19:50  
Ah, that is probably the one thing that I do. I am a little bit upset with my parents because they thought All the other missionary I don't think they realized how big of a deal that is. You can't raise a child in one culture and expect to drop them off in another culture and be okay. Yeah, it's, it's, uh, I mean, now with all that I know about, you know, development, child development, mental development, the contact I have with, with psychology that's just that you can't do that to a child. Not on it not expect big problems. But I pulled through it. I did have to go live with my aunt. Oh, yes. So I tried to attend the southeastern Assemblies of God college. I think it's a university now. But whatever, that last year.

David Ames  20:45  
That sounds familiar. Yeah. And then now my university no longer exists.

Stephanie  20:51  
That lasted a whole two weeks before I started having panic attacks. And just needed to go somewhere where I had support and I landed with my favorite aunt. And I mean that completely my mother sister who took me in and took an extra child and to take care of, and I lived in a closet in her her kids play room. And that was that was good. That was good. I had support. I had someone who loved me and could just provide a it was still extremely hard. It was extremely hard. I was trying to go to college, I was somewhat succeeding. I was poor. I was very faithful in a local Assemblies of God church. I was, in fact, I drew incredible strength from that. I I heard somebody talking recently, and they're like, and man, I was at the church to three times a week and I'm like, slacker. God. That's not enough. Sunday, twice on Sunday. And then Tuesday, youth service, then Wednesday prayer service. And then hopefully, there's a Friday get together small groups. So that was my level of need that could I you know, I don't I didn't know what I was doing. But I was seeking that community support to cure rounded. And it helped. It helped me It helped me have a community that I needed. I had lost all my other community.

David Ames  22:29  
Exactly. You're literally alone. You know, I know your aunt supporting you. But yeah, you have no community. And so obviously would reach out for for that. And there it is on a plate.

Stephanie  22:39  
Yeah, there it is on a plate. And you know, they were good people. And I had a lot of social capital as a missionary kid. Okay. That was worth a lot. I mean, missionary kids aren't known as screw ups. They're known as like, really good kids. And I was I was a really good kid. And I was well accepted. There. But that was I remember one time my car broke down. I was in the middle of nowhere, not anything bad. And I had the phone number for the pastor of this church. And I called him at 11 o'clock at night, and he came and picked me up and took home and ask zero questions, then, I mean, that's that I had support. I had support. I was attending college, I felt like I might want to do nursing, because that was a degree that I could get in a couple of years, and I had an interest in medicine.

Nursing turned out to be a really good fit for me. I got my associate degree there, you can enter nursing with an associate degree. I worked at the local hospital. I did well in that as time passed. So now I'm in my early 20s, I started looking back I probably had more community developing with my work friends, and I started pulling away from church. Also because night shift work does not Yeah, Night Shift and weekend work does not always match well with the with the hospital job. So I wasn't out of the church, but I was I was not attending four or five times a week. I was maybe going to Sundays a week, a month, two Sundays a month, which is terrible by my previous standards.

David Ames  24:39  
Yeah. And you're not getting that reinforcement. So we talk a lot about the need for that reinforcement for it to work.

Stephanie  24:47  
Absolutely because I feel like I had one of the slowest deconstructions ever, okay. And I would not say that I was having any knew doubts about God at this point I still was I was very firm in my belief and I was not readdressing them. I got a little bit adventurous felt like I might want to date or whatever. took up travel nurse jobs and wound up in Texas and found a man and married him. I know that's a lot. happened like that. Yeah. Okay. And almost that fast. And yet, we're still married 20, almost 25 years.

David Ames  25:31  
Congratulations. Yeah, let's go. Yeah, yeah.

Stephanie  25:36  
So when I came to when I met the husband, Patrick, I was I convinced myself that he was a good Christian who had struggled with his faith in the past. And I completely do not put any fault on him for miscommunicating that you hear what you want to hear? Yeah, I heard he went to a Christian university. I heard he wanted to be a missionary when he was young. I heard he led all these different ministries with his parents. I heard that he had some doubts after his father died. But you know, he worked through them. And he spoke Christianese.

David Ames  26:17  
It was, yeah.

Stephanie  26:19  
It wasn't until we had been married, I think two solid years that he said, No, I am really not sure there is a God. And that that devastated me. But I, I was just convinced that he was a Christian. Now we weren't churchgoers. We had looked at churches, we had tried different churches. He grew up Church of Christ, they're not really into the super charismatic stuff. And so we would try different places. We really liked the Liturgy of the Presbyterian churches, that was nice, but nothing, never. We just never hit with a place. And so we're just kind of out of church. And he also decided to get a degree in nursing. And we we know that you get paid and paid best when you work nights and weekends. That did not match well with going to church.

David Ames  27:20  
And you do what you have to do, right? Yeah.

Stephanie  27:22  
I mean, yes, it did pay well, and we weren't that dedicated to. I was still very much believing I was a Christian. I would still every few months have the panic moments of God, I'm so sorry for my sins, please. Re up my salvation. Please. i It wasn't really until I went back to school when I was pretty much 40 years old to get my bachelor's degree, and they required a whole bunch of liberal arts degree or liberal arts courses, including a world religions course. Which is astounding when you start doing that. But as a preamble to that I had read a book just for my own entertainment. The Infidel by il en Hirsi Ali. That's her. And she gives an excellent account. I know that she you know, today has some issues that whatever her book was very good for me. Yeah, yeah, he gave a very detailed account of how she became a very dedicated, fundamentalist Muslim, and her personal journey, becoming close to God Allah and it was identical to what we Christians are supposed to do and very confusing to me. It really planted a deep seed. I don't think I came out of that. But I came out of that book with like, wait a minute, I need to look at some things you can't develop a close relationship with the wrong god. Not possible. That's something something some part of this equation is wrong. And I don't know maybe, you know, maybe we're worshipping the same God. But then how is she doing it wrong the whole time. And yet she's developing this close personal relationship with the right God I took there was too many questions. Yeah. And I that bat put a severe blow on my faith but it also been a long time so I wasn't that close to the church. So this wasn't so like personally traumatizing okay, because I had the distance at this point to be okay with it. I was in a safe place. My husband was not a believer.

David Ames  30:00  
All right, you had rooms in question further if you needed to.

Stephanie  30:03  
Right, so and so then I take the world religions course. And I'm just like, Okay, everybody, the big thing that I got out of that is no, no, no, the Buddhists really aren't trying to be evil, that people who have their elder based worships, they're really trying to do all the same good things that Christians are trying to do. You mean, we're all just trying to be good. I don't understand this, because it was pretty inherent in my religious education that all these other people are just demonic and evil. And they they want to do bad. In Brazil, there's a strong spiritist movement, which is a it's a religion that has risen from the tribal religions of Africa along with some kind of 19th century spiritualist beliefs. And you know, what I come to find out later, they're really just trying to get close to their ancestors in a series of gods, but to us, all they did was get together and invite demons to possess them. And it's just a whole different perspective that No, no, we're all just trying to get to be good.

And then I had to take ethics, okay, which was a whole review of different philosophies so that you could understand where ethics arose. And it was just shocking that all these ancient Greeks were thinking about such serious things. And I have never, I've never been introduced to that in my AC e curriculum for are not going to talk about anything outside of the Bible, or people who specifically addressed the Bible. So it was it was mind blowing to, to have that thought about what is good. And I'm like, but good is God. Yeah, yeah. And it's like, no, no, but why is God good? Is he is good. Is God good? Because he has to comply with some good ethic that existed prior to him overs God, good, because what he says is good is good. And that was a mind blowing thought. I mean, literally felt my brain kind of exploded inside my head. I'm not joking. I had a physical sensation,

David Ames  32:47  
I believe here. Yeah, that is, that's quite a quite a moment.

Stephanie  32:51  
And at this point, I've kind of abandoned the God of the Bible. And I'm just holding on to some deistic belief of some sort, not not even like a liberal, I had a super quick, liberal Christianity phase like it didn't it didn't materialize to anything. And then my husband starts playing Bart Ehrman videos, and that that's probably what did in all the God of the Bible, because, you know, it's one thing if you get raised in a church with pretty easygoing views on the internet and the inerrancy of the Bible, if you don't hold to that very strongly, then you can hold on to your Christian beliefs much longer, in my opinion. I agree. Yeah. If you are raised that the Bible is an error, we still don't stand on it firmly. And then you provide all this evidence that will but it's just not.

David Ames  33:53  
It's demonstrably not. Yes. It's,

Stephanie  33:55  
it's not even like up to for debate with anybody who's done any kind of minimal study. Well, then it just kind of all tumbles in on itself. Because I, I built my belief on the inerrancy of the Bible, and that it was accurate and historically accurate. So that that was a big thing. But I still wasn't like really sure about all the evolution stuff and all the age of the Earth things. And there are a few more documentaries and one boring documentary about the layers of silt in the ocean that just clearly demonstrate the age of the Earth and the progression of creatures that get deposited and I'm like, Okay, now it's over. I don't believe I don't believe any of it. And it was just a quiet moment inside my head with no fanfare, no tears, no nothing. Just don't get out. No, none of that. None of that. I mean, I can hold out the possibility of there being some sort of entity out there that may or may not have sparked everything, but I don't see any evidence for it. And I'm not wasting mental energy on it. It's not important to me, I don't. And I don't I had, so I was probably around 42 Or three. In fact, I just found a Facebook look back post from 2012, where I had just passed my ethics exam. Okay. And that was like, Okay, that was right at the beginning of the end. And within about a year, it was over. And it was all over. I had no more. No more supernatural beliefs. I I had finished by 2013, I had finished my bachelor's in nursing. I fell in love with research. Love it. That's apparently a weird thing for nursing, I felt compelled and encouraged by my wonderful husband to pursue a PhD in nursing so that I could do research. Yeah, that was a long, hard battle. If you get a legitimate PhD, in Obi Wan. It's it. It's hard. Anyway, I defended back in 2019. And then last fall, I finally managed to get a position as a nurse scientists where I helped design studies help other nurses put studies together, help them look for evidence, help them critically evaluate the evidence, I love my job, I can think of nothing better than I could do.

I will bring up the I got to change bosses when I come to the new job. And she has been an amazing boss. Heavily demonstrated by the fact that right after I got hired on I got a call. So September, I started the new job. November I get a call from my our text from my sister in law who lives in the town where my parents live and saying your dad's taken a turn for the worse. Dad had been suffering with vascular dementia for two or three years, not very long. Apparently, it's a very rapidly progressing form of dementia, which I had witnessed. And it was so fast for what I have been able to see as a nurse over the years. So I got a call, he's taken a turn for the worse his hospice nurses worried that it may be today. And I'm like, Okay, I'm coming. And I booked my plane ticket, right there. And then I notified my manager who said, Go, Go be with your family. Don't worry about it. Do not worry about it. She was amazing. That's not the attitude that most bedside nurses get exposed to. They're like who's going to cover your shift?

David Ames  38:10  
Right, right.

Stephanie  38:13  
I recognized how valuable that was. And I arrived on a Tuesday and that had rallied just a little bit. But he wasn't really able to speak. And I knew that he was close. He had been kind of sick for two weeks. But he can't be as debilitated as he was in come through. Even like I think he had a mild viral something and it triggered one more stroke, because he would have strokes off and on. And then he just couldn't. He couldn't swallow and he was struggling to breathe. Anyway, I spent. So I arrived Tuesday and Friday afternoon, I saw very serious signs. Before I get there, I still am not out to my family directly. I have I have shared with my middle brother that I consider myself closest with him. That I mean, we share my husband and I shared that we went to like American Atheist convention. I think we didn't have to come out and say, Hey, we don't believe in God. I think that was pretty clear. You know, and me participating and talking about the things we were there doing. But I never revealed any of that to my parents. And I don't want to hurt them. Yeah, I don't want to hurt them. And my father by the time I was kind of really realizing my lack of belief. He was already suffering from dementia and I just don't know how much I don't want his just couldn't burden him.

David Ames  39:55  
It's definitely I don't know how much of my story you know as well but I have this Same experience, I lost my mom about a year after my deconversion. And I was unable to tell her there just wasn't the right moment. It didn't happen. You know, I sense that it would have done more harm than good for her. Right? And when you actually care about the other person and sometimes unburdening yourself isn't the right move. And like, there's nothing to feel guilty about. There's what I'm saying. So,

Stephanie  40:23  
no, I don't feel guilty, I feel like I did the right thing. I feel like I do have that strong. I did, as time passed after my end of my Christianity, I don't even know if I would call it a deconversion. It was a very slow death. I do have a personal ethic. And I do identify as a humanist. Not only that, but I don't think that I was a Christian humanist, I don't think I was a good humanist. My beliefs were very driven by extreme right wing politics, I was very judgmental, I was very black and white, I did not accept Shades of Grey, I wasn't that nice of a person, I don't think I have moderated that and tried to look at people as individuals who have their quirks and bumps, and are still people who need help. So as I, so I did start identifying as humanist, we actually, I think I am currently a member of American Humanist Association, we went to a few meetings in our area, didn't really bond with the folks there, they were a bit older than us. And then the pandemic hit, of course, so that kind of, I don't think we've gone back since then.

Wanted to navigate this time with my family in a caring way. I mean, who does it but I was trying to be very balanced between accepting all their needs to be very Christian and very event, evangelical during this, my father's dying process. And knowing that there's, there's no need to even get into this. And part of that is going to be me participating in some of these things. So as I'm sitting there, helping mom educating her on what I'm seeing as the dying process, I, you know, would give different advice on nursing care, she'd derive great comfort from me being there and having some enhanced knowledge. As the last moments approached, I saw signs of impending death. And I I gathered the family and said, I think this is it. I think he's, I think he's at the very end. So right now, just talk to him. I mean, they had been doing so all along. Sure. I said, you know, whatever, whatever you think would make him happy do that. And my aunt and Mother start seeing singing old gospel classics, and, you know, in nice harmony, which they were two little PK, so they tell you that and we're all joining in, there's prayers going up, but there's mostly just singing and telling stories. And they, you know, don't you think dad's going to be thrilled to go up and hug Cassie? who passed away two or three years? Isn't that wonderful? He always loved her and I'm just participating in the Congress. I'm not what why am I gonna like rain on this parade this? I don't have anything. I'm going to go Yes. Like, He'll be so happy. Not because I'm trying to be deceitful because I'm trying to comply, provide comfort and be in the moment with everybody. And it truly even though it was very sad. I truly don't believe my father was suffering any. And I truly believe that. That's the way I would want to

David Ames  44:23  
go. I surrounded by your loved ones. Absolutely. Yeah.

Stephanie  44:27  
And I told them that I said it when it's my time to go. I want to be surrounded by all my family who loves me the most singing to me telling me what great stories. Yeah, there are really good deaths, but they're better deaths. And I think he had a pretty good one.

David Ames  44:47  
And I think you played a major role in that. Like, you know, just being there comforting mom, you know, having some real practical advice. Yeah. First of all, I'm very, very sorry for your loss. I know and how devastating that is. I know that you mentioned Off mic that you just heard the episode where I talked about my my father in law and I had with not as intensely attached because it was a father in law. I loved him dearly, but But obviously, I don't want to compare in that way. But like having the sense of being there for the family, allowing them to express their faith in the way that they did. And just being supportive, like physically helping us where I could that kind of thing. And, like you say, Man, that is, you want to be surrounded by the people that you love when you're when your time?

Stephanie  45:36  
No, that's we have not found out how to make death optional at this point. And so I'm very pragmatic. When and if it's my time to go, I want it to be as free of pain as possible. Don't be surrounded by my family love, and you may, yeah, yeah. And we had excellent hospice care. They this this one hospice nurse, he was kind of hilarious. Well, he was a Yankee. So first of all, and he had a tough, crunchy outer layer. But when it was time, he was the most supportive person possible. And he would speak to my mother at the appropriate level, very frank, honest, but on a layman's terms, and when I told him my experience in nursing, he spoke to me in very precise medical terms. And we collaborated very thoroughly on his end of life care on dosing him with morphine and him giving me some safe parameters to raise his dose or hold off or whatever. And whatever decision we made. We were supported. And so I couldn't ask for more from the hospice staff. They were amazing. But I really felt that I was able to be a support to them. And I mean, they said that, and then that goes further, because I actually my husband, one, he's had multiple previous careers, and one of them was a funeral director. I know a little bit about the funeral business, and the psychology of funerals. And you know, the important thing is that funerals are about the people that are here.

David Ames  47:33  

Stephanie  47:34  
Yes. They say that in a completely Christian environment. Yeah, yeah. Because that's who's paying their bills. And so I recognize that as mom plan, dad's funeral, this funeral is for her, right. And it's going to make her happy to do what she believes he would have liked. But it's for her. It's for her, and it's for my brothers. And it's for me, and my dad loved him some old fashioned hymns and church camp songs. And so we came up with a list of songs. And they planned that his service would be truly a celebration of life, with mostly concentrated on singing, all his favorite songs. And they tried, they called one of the older men who hadn't been up in pulpit doing music ministry, and forever, because he would do it very old fashioned. They, they called all the old choir members, because this church is trying to modernize and they've gotten rid of the choir. So I mean, I don't care. Yeah. Anyway, they did all the multipart singing, and I got up in there, and I sang all those songs. I think that's participated. Because to me, that was my way of paying tribute to my family. And I hope that they don't misinterpret that I have actually thought a lot. When my father started showing signs that he was going to deteriorate in a matter of a couple of years rather than decades. I kind of started thinking, if I don't ever think I would come out to my father and tell him that I believe in your God. I can see that happening with my mother for many reasons. She's, she's very, very fundamentalist and her beliefs, but they actually raised us, telling us that we were always allowed to ask questions. And we were always allowed to respectfully address anything that we wanted to and I'm sorry, but I listened to that. And that's where I wound up was questioning everything. But I could see myself talking to her about this one day it wouldn't be right away. Sure. She's grieving me But if it ever came up, I would be comfortable sharing that with her. I think it would break her heart. So I'm probably not going to be the one who goes there. But if it gets brought up to her, that's okay. Anyway, I, I think that the process of my father dying was much easier for me to navigate than it would have been otherwise, because I chose to take a hand and being his caregiver. And that may have been a defense mechanism. I don't know. But it felt natural. And it was appreciated.

David Ames  50:50  
Well, and I think a couple of things, the participating, then physically participating, it's why why ritual is still important, right, right, is a part of the grieving process. And so being a part of that the before, the, during the after, is a part of that grieving process. And, and I think one of the great ironies of deconversion is that we actually get to grieve, we don't have to say to ourselves, well, they're in a different place, and better, right, we can just mourn the loss of that person and celebrate their life. And, and there's something much healthier about that as a grieving process than then pretending that they're still still with us somehow.

Stephanie  51:30  
I mean, I feel that is such a huge difference. Because it changes the way that my husband and I relate to each other, we choose to do things that make us happy. And we don't like, back when I was a, I was a non humanist Christian, I would just decide to be mad and not talk to him for a while. And now I look at that and go, that is a week of our tiny little time and a half together, that has been just, I just decided not to take it. That's stupid. You know, and not that I'm not going to be mad if I need to be, I'm going to deal with it. Because that is just stupid. We only get a blip of life. The ones who live to be 90 years old, we only get a blip of light. And I want to, I want to fully experience that. And because I do feel committed to humanist principles. Part of that is my nursing profession. I want to pass joy to as many people one of the big things I do in my job now is sitting down with nurses who want to fight want to look at doing a research study or want to look at doing an evidence based practice project. They're terrified of the process. And a, I understand. Yeah, I used to be there and be come sit with me, and I'm gonna, I'm gonna take this beer out. If it's the only thing I do today, I want to take the fear of this away from you. Because I've got you, and you can do this.

David Ames  53:22  
That's amazing. Like, I think, you know, mentoring, especially in your expertise is such a valuable thing. You're passing on knowledge you're supporting and enabling their success, and then what they do that affects people's lives literally physically. So that's a profound piece of work you're doing.

Stephanie  53:42  
Yeah, I had some fears. When I was leaving the bedside nursing job. I worked in the NICU. That's very gratifying. We, I've worked with the majority of the babies I worked with were on their way to recovery. And it was a very gratifying work. And you do get at you know, you can get into a whole debate about altruism. Is there any true altruism, I kind of don't believe there's true altruism, I think we all do good things, even if it's to make ourselves feel good. And that's probably why I did a lot of the things in nursing that I did is it's so gratifying and instant reward. And I'm worried about moving into a role like this. I'm moving away from the bedside and I'm not going to be sitting there making the babies happy again. Am I going to because I know that that's important to my ego, to my you know, that Freudian type of ego and I have been so rewarded. Working in this role. I get that interpersonal reward from working with the nurses and working with other people in the departments but I I truly see that and I see the fear melt away. I mean, I've had a lady in here Monday, that was like almost paralyzed. But she had a project she really felt strongly about, like, Tell me more. Oh, this is cool.

David Ames  55:16  
That's awesome. Yeah, that's fantastic.

Stephanie  55:19  
That that is very rewarding to me. I look forward to a long career doing this, but hasn't been made. So

David Ames  55:27  
well. Definitely you have the my vote for humanist of the year I think that got some incredible work that you're doing. I loved your story. I think the element of just the evidence piling up and just being willing to accept that even down to you know, a documentary about the sediment, right, like just being able to let that absorb and get past the protections and is so profound, and I think many many people are going to hear their themselves in your story. So thank you so much for telling your story on the podcast.

Stephanie  56:00  
Well, thank you for having me.

David Ames  56:07  
final thoughts on the episode. Stephanie found this podcast by hearing me on sister podcast, I was a teenage fundamentalist. What all of us have in common is the Assemblies of God and a Pentecostal background. What makes me slightly different is that I didn't grow up with that. I became a Christian in my teenage years, and thus avoided some of the things that Stephanie describes in this episode. That real honest fear of hell, and hell, anxiety and that lingering in her words, she says, The hell belief is a sticky one, that was a struggle for her to get over. I really love Stephanie story that a nature show talking about silt layers, and the obvious implications for the age of the Earth, began her deconstruction. Stephanie clearly has a scientific mind. She loved doing nursing, but then continued on in her education, getting a PhD and becoming a nurse scientist, where she supports other nurses. That inquisitive mind, I think, was always working and maybe doubting her story is not unfamiliar that she was doubling down and forcing herself to believe and ignoring her doubts through most of her life. I love her description of her deconversion she says it's over. I don't believe I don't believe any of it. It was just a quiet moment inside my head with no fanfare, no tears, no nothing. It can be that simple. I'm so glad that now Stephanie has the freedom to love people that prior to her deconversion she was more judgmental. And that's all part of being within the bubble of Christianity. Stephanie's heart comes through here in this interview that she actually really cares about people going into the nursing profession and and now as a nurse scientists supporting nurses, you can hear how much she cares about people. And I am so glad that the concepts of secular grace and humanism are now meaningful for Stephanie, as she can embrace the people around her and love them without hesitation. I want to thank Stephanie for being on the podcast for being so honest and vulnerable for telling her story. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for being on the podcast. The secular great start of the week is the freedom to love people. We say this all the time. But one of the great ironies of deconversion and deconstruction is being released from the feeling of obligation or the perception of obligation to be judgemental to hold some imagined moral line, such that we held people at bay, we held people away from us, and we mark them as others, all the while as Christian saying that we loved people, and that God loved him. This side of deconversion, you begin to recognize how judgmental we have been, we have to have a bit of grace with ourselves as well and not to beat ourselves up about that. But the exciting part is then the ability to just embrace the humanity and others. And ultimately, I think this is what humanism is, this is what the acknowledgment of human rights is, is the Express statement that all human beings have value, that we assert it so that we recognize that everyone is worthy of love and respect and acceptance. And we don't need to play mental gymnastics to say that we hate the sin but love the sinner. We can just love people and people are complicated, but that's okay. This is the core idea of secular grace that we embrace. As our humanity so that we can embrace the humanity and others and that we can truly love them. We've got some wonderful interviews coming up. Up next is our Lean interviewing cat. After that, I interviewed Joanna Johnson, who's written a book called silenced in Eden, and many more lined up after 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 Mackay beads. Do you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show? Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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Useful Terms and “Stupid” Questions

Blog Posts

What is “cognitive bias”? What’s the difference between “deconstruction” and “deconversion”?

Deconstruction has been a “thing” on the internet for several years. Joining a movement after it starts might mean there are terms people use all the time without explaining. Moreover, you may feel that asking what they mean will make you look stupid.

I want to try to define a few terms. These definitions may be incorrect in important ways, but they should be less wrong than not knowing. Knowing them may also get you a meaningful part of the way to fuller understanding.

Here goes!


When I use deconstruction, I mean “digging into the hard questions about your worldview AND being willing to consider doing something different based on your answers.” It doesn’t necessarily result in a complete loss of faith, but it usually does result in some significant change in your beliefs.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word used in a circumstance where somebody became more rigid or conservative. (If you have, please let me know in the comments.)

I have heard it used in place of deconversion. I’m guessing that this mainly has to do with the speed of conversation rather than using a precise definition.


This one is easier to define. It’s a loss of your current faith. Even if lose your faith, you could consider other religions or spiritual paths, not necessarily becoming an atheist or agnostic.

It can happen after a prolonged deconstruction or more quickly after something “clicks,” depending on the person and circumstances.

Cognitive Bias

This term doesn’t show up often, but you may hear the phrase, “confirmation bias.” This is a kind of cognitive bias.

A cognitive bias is a structural flaw in human reason. It has to do with how people think about certain things. Some examples are seeking evidence that supports our beliefs (confirmation bias), seeking evidence that refutes other people’s beliefs (disconfirmation bias), focusing on negative things (negativity bias), assuming that someone’s character is exemplified by a single action (fundamental attribution error), etc.

This is different from liberal or conservative biases, which have more to do with seeing things through our own worldview. Related, but worth keeping distinct.

The important thing is that it’s common to all humans. Super-smart, rational humans are prone to cognitive biases, just like the rest of us. We all have to fight them. Constant vigilance!


You also don’t hear this term often, but you may if you pay attention to counter-apologetics.

A fallacy is a flaw in an argument. For example, saying an argument is wrong because of where the proponent came from or who they are (genetic fallacy) or saying your argument gets to play by special rules that other arguments don’t (special pleading).

It’s definitely helpful to be familiar with the shapes of these fallacies.

“Stupid questions”

No definition… I want to point out that one of the joys of deconstructing is the pursuit of knowledge; knowledge that was once limited or forbidden. In fact, the even greater joy is the pursuit of knowledge in general, which is one of the most human things we can do.

As a result, it’s worth considering: Is sounding stupid for a moment worth cutting yourself off from these joys?

Suppose you ask “obvious” questions. In reality, you usually don’t sound stupid but curious. And you may do others the service of getting answers to these questions. Win-win!

A whole world of terms exist that I haven’t pursued myself–mostly around sexuality, race, and other topics of the day. I don’t know if it’s because I’m scared to ask or I’m afraid to know the answers.

Are there questions you’re afraid to ask? What other terms may be useful to define?


  • RationalWiki on Logical Fallacy—The tone of RationalWiki is less gracious than I’m going for, but it’s a helpful resource
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman—One of the most important popular works on cognitive biases. It’s also relatively easy to read.
  • The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef—A very easy and practical introduction into how cognitive biases show up, and what to do about them.
  • Deconversion—A resource on this site that David has put together.

Kelly: You are Enough.

Adverse Religious Experiences, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Purity Culture
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Kelly. Kelly was raised as a daughter in a traditional evangelical household, “indoctrinated from diaperhood.” 

They grew up perfectionistic, depressed, timid, and anxious, given Christian cliches about ‘God always being with them’ through their depression. Who they really needed were queer, whole, mentally healthy adult mentors.

“There was a dizzying array of mental exercises I had to engage in to keep the faith.” 

Today, Kelly is living their truest life with wisdom and compassion. It’s been said that we become the person we would have felt safe with as a child, and Kelly has done that beautifully. 


Marla Taviano’s books

Dirty rotten church kids podcast

Deb is Done GAP Episode

Paul is Done GAP Episode



“I didn’t know it then, but it turns out being told that you’re depraved, sinful, and worthy of literal death…really fucks with a person.”

“What I thought was being moved by the ‘Spirit of God’ was actually being caught up in the emotion [of the music.]” 

“I held onto God and my faith [after coming out], trying to find an interpretation of Christianity that would let me live my life openly and free as my authentic self…”

“There was a dizzying array of mental exercises I had to engage in to keep the faith.” 

“There were too many holes. I couldn’t patch the holes.” 

“I had lost the safety of the evangelical church but what I had found was myself.” 

“I find myself now wanting to learn more. I want to learn about all religions…I want to know everything that I was told not to learn about…”

“…when you take God out of the picture, you’re just loving people…”

“I think, maybe, that’s the whole point of life: We go through life just becoming a little bit more ourselves and continue learning and evolving.” 

“I’ve had more spiritual, connected experiences in concerts than I’ve ever had in church.” 

…instead of reflecting God’s character or kingdom, I hope that my life reflects genuine unabashed freedom…”

“At the end of the day, you are the only one who can save you.” 


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheists podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank all of my patrons who support the podcast on If you too would like to have an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at atheist. If you are going through deconstruction, doubt the dark night of the soul. You do not need to do this alone. Please join us in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find that at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arleen interviews today's guest Kelly. They were a very sensitive child in their words, empathetic, anxious, deeply feeling and people pleasing. Kelly began questioning at a very young age, they were contemplating eternity and that was terrifying to them. They tried to be the good Christian girl and continue to double down on Christianity throughout their life. Kelly came out as gay in her adulthood. Now Kelly recognizes that they are enough. And their message is that you are enough. Here is Arline's interview with Kelly.

Arline  1:50  
Hi, Kelly, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Kelly  1:52  
Hi, Arline. Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Arline  1:54  
You and I connected through a relative of yours who is super wonderful. I love her so much. Yes. And I'm excited to hear your story. Yeah, I'm excited to tell it. So usually we just begin with tell us about your religious environment growing up. Sure.

Kelly  2:11  
Well, I grew up in a family of five. My parents, my older brother and my sister and me. I'm the youngest of the family. Evangelical Christianity and the evangelical interpretation of the Bible was the only correct version in our household. Since I was in diapers, basically, I was indoctrinated into what I now view as the cult of evangelicalism. My my family brought me to Sunday school, where I was very timid child, I sat quietly paying close attention to those felt storyboards, they used to tell us watered down digestible Bible stories. But if I now now I think if I actually knew the real versions, I probably would have cried out of sadness or fear. I was a very sensitive child. But they told us that our Heavenly Father in the sky was our closest, closest connection. He was always there for us. They told us about heaven with its streets of gold and their mansions where all we did was sing praise songs to God for how great he was. And most importantly, we'd have eternal life, to see our past on family members and friends again, and I colored pictures of what I imagined heaven to be. And I proudly show my mom who encouraged my love of Jesus, and memorize Bible verses like the good little Christian girl that I was that they trained me to be. And I proudly rattled off books of the Bible and during prizes for my steadfast, childlike faith. What I didn't tell a soul about was the tail spin that my brain sent me and as I sat in the backseat of our family minivan, around age seven or eight thinking about the endless eternity, that was heaven. It didn't give me those feel good, warm and fuzzies but instead care scared me. shitless and how could we just live forever? Doing the same, doing the same song and dance and I mean, that literally as well as figuratively, for for eternity? What does eternity even look like? Also, why aren't other people freaking the fuck out about this? I push this anxiety deep into a dark corner of my self. I plunged myself into serving God, whatever that looks like with all of my heart and my soul in my mind calling back to that other that Bible verse we all know so well. As I was taught, on some occasions, I asked my mom what if Muslim This and Christians as Christians are actually the same. And I thought this was kind of me poking the holes at Christianity at a very young age. And I asked her what if we just had different names for God? Maybe they call him a law, maybe we call him Jesus. And she said, this was not true. She assured me this was not true. But she couldn't explain it to me how she knew it wasn't true, but she assured me that it was the truth. From Sunday school I graduated, I leveled up to the main search service where I took copious sermon notes on how on how I should have a child I was due to my sinful nature, but it was okay because of how great God was. And I didn't know it then. But it turns out that being told you're depraved, sinful and worthy of literal death. If it wasn't for God, stepping into send His Son to save the day really fucks with the person, especially the empathic, anxious, deeply feeling people pleasing kid that I was. Fast forward to youth group. During my teen years where I was taught about how my body was not my own. It was God's obviously, I learned to view my body as dangerous, a weapon that could be used to lead my brothers in Christ to stumble, whatever that means. And we got divided into boys and girls groups non binary was not a thing back in the early 2000s. We learned about purity culture course we didn't call it purity culture at the time, we called it remaining pure for marriage, modesty, saving our bodies for our future husbands. And I wanted to add in a side note that the gays also did not exist in evangelical spaces in the early 2000s. So any feelings that I might have had as a child I was taught to repress those deeply, which I'll talk about a little later, we took earnest notes on how to be godly women of God that were committed to following Him with all of our life. And apparently that translated into girls being required to wear one piece suits on summer retreats while our brothers in Christ walked around topless, like they were Jesus's disciples reincarnate. I eagerly signed up for summer and winter retreats, raising my arms, crying, being led by the music falling to my knees. What I thought was being moved by the Spirit of God was actually being caught up in the emotion that is purposefully communicated via the music and the melodies and all the chords and the build up of the guitar and I belted out Hillsong, which some of you might know what hell so yeah, yeah, it's a curse in classic Chris Tomlin the newsboys, which I probably attended their concerts by the way. I traveled to Louisiana with my youth group after Hurricane Katrina in early 2006. And it was to gut houses for God as what we call it really, and to spread the gospel to the lost souls of New Orleans. I was pretty chicken, I was too shy, too timid to get into actual conversations with people about God or about how they needed him and needed eternal life to be saved, but would listen at all and kind of jealousy. As my youth group acquaintances piously testified to strangers on the streets. I wanted that I wanted that bold faith, I want it to be that. So I pursued it. My junior year of high school I attended weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, singing in earnest at 7:10am Every Thursday in the library, and fervently praying with my friends for a revival to spread through the hallways of my high school. Whatever that meant, at the time I thought it was converting everyone to evangelical Christianity the interpretation that I knew to be correct. I circled the school on see what the poll day which we're all familiar with, see what the poll, walking laps and laps and laps as many as I could with two of my friends, as we belted out prayers for our lost friends and classmates and teachers.

In March 2006 I was coming to the end of my junior year in high school. My family had never been financially well off. My dad was frequently away on business trips or working long hours. We didn't talk much my dad and I but I was a teenager. And I didn't talk to my parents much anyway. One night when the whole family was home around dinnertime, my mom told my siblings and me that we needed to have a family meeting. Because there was something they needed to tell us. I immediately thought that they tell us that my dad had lost his job. Or that she needed to that my mom needed to get a job to support us further. Instead, my dad told us that he had been cheating on my mom. And in a matter of seconds, my world collapsed in upon itself as my dad turned into a stranger before my eyes, I crumpled into the sofa, and I sobbed as my mom helped me. And it was kind of as if we were suspended and a movie, I watched my dad, walk to the door, collect some bags and walk out the door with my aunt and uncle, my Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul, who actually were on the podcast previously, he never lived in our house again, and that events would change our relationship forever. I leaned hard on my close circle of Christian friends after collapsing on the floor in tears during youth group worship, and I frequently would leave the service to talk to my friends in my youth pastors office. In short, it was an event that turned my world upside down and made me dig deeper into my faith. It's interesting because my older brother and sister looking back, they took very different paths than I did. My brother and sister were also involved in the youth group, but my brother kind of pulled away from youth group and Christianity after high school age, and I saw how he processed the divorce and separation which was kind of going out with his friends and kind of distracting himself and my sister distracted herself with getting into relationship and to relationship after another that were toxic. And I dug my heels in I dug deeper into leaning on God and leaning into my faith. senior year of high school was met with apathy. But I persisted with being president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and in college, I immerse myself into church and Bible study, it's a cover up the excruciating pain and abandonment that I felt. Throughout my high school and college years, I felt intense flashes flashes of attraction for my female friends, and it terrified me. Like I said earlier, being gay and evangelical spaces is not a thing. It does not exist. It wasn't in the evangelical playbook. It was not a part of God's plan. So my feelings would bubble up, and they would come to the surface and I would freak out and I push them so hard down that I eventually now know, as internalized homophobia, I immerse myself in and it took over my whole worldview like a like a invasive weed. I spent my college years in post college years going on one date after another with one man after the next, some blind dates, some dates set up from friends of friends. Some of them led to second dates, but most of them ended in one. I could never figure out what I did. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Or like my friends love to tell me you just haven't found the right man yet. So you just haven't met him yet. He's out there somewhere, just keep the faith. So I believe them. And I kept trying. Towards the end of 2018. After a well meaning man tried to make physical moves with me on a first date, my body froze. I awkwardly found myself pulling away and everything in my body was yelling, Kelly, run. But instead, I stayed with him in his house as he asked me questions about what was going on in my head. And just like I was taught in my evangelical upbringing by people pleasing training kicked in, and kept me solidly in that space. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. After about 30 minutes, I told him I had to leave. I made up an excuse, and I left and I cried the whole way home. And I think back wondering why my body had such a visceral reaction. And the only thing I can point to is because I realized in that moment, that I hadn't been able to listen to my body and spirit everything was telling me Kelly protect yourself. Pretty Head to your heart protects your soul, do what you know to do. And I couldn't move I was frozen

in spring 2019, I couldn't pretend to be the straight version of myself anymore. And I came out as gay in March 2019, to my older brother, with tears in my eyes, my voice shaking and 29 years worth of tears of closeted tears streamed down my face. And he cried, too. I was so nervous with how he was going to react, but I knew in my heart that he was going to be a safe space, because as I mentioned, he had deconstructed from Christianity long before I had and I knew he was affirming of gay people. And I knew I would have a soft place to land with him. And he said over and over how much he loved me and how he was proud of me. And I will never forget that moment. I held on to God. And my faith, trying to find an interpretation of Christianity that would let me live my life openly and free as my authentic self. But my older sister, she's two years older than me. When she rejected that part of me. I eventually told her that I came out. I hadn't originally texted her called her because again, in my heart, I knew that she wouldn't be a place to land for my for my soul. But she told me outright that she did not approve of me being gay and living what she called the gay lifestyle. One of my friends, I kind of viewed this as a breakup, she broke up with me. This was one of my best friends. Yeah, one of my best friends from college after a decade's long friendship, called me. This was right before the pandemic happened January 2020. Saying that we were going down two very different paths in life. And she ended it with that. And I told her, okay, I guess I'll talk to you later, and we never talked again. So three years later, and that hurt that hurt like hell. Christians all around me, were turning their backs on Me, which left me confused and hurt. How could they be there for me? How could they love me and still reject this fundamental part of me. I thought they should be thrilled for me, because I was finally living without shame. And I was finally living openly as myself. And it made sense to only rejoice if one of my friends had done the same thing. I can only think how happy I would have been for them. But instead, I was met with rejection. And I asked myself, isn't that God's whole plan for us? Isn't that supposed to be his plan for us to live freely and in the fullest versions of ourselves and in complete and utter freedom? Isn't that the plan, but because I didn't follow their idea of the Bible. Because I was choosing to act on what they told me was my sinful thoughts. They couldn't affirm me. And the something, there's something extra that stings a little bit. Harder is the I love you, but I cannot love this part of you and your decision to live it out. It's the whole trope of love the sin or love the sinner Hate the sin. And I would almost rather take the outright rejection of my sister that she had handed to me one that wasn't rooted in a base of love for me even as a human. I think she at one point loves me when I was playing the straight me but she made it clear on two distinct occasions that she holds no love for the queer me. The straw that really unraveled my belief in God was prayer. I spent years of my life following my hands, my Aunt Deb and my grandma to Wednesday night prayer services, fervently praying on bent knees for dozens of sick and elderly and children dying of leukemia and lost jobs and family members gone astray. And the whole time I believed that, if there were enough of us gathering together as it says in the Bible, if even two or more of you are gathered in my name, that your prayers will be heard, if we prayed earnestly enough if, if we meant it with our whole heart that God would answer Are our prayers. But the boy with leukemia died, and the elderly were still sick, and my dad still lost his job. And my parents marriage still fell apart. There was a dizzying array of mental exercises that I had to engage in to keep my faith and I know you probably have done a lot of the same in our listeners have done a lot of the same. Doesn't God give us the desires of our heart? Or is it that our desires don't fit into the magic formula of his will? Or is it because Adam and li ne have sinned? So now we're fucked no matter what we pray for? Or is it that God's ways are higher than ours? And so they are not to be questioned? is Satan interfering? And preventing the prayers from being answered? Is our freewill holding God back from doing anything? I saw this Tiktok comment recently that said, God's omniscience and freewill actually can't coexist. Because of his omniscience, God didn't give Adam and Eve a choice. Actually, he knew what they do even before He created them. God knows whether you're going to heaven or hell before you even exist. That's not free will. And I've gotten into several conversations with some of my friends who are still practicing Christians. And I see my past self in them as I see themselves kind of working through these these mental exercises and trying to to rationalize something that can't be rationalized because when it comes down to it for me, there were too many holes, I couldn't patch the holes.

D converting was a slow burn for me over the years. I had had thoughts of, of our suspicions that I might be gay. As like I said, as early as high school when I didn't have crushes on the boys I was supposed to have crushes on. And as that continued into high school, and I dug deeper into my faith. In the back of my mind, doubts that crept to the forefront were impossible to ignore. I had to address those, I would say in mid to late 2020. That was when I could no longer hold on to my Christianity and the irrefutable truth that I had held to so solidly for 30 years of my life at this point. It was scary. I lost friends. As I mentioned, one of my best friends from college for our decades long friendship dissolved immediately. I lost the safety of the evangelical community. But what I found was myself, and I had the intellectual curiosity that I had been carrying with me, my whole life and true wonder and awe as I became more and more delightfully uncertain of just about everything. And I didn't feel fear or misery or isolation. It's interesting, being a D, convert D convert from Christianity and my family, I am not formally outs as ex Evangelical, in my close family. My Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul, and my brother and one of my cousins are the only people in my family that are ex angelical that have deconstructed their, from their Christianity and now identify as agnostic or atheist. And it used to bother me for a long time that I wanted to have this close relationship with my mom being a being a child of divorced parents, in your late teens, it fucks with you on a different level than being a child because I now I'm working through abandonment from my from my dad, I now can't relate to my mom through our common our once commonly held faith. And it has bothered me the past couple of years that I can't really connect with her anymore. We have no common thread anymore. So I would say and maybe people listening can relate to this that I'm struggling with where to find common ground with her and how to in 2023 How to have meaningful and profound connections with her when we no longer share the fundamental belief that Jesus is the Son of God that He came to die for our sins, that Christianity is the base of our lives anymore. So there's not really a solution that I can see at this point. Maybe my mom will hear this episode and realize that I am in this new space. And she will probably more than that. I've seen her on occasion after occasion, say, Kelly, I'm praying for you.

So the biggest challenge that I am finding myself facing now is finding true connection with my mom, because she is in her 60s. Now she has lived as an evangelical Christian her entire life. And now suddenly, I don't have a common ground with her. I don't have this shared faith, this shared worldview anymore. And it's interesting because my aunt who has deconstructed in her late 60s and early 70s, I've seen her her entire worldview shift. And I had always thought to myself, Oh, there's no way there's no way people can ever change when they are so deeply immersed in a worldview and in a faith. And I've seen that happen with my aunt and my uncle. And they have done a complete worldview shift. And I look at my mom, and I see the difference between her and I being this glaring discrepancy of intellectual curiosity. And I find my now wanting to learn more, I want to know about all religions, I want to know about atheism, I want to know about mysticism. I want to know everything that I was told not to learn about as a child and a teenager, and a young adult. And I look at my mom who lost her mom, April 2020. And that was the for that for her that was the loss of her her world in a huge sense. And I think the primary reason that she can't be intellectually curious, is because if she were to be intellectually curious, that would rock the foundation of her world, just like my world was turned upside down, when I realized that my dad wasn't the person who I thought he was when I was young. And I can't fault her for that. And I now find myself trying to connect with her and trying to love her in a way that is not so founded in Christianity, and it's, it's a weird thing when you're taught your whole life to love people as as God has loved you. And now when you take God out of the picture, you're just loving people. And this is a common theme. For a lot of people who have deconstructed is now I feel like I can see people for who they are. And I can love people for who they are truly at their core instead of loving them because a book told me to love them or because somebody's words told me to love them. And I'm trying to take the same approach with my mom, it's just that I haven't figured it out. So any any advice is welcome in that area. I'm finding myself trying to, to find meaningful connection with her and my other family members as well. But I'll be honest, it is an elephant in the room. We about faith. We don't talk about politics. As many evangelicals do, she is. She is deeply entrenched in the Republican conservative party, and I'm very much a progressive. Leftist, too, and she voted for Trump twice, and I did not at all so I have to find common ground with her and learn how to have deep profound conversations where I'm still making connections with her, but I'm not upsetting her entire worldview, which I haven't figured that out

Arline  29:46  
yet. Yes, I can. Oh, so many things that you've talked about, but this specifically, my real mom, I have a stepmom who raised me and my I've always just called her my real mom. That's just how we have used it and And it's similar like used to, we're both Christians and we had now we had completely different understandings of Christianity. She was more of the prosperity gospel, Jesus was wealthy, apparently, I'm gonna just like, Yeah, I had no idea. And, you know, TD Jakes and other people I can't think of right now. But so her theology was very different. But we both love to Jesus, we both, you know, the Bible is God's word, you kind of the basics, and we could connect on that. And then, over time, closer to 2016, it was like, wow, we really have completely different values. Now, we both still love Jesus, but it was just, our values were so different. And trying to find that common ground was hard, then. And now it's like, I do not have any kind of great advice for. For us, we've had to talk about things that, sadly, are not super meaningful and deep. And I've had to kind of spread my relationships out more where I find those things from other people. Because I would keep running into that Emma and my stepmom has passed away. So like, what she and I, you know, we had issues because every parent and kid has issues, but it was, I don't know, it's hard to explain. But yeah, I've had to kind of spread out my getting those relational needs met from more different people, so that I don't, you know, put them all on my husband or put them all on family members. And that has been jarring at times to remember that like, oh, this may not be a thing. And it may be one day, things like you talked about Deb and Paul like things can totally change that you don't see but you don't see coming but um, but please continue. Yeah,

Kelly  31:53  
yeah. Um, so that's kind of where I am currently. Yeah. Is I what you're saying resonates a lot with me. I'm having to find community outside of my immediate family and I rely heavily on my atheist and agnostic friends. A lot of them were also previous evangelicals. So they know a lot of the indoctrination that we experienced growing up and I'll be honest, that's that's a bitch to unravel.

I'm still unraveling purity culture, and how insidious that is. I just kind of on a side note, I didn't really realize how much of an impact that would have on my life, I thought I'll be able to flip a switch and I'll and I'll be okay. But I'm still finding myself now. It's, it's, it's hot. It's different because I've come out later in life. So I'm but I'm still finding myself unable to to make that switch. I'm still having feelings of shame come up, I'm still working through living out my truest version of myself. And I think maybe that's the whole point of life is just where we go through life just becoming a little bit more ourselves and we continue learning and we continue evolving and changing and it's hard it's it's it's not like somebody handed me a guidebook after coming away from evangelical Christianity saying this is how to D convert one on one like you mentioned earlier, like, We're all just trying to figure this shit out. Like we're not we're not able to follow the the, the the Word of God anymore, like we used to. So we are now finding ourselves in Facebook groups, or listening to podcasts, and we're making connections with people online because we don't have those connections and our quote unquote, real lives. So yeah, now I'm trying to going back to the purity culture thing. I'm trying to chip away now at this indoctrination, and I'm, I'm turning to my left and to my right and asking my friends, like, Have you experienced this? And they're like, yeah, yeah, we are still we're still working through the the teaching this. It's not just teaching though. I want to just stress how insidious it is just because it permeates different areas of our life that we just weren't even aware. Arab. So, yeah, going back to the to the community and just how important that aspect has been. When I first D converted, I did feel isolation, I felt that now that I didn't have a church to go to I didn't have the the ritual of the waking up on Sunday and going to the service and singing worship songs and spending time in that space. I almost was having to reinterpret what Sunday looks like. And at first, it was jarring. And I felt guilty. Because again, that's that good old evangelical Christian guilt that you are supposed to be dedicating your Sunday to the Lord. And if you're sleeping in and you're watching TV, that's you better have a good excuse, you better be sick, you better be dying, because you absolutely should not be doing that. But then I think with the, with the beginning of COVID, and we were now having church online, and I think me as well as a lot of other people were discovering that this might not be as great as we were told, this might not be the be all end all. Having community in a church on a Sunday, I'll be quite honest, I've had more spiritual, connected experiences and concerts than I've ever had in church, post deconversion. I've felt the Spirit move as it were singing along to one of my favorite French rappers with the with the group of 1000s that I had in my youth group services as a 14 year old 15 year old. And I can see clearly now as clearly as clear goes, you know, life is always muddy, nothing's black and white anymore. When you've D converted, everything's kind of in that fuzzy gray. But I can see clearly now that what I was told, which I was taught to take at face value, and never question to hold tight to was purposeful. They and when I say they, I mean youth pastors, main pastors, Bible study leaders, the collective they, they were telling us these things to keep us on the straight and narrow. And what was what was the what was the straight and narrow what were the straight and narrow was following the bible as we see it to be interpreted as, save yourself for marriage, live live in accordance to God's design, man and woman and then build a life with your husband and and have children and and you will be carrying out God's will. So you can see and I can see how impossible it would have been for me to authentically live as a queer person in that space. I think now looking back, if I had come out in college, I would have had no one. I relied entirely on my Bible study community and my church community and my roommates and my hall mates who are Christians, that was my entire world. If I had come out, then I would have had no one. And none of my family had D converted at that time. That wasn't even an option. That wasn't even a blip on the radar. That was I thought for sure I'm I'm going to either be a nun because the whole dating men thing wasn't working out. So obviously, none are missionary. Those are the only two options or I find myself forcing heteronormativity on myself and marrying someone who I wasn't in love with.

I got to the point where I could not compromise anymore. And the long and short of it is is that I have no regrets. I have no regrets for coming out when I did. The only regret and I'll be honest shame at some point is and not knowing that there was ever another way that there was never another path presented to me as a young queer kid. I think about how, and just decide no. So I'm a teacher, I also have been a mentor to gay and queer kids in my school. And I think about how lucky they are to have someone to look towards and to see someone modeling what it looks like to unashamedly and so openly live out who they are, which is what I tried to do now is just to be myself and to be genuine and to encourage my students to do the same with with with their lives. And I think about how drastically different my life would have looked like, if, as a 11 year old preteen, I would have had a Bible Study leader who was queer, who would have said, Kelly, you know what, you don't have to do this straight thing. That's not you. You're clear, and you're wonderfully made, and who the fuck knows who made you, maybe it was God, maybe you just appeared one day doesn't really matter. But you are you and there is no one else you should be. And I want my life to reflect instead of, you know, reflecting God's character or kingdom, I hope that my life reflects genuine, unabashed freedom. And that my testimony, quote, unquote, is that you are perfectly made the way you are, and you deserve to take up space. You deserve to fight for the things that bring your heart joy. You should never let anyone tell you that you are less than, and that you need someone to save you. Because at the end of the day, you are the only one who can save you. And I tell myself that now at 33, almost 34, to my nine year old self to my 10 year old self to my 17 year old self, you are enough for you. You never needed a god. You never needed saving from an outside source, you were always enough.

Arline  42:47  
I just want to like sit and let all your affirmation just like wash all over me. I'll be 40 In a few months. And it's like, I did not grow up in the church. But I spent my entire adult life from time I was 18 on believing the opposite of everything that you just said. And the times I have to reparent my little little Arline. That's her color. Arline. I just talked a little Arline and remind her. Yeah, everything that you just said, because even not growing up in the church, I still grew up in a patriarchal home, girls were valued less. And I was an only girl. So like I was just kind of a third wheel. And so yeah, just like I want our listeners to just pause, take this little chunk out where you're speaking and just like let it let it be true because so many of us who especially if you grew up in the church, but are Christians or I don't know about other religions, but there's just so much shame and internalized, whatever is against yourself. Like for me it was internalized misogyny, like how much I thought less of women I thought less of myself I thought less of girls and the things I believed that were just wrong, like they were just wrong.

Kelly  44:12  
I do want to speak a little bit on the importance of mental health and how it relates to my story growing up. So I do think there as as far as many insidious things as the church taught me, one of the most insidious things was God will save you from sadness. He will deliver you from oppression. If your faith is is strong and you and you put your entire trust in Him and that God can conquer anything, anything that you're going through as far as like mental health wise or, or physical health or anything. And I mentioned earlier, going to prayer meetings and fervently praying on hands and knees as a five year old, six year old seven year old. And I believed that I believed that I just needed to have faith. And if God wasn't responding, that means my faith wasn't enough. And let me tell you how that fucks with you because that puts the entire weight of the world on yourself now. Now you're saying to yourself, I need to be better. I need to read my Bible more. I must not be praying enough. I must not be witnessing to my friends at school enough. How else could these things be explained? How else could I explain going through all this shit? What's What's this all for? So I think about when I was when I was itty bitty, and we're talking like 567. And I know now that I had anxiety, I had anxiety as a kid. And that anxiety manifested itself as perfectionism, it manifested itself as obsessive compulsive tendencies, depression, there will be times when I would, I would be sitting on the sofa as like a sixth grade or seventh grader. And I would I would be so distraught I would be I would be crying, I would have my hair and like kind of veiled in front of my face, like picture the girl from the ring, like I would use my hair as a curtain like a room. And my mom would Cove come over to me and be like, Kelly, like, what's what's wrong? And I said, Mom, like, my friends don't care about me. And she said, How do you know that? And I said, I just No. And she was she was obviously taken aback by this because why would why would a kid even bring up something like this? Obviously, I had friends, I had friends that were that were loving to me, and that were always in my corner. But I was convinced to my in my soul in my being that my friends didn't care about me. And I now know, of course, that was anxiety. Of course, I was experiencing depression because of that anxiety. And because of my OCD, perfectionist tendencies, and there was no intervention. My mom didn't reach out for help professionally. Her solution was prayer was we need to pray about this. We, we need to surround you with with strong Christian role models. We need to we need to spend times on time on our knees in prayer because obviously, the devil is tormenting you. Satan is tormenting you. And he is he is infecting the thoughts of your mind. And this harkens back to what I mentioned earlier about God being omniscient. Well, is God all powerful? Or isn't he can can he stop Satan from putting these these thoughts in my head or campaign? And if he's not doing anything, well, what a shit dad that is like, who would let their child suffer in torment for years of my life. And I'll be honest, that a lot of my depression growing up was now I recognize internalized homophobia. And I was being forced to live a straight lifestyle when I was clearly queer. But to think about all that anxiety, and all that turmoil that I experienced as a kid, and no fault to my mom, because she didn't know better, but she did nothing. And no one stepped in on behalf of little Kelly. And I found myself growing up, thinking that I just need to be a better representor of God, I need to be, I need to be more in the word I need to be more faithful. And if I'm if I just do ABC 123, then maybe I'll get there. Maybe I'll maybe I'll wake up one day and find that God has lifted by depression that God has lifted these anxious thoughts from my mind that that God has made me straight. Because I can't tell you so many, so many prayers, I prayed to be straight. So many so many. But that never happened. God didn't lift the anxiety. He didn't lift the depression. And let's also talk about the fact that God could only be a he and never could be a day which boggles my mind to this day. How spirit could have a penis but you never know. But, you know, that never happened. That never happened. And I have to say like, it couldn't have happened any other way that I continually went to bat for God. I've heard a lot of guests on here talk about being an apologist and defending the word and defending God's character because God is untouchable God's ways are higher than ours. So we who are we to question Who are we to question?

So, I spent all this time running circles in my mind, for this being who I'd never seen, by the way, who I was told was always there for me holding me, but I couldn't feel anything. If anything, it was it was the worship music and the Hillsong and the newsboys that were holding me way more than anything else. But I was told that this this, this being was, was always going to be there for me. But where was he? Where were they? Throughout my whole life, I'd experienced so much, and God was nowhere to be found. And my family who are still in that evangelical space, being very well versed in being in apologetics, I would say, God did answer your prayers, but they didn't look like what you thought they would look like. There's any answer, there's an answer. There's always an answer. Yeah, there's always an answer. But sure, you might have to live in torment in your depression for decades. That's just God's plan for you, because he needed you to trust him more. Obviously, that was the only explanation. Of course, you had to live with internalized homophobia and force heteronormativity. Because you had to rely on God. Of course, you couldn't rely on a partner, you had to rely on God. You couldn't trust your body, your body is evil, your body is sinful. Of course, you had to trust God, of course, they had to be the ultimate answer, because you are not enough. And again, that's coming back to my other comment of being enough. But now, looking back, there was just so many times where I can point to tying this back into the mental the mental health piece, like there were so many points where I could have said to myself, you need to talk to a counselor, you need to see a doctor for the effects of depression that it's having on your body. You need to examine why you withhold food from yourself why you look at your body as as being not enough. And you you need intervention you you need someone you need someone and God is obviously not doing it. He's he's just not he's he's leaving you high and dry on this one.

Arline  53:07  
The Christianity I was a part of, we had just kind of a catchphrase of like, we follow a suffering Savior. So like, Why could we expect anything different? And it was very much suffering was glorified. Like yes, very much a thing.

The way you're able to tell your story is just absolutely beautiful. I have a couple more questions, but Okay, anything else you want to, to talk about that you haven't had a chance to yet. Um,

Kelly  53:44  
just to restate my appreciation on the side of deconversion for evolving and learning and giving myself grace, the name of this podcast, I love it so much because I'm constantly reminding myself that I deserve grace. I am deserving of the grace that I withheld from myself all these years. I deserve the celebration for who I am. I deserve the uplifting that I would have given God that I now give myself because now I'm pretty sure that God is me. I am God. We are all we are all divine. That's kind of where I've landed right now. I'm kind of in like a mystic state. And it's not too late. It's not too late to be fully embodied. It's not too late to to come out of indoctrination and to find freedom on the other side

Arline  55:09  
almost said Amen.

Do you have any recommendations for listeners books, podcasts? Anything that has been helpful to you?

Kelly  55:24  
Yeah, yours? Yeah. So I love Marla Tatiana. Both of her books loves so much. Yeah. Her poetry just does something speaks something to my soul. And I find myself just constantly like taking photos and like passing them on to all of my friends. And this one and this one and have you oh my god, like it's just so amazing. But yeah, I found a lot of solace. In her books, I found a lot of solace in this podcast. Dirty Rotten church kids is another one of my favorite podcasts, which is more of like a tongue in cheek comic relief.

Arline  56:10  
There is plenty right now coming out. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. Kelly. I really really enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Eileen.

My final thoughts on the episode, Kelly's ability to tell their story with compassion for their little self, little Kelly, compassion for their self now. Moving forward learning staying curious. Just so much grace, so much love and kindness for themselves. And for others. This was a really good episode for my own heart. The way Kelly was able to just speak truth. I don't know how I'm trying to articulate this. It was just it was just beautiful. Their story reminded me how there's no timeline for coming out to your family and friends with any information that is going to, to make the other people sad. These are our stories. These are our truce, these are our lives. And we owe it to nobody else. To come out as an agnostic as an atheist as not no longer a Christian no longer religious, as a queer person, as any is non binary trans to anything. We owe it to no one to come out on anyone else's timeline but our own, and to not even come out. Like we're all on our own journeys. And nobody. Nobody has a right to hear anything from our stories. If that's not what we know is best for us. So Kelly, thank you again for being on the podcast. This was this was good for me.

David Ames  58:12  
The secular Grace Thought of the Week is you are enough. Inspired by Kelly, as well as previous guests, Robert peoples who frames it as to be human is enough. I want to quote Kelly here I thought their way of framing this was really important. They said it turns out that being told you are depraved, sinful and worthy of literal death if it wasn't for God stepping in to send His Son to save the day, really fucks with the person, especially the empathetic, anxious, deeply feeling people pleasing kid that I was. You may or may not feel like you were a sensitive, deeply feeling child but many of us were damaged by the doctrine of total depravity for even faith traditions that didn't frame it in those terms. This idea your righteousness is as filthy rags. Part of that deconstruction process is to discover oneself to recover your own humanity to reject the framing that we are bad by nature, that we are evil by nature, that we are broken by nature, to accept the human condition that includes both great qualities like empathy and love and grace, as well as selfishness and bitterness and anger. That is what it is to be human. Kelly's message and Robert peoples message is that is enough. You are enough. You can walk away from that damaging message and accept your own humanity. As always, we have lots of amazing interviews coming up. We have Stephanie cat, Joanna Johnson, who has written a book called silenced in Eden 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 that you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful For blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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Poetic Humanism

Authors, Humanism, poetry, Secular Grace

Poetry is one way we homo sapiens, can get a glimpse into another’s life, into the lives of people whose experiences may be wholly different than our own. Poetry has the power to meet us where we are and possibly begin to change us. 

Humanism is about human lives–the story of our lives–both our individual and collective experiences but without any divine intervention.

Poetic Recommendations

At the beginning of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, members of our Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group shared some of their most treasured poems. Enjoy!


For more poetic humanism, check out these Graceful Atheist interviews!

Visit the link above the learn more about or join our private Facebook group.

Doubt Is a Superpower

Blog Posts, doubt, skepticism

Christians would like us to believe that doubt and skepticism are dangerous. But they’re superpowers, ways of making you a better human, not a worse one.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about doubtfundamentalism, and problems using words. I want to tie it together and talk about why doubt is safer, healthier, and better for your teeth (two truths and a lie).

I have two main reasons for saying a posture of doubt should be preferred: the limitations of explanations and the fallibility of human reasoning.

Limitations of explanations

One of my mottos is, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” (George Box). You might easily say, “All explanations are wrong,” but what does this mean?

An explanation is an attempt to describe something about the world in a way you can make sense of, even though the real world is overwhelmingly complex and impossible to understand fully.

The problem is that explanations have to simplify the world, which means you lose something in the process, making it “wrong” somehow. At the same time, we can’t live without these simplifications.

Communicators like Neil deGrasse Tyson and the late Carl Sagan face this tension in their presentation of science.

This tension even shows up in how we interact with others. How can you truly, deeply know someone when they’re constantly changing, growing, and aging? The best you can do is have a working model of who they are and continuously update it as time passes.

What to do?

Flaws in human reasoning

The more we learn about cognitive biases, prejudice, and the unreliability of memory, the more we should be suspicious of all human reasoning, especially our own. (Philosophers call this dynamic “Fallibilism.”)

And yet we find ourselves in a world where the pressure is on us to be overly confident. If we express uncertainty, people see us as fence-sitters, cowards unwilling to commit. Christianity taught us to have and crave certainty, especially about the most important issues.

What to do?

Tying it together

This is where skepticism comes in. If you hold an appropriately skeptical attitude, you can recognize the limits of explanations and human reasoning and allow yourself to take in new information. Being skeptical doesn’t mean you disbelieve everything you hear. Rather, it raises your standard of evidence. People don’t get to claim something is true without something to back it up. People don’t get to demand that you form an opinion when you’re not ready to.

So embrace skepticism! Embrace uncertainty! It’s part of being a clearer thinker.


Bart D. Ehrman: Armageddon

Authors, Bloggers, Book Review, Deconstruction, End Times, Hell Anxiety, Podcast, Podcasters, Rapture Anxiety, Scholarship
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His new book is Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End.

Is the book of Revelation a prophecy of future catastrophe? Is it a book of hope? Or is it a book of violence and wrath?

In Armageddon, Bart delves into the most misunderstood—and possibly the most dangerous—book of the Bible, exploring the horrifying social and political consequences of expecting an imminent apocalypse and offering a fascinating tour through three millennia of Judeo-Christian thinking about how our world will end.

Bart’s work has been a part of many of our deconstructions. In my interview with Bart, we get to hear his faith transition. We learn from his New Testament expertise. But most surprising of all, we learn what a nice guy he is.


Even if you think the Bible is inspired. Even if you think this is a book written by God in some way…it means God inspired a book; he didn’t inspire a jigsaw puzzle—which means, you read it like a book, and if you read a book, you don’t cherry-pick it.

The argument may seem far-fetched, but it is the kind of reasoning meant to appeal to people who are ready to be persuaded,
not to skeptics.

Apocalypses are first-person narratives of highly symbolic visionary experiences that reveal heavenly secrets to ex-
plain earthly realities.

Far more people revere the Bible than read it

Parts of our Western cultural heritage that are driven by traditional apocalyptic thinking have encouraged
fatalism and inaction in the face of our crises.

The overwhelming emphasis of Revelation is not about hope but about the wrath and vengeance of God against those who
have incurred his displeasure.

I just got to a point … it wasn’t a big thing like John had a different christology from mark
it wasn’t that kind of major thing.
it was more like, “this little detail, if I am just being honest with myself and surely god wants me to be honest with myself
and if it turns out that I am right about this if it is true then god wants me to know the truth, this little detail is wrong.
I don’t want it to be but it is a contradiction.

Once I came to that little chink in my armor then I started realizing that the bible might not be inerrant.
It opened my eyes. It took a long time. It was a very painful process for me to move away from that.
Because I was afraid of going to hell, I was afraid of losing my community, I was having arguments with my mother,
This is not good.

Within Evangelical tradition truth is really important.
There is also a sense within the evangelical tradition that there are ways to find the truth.
It is not just believing something.
When you have students studying it at a serious Evangelical school they are taught you have to look for the evidence
but once you open up the door to evidence you also open up the door to people disagreeing.

This is not a book of hope it is a book of violence

“The thing about fundamentalism is that nobody calls themself a fundamentalist. The fundamentalist is always the guy to the right of you.” 

“I started thinking [in college] that the world’s a bigger place than I had imagined as a fundamentalist Christian.” 

“If you want to understand the Gospels, you have to understand how ‘ancient biographies’ work. They don’t work like our biographies…”

“The deal is: Jesus died and his disciples started convincing people that he was raised from the dead, and the people they convinced, convinced other people who convinced other people who convinced other people and this goes on for forty or fifty years.”

“Most people don’t read the Book of Revelation; it’s just too bizarre and weird. They can’t make heads or tails of it, so they give up. The only people who really delve into it, tend to be fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals who are using it to show what’s going to happen in our near future.” 

“When you get to the Book of Revelation, there’s nothing about ‘giving and service.’ It’s about destroying the enemy. Forget ‘Turn the other cheek.’ Forget ‘Love your enemies.’ You hate your enemies and you hate what they do and you punish them.” 

“God tortures people in the Book of Revelation and everyone gets thrown into a lake of burning sulfur, [and then] brought back to life so that they can be destroyed in a lake of fire.”

“[Apocalyptic literature] is its own genre…When you’re reading a science fiction novel, you know you’re not reading a front-page article in the New York Times. It’s a different genre…An apocalypse is an apocalypse, which means you have to know how apocalypses work if you’re going to understand any one of them, including the Book of Revelation.” 




Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman Podcast



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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest Patron on Susan, thank you so much for supporting the podcast. I also want to thank our ongoing supporters, Joseph John Ruby, Sharon Joel, Lars Ray, Rob, Peter Tracy, Jimmy and Jason, thank you so much for your support. We're doing interesting things with the support money. We're using the Zoom account for the Tuesday night Hangouts. We had to change to a new recording software as a number of the COVID era are locked down era tools that were free are no longer free. We're putting that support money to good use. If you find yourself in the middle of doubt and deconstruction, you do not need to do it alone. Please join our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous. You can find us at On today's show, my guest today is Bart D. Ehrman, the UNC Chapel Hill New Testament scholar who has written a number of popular books. Many of my guests have talked about how books by Bart Ehrman started their deconstruction process. Bart's new book is Armageddon. What the Bible really says about the end. This was a fantastic conversation I really enjoyed having Bart on, he turns out to be just a very nice person, as well as being a challenge to the evangelical perspective of Christianity. Even as a non believer, what Bart pulls out of the New Testament is an interesting perspective on the Jesus of the Gospels versus, in this specific case, the Jesus of Revelation, which is a God of wrath and violence. Either way, it is a challenge to modern evangelicalism. Here is my conversation with Bart D. Ehrman.

Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Bart D. Ehrman  2:31  
Well, thanks for having me.

David Ames  2:33  
Bart. I know I'm not going to do you service here on your CV, but you are the best selling author of a number of books, including Misquoting Jesus, Jesus before the Gospels, the triumph of Christianity. Your new book is Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end. I'd like you to maybe just mention your work at the University of North Carolina and what your academic credentials are.

Bart D. Ehrman  2:55  
Yeah, sure. So after high school, I went straight to Moody Bible Institute and had a three year degree there. And then I went to Wheaton College, where I majored in English, actually. But I took Greek there and decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary, where the expert in Greek manuscripts taught Bruce Metzger. He was a world expert in this and I wanted to do that as an evangelical to study Greek manuscripts. Yeah, I did my master's degree there with him. I wrote a master's thesis under him. And then I stayed and did my PhD there and wrote my PhD dissertation with him. And so my credentials are I have a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary, in New Testament studies, with a dissertation in the field of analyzing Greek manuscripts. So while I was finishing my PhD, I got a position teaching position at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and I taught there for four years. Then in 1988, I came to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So now I teach at UNC Chapel Hill. I've been here since 1988. And I teach both undergraduate students usually introductory stuff dealing with the New Testament or the historical Jesus or the Gospels, and I teach PhD students, usually, some New Testament stuff, but a lot more on Christianity after the New Testament period, with mainly the second and third centuries of Christianity with the PhD students.

David Ames  4:19  
Is that all Bard? Is that all? That's that's quite quite the quite the bone a few days. Very, very well done. I was saying to you off, Mike, that a number of listeners, I think have been impacted by your work. Many of the listeners are evangelicals or former evangelicals, and in particular, the doctrine of inerrancy of Scripture is a rough one to get over and reading your work has helped a lot of people to just seek the truth in a different way, in many ways has led to various degrees of deconstruction. I think what they would be interested in and what I'm interested in hearing is a bit about your own personal story of faith. What was it like for you as a young person in Faith and then what that trajectory that leads you to now?

Bart D. Ehrman  5:03  
Yeah, well, so I was raised in a Christian home, we were not Evan Jellicle, we went to the Episcopal Church, and I was an altar boy and the Episcopal Church. Soon as I could be up till through high school, when I was in high school, when I was 15, I started attending a Youth for Christ group. And after a period I ended up becoming a born again, Christian. I asked Jesus into my heart and committed my life to Christ as his as my Lord and Savior. And I became very serious of angelical. And that's why I went off to Moody Bible Institute, you know, as an Evangelical, I mean, basically, I was a fundamentalist. I mean, the thing about fundamentalism is that nobody calls themself a fundamentalist. Fundamentalist is always the guy to the right of you. When I was a moody, we actually didn't mind calling ourselves fundamentalists, we thought we subscribe to the fundamentals, you know, literal virgin birth, little resurrection for the dead six day creation. I mean, these are the fundamentals of the faith. And so we subscribe to them. We were kind of proud of it. At moody, of course, they taught that the Bible is completely inerrant. There is no one set view of why it's inerrant. It wasn't, most did not think that God had dictated to the authors, because, you know, there were some there are smart people, there were smart people out there, they, they knew that when you read this stuff in Greek, there are different writing styles and different. And, you know, they knew that math was different from John, they certainly knew all that. But the words were from God, ultimately, in some way. And they were inerrant. There were no mistakes of any kind in the Bible, not just in what it taught about theology, or belief, or salvation or Christ. But what it taught about science, you know, or what to talk about history. I mean, it's just historic, this is all really happened, the way it's described. So that was my view. And I maintain that, through Wheaton, although I started, started moving a bit away from that my two years of Wheaton, just because I was taking all sorts of classes in other things. I was majoring in English literature and reading a lot of literature, reading philosophy, studying intellectual history, how thought developed over the years. And, and so I, you know, I started thinking that the world's a bigger place than I had imagined, as a fundamentalist Christian. I went to Princeton seminary, as I said, to study Greek manuscripts. And I had no plan at all of changing my beliefs. I was not going to be a non become a non of angelical. These are all bunch of liberals, what did they take? I would take a Bible class, you know, I'm talking about a contradiction between Luke and Mark. And I say, this case, you see, I don't know why so blind. He seems like he's obviously blind, what does he know? And so went on for that like that for a while. But I ended up, you know, I was reading the gospels in the New Testament in Greek. And I was reading the Old Testament in Hebrew. I learned Hebrew too, and, and I was studying it intensively. And at one point, I just got to a point where it wasn't a big thing. It wasn't like, you know, John has a different Christology. For mark, it wasn't that kind of major thing. It was more like, this little detail, you know, if I'm just being honest with myself, and surely God wants me to be honest with myself, and, and if it turns out that I'm right about this, then you know, if it's true, then God wants me to know the truth. This little details wrong. This is just a contract into that I just, I don't want it to be but you know, I it is a contradiction. Once I came to that little like little chink in my armor, that I started realizing that the Bible might not be inerrant. And it opened my eyes. And it took a long time. And it was a very painful process for me to move away from that. Because I was afraid of going to hell, I was afraid of, you know, losing my community, I was afraid I was having arguments with with my mother. I mean, it's like this is not good. It's painful.

David Ames  8:56  
It's really interesting to hear you say the same words that I hear from many of the people that we interview of just that it's difficult, even when you have admitted to yourself to then begin to take steps to remove yourself because you're losing so much and that there's so much cost at hand.

And for you, you're slightly more public figure. I think you've also had the added burden of the vitriol of Evangelicals over time. What has that been like for you like as you write these popular books that are on some level or another textual criticism?

Bart D. Ehrman  9:50  
So what really gets my of angelical opponents upset, especially among the scholars, evangelical scholars, is that the scholars know that the kinds of things I'm writing about our things that are just widely known in the academy. They just they take a different view of it, but the material I teach you know about how there are so you know, 1000s and 1000s of mistakes among the copies of the New Testament, or that Matthew and Mark really do contradict each other in places where the John really does have a different understanding of Jesus, just act as not historically reliable, Paul did not write some of the letters described to him. These things sound radical to people who are of angelical, who just have never heard of any such thing. And they think this crazy guy, Chapel Hills making stuff up. And I gotta tell you, this is stuff that anybody who goes to a major seminary or divinity school in the country, that's not an Evan Jellicle school, but if they go to Princeton, or Duke, or Harvard, or Yale, or Chicago or Vanderbilt, they'll hear this is what they learn. And they may go off to take a church and their congregation, they don't tell anybody this, but they know it. Yeah. And so when I get the vitriol, I just say, Well, okay, I mean, you know, you're not, you're not really just attacking me, you're attacking the whole establishment of biblical scholarship in the modern world.

David Ames  11:09  
Right, exactly. reading your book reminds me of my time at Bible college, I was actually at a Evangelical, very small, actually, Assemblies of God, a school that no longer exists Bethany college at the time, which was Bethany college. So very, very conservative. But I always say that my professors did too good a job, I actually, I really do feel like I learned good critical thinking I learned about good exegesis, I learned about good hermeneutics. Something that you repeat multiple times is that we have to understand what the original author intended to say to the original readers. And that always informed the way that I handled the Bible. But I think it's something that's important that you've just described. And it's true, in my case, too, is that you talked about God would want you to be honest. And I always say that the seeds of leaving Christianity are within Christianity, the need for truth, trying to be humble, trying to be honest, all of those things tend to lead away as as truth is found outside.

Bart D. Ehrman  12:12  
Yeah, it's an interesting point. Because the of course, within, within the evangelical tradition, truth is really important. And there's also a sense within the evangelical tradition, that there there are ways to find the truth. And that they are, it's not just, it's not just believing something within in Scotland, when you have students, you know, her studying at a serious of angelical school, you know, they're taught, you've got to look for the evidence. But once you open up the door to evidence, you also open up the door to people disagreeing. I always took comfort in the idea that the St. Augustine was, was a strong advocate of the idea that all truth comes from God. You know, all truth is God's truth. And so that if you, if you change your mind, and you realize, you know, just what I believed was not true, then you're not opposed to God, you're on God's side. That for me, that was very comforting when I was moving away from my Evan Jellicle faith.

David Ames  13:29  
I wanted to mention that about two years ago, probably I interviewed a student of yours, or you were on his dissertation board, at least in mills. Yes, that if you remember in

Bart D. Ehrman  13:40  
norm, well, I've been corresponding with him. Oh, very good. Yeah.

David Ames  13:44  
great person to talk to. I loved my conversation with him very, very smart. And one of the conversations we talked about was the Gospels and whether or not it's kind of fair to say that they are hagiographies. He made the argument that as a genre is somewhat equivalent to biographies or biopics that we think of today. And I wonder if you think that that's, is that fair, or unfair to say? And what are kind of the implications of that?

Bart D. Ehrman  14:11  
For a long time, scholars thought that the gospels were a genre unto themselves, scholars wouldn't put it like that, they'd say they were souI generous, and that they were their own thing. And probably about 40 years ago, some scholars started looking around and thinking, you know, it's really rare for a genre just to kind of sprang up out of nowhere. And, and they started looking at broader themes. And there was their debates about what what kind of genre were the Gospels like, and the majority of you now is pretty much what you just said that the Gospels are a kind of ancient biography. But the but the important point is and Ian would completely agree with this is that we're saying ancient biographies. And if you want to understand the Gospels, you have to understand and how ancient biographies work because they don't work like our biographies. And so but they was a it was a common genre. There were biographies of religious people. We had biographies of people who were their biography, their allegedly accounts of their lives, where they have incredible supernatural births. And they're fantastic teachers, and they can do all sorts of amazing deeds, and they're taken up to heaven when they die. And so you know, that that kind of biography is not prevalent, but that kind of biography does exist, as do biographies of, you know, normal people in the ancient world.

David Ames  15:38  
sounds very familiar. Yeah. I guess where I'm driving out, and I didn't mean necessarily to put you on the spot. But when you have a New Testament scholar, it's you got to ask these questions. Is it fair to say that the Gospels are anonymous? And if they are, is it unfair to say that they are effectively hearsay?

Bart D. Ehrman  15:56  
In my mind, there is no, it's not a debate whether they're anonymous, they are anonymous. The authors do not tell us what their names are. We have titles on our gospels, but the authors didn't put the titles on their gospels, the Gospels, the oldest manuscripts we have they have titles on them. Matthew's Gospel is called, according to Matthew. That's the title. That's a title, an author gives a book. According to me, the book, I mean, when I wrote my book, Armageddon, that's that just came out. I didn't call it according to BART. It's called Armageddon, you give it a title. Yeah. So if you say, according to somebody, what you're saying is, this is the version according to this person they went, they would think about this. Yeah. And so the deal with our Gospels is that they are all written in Greek, by Greek speaking Christians. They're almost always dated to after 70, of the Common Era. So 7080 90, and they're by Greek speaking Christians who did not live in Israel. And so the question two questions are well, could they have been Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? And I doubt it? I don't think so. But also, then, if they weren't disciples of Jesus, where'd they get their information? Right. And so I don't think I usually call it hearsay. But it's, it's that the deal is Jesus died and his disciples started convincing people that he was raised from the dead. And the people that convinced convinced other people who convinced other people convinced other people, and this goes on for 40 or 50 years. And that entire time, the only way to convince somebody to believe in Jesus is to tell stories about him. Right. And so by the time somebody in Ephesus has heard a story about Jesus, it's probably gone through, you know, even if it's like in the year 50, probably gone through 10 or 20, or 100. People before he gets it. Right. Historians would would agree, most historians agree, look, the Gospels do have historically reliable information in them. And they have material that's been exaggerated, and some material that is not historical at all. And the trick is finding which is which.

David Ames  17:56  
And by the way, I 100% agree with that. I know that the other side of the spectrum that you deal with is the mythicism side that would want to suggest that there was no historical Jesus and that I think, is equally invalid if you if you want

Bart D. Ehrman  18:11  
to Oh, you think you think you have angelical tax can be vitriolic Christ what?

David Ames  18:40  
Well, let's let's talk about the book, then the new book is Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end, I've got a quibble with you. I feel like the heart of the book, from my reading is, you're really doing this compare and contrast of the Jesus that John of Patmos is describing in Revelation versus the Jesus of the Gospels in many ways, and you're really asking the reader to come to a conclusion on that, to do these things line up. And it really isn't about the end at all. And in fact, you start with that futuristic interpretations of revelation or not really what it's about.

Bart D. Ehrman  19:18  
Okay, so yeah, it's absolutely true that that's where I end the book I end the book with comparing Jesus and and the author of the apocalypse genre Patmos, the idea of the book is that I want to show how revelation has been interpreted. And what I point out is that most people don't read the book Revelation is just too bizarre and weird. And they, they might start but they just can't make heads or tails of it. And so they give up. The only people who really delve into it tend to be fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, who are using it to show what's going to happen in our near future, that the signs are now being fulfilled. So liberal, historic Local scholars like it, you know, where I went Princeton Theological Seminary scholars there or any of the major divinity, any major Christian, biblical scholar who's not an very conservative Evangelical, doesn't accept that interpretation. Instead, the traditional liberal interpretation that's been around for a long time. It's not a liberal interpretation. It's a historical interpretation. But liberal Christian scholars look at it and say, Look, this is a historical account. It's not a futuristic account. But the theological take of these people is that the book Revelation is a message of hope. And that it's not literally predicting what's going to happen in 10 years from now. It's, it's, it's a metaphorical description of God being in control of this world, and ultimately, God's going to prevail, so that those who suffer now will will be rewarded for their suffering. And so if they just hold on, there'll be fine. And so it's a message of hope. So for years, of course, you know, when I was a fundamentalist, and even when after, you know, when I was an Evan Jellicle, I thought it was predicting the end of the world. And I realized I was wrong. And for many, many years, I held this other view, that it's a book of hope, that it's God's showing that he's going to help those who are suffering. Now, I taught it that way. I started, I came to Chapel Hill in 1988. I taught at that way until about four years ago, I always thought that and and so in my book, the first part of the book takes apart the idea that a futuristic interpretation, and I tried to show why that's not just a bad interpretation, or a wrong interpretation. But it's, it's caused huge damage in our world, right and affected things you wouldn't expect. But I did, it had does. But then the second half of the book is taking on this idea that it's a book of hope. Because that's where the Jesus, John John of Patmos comes in, because I tried to show this is not a book of hope. This is a book of violence. It is revenge, and vengeance and blood and violence. And Jesus is getting Jesus died as an innocent victim, but now he's coming back for blood. And so the reason for doing that is because if it's not a futuristic interpretation, then the other the default is, well, it's a message vote. I tried to that's not right, either. That's why I tried to show

David Ames  22:21  
you also talk about the book, The Late Great Planet Earth. And the reason I want to talk about this is that I actually became a Christian in around roughly around 1988, in that in that neighborhood. And I had no idea how much influence that book had I never read it. I've never happened to read it. But now reading your book, I realized, oh, that's what people were. That's what people referring to, and no one ever mentioned it. Maybe we'll get to it specifically, but like the the idea of helicopters and nuclear weapons being represented in Revelation, I heard those kinds of rumors, and then I would read it and not see that. And I wondered who thought of that? Can you talk about how much influence that book had on fundamentalism?

Bart D. Ehrman  23:08  
It's hard to calculate how much influence it had in the 1970s. As I pointed out, in my book, the entire decade of the 1970s, the best selling work of nonfiction, apart from the Bible, in the English speaking world, was the Late Great Planet Earth for the entire decade. The best sun, we're have not I'm talking about talked, not talking about Christian fiction. I'm not talking a religious book, I mean, the best selling. And so this thing was massively important. And everybody in my time, I was at Moody in the mid 70s. And we all you know, we just bought it, we literally bought it, but we actually we agreed. This is what's going to happen. And the Bible says so. And so. Yeah, so it was hugely influential. And it paved the way for other things, including, for example, in the 1990s, the Left Behind series, which, when the author Timothy Delahaye, died. So a few years ago, there had been 80 million copies of that thing. So and again, people just read and say, Oh, that's what the Bible says.

David Ames  24:11  
Right? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. What a very common theme of people's deconstruction stories is not only hella anxiety, but also rapture anxiety. You know, they'll talk about being a little kid and coming home to an empty house for a moment and panicking, like Yep, pretty cool thing to do to children. But yeah, it sounds like you'd like those books. That way of interpreting revelation had a really deep impact on people particularly, again, children who were raised.

Bart D. Ehrman  24:42  
Well, it also crept into popular Christian culture outside of that book when I think it was 1972 This movie came out. This is a very low budget movie night to it's called thief in the night. Everybody my generate everybody who was a teenager Evan Jellicle saw it about 20 times. And it was about, you know, the rapture having happened, and the people who were left behind, and it just scared the daylights out of all of us. And all of my friends who saw that just about every one of them tells the story of thinking that it had happened, you know, they come home after school in the mom's not there's Oh my god. And yeah, it's really damaging for some of you.

David Ames  25:24  
The one of the things that leapt out at me, in your book, you point out that the idea of, of the rapture kind of has things backwards, that in the gospels, when Jesus is talking about one will be taken and one will be left, that it's more in reference to something like the last plague, where the ones who are left are the ones who are saved, the ones who are taken or the ones who are destroyed. And that really kind of blew my mind.

Bart D. Ehrman  25:49  
Yeah, ya know, the play the COVID thing is a good example of it. I wish I had thought of that. But But it's, you know, people we have, you know, when I was in heaven, Jellicle we have all of these passages, right, that we refer to as clearly talking about, about the Rapture. And there's a passage in First Thessalonians four that everybody leaps on, but also this one in Matthew that you're mentioning where it says there'll be, you know, two people in the field will be taken, one will be left to women grinding grain, one will be taken one will be left there, yeah, okay. That's the rapture, the Son of Man comes, and they can take some out of the world. You know, after I gave up on a view, I actually started reading these passages carefully. And all you have to do is just read a few verses before this. Because right before this, he says that it's gonna be like, in the days of Noah, everybody in the world was taken, except for Noah died in the flood. So being taken is not good. You want to be left behind?

David Ames  26:51  
Yeah, I love I love that. Because I think you know, particularly any evangelicalism, you know, that has always interpreted the opposite direction. I think that's what I still appreciate about actual scholarship and actual good exegesis of biblical text is, there's actually more there than we even give credit to it at times, just as a piece of literature.

Bart D. Ehrman  27:14  
My book got published last week, and I, I've been getting emails from people saying, but you know, what about, you know, Matthew 24? You know, what about, you know, have you thought about these? Actually, if you've read my book, you will have seen that.

David Ames  27:31  
Yeah, you may have spent a little time thinking about this.

You also talk about the consequences. So we we often say beliefs have consequences. And sometimes we say that eschatological beliefs have long range, deep consequences. And you go into a bit of that of, of the political, and just world health implications of people having this futuristic interpretation of Revelation.

Bart D. Ehrman  28:14  
Yeah, I talk about several things because I want I want people to realize that this isn't just an issue for evangelicalism who get massively disappointed when it doesn't come when they think it will. That is, that is a problem. But there are there are issues that affect everybody in the world, actually. Because because of this view that that revelation is predicting the imminent future that the rapture is coming soon. A couple a couple of things, I will want to mention one thing, in particular, that isn't necessarily a problem, but it's something you wouldn't expect. This belief that the rapture is coming soon, is what has guided us foreign policy toward Israel. Right. And it's, you wouldn't you wouldn't imagine that. But the reality is that the Evan Jellicle support and for for Israel in America has always been very, very strong as it was in England when the Evan Jellicle movement was strong there in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And it's because of angelical. I've always interpreted interpreted biblical passages in Ezekiel and Jeremiah and other places, where the prophet talks about the people of Israel coming back to the land. They've always interpreted since the early 19th century, they've interpreted that as referring to Israel becoming a sovereign state again, Israel was destroyed as a nation in the second century. And it wasn't until 1948 that it became a sovereign state again, and in my book, I show that in fact, Christian Zionism, where Christians were supporting Israel, Jews going back to Israel, predated what we think of as Zionism for a long time. Before Jews were doing it, but the evangelicalism may not know this, but know the the leaders do and the historians do. One of the reasons for really supporting Israel now isn't just because of the issue of of oil or stability in the Middle East or needing a democracy there. It's those things are big, of course. But the real reason evangelicalism are ultimately in support of Israel is for eschatological reasons having to do with when Jesus can come back. This isn't a connected with a book of Revelation, it's connected with the book of Second Thessalonians. In Second Thessalonians, two, we're told that the end isn't coming right away. The author is saying Don't you know, don't don't panic, it's not going to can't happen yet. There's something that has to happen first, the man of lawlessness is being held back. And once once the restraint is lifted, he's going to take over and he's going to enter into the temple of God, and he's going to declare himself God. And so this is this is the antichrist figure. You're not called the Antichrist there, but that's who the Antichrist figure. Well, evangelicalism looked at that verse and said, Wait a second, the Antichrist can't go into the temple of God, there isn't a temple of God. That's the it's on the Temple Mount. And that's where the, the Islamic Dome of the Rock is, to rank for the temple for the temple for the Antichrist going to the temple, the temple has to be rebuilt. But that means that Israel has to control the Temple Mount, and for them to control the Temple Mount. And they've got to take out the Dome of the Rock. Whoa, well, they can't do that on their own. They need any support. We need to help them and so we have to support Israel. So I mean, it's a very, it's a very troubling idea that, that Israel has to destroy the dome on the rock. I mean, you talk about World War Three. Of course, that's what they want. World war three, but I mean, it's not good. And, and so that's, that is behind the idea of supporting Israel in the F angelical. Cap. And it's not an accident that Trump moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I'm not taking a stand on this. I'm not taking a stand on that. Or on the Israeli Palestinian issue. I'm not saying anything political at all. I'm saying the reason evangelicalism wanted Trump to do that, is because Israel has to take over all of Jerusalem, and it has to take off all Israel, including the occupied territories.

David Ames  32:29  
Right, so very deep implications. I was also struck by the beginning of this idea, you tell a little story, about 19th century English person where a woman had bequeath to these oak trees, and she says, These oaks shall remain standing, and the hand of a man shall not be raised against them until Israel returns and is restored to the land of promise. And that kind of escalates out from that small little thing to what you've just described.

Bart D. Ehrman  32:59  
It's a I described this whole scenario in the early 19th century with a man named Louis Wei, W, a y that nobody's heard of, but oh, man, if it hadn't been for him, you wouldn't have had this strong support for the return of Israel. He converted, converted to this idea that the Bible's prophesying that Israel will return, you wouldn't have had Christian support for Zionism. And I show in my book that actually you wouldn't have fundamentalism, which, which arose in the 1890s, what we think of as fundamentalism rose in 1890s, as a direct offshoot of this early Christian Zionism that Lewis way started.

David Ames  33:47  
I mean, I think that's what makes history fascinating is you can kind of trace things back to some seminal seed that has vast implications. Just

Bart D. Ehrman  33:55  
you just have no idea just the smallest thing can lead to something else to something else. And then whammo, oh, my God, I mean, so it ended up affecting the world. It's quite astonishing.

David Ames  34:25  
As you mentioned the second half of the book, you talk about why revelation really isn't the hopeful a book that some people take it as well. I can't tell you the times I've heard you know, I've read to the back of the book and we win, you know, talk a little bit about why that isn't the the the right interpretation as well.

Bart D. Ehrman  34:44  
Well, it's certainly hopeful for a very slim group of Christians, not all Christians. In the book Revelation, a lot of the Christians end up in the lake of fire like everyone else. It's interesting. I hadn't really noticed this, but I started when I started really deeply studying revelation. You know, I've studied it since I was 17. I've studied it for 50 years, but I decided to really go all out about five years ago. And I never realized the word hope does not occur in the book Revelation. The term love of God never occurs in the book of Revelation. God is never said to love anyone. The followers of Jesus are not just the faithful, they're called the slaves. They're slaves. And so you start doing word studies of Revelation. And you don't get you know, mercy and, and forgiveness and hope and love, you don't get words like that. Vengeance and wrath and blood and, and the book itself says it's about the wrath of God and His lamb. When John writes his book, John of Patmos, whoever he is, he doesn't identify himself as John the son of Zebedee, he doesn't say he's One of Jesus disciples, he's, he's somebody named John is a common name. And he's on the island of Patmos off of the west coast of what's now Turkey. And he says that he's writing he tells us, he's writing to Christians in seven churches, in Western Asia Minor. So basically long, near the coast of western Turkey. He names the churches, and he threatens them, that Christ is going to take away their salvation because they're not acting well. And he details what it is that their problems are. And he issues some horrifying threats against Christian teachers. These aren't not not outsiders, who are, you know, teaching apostasy or teaching. But insiders, teachers in the church who God Christ is going to go in to destroy. And so anybody who agrees with John's understanding of Christianity, who has precisely his theology, and precisely his practices, they will be given the future kingdom of God. Everybody else, every pagan who's ever lived, every Jews ever lived, every non Christian has ever lived, everyone, every Christian, who doesn't believe like John, who's ever lived, is going to be sent into the lake of fire. So not very helpful, not helpful. And it's not, I have to say that on the liberal end of the spectrum, I mentioned that, you know, liberal Christian scholars tend to see this as a book of hope. And they, and there are entire scholarly books written claiming that the book of Revelation is not violent. And I think that's crazy. I don't know what version they're reading. At. But they say that Christ is introduced in the book, as they say, they say, which is, they say something wrong to begin with, which is, they say the first image of Christ is the Lamb that was slain. I say that's wrong, because it's not the first image of Christ in the book. But they say, since the guiding image of the book is Christ as the one who is the innocent victim, then, in fact, what the book is teaching is, is non violence, and that it's teaching that, that God isn't violent, and that people shouldn't be violent, because it's the innocent victim of Christ, that is the leading image. And oh, boy, is that wrong? This this lamb that was slain, shed his blood, innocently. And now he's out for revenge. And it explicitly talks about him coming out for revenge. And it says that he's the one who, who unleashes all of the catastrophes that hit the Earth, the lambdas. Right? It's not a pretty picture.

David Ames  38:31  
Now, you also point out that many Christians will say, they're uncomfortable with the Old Testament, because God appears to be a God of wrath and the Old Testament, but he is the God of love in the New Testament, and you challenge that a bit, in particular with Revelation.

Bart D. Ehrman  38:45  
Well, you know, the thing is, the God of love is in the Old Testament, too. So I kind of cut it both ways, because it's true. There are I detail some rather wrathful stories in the Old Testament that most people don't know. Most people would know about the battle of Jericho and how they read it, they'll see how horrible it is because the troops of Israel go in and are told to kill every man, woman and child in the city of Jericho. The children, yep, slaughter them. But that's not even the most violent one. And so the story in that part of the Old Testament, but I do talk about the God of wrath and the Old Testament, but it's also important to recognize that the God of love is in the old testament to the idea that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. That's Deuteronomy, the idea you should love your neighbors yourself. That's Leviticus. God is both a God of wrath and a God of love and the Old Testament, when people say that the God of the New Testament is very different because he's the God of love. Whenever anybody asked me that, I just tells me that I just asked them whether they've read Revelation lately. Are you kidding me? There's no love of God here at all. It's all about his wrath, and it says it is. So yeah, it's a false dichotomy. And I think it's it's really common anti Jewish thing, it's a way of saying, well as Jews, I live by God, we have a God of love, you know, so we're superior to those Jews. And yeah, okay. Your last book isn't so loving.

David Ames  40:10  
Yeah. When I tell my story I talked about a couple of years before my deconversion, I did another read through the Bible. My wife would comment that I seemed angry. And, and I realized with hindsight that I was reading it for the first time with, without their grace colored glasses on without the rose colored glasses and really reading the text for when it said, again, the whole thing from from from beginning to end. Yeah. And seeing that there is a fair amount of wrath throughout throughout the scriptures, and even, you know, analyze and Sapphira being destroyed, you know, on the spot feels a bit capricious. The line in your book that just I absolutely love, I'm going to steal this and use this all the time is, far more people revere the Bible than read it. Yeah. Why do you think that is? Why is it that that people say they're committed fundamentalist believers don't actually read the texts themselves?

Bart D. Ehrman  41:07  
Well, you know, I used to so I teach, you know, I teach in the south UNC Chapel Hill. And Chapel Hill is not known as a bastion of conservative thought, it's my part of the world is but the faculty at UNC tend to be politically liberal. And, and my students come from a range of places, but mainly around North Carolina, and most of them have been raised in Christian households. And one of the reasons they're taking a New Testament class is because they're thinking, you know, how hard can it be? was a barrel. Right? So, so I begin the class, first day of class, I haven't done this for a while I used to do it. I did about 350 students in the class, I'd say, all right. So you know, this isn't a class on religion, I'm not going to be trying to convince you of theology, I'm not going to try and convert you to something or D convert you but I am interested in your background. How many of you would agree that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? VO everybody would everybody would just about everybody would raise their hand and say, Okay, great. So I said, Now, how many of you in here have read the Harry Potter books? Oh, my God, okay. How many of you read all of the Bible? Scattered hands? few hands. Okay, look. So, you know, JK Rowling's great. And, you know, I can see why you'd want to read a book fire. But if God wrote a book, we just want to see what he had to say. You're telling me that you think God wrote the Bible, and you're not interested in reading it, tell you if I thought the creator of the universe wrote a book, I'd want to read it.

David Ames  42:41  

One other thing I want to pull out as well is near the end of your book, you talk about Jesus talking about how he would judge and he would judge based on those who have done to the least of these good things, and that the many people will come and say, Lord, Lord, I did miracles in your name, but they didn't. They weren't kind they didn't feed the poor that didn't visit the prisoner. And you are contrasting that to just the needs to believe a certain set of ideas. Another intellectual hero of mine is Jennifer Michael Hecht. She has written the book doubts, wonder paradox, a bunch of others. She talks a lot about how Christianity became about belief. And therefore the other side of the coin was always about doubt that those two things are inseparable, then I'm just interested in you know, as your interpretation of the New Testament, is it about belief, or is it about practice?

Bart D. Ehrman  43:51  
My sense is that early Christians did not differentiate those two, the way we do, I think that it was understood that believing Jesus and worshipping Jesus went hand in hand. And it was understood that if you didn't believe correctly, then you weren't worshipping correctly. And if you didn't worship correctly, you weren't believing correctly. Okay? Also, it was understood that if you are a true follower of Jesus, you will live according to how God wants you to. And that if you if you if you have bad belief in Jesus, you're going to be behaving inappropriately. And so, but where the connection falls apart is the early Christians didn't think that necessarily that being good, was going to be good enough. Because they didn't think anybody was was good enough. What I argue in my book is that when Jesus talks about something like say, The Good Samaritan, you know, he doesn't praise the Samaritan for his religion or his beliefs. He praises him because he helps somebody in need. And when he separates the sheep In the goats in Matthew 25, the sheep are welcomed into the kingdom of the Father. Because they've fed the hungry and they gave, gave drink to those who are thirsty, and they visited those who are lonely and they, they took care of people in need. And the sheep are surprised they're going to be entering this kingdom, I said, Lord, because Jesus says, if you've done it, to me, you've done to the least of these others, and they said, Lord, we've been around seen you. That's it, people who don't even know who Jesus is, and they get into the kingdom. Whereas, you know, the goats don't help the poor, the needy or, and so they get cast out. And so it's not based on believing in Jesus. These people didn't know Jesus is how you live. But a lot of people think, you know, of course, I mean, Christianity became the thing about became a thing of belief, you had to believe the right things. And you had to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and you had to agree to X, Y, and Z. And then you get that parable that you mentioned, that story that Jesus says, he says, you know, at the end, Many will say to me, Lord, Lord, and which means, you know, they're gonna say, Look, Lord, we, you know, we've confessed you, we've worshipped you, and Jesus, you haven't done the will of my Father, out of here. Whoa, for Jesus has all being a person who cares for those in need, and does something to help those who are poor and hungry and homeless. That's what that's what matters to to Jesus himself. But in Revelation, it's not that at all. It's not, it's that has nothing to do with it. It has, it means being a member of the church, being a believer in Jesus, a follower of Jesus who worships Him in the way John dictates otherwise.

David Ames  46:46  
You also talk about the theme of dominance in in Revelation, and that that has direct implications to our current times as well.

Bart D. Ehrman  46:55  
Boy, does it. So, you know, it's one of the contrasts, I think, between Jesus and John of Patmos, Jesus, Jesus insisted that his followers not lorded over others, that they, that they serve others, Jesus said that He himself came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for others. He tells his followers that they should sell everything and give to the poor, he praises his disciples for leaving everything for the sake of the kingdom. So this is a this is a message of giving a message of service, you get to the book, Revelation, there's nothing about giving and service. It's about destroying the enemy. I mean, forget turn the other cheek, or forget Love your enemies. You know, I mean, you you hate your enemies, and you you hate what they do, and you punish them and God, God, of course, destroys all of them. After torturing them. I mean, there's torture, God tortures people in the book, Revelation. And everybody gets thrown into a lake of burning sulfur while they're they're brought back to life so that they can be destroyed in the lake of fire. This is so this this vision of what it means to be a true follower of God or even a true follower of Jesus is completely different. In one you're not supposed to dominate and the other is all about domination. I, I don't think it's consistent at all with what Jesus said. I mean, John, John, of course, John of Patmos understood himself to be a very, very committed Christian, a very avidly committed Christian, I'm not sure Jesus would have recognized him as a follower.

David Ames  48:56  
I would be remiss if we didn't at least talk about what is a proper way to tackle revelation, whether you're a believer or you're a non believer, but you're interested in actually finding out what it actually says,

Bart D. Ehrman  49:09  
well, a lot of people are afraid of the book because of the symbolism and how just strange it is. Most people who use revelation use it as a kind of a way to, to, to mine for gold nuggets. You know, you don't, you don't take the whole thing. You kind of find a piece here a piece therapy's there. And actually, it's more like a jigsaw puzzles, how I talk about it in my book, you know, you think that the Bible is filled with pieces of a puzzle that will describe what's going to happen at the end. So you take a verse from Zechariah, then a book from verse from Revelation, Then something from Daniel then so Informatica and some from Revelation, and you're taking this little saying, or this verse, And you stick them all together, and you end up with how Lindsey like great plan. And so what I what I argue in the book is that even if you think the Bible is inspired, you know, even if you think that this is a book written by God Odd in some way, whether God has inspired the authors, it means that God inspired a book. He didn't inspire a jigsaw puzzle he could have, but he didn't. And so it means you read it like a book. And if you read a book, for one thing, you don't cherry pick it, you don't you don't open a book and read, you know, a line on page 222. And then another Line and Page 13, and another line of 58. And you put them together to say, that's what the author meant. You start at the beginning, and you start reading, and you go to the end, and you try to understand what the themes are, what the motifs are, what the topics are with the arc of the narrative is, and you do that, if you do that, actually, Revelation is not complicated to understand in terms of the narrative, the basic narrative is fairly easy. And I laid out in my book so people can see, you know, actually, yeah, okay, this is happening here, then this than this, the difficulty comes with the symbolism. Because it's not a normal narrative, like a gospel where you can pretty much see what Jesus is saying and doing. It's, it's very, very symbolic. The deal with reading a book is, if you're reading a book that was written in the 1600s, you've got to understand what was happening in the 1600s. To understand the book. If you're reading a Jane Austen novel, you need to know need to know what was going on in the early 19th century. If you're reading Charles Dickens novel, you need to know what's going on in Victorian England, you need to understand their context, or you're just going to, you're going to misunderstand it. And what I what I show in the book is that historical scholars have long known that the book of Revelation is a kind of book that was being written at its time, it seems like a weird one off Ross, it's like the only thing like we've ever, oh, my God, this is so weird, this must have been inspired by God, because who could come up with this, you know, that kind of thing. And, in fact, we have lots of books like that, in Jewish and Christian circles from the time that are not in the Bible, that help us understand how this genre worked at the time. And one of the things in this genre is that they're always about some prophet who has a vision, either has a vision of heaven, or has a vision of the future. And the vision is weird and bizarre with these wild beasts, and these catastrophes, and this cosmic disasters, and all this stuff's going on, and your head spinning. And the prophets head is spinning, too. And what almost always happens is, there's a angel standing by to explain it to him. Yeah, gotta pay attention to this angel. So when you're interpreting the Book of Revelation, you read it like a book, you put it into historical context, and you look for the clues the author himself has left. And the clues, once they get explained to you, you'll see Oh, my God, that's what it is. And so it is not difficult to figure out who the beast from the sea is, the Antichrist figure in the book, Revelation is not hard, the angel gives it away. But people who just read a verse here or there, and they don't see the whole package. So in my book, I tried to explain how historians have understood the book, and and how they put it in its own context, to try and understand what John was trying to communicate it to his own readers. One big mistake is to think he was writing for 21st century America. He was not he was writing for Christians and seven churches of Asia Minor. And presumably, he wanted them to understand what he had to say.

David Ames  53:27  
Last question, you mentioned in the book, how people have interpreted the beast since you mentioned it to be whoever their political foe is, at the moment. And it strikes me that the history of biblical interpretation kind of is that we each come to the text with our own context. And it's hard not to read our context into what we think the original author meant, if you were interested in trying to figure out what the original author meant, and what the original hearers heard, what is kind of a method? How would you go about that?

Bart D. Ehrman  53:57  
Yeah. Well, you know, so the beast is an interesting thing, because, you know, it's not the beast number is 666. In chapter 13, it's interesting. We have some manuscripts, by the way that say that the beast number is 616. And we don't have the original copy of Revelation, we have these copies from hundreds of years later, and most say 666, but some of the early ones say 616. That's interesting. But then the B shows up again in chapter 17, that's the great whore of Babylon is sitting on this beast. And in both cases, he has seven heads and 10 horns and you think, what in the world how do I, how am I supposed to understand this? But when you get when you get to chapter 17, John says the same thing. He sees this horror of Babylon, so she's got she got a name written on her head Babylon, the Great Mother of horrors. She's bedecked in fancy clothes, very expensive, rich clothes. She's sitting on this beast with seven heads and 10 horns and, and she's got jewelry and gold and silver and she's filthy rich, and she's here. holding in her hand a golden cup that's filled with the abominations of her fornication. And she's drunk with the blood of martyrs. And, and John saying, What is this, and the and the angel explains it to him. And it's so easy to unpack it in the ancient world. They've done it like that. He says, The angel says that the the beasts that has seven heads, the seven heads represent the seven hills, that the woman is seated on to woman seated on seven hills. The woman's named after a city, it's a city in Babylon the Great when the Old Testament Babylon was the city that destroyed Jerusalem and burn the temple, in John's de Rome was the city that burned that destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple. This woman is seated on seven hills. Rome was the city built on seven hills, that's what it was called in the ancient world. And people still call it today, the city built on seven hills. And in case you still don't get it at the end of the chapter, the angel says, The woman is the city that is dominating the entire Earth. That's wrong. This is like it's a no brainer, she's dropped for the blood of the martyrs because Rome had started persecuting Christians, especially under the Caesar Nero, who executed Christians and shed their blood. She's filthy rich, because Rome has taken all the money from the provinces. And it's enriched itself. And so you go back to chapter 13, where this beast first occurs, and he's called 666. And it's the number of a man and we're told that one of the heads had suffered a mortal wound, but recovered one of the heads of the beast. So what is his man and mortal wounds 666? Well, from 17, you know, this is Rome, it's the beast is Rome. The head 666, the head of Rome, that first persecuted Christians was Nero, the Emperor Nero in the year 64. When the angel says that the number of the beast is six, six exits the number of man what he's referring to, might seem, it's going people today, don't do it this way. Because people like to say, you know, in early 20th centuries, Kaiser Wilhelm, or later was Hitler or Mussolini. When I was in college. No, there was a book written saying there was the Pope, another book wrote, and then saying it was Henry Kissinger. Lately, it has been Saddam Hussein. Now it's Putin. You know, you pick your person, and you figure out how it's 666. But you read it in John's context, where the enemy is Rome, and the Beast is identified as Rome later. And Kaiser Nero, okay, what's going on the number of the beasts he says the number of man in the Greek and Hebrew languages like other ancient languages, they didn't have separate alphabetic and numerical systems. So we have we use roman letters ABCD, but we use Arabic numerals, they use their letters of their alphabet for the numbers. So in Hebrew, all F is the first letter, so that's one, beta is two gimel, three goes up till you get to 10, then the next one is 20, then 30 than 40, then you get up to 100. And that's 100 200 300. So every letter has a numerical value. And so when it says the number is the number of a man, it means that the letters in this man's name, add up to six, xx, okay? Just what are you saying? Well, if you spell Caesar Nero in Hebrew letters, it adds up to 6x, six. But there's an interesting variant on that. Because in Hebrew, you could say Kaiser named Ron with a noon at the end our n, or you could say Kaiser Nero, without the N, without the noon, the noon is worth 50. So that with it, it's 666. And without it, it's 616, as in some of the manuscripts. This is, so this is talking about Caesar Nero. So you say how do you interpret it, you look at the clues in the text, and you put them in their historical context. And if you have any trouble, then you read a historical scholar.

David Ames  58:55  
Yeah. Yeah, I think the lesson from this is the it's so confusing to us, because we're out of context. But in context, it's not subtle at all.

Bart D. Ehrman  59:05  
It's not subtle at all. And you know, a lot of people thought, well, you know, John's doing this, because he doesn't want to get arrested, the authorities will find out, he's written this book, and then there'll be in big trouble. And that's why it's all so secretive. And I don't think that's the reason at all, actually, because anybody in the Roman world who heard that this horror, Babylon was sitting on a beast with seven heads that has said, the seven hills of the city, so this is not hard to figure out, anybody would write it out. But the reason he's writing such secret of language is because it's an apocalypse. Apocalypse is a divine revelation of the secrets that makes sense of this world. And so it's got to be secretive. So it's got to be mystical and weird. And so all of these apocalypses are like that. They're mystical and weird.

David Ames  59:47  
And that's its own genre.

Bart D. Ehrman  59:49  
It's a genre. It's a genre. It's just like we have short stories and novels and limericks and epic poems, and it's, every genre has a way of doing it. And so when you Reading in a science fiction novel, you know, you're not reading a, you know, front page article in The New York Times. It's a different kind of genre. And a short story isn't a limerick. And so, an apocalypse is an apocalypse, which means you have to know how apocalypses work, if you're going to understand any one of them, including the book Revelation.

David Ames  1:00:20  
Bart Ehrman, you've been incredibly generous with your time, the new book is Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end. I want to give you a couple of minutes just to promote the other work that you do understand that your blog the proceeds is for that go to a nonprofit. You also have your podcast. tell people how they can find your work.

Bart D. Ehrman  1:00:38  
Yeah, well, let me I'll enter the blog because it's the one that's really important to me. But so I do have a podcast, a weekly podcast that's called Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman, and it's not meant to mean you can misquote Jesus along with Bart Ehrman. The podcast is misquoting it with Viagra. And so every week, we talk about half an hour 45 minute interview. Great, great interviewer, Megan Lewis, and we talk about important things related to the New Testament and early Christianity every week. It's part of a larger business that I've started called the part urban professional services. If people go to Bart, I've done I do courses, I do lectures and courses for purchase. I've got one coming up on April 15, that even if people don't come to it, they can purchase it. This will be a lecture, a 50 minute lecture on will you be left behind a history of the rapture and with q&a and with additional reading if you if you purchase it, but then courses on you know everything from the book of Genesis to the Gospels and and some of these rate lecture courses that people can hear me talk about this stuff. So let me just say about the blog, though, because the blog is near and dear to my heart. I've done it for nearly 11 years now. I post five times a week, or six times five or six times a week, between 12 114 100 words a day. Wow, on everything having to do with the New Testament, Jesus gospels, Paul, early Christianity, persecution martyrdom, women are up to Constantine and beyond. And people can comment on my posts. And I answer every question I get. And I've done this for 11 years. There's a fee to join a small membership fee to join. But as you said, David, I, I don't keep any of this money myself. I give all of it to charities, mainly dealing with hunger and homelessness. And so last year, last year, the blog raised over $500,000 Wow. So for me, it's kind of a service to the community and to the world because we give money to international relief agencies. So people should check it out. Because you know, it's not a large fee, and it contributes to a really good cause. And you get to hear about biblical scholarship or New Testament early Christianity scholarship.

David Ames  1:02:55  
It's a win win and you're heaping burning coals on the heads. Bart Ehrman, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Bart D. Ehrman  1:03:04  
Thanks for having me.

David Ames  1:03:11  
Final thoughts on the episode. The thing that strikes you upon meeting Bart Ehrman is how nice a person he is. He was incredibly gracious with his time, he was incredibly gracious with my naive questions. I'm incredibly jealous of the people who get to have him as a professor, he reminded me so much of the best parts of Bible College and actually digging into the text of the New Testament in a way that is respectful and also critical. And I think Bart handles that really, really well. I think Bart struck something very important when he talked about truth and evidence. I'll quote him here. He says, within the evangelical tradition, truth is really important. And there is also a sense within the evangelical tradition that there are ways to find the truth. It isn't just believing something. When you have students studying it at a serious evangelical school, they are taught you have to look for evidence. But once you open up the door to evidence, you also open up the door to people disagreeing. I think that's incredibly insightful. I think all of apologetics is the attempt to bring evidence to the table. But once you have evidence as your guiding light as your standard, it will inexorably inevitably lead you away from the claims of Christianity. This goes back to what we talked about last week in that the truth will set you free. I know that for many of you Bart's books were the beginning of the deconstruction process, the beginning of letting go of inerrancy of Scripture, the beginning of letting go of the authority of Scripture. And now having the opportunity to interview Bart, I understand why he's so respectful, that even while he is tearing down the dogma or the stringent fundamentalism. He's also doing it with care, compassion and love of the text that is deeply attractive, deeply, deeply attractive. Which brings us to his current book, Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end. It's a striking difference in that he is pulling out the violence and the wrath of the New Testament, which we don't often think of the dominion theology comes out of Revelation. Bart is tying all of our modern issues with Christian nationalism and evangelicalism to the book of Revelation. And it's skewed view, relative to the Gospels of who Jesus is. I was also just absolutely amazed to discover my ignorance about how Lindsay's book The Late Great Planet Earth. Probably many of you have read that it just so happens that I didn't. But as I said, so much of the interpretation of revelation by evangelicals comes from that book. And it was enlightening and intriguing to read, Bart, show us what the book actually says, about the time of John of Patmos and early Christianity. And ultimately, he compares and contrasts that Jesus of John of Patmos writes about in Revelation versus the Jesus who is in the Gospels and that is a stark contrast. The book is out now it is amazing. Go check it out. Read it. Do check out Bart's podcast Misquoting Jesus with Bart Ehrman Bart's blog, which is at Urban The proceeds for that basically do what Jesus talked about in Matthew 24, to feed the hungry to house the poor. So please support Bart and become a member on his blog today. You can also find the courses that he mentioned at bought at BART If you'd like to dig into the study of the New Testament, I want to thank Bart for being on the podcast for giving us his time for being so gracious with my naive questions. Thank you so much, Bart, for all the work that you do. It is incredibly appreciated by me and the community of these listeners. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is obviously inspired by Bart. Last week we talked about the truth will set you free. This week, I want to talk about doing good in the world. What I'm talking about with secular grace is often very practical, what we do for one another, how we connect with each other. I actually want to read a sliver of the Matthew 24 reference that we made a few times. Then the King will say to those on his right come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick and in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. Interviewing Bart reading Bart's book, I was struck again about what attracted me to Jesus to begin with. And this is it, that it was ruthlessly practical that what Jesus had to say was about doing Christianity, not believing things, and historical Christianity. And evangelical Christianity specifically has warped that into a set of dogma and beliefs. And the point I want to make is that from a secular Grace point of view, we can do these things. If you want to say that you are a follower of Jesus, this is the way you would do it. By feeding the hungry, housing the house less and generally caring for people and their practical needs. The great irony that many of us who have deconstructed and D converted is that we find we can be better Christians as non believers than we were as believers. And I think this is another one of those opportunities to do good in the world without having the baggage that comes along with the dogma and historical tradition. So many good interviews coming up including A number of community members, Holly Laurent from the mega Podcast coming up. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human being. The beat is called waves by MCI beats. Do you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show? Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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Doing Better: The Problem of Words

Agnosticism, Atheism, Blog Posts

Should I have called last week’s blog post No More Fundamentalism, picked a different term, or unpacked it a bit?

I want to draw out one (of many) difficulties with words: The tensions between…

  • correctness and convenience,
  • writing something technically correct and writing something people will read,
  • having a genuine and thorough conversation and having a conversation people will actually participate in till the end.

Imagine the following two blog titles:

  • No More Attitudes Toward Knowledge That Allow for Areas of Belief That Are Untouchable and Therefore Leave Certain Areas of Knowledge Permanently Unfixable: A Manifesto for Myself
  • No More Fundamentalism: A Manifesto for Myself

I’m overstating the difference, but the tension should be obvious. On one end of the spectrum, there’s a simple, concise title that may make the wrong impression. On the other end, there’s possibly getting things so technically correct that nobody reads the whole thing.

The tension is real.

A reader rightly commented on my recent blog post that using terms like Fundamentalism can be problematic. There’s a real risk that if we label something “fundamentalist,” we take the emotion we feel for our former religion and transfer it onto that thing. And when that happens, we give ourselves permission to dismiss it. We halt rational thought we could have had. This is both dishonest and stops growth.

At the same time, I’m not sure what else to call it–especially in a post I’d like people to read. See the trouble?

This tension shows up in another place: Do you call yourself an atheist? Agnostic? Or do you avoid labels altogether?

So what to do? Here’s a list of ideas:

  • Embrace the work. Religion allows us to get away with sloppy thinking about complex issues. This can lead to harm and we have an opportunity to do better.
  • When in a conversation with someone, consider working with them to define terms. What is a “fundamentalist” to your interlocutor? If you’re writing, consider the word itself: Is “fundamentalism” too problematic to use?
  • Consider skipping the words or labels altogether. Maybe it’s better to not even use the word “fundamentalist” but instead use the words describing what you mean by it.

If anybody asked, I used the term “fundamentalist” in the previous post mainly because I didn’t think through the implications (oops!). On review, I’m still OK with the word, though I see the potential for misuse. I’m leaving it up to you, the reader, to learn with me as I’m on this journey out of Christian Fundamentalism–a way of thinking that has core tenets, assumed 100% correct and therefore, untouchable.


Top-right image: “Yellow Tree – Daily Tree day 2” by fireytika is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.

Grace: Hyssop + Laurel

Artists, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast
Listen on Apple Podcasts

TW: sexual violence; intimate partner violence; postpartum PTSD

This week’s guest is Grace. Grace was fortunate not to grow up in the church, but when she became a Christian in high school, she—in her own words—“quickly became the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager.” 

Grace was a zealous believer for years, and it wasn’t until she had her first child that the questions began coming. At first, she didn’t think she was deconstructing her faith; she saw it as spiritual growth. 

But then—as with many other guests—“the Pandemic hit.” While in lockdown, more than theological questions came up for Grace. With her husband’s support, online friends, and medication, Grace managed, but one thing was missing. 

What she needed but couldn’t find, she created. is a “grassroots arts and literary magazine for religious deconstructionists.” It is a thriving community of creative minds coming together to make art and poetry, sharing their stories because their stories matter. 




Link Tree


The Living Room podcast (Jo Luehmann)

The New Evangelicals on Instagram

Till Doubt Do Us Part by David Hayward

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn



“I was not indoctrinated by my parents, but I was indoctrinated by the pastoral voices around me.”

“I quickly became the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager.” 

“Going to…youth group was the first place I felt a sense of belonging which I think was a big part of what appealed to me about Christianity…”

“I really felt like, not that God had failed me [during childbirth], but that my body had failed me because I really internalized this thought: It was because I idolized childbirth. I wanted it to be about how strong I was, so God’s teaching me that it’s about Him.”

“…there was this very real awareness for me that some cognitive dissonance was happening and I could not face it.”

“I started taking anti-anxiety medication…not only did it help me to stay alive and get well, but becoming well lifted this fog from my brain and all of the cognitive dissonance was like, ‘Whoa, whoa whoa.’”

“My belief in God [had been] my ‘anti-anxiety medication.’ It was keeping me sane. It was keeping me safe.”

“…but if you say to someone, ‘I’m a Christian,’ they don’t hear ‘I’m progressive,’ or ‘I’m affirming.’ They hear, ‘I am aligning myself with a system that is for oppression, for colonization, for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,’…” 

“The first thing I thought when I woke up was, God is not real, and that’s okay, and that was it.”

“I feel most proud of myself and most empowered in my work when it is about helping other people see, ‘Your story is worth other people hearing. Your experience is a unique perspective that brings value to the world in a way that nobody else’s can.’” 


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

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Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. 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. If you are in the middle of doubt and deconstruction, you do not need to do this alone. Please join us in the private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find us at spy Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, our lien interviews our guest today, Grace. Grace is the creative behind hyssop and Laurel which is a grassroots art and literary magazine for religious deconstructionists. Grace went through her deconstruction and was looking for an artistic outlet couldn't find one. And so she decided to create one herself. Here is Arline's interview with Grace

Arline  1:31  
Hi, Grace, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Grace  1:34  
Hi, thanks so much for having me. So

Arline  1:37  
the sometimes wonderful algorithm of Instagram said, Hey, you might love this page. And so I clicked because I liked the aesthetic. I liked your picture. And then I was just sucked in. And it was like I just hearted thing after thing after thing and started following you and then shared your stuff in the group because I love like just everything you're doing. So I'm so glad that you're here.

Grace  2:01  
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I'm really glad that you Yeah, that the algorithm brought us together. Sometimes Sometimes it works in your favor. Yeah, I'm excited to be here.

Arline  2:12  
Yeah. So we usually begin with just tell us about the religious background that you grew up in.

Grace  2:19  
Yeah, so I technically did not grow up in a religious background. Both my parents actually, well, both my parents grew up in religious households and deconstructed. And then they didn't raise my brother and I, in a religious home or in a Christian home. So I became a Christian when I was a teenager, when I was in high school, I had a lot of friends who went to church, you know, I grew up in the Bible Belt, rural Georgia. And so I started going to youth group. Oh, yeah, I started going to youth group with some friends in high school. And yeah, that's how I that was how I became a Christian. So it was, it's, it was an interesting journey of always, like really wishing that my family was hyper religious, like all my friends, families, and that seems so idealistic to me, then. And then my, I guess, conversion caused quite a lot of familial tension. Because then I was I was not indoctrinated by my parents, but I was indoctrinated by the pastoral figures around me, who were then kind of telling me, you know, you need to proselytize to your parents, and you need to bring them to church, and you need to make sure that they're saying you've done, you know, now you're at odds with them. And the Bible says that, you know, Mother will hate daughter, and so it's okay. Yeah, angry at you. And it's because they're, you know, lost in their sinfulness. And, you know, that was really confusing. I did not have the tools or the, like development to know that that was really awful, that you know, that that shouldn't have been said to me. Yeah, so that was an interesting kind of on ramp into Christianity. And it just kind of it made me take it so seriously. Probably more seriously than a lot of my peers. And I very quickly became like the quintessential insufferable Christian teenager. It was great. I look back on young grace with just, like so much compassion for her and also like, Girl, what are you doing? Yeah, this is not it. Yeah.

Arline  4:45  
I can empathize. I did not grow up in the church. I did grow up in rural rural. That's a hard word for me rural Georgia, but didn't grow up in the church. Then I became a Christian in college, and became the insufferable Christian college student. You And yes, I need to proselytize to my family and like, Oh, yes, I list that girl. And you do take it seriously. I mean, they give you a lot of fear and anxiety and, and hope kind of. Yeah. So you, yeah, you you, you pour yourself into it because it this is the best thing. And so you, you just had friends who were in youth group as normal like until you just in Georgia, southern Georgia world. And so did you enjoy youth? Like how was youth group? Was that a good experience? I

Grace  5:35  
loved it. I had had a hard time in middle school, you know, as many young girls do. And so going to this youth group was kind of the first place that I felt a sense of belonging, which I think is a big part of what appealed to me about Christianity was, you know, it was it, it was a place to be given an identity that didn't have to come from me. And I met people who were different from me, but who were willing to be friends with me. And I had, you know, people telling me that God had a plan and a purpose for my life. And, you know, I was so loved and, you know, all the things that they say, to get young people to believe it to be committed to it. Yeah, so at the time, it was a it was a really positive experience. I didn't have any, like, harrowing youth group. Stories.

Arline  6:28  
Yeah. Yeah. Me to youth group. I didn't care for the adults at the church that my mom took us to, at all. But the friends yeah, we were kind of what's the word, a motley crew, just a bunch of random kids who wouldn't normally have hung out. We were all kind of pushed together. And it worked. Like it was a good experience.

So then what happened? What happened next?

Grace  6:58  
Yeah, so yeah, I was like 1617, and going to church and starting to think about college and what I wanted to study. And it just, it sounds so silly to say now, but I just felt really cold to ministry. I understand. Yeah, I had a meeting with my youth pastor and said, You know, I don't really know practically what this looks like. But you know, I really feel convicted about this. And do you have any insight on what I should do when I'm at college, and he was a student at the college that I ended up going to? And he sent me to talk to his advisor. And so I had a sit down chat with one of the professors in what would later be my cohort. He was a professor of rhetoric at a liberal arts university in Georgia. And he is he's also a minister. So he's a gay minister at the Unitarian Church. Wow. Yeah, yeah. So I had to sit down with him and talked about what sorts of things you can study if you're considering things like seminary or like missionary work, or work in the nonprofit sector. And I was kind of leaning towards the nonprofit sector. Just because I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I didn't have specific career ambitions. But I knew that I wanted to help people. And I knew that I wanted the work to be faith based. And I knew that the nonprofit sector was a place where those things all kind of together. And so I ended up going to this University of Georgia College and State University, and studying rhetoric, which is essentially like a big umbrella for all types of communication studies, including public speaking, rhetorical criticism and rhetorical theory, like the history of persuasion, as an art form, and organizational communications and communication and education. And so I spent my four years of college there when I loved it, and had a great time there. And I was really involved in different student ministries around campus. And was really involved with a local church. And then I graduated, I graduated in 2012. And I was in a really serious relationship with a guy that was not good. And at the time, I remember thinking, I'm, I'm, you know, leading him into all these temptations, and I'm not being goodness, like, oh my gosh, just the, the stuff that everyone feels. It wasn't until years and years later that someone said to me, you know, that was, that was sexual violence. He was abusing it. And I didn't. I just thought that I was leading him into temptation in that It was my fault. But he was sexually abusing me for several months while he was cheating on me. So we were dating, we were dating my senior year of college. And then directly after, and we ended up getting engaged. And it was during our engagement that I found out, he'd been unfaithful. And so I broke off our relationship. And then he started like stalking me. He was sending me really threatening messages. And he was interning at the church that we both went to. So like, nobody knew that this was happening. I had so internalized the idea that this was my fault, that I had not been pure that I had not cared about his heart or his spirit, I not protected his purity. So it wasn't until he was sending me these messages where he was being really verbally abusive towards me. And calling me names, and he would like show up at places where I was, he would show up at my work, he would show up when I was out to dinner with friends, just like in the parking lot by my car. And so I saved a bunch of these messages and showed them to our pastor and said, you know, this is the situation. And then I decided, you know, I just need some space to deal with this. So I brought it to the attention of our pastor at this point. It was like, Yeah, this is not okay, you need to block his phone number, we'll take him off of staff. They addressed it very well. And at that point, I was ready to just sort of step away from everything. Not in terms of faith, but just in terms of life, like what I was doing. I was working at a TJ Maxx. And I had been out of college for like six months to a year. And just felt like, this isn't what God wants me to do. This isn't

Arline  12:01  
it's amazing, which you and I grew up, you know, South Georgia, whatever that means. That like the same words, the same sentences, the same phrases are used all over the United States for the same kinds of concepts. Yeah, go ahead. So

Grace  12:16  
I had this horrible situation with my ex, and was just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and where I want it to be. And a friend of mine said, you know, there's a college in Australia, it's a Bible college at Hillsong. Oh, no, you could go there. And I was like, I don't think I can afford to do that. But I can get a year working holiday visa, move to Australia and be a nanny and audit classes at the same time. And so that's what I did.

Arline  12:49  
Wow, that's a huge jump.

Grace  12:51  
Yeah, I got this 12 month visa that allows us citizens and citizens from several other countries to travel to Australia and work and like you receive health care and benefits. You can work pretty much any job you want, just for and so I got a job as an au pair. And I got an internship with International Justice Mission. Yes, I'm familiar with them. Pretty well known organization that works and all forms of modern slavery and oppression. So I got an internship with them before they actually launched in Australia. So I got to kind of see the behind the scenes work of how a nonprofit launches an office, which was fantastic work experience for me. And I also started going to Hillsong, I did not attend Hillsong college, but I did like go to several classes with friends that I met at church. And while I was there in Australia, I met a guy as you do. And you know, we met at church, so I knew that he was a Christian. And we started talking about if we wanted to date and what it would look like to have an international relationship. And I said, you know, I've had a really bad experience with a partner not being faithful to me, I'm not willing to do long distance. And so we're like going on well, let's just get married.

Arline  14:20  
Oh, my heavens.

Grace  14:23  
So we started dating, we dated for eight months. And then my visa was up. And so I came back to the States. He came with me he proposed we were engaged for four months and then we got married and we went back to Australia together. And I I live for in Australia for nine years actually just got back to the States six months ago. Oh wow. Yeah. So we we got very plugged into a local acts 29 church in Sydney, Australia. I got a job working for Bible Society Australia and the Bible Society is an international organization that works to put the Bible in the hands of as many people as possible. I started working in project management. And I got to work on some pretty cool projects. I got to work on a project that translated the Bible into Australian Sign Language. Yeah, I got to work with some chaplains and like hospital chaplaincy, prison chaplaincy? It was you know, it was a really interesting job. I worked there for a couple years, we're going to church just kind of doing the Christian thing. And then we, we had a baby. We had our son, Teddy, who is now five. And that was when the little you know, they say death by 1000 cuts when Teddy was born. That was when the cuts started to come.

Yeah, so Teddy's birth was very, very difficult for me. I was in early labor for about 24 hours, and then an active labor for another 16. And of course, you know, I was doing the thing where you have no pain medication, and you do everything all natural. And in the end, I had to have an emergency C section. Me to No way. Like happens to so many women.

Arline  16:33  
So many women. Yep. 15 hours of active labor, no medication. I wanted to do it natural. I had done all the yoga, all the things. And then they were like he's turned funky inside you. We've got to do a C section. And it was just like, yeah, all the all my hopes and dreams. All the things I tell you're supposed to just came falling down in front of me.

Grace  16:54  
Yeah, yes, Teddy was so tall. Oh, he did not have space to like lift his head to get it on my birth canal. So even when I was dilated in the face, you know, he was like stuck a little bit back behind. And there was a moment in my labor when they were I was pushing in his head was going into my tailbone.

Arline  17:20  
I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry.

Grace  17:23  
They were trying to move his head, like pull him into the birth canal. And I hadn't had an epidural. I hadn't had anything. And it was a doctor who I didn't know. And, you know, I have sexual trauma that I didn't know about at the time. And you know, and it didn't work, they couldn't get his head. They couldn't do it with a vacuum. But I wound up with mild PTSD after he was born. Attacks and nightmares for months after he was born. And it was one of the first times I really felt like, not that God had failed me. But I felt like my body had failed me. I really internalize this thought of it was because I idolized childbirth, and I wanted it to be about how strong I was. So God's teaching you that it was about him?

Arline  18:21  
Oh, wow. Yeah, my way of interpreting because, of course, we have to figure out what God is doing in this. We can't just be like, shitty things happen. Absolutely terrible. Yes, this is a hard thing that women have been doing forever. And it's hard, and difficult and painful and and you know, all these things, all these emotions and physical experiences. But mine was yes, I had idols that God had broken down for me. And I couldn't be sad about them, because you can't be sad about losing your idols you have right grateful. And so it breaks my heart for you, but I can very much empathize with that

Grace  18:58  
experience. Yeah, so then, you know, I was still so firm in my faith and so determined and resolved. You know, it was my whole life. You know, my marriage, how I was how we were parenting. You know, everything my job. But then, when Teddy was maybe three months old, I read an article about how carbon dating shows that there are certain species of sharks that are older than trees. And I said to the girls in my small group, this can't be true, because the Bible says that the trees and the plants of the earth were created before the fish on the water. So either this is not true somehow, or the creation story is mixed up and And I had never really been a Seventh Day creationist, I had always been someone who was kind of like, what the days are like the eras? You know? So I'm more progressive, I guess, poetic take on it. But I remember thinking, even if it's a poem, it doesn't make any sense that it would just be switched like this. It's, it's confusing, and God is not a God of confusion. And why is it like this? And no, and then I couldn't figure out why no one else was like, alarmed by this information. Like nobody else didn't care about it. And I remember thinking, if I can't believe the very first part of the Bible, how can I believe that the rest of it is inerrant and infallible, and said to the girls, my small group, and I said to my husband, you know, I am really curious about this, but I cannot look into it anymore. Because I don't want to deal with the fallout if I find out things that I don't want to. So there was this very real awareness for me that some cognitive dissonance was happening. And I could not face it. And so there were lots of little things like that over the next several years. You know, there I remember really vividly when Teddy was about six months old, I was chatting to another moment church who had a baby a similar age, and she was saying, you know, her husband had said that morning, oh, how perfect their daughter was, and I was like, oh, you know, yeah, they are. And she said, they're not grace. They're already sinners, we have to remember, they're not perfect. And I remember after that, going home, and saying to Steven, and my husband, I don't, I don't think I believe in total depravity. I don't think I've or like I don't think I believe in total depravity, original sin. But don't tell anybody. And so I started kind of deconstructing from my Calvinism, and slowly shift into a more Arminian alignment and my theology. And, yeah, over the next four years, a lot of I guess, three years, three or four years, you know, I, I slowly let go of the doctrine of total depravity, the doctrine of original sin. I became LGBTQ plus affirming. I became pro choice. I let go of the idea of a literal Adam and Eve, I let go of the belief in a literal Moses a literal Exodus, a literal Noah, very slowly, just sort of like, these can be big ideas that God has given us without these myths having to be literal history. And I didn't tell anyone, nobody knew. I was so certain that people would tell me I wasn't a real Christian.

And that I was being deceived. Yeah, so just, I just didn't tell anyone I was.

And it didn't even really bother me at the time, I was very content, to have my faith, privately be very different from everyone else's. I felt a lot of peace in what I believed. At that time, I considered myself very spiritually healthy. No, I was reading the Bible every day, going to like two different Bible studies. Still working for a faith based nonprofit. So it was just sort of like, oh, I believe different things that my brothers and sisters and I don't want to cause disunity by bringing it up, because I no longer see them as salvation issues. So I'm just gonna quietly believe it to myself

and then the pandemic hit.

Arline  24:18  
There are a lot of stories that go and then 2016 Yeah, and then the pandemic. Yep.

Grace  24:25  
And I got pregnant right at the beginning of the pandemic. Yeah, I found out I was pregnant March 2020. Oh, yeah. And I was at that time working for a nonprofit in the suicide prevention space, so I was considered an essential worker. So I continue going to work while pregnant, and then slowly transitioned to working more from home. And then I went on my maternity You've in in Australia, where I was working, I was able to take off 12 months of maternity leave, partially paid partially unpaid. But I had a big chunk of time at home with my younger son, and then also with Teddy as well. And at that point, we were experiencing some very strict lockdowns. So churches were mostly just live streamed on YouTube, there were rules about like how many kilometers you could be away from your postcode. How many times a day you could leave your house reasons you could be away from your house, you could only go to the grocery store once a day. So it was very, very strict and very isolating. I was postpartum with my second child. And I didn't really didn't really touch on this. But in between my children being born, I had a hip replacement, because I found out that I had bone cancer. So there was a lot of like, there was a lot of medical trauma for me. And like discovering the level of trauma that I had suffered at the hands of my ex partner, and there was just a lot going on. Yeah, and so then my second child was born via C section again, I wasn't eligible for a VBAC, because I'd had a hip replacement. And basically, during that period of time, I had a nervous breakdown. Which I don't say lightly, not like, you know, the way people say like, oh, I'm feeling a little anxious today. Like, no, this was a very real, very severe nervous breakdown, where I almost made an attempt to take my own life. And I, you know, I worked in suicide prevention. So I was around a lot of that, you know, around a lot of crisis. And I just was not in a good headspace. So I decided not to go back to work. And I started taking anti anxiety medication. And it was, when I went on medication. It was, you know, not only did it, you know, help me to stay alive and get well, but becoming well lifted this fog from my brain. And all of this cognitive dissonance was suddenly like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wow. And I sort of had this moment of like, so much of what I think I believe, I think is actually a trauma response. You know, it was, my belief in God was my anti anxiety medication. It was the thing that was keeping me sane, it was the thing that was keeping me safe. I was living in a body that did not feel safe. And it gave me God to feel safe. And now I feel safe on my own. And I don't know if I believe in this anymore. And simultaneously to this happening, my church did a sermon series on suffering. And so after each live stream, they would do like a live q&a In the comments. And there was Sunday where they were preaching on the passage in First Peter four, where it talks about, you know, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude. And, you know, the chapter finishes by saying, so then those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. And someone asked in the q&a, how do we reconcile that these verses make it sound kind of like God sometimes wants us to suffer? And I was like, is such a good opportunity to talk about the fact that that is not what the passage says. The passage says that God wants you to suffer as Christ suffered. Meaning with humility and compassion and turning the other cheek. And the pastor's wife was doing the answers to the q&a that week. And she said, if you have a right understanding of God as the boss, you will not care when he asks you to suffer. And okay, like, what? I don't think that is true. And I sent an email, I sent an email to the leadership team, and I said, you know, this was said in the q&a, I am really alarmed by this. You know, I'm someone who sits in your church who has survived domestic abuse. I have had cancer. I've had a traumatic birth. If we're in the middle of a global pandemic, and you have just allowed someone to tell your congregation that if they mind suffering, it's because they don't understand the character of God. And I think that this needs to be corrected, because that's not accurate. And they email me back. And they basically said, we agree with you. This shouldn't that was not a, you know, accurate answer to the question. But if you'll notice, we didn't say that in the sermon. And since this is a woman who's not a pastor, we will not correct it. So if you would like to continue discussing it, you can submit a question next week. And I wrote them back. And I said, I need you to know that it is really inappropriate to place the onus on people in your congregation to correct mistakes that you allow to happen from the pulpit, I will not be coming back to church. And we had a conversation with our pastor face to face where he was really, really manipulative, be like insulted or parenting, and said that we didn't care about what we were teaching our kids and ended up crying, and telling him this feels really manipulative. And he said, obviously, you're too emotional to have this conversation. And I was like, I said to my husband, after he left, he did that on purpose, so that when people ask, Why aren't they coming to church, he can say, I tried to talk to them. And Grace was so emotional, I could not have a conversation with her, he was gonna paint me as a crazy woman who was hysterical because she couldn't get what she wanted.

That was the tipping point for us of realizing that our attendance at church was in many ways, making us complicit in the ways that the church harms people. And we just weren't comfortable with that anymore. And I know that that's kind of I know that that's not the case for everyone. I know that there are people who feel like, you know, you can go to an affirming church, or you can go to a progressive church. But if you say to someone, I'm a Christian, they don't hear I'm progressive, or I'm feminist, or I'm affirming. They hear I align myself with a system that is for oppression, for colonization, for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, all of these things. I say that to anyone anymore, I won't. And so we stopped going. And slowly over the next couple of weeks, as we were no longer in that environment, my husband and I had luckily at the same time, we're both kind of like, you know, what, I don't believe this anymore. And it was really, really painful. You know, because at the same time, I was going through this huge mental upheaval, and just trying to come up for air and trying to figure out how to exist and be well, and, you know, like, stay alive for my kids. Yeah. And I remember thinking one night kind of coming to this breaking point of, like, what has happened to my wife, you know, like, what am I going to do? If I don't believe in God anymore? What am I going to do for work? And, like, how am I going to make friends and, you know, husband's family gonna think? And then I remember thinking, God, I don't know if you were there or not. But I know that I will be okay either way. And I fell asleep, and I am a notoriously bad sleeper. Like, I've like been in therapy for my insomnia. Almost chronic nightmares. It's very typical for me to wake up like six or seven times a night. And I remember that night, I slept come, like slept like a rock the whole night. I woke up the next morning. And the first thing I thought when I woke up was, God is not real. And that's okay. And that was it. And that was it. Yeah, and then, you know, from there, I started using poetry to process my deconstruction, because I didn't have a lot of people that I felt comfortable discussing it with. You know, I'm very fortunate that my family is not religious, and I could talk to them about it. And I did have a couple of friends who were much more open. But it was largely just an internal private thing. So I was writing a lot of poetry, which I've now actually released as a my first poetry collection is this collection of poems I wrote during this time.

Arline  34:49  
Wow. Yeah.

Grace  34:51  
But as I was doing that, I realized that I couldn't be the only creative person processing in this way. And that is what led me to start here. Stop. And Laurel was wanting to create a community where other artists and writers and storytellers had a literary journal specifically to tell the stories of deconstruction and religious trauma. Because it, it is so isolating. But it doesn't have to me like it can be this glorious reclamation of who you are and who you want to be in the communities you want to be in. Yeah, and I just wanted to, I just wanted to add something to the space to make it. I don't know, like less daunting, I guess.

Arline  35:38  
Yeah. A recent guest on the podcast, talked about how often we become Christians or become religious in community, like we start going to youth group, or we start going to a college ministry, or our family is religious. And so we're brought up in it, but that when we do convert it is often completely by herself. And often as you were saying, internal, you haven't even told anyone else. And it is isolating. And it's scary. And you have to grieve and be afraid you have to have all these, what people call it like negative emotions they are they're just emotions that are neither positive nor negative. But like, you have these hard, difficult emotions, and you're having to do it by yourself. So when, like you said, creative people create spaces like you're doing to like, how did you say it? I knew I wasn't the only person going through this. I had the opposite response. I thought I was the only person going through this because in my real life, there wasn't anyone and I wasn't online. I wasn't on Instagram, or Facebook or any.

So tell us more about hyssop. And Laura, I am familiar with it. But like, ya know, our audience more?

Grace  36:57  
Yeah. So I think part of what was kind of fueling me through my deconstruction was people I was following on Instagram. So I was following. I'm still following the new evangelicals. And who else Joe lumen? Rabbi Michael Harvey. I don't know. Yeah, he's a really wonderful Jewish teacher. And I found I found it really rewarding to just listen to more Jewish voices and hear that perspective on evangelicalism that has opened my eyes to so much stuff that we're missing. But yeah, I had, I had kind of curated this place on my social media where I could read different perspectives about decolonizing Christianity or stepping away from Christianity. But there wasn't anything creative. It was, you know, there was podcasts like this one, or different blogs or like meme pages, which are also wonderful and valuable, obviously, I love them. But I really wanted a place for creative work. No, I like I, I have had my poetry published in various anthologies and journals. And often they will say, you know, please don't send in religious rants, please. No religious work. Wow. So yeah, so which is, you know, fair enough, because it can be really visceral. And it is. It's particularly niche in terms of genre. And so if you're, if you're a journal, trying to reach a broader audience, you don't want to have people feeling like you're on this or that side of the fence, you want to reach, you know, whatever. So it was, I think it was seeing those deconstruction accounts. That sort of I had this realization of there are lots of people deconstructing. There's there doesn't seem to be a place here, specifically for the creativity that can come out of deconstruction. But if I'm not the only person deconstructing, I am certainly not the only writer deconstructing I'm certainly not the only ex worship leader deconstructing. And yeah, so it was kind of that combination of being a writer myself and submitting to different journals and working on getting my stuff out there. And wanting to be able to share more of my deconstruction work. So I created his memorial. So the name comes from two plants that are named in the Bible. You know, I wanted to have it I wanted to give it like a, I don't know, like a satirical name. That is that you can't really tell is satirical. So it just sounds pretty. Yeah. hisab is the point in the Exodus story that's used to paint the blood over the doorframes. And then moral is what? Christ crown of thorns is made of? Oh, I did not know that part. Yeah. So it's sort of this take on. You know, we save ourselves, we find victory for ourselves. You don't have to have a, somebody else's blood over your door. You don't have to push thorns into somebody else's head. You can do it yourself. Wow. Yeah. So that's where the name came from. And then the project itself. It's a quarterly arts and literary magazine. So we're on Instagram at his hip and Laurel and we just had a new website done. hyssop and Yay. So exciting. It is very exciting. Yes. Yeah, has happened. Laurel is an arts and literary magazine specifically for religious deconstructionists. So we'll publish anything from poetry and prose, essays, short fiction, spoken word, music, visual art, including paintings, photography, drawing, collage, art, anything in the sphere of creative work that has come out of religious deconstruction, we want to see and sort of amplify and push that out into the world. Our first issue came out in November, December, I can't even remember now of 2022. And our second issue will be coming out in March 2023. So not long, and we're Yeah, we're working towards quarterly issues. Spring, summer, fall, winter. And then in between, we will be doing a lot of really exciting content on Patreon. So we've just set up and launched our Patreon this week. And that will include things like quarterly playlists to go along with each magazine, early access to the digital magazine and discounts to purchase the full magazine are top to your Patreon Patreon. patrons will the top tier members of our Patreon will get a hard copy of every magazine, which I'm really excited about and tickets. Yes, the exciting. Yeah, so we're sort of just moving into that space to be able to work a little bit more sustainably and hopefully pay our contributors in the future. But yeah, for now, we're predominantly on our website, which is hyssop and You can read selections from issue one of the magazine and learn about submitting to the magazine and the story behind it. And then in our Etsy shop, you can purchase the full magazine, and a couple poetry prints. And we'll be adding to that shop as the year goes on. But yeah, the the feedback that I have gotten from people has been really, really beautiful and encouraging. And yeah, like I was terrified doing this. I thought, you know, no one is going to send me anything. If I can get five people to send something, and then I'll put in five of my own things. And it'll be a tiny little, you know, zine. And I had over 25 contributors for the first magazine. Oh, that's yeah. Yeah, it was incredible. Some really beautiful art, some incredible poems, I got to review a short novel, which was a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. From Eve's perspective. Oh, wow, that's a great, a great little book, I would highly recommend it. It's called Eden, by Kate Lewis. And I got to interview an art therapist who works with people who have come out of high control religious environments. Our next issue I have, I haven't announced it yet, but I have an interview, that I'm really, really excited about that for me. When I got the confirmation that this person was open to it. I was like, I texted my friend, one of my best friends. I was like, I can't believe I get to interview this person. And she was like, Are you serious? Like, yeah, yeah, that's

Arline  44:11  
super exciting. Yeah.

Grace  44:13  
And I've gotten so many DMS, from people, you know, people in their 20s and 30s. And people in their 60s and 70s who have deconstructed privately just saying, you know, there's nothing else like this in this space. And that's not to toot my own horn at all, but just knowing that you, you know, I thought there was a space here that was needed. And it you know, it was been it has brought so much value to people and helped people feel so much less alone. And, yeah, I'm really excited to see how it grows over the next year. Then hopefully one day we'll have like a real print magazine and a real team of editors and

Arline  44:57  
that's exciting. Okay, I will say a Girl to your own horn like today Oh, you want to, like you are, you're putting greatness out into the world and you're creating a space for other people to put greatness out into the world like,

Grace  45:09  
just to to way, thank you too.

Arline  45:12  
I think back to earlier in your story, what you wanted to do was help people. And like, we're often told in the church, whether explicitly or implicitly that like, all your good works apart from Jesus, or dirty rags, like it's not good enough, it's not doing anything. It's, it doesn't glorify God, blah, blah, blah, all these things. But like, people's lives are better because of your Instagram and your Etsy shop and your just your clever title and beautiful artwork. And then like, it's not just you putting greatness out there, like you're you've created a space for other people to put all of their wonderful art and creativity out there. And I just love it.

Grace  45:56  
Thank you so much. Yeah, I was just gonna say what what you said about, you know, it's not just my work going out there. It's other people's that that was really what I wanted, you know, I never wanted it to be just my deconstruction account and my stuff. Even though I am very proud of, you know, my work and my book, and absolutely, but yeah, I did. I sort of, I guess, if I like envision what has happened, Murrell is I see it almost as this community garden. And if I were doing it myself, you know, it would be a fine garden. But I could maybe do one or two or three flowers. But somebody else comes in and brings in you know, vegetables and somebody brings in some fruit and somebody, maybe somebody brings in a little bit of the devil's lettuce. You know, like, the more people we have creating the garden, the better it gets. And I once heard someone say at a graduation ceremony, the keynote speaker said, Success is using your talents to amplify others. And I really believe that and I think that I feel most proud of myself and most, I guess, like empowered in my work, when it is about helping other people see, you know, your story is worth other people hearing your experience is a unique perspective that brings value to the world in a way that nobody else can. Yeah, giving people a space to do that, where it's, it's really safe. is so so important to me.

Arline  47:42  
I very much agree. And I've been listening to the graceful atheist podcast since 2020. i That was when I officially said out loud that I did not believe anymore. And I think I was looking for atheist. I don't even know if I thought I was an atheist or what I believed yet I just knew I want to listen to something. And I found the graceful atheist podcast, and it has been, it has stayed stable. Because I loved hearing people's stories. And like you said, there, there would be similarities, lots of similarities and stories, but also like just unique perspectives every single time something a little bit different, something a little, like beautiful in each of their own ways. And yes, a very much agree.

Grace, is there anything that I have not asked to you that you wanted to talk about while we were together?

Grace  48:40  
I would love to just do a little plug for my new chat book. That's all right. Oh, go for it. Yeah. So I've just put out my first solo poetry collection. It's just a chat book. So it's pretty short. It's through bottlecap press. And it's called Signs and wonders of poetic journey through religious deconstruction. So it's a yeah, just an easy little collection of like 20 or 25 poems that I wrote while I was deconstructing. And you can find it either through the link tree on his health and laurels, Instagram or through bottlecap presses website. It's $10 for a physical copy or $3 for a digital copy. But yeah, I would love for people to give it a read. And hopefully they'll find something there that resonates with them.

Arline  49:29  
Yes, that sounds wonderful. It's on my TBR list. I struggle with poetry. So anytime I can find poetry that I poetry for grownups children's poetry, I can understand. But if I can find grownup poetry that I love, or can relate to that I'm like, yes. I'm going to read it. Yeah. How does our audience find you online?

Grace  49:52  
So I do have a personal Instagram account, which is pretty much non existent, but it's at Grace Delos. I'm mostly over in Sapa moral which is h YSSO. P, and Laurel, l au R E. L. Our website is hyssop And yeah, I'm pretty active on Instagram. I'm checking DMS pretty much every day. And that links through to our website, our Etsy shop, signs and wonders and our Patreon as well. So that is, that is where we are.

Arline  50:27  
Yeah. Yay. That's fabulous. And we will have all of this in the show notes. As we always ask, Do you have any recommendations, podcasts, books, anything that you consumed during your deconstruction that you're like, here? This was helpful to me?

Grace  50:42  
Yes, I would highly recommend Joe lumens podcast, the living room. I think it was through her podcasts that I found Rabbi Michael Harvey. Yeah, so that that's a podcast that I would highly recommend. I would also recommend the new evangelicals, particularly for people who are sort of feeling homeless in their faith. I think people are probably very familiar with that. And it doesn't need my recommendation, but I will give it to them. Yes.

Arline  51:11  
I'm sure Tim Whitaker will take it. He'll totally take us.

Grace  51:13  
Yeah, he actually I emailed him about his stuff. And Laurel before it was a thing to ask for his advice. And he was really helpful in kind of getting it off the ground. And some people from that community submitted to the first issue and the second issue. So

Arline  51:26  
that's, that's really great.

Grace  51:29  
Yeah, so those are, those are two that I would really recommend. I would also recommend for people dealing with deconstruction, where it's potentially causing friction in their marriage. David Hayward, who is the naked pastor on Instagram, he has a book called till death do us part one changing faith changes your marriage.

Arline  51:50  
I think it's cool. I think that's right. Yes,

Grace  51:52  
I would recommend that book as well. And then a little book, I've talked a little bit about it on our Instagram. It's not necessarily deconstruction related, but it was really helpful for me in my journey. It's a novel called Ella minnow P. I know like I love it. Yeah. Let me look up the author quickly by Mark Dunn. And it is it's a novel that's written in letters. So it's letters between characters in the book. But the story sets place on a fictitious Island, which is home to never knowledge the suppose it creator of the sentence, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, which has every letter of the alphabet in it. This makes it Yeah, so the island, you know, worships Nevin, and they worship literature. And the sentence is preserved on a statue to its creator on the island, it's taken very seriously by the government. But throughout the book, tiles containing letters fall from the inscription. And as each one falls, the island's government bans the contained letters use from written or spoken communication. And because the novel is written in letters, letters from the alphabet start disappearing from the book as you read. So there's a penalty system enforced for using the forbidden letters, public censure, lashing, or stocks. And then banishment if there's a third infringement. And by the end of the novel, most of the islands inhabitants have either been banished or left of their own a court. So the, you know, becomes more authoritative, authoritarian and totalitarian and just utter nonsense as it goes on. But there are certain passages in the book that when I read them, I remember thinking, like sounds like Christianity. Sounds like the 10 commandments. It's, you know, it sounds like a sermon. And it was, I think, for me, it was a really, as I love the book, it's so well written. It's so easy to read. It's like something between Fahrenheit 451 And like, I don't know, something funny and light hearted. It's like, every, everything that satire should be this book is. And I think it helps readers take a really critical look at what it means to worship and push your belief system on to an entire population without actually telling your readers that that's what they're thinking about.

Arline  54:48  
Yeah. Oh, that's

Grace  54:50  
clever. Yeah. So it helped me kind of divorce my thinking from my belief, so that I could see how ridiculous, some tenants of Christianity or when you actually think about what they are. So yeah, I would highly recommend LMNOP by mark that. That's very cool.

Arline  55:15  
Grace from hyssop. And Laurel, thank you so much. This was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for telling your story. I really enjoyed this.

Grace  55:22  
Thank you so much for having me. It was great to chat with you.

Arline  55:30  
My final thoughts on this episode, I really enjoyed talking to grace, I was surprised how many things we had in common things that a lot of moms, especially not only Christian moms, but also Christian moms. Were told motherhood is our greatest calling. And suffering is often idolized in the church, like all these things that you give of yourself, you do it for your family. So we often end up sacrificing ourselves on the altar of having a natural birth, or just having kids at all, because that's what we feel like we should do. We go through postpartum depression alone, we don't even know that we can feel this way and that it's okay and that it's normal. And it breaks my heart when I hear other women's stories. Because I know how lonely that experience can be. And you'd cry out to God hoping that God is going to hear you and help you. And what you need are real humans to come around you and take care of the baby for a little while. So you can sleep, or go for a walk, or go outside. Or binge watch your favorite Netflix show like just anything, you just need help. And you don't know that you can ask for help. And you're calling on an imaginary god to help you. And he didn't do anything. And that's hard. That's a hard place to be. I'm so thankful for her work. For Grace's work on hyssop in Laurel, the magazine, oh, it's just beautiful, like all of the work that they're doing is beautiful. And it's creative. And it's a space a safe space. For those of us who have already deconstructed to finally put out those pieces of artwork that we never let anybody else see while we're deconstructing. Because you often don't have anywhere to put it, you don't have anywhere to give it any anyone to give it to you. And it's good. And it's wonderful. And it's it's beautiful to see how much community and graciousness and kindness and empathy and compassion, we can find. No longer in the church. Like you're told that there's nothing out there without Jesus without God. And it's a lie. It's just a lie. So this was a wonderful episode, I really really enjoyed getting to know Grace even better.

David Ames  58:06  
The Secular Grace Thought of the Week is the truth will set you free. I know I've probably talked about this a lot recently, but I've done a number of interviews both me being interviewed and interviewing other people in which the subject comes up. Over the last month, I've said the multiple times to various people that the seeds of leaving Christianity are built into Christianity, the focus on truth, the focus on honesty, the focus on integrity, the focus on humility. All of those things were the things that attracted me to Jesus to begin with. And all of those things are the things that led me out of Christianity. Many of you know my personal story that 12 steps was some of the first spirituality that I experienced at all. And in the 12 steps, there's this concept of brutal self honesty. This is not a tool to beat someone else over the head with it is an accurate assessment of yourself, both your shortcomings and your worth. Now, obviously, this can lead to a religious perspective, one of sin, and the image of God. It also can mean that you can embrace your humanity for who you are, warts and all, and have love for yourself. I personally believe that that then enables you to love others. But the main focus of this is there's so much cognitive dissonance within Christianity specifically but traditional religion in general, that is focused on belief. Jennifer Michael has talked about the flip side of the coin of belief is doubt. And as we doubt we either have to live in that cognitive dissonance put things on the metaphorical shelf and ignore them, or we have to face them head on. And that need for self honesty that need for truth is a positive thing. It is a good thing. And even though it leads us through the difficult time of deconstruction, in the end, we can embrace those things that have evidence those things that do not deconstruct. I cannot tell you how much peace of mind that I have no longer believing things that do deconstruct that don't have evidence that require faith that require belief. And therefore, doubt is just on the other side of that. The truth will set you free both from an internal point of view. And from an external point of view. You only need to believe in those things that withstand the scrutiny of truth. We have a number of amazing interviews coming up. I just did an interview with Bart Ehrman about his new book, Armageddon, what the Bible really says about the end. That was a really fun conversation for me. I have to spend hours talking to BART, I'm trying to decide when that will come out in the schedule. Also, the long promised interview with Holly Laurent from the mega podcast will be coming up. Lots of community members have been interviewed. 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 for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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