Josh de Keijzer: After God’s End

Agnosticism, Atheism, Bloggers, Deconstruction, Philosophy, Podcast, Post Theism, Scholarship, Secular Grace
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This week’s guest is Josh de Keijzer, PhD. Josh writes at After God’s End: Fragments of a Post-Christian narrative  

Josh grew up in an evangelical home in the Netherlands. He knew his family was “set apart,” different from the mainstream Dutch culture. 

“I realized…I had been brought up as an evangelical…We were always part of a minority. ”

As a teenager, Josh took his faith seriously, so he had a hard time with the adults in the church. Their actions did not line up with what they believed, and the hypocrisy was rampant. 

Josh had always wanted to visit the US and was able to attend university and seminary in the States where the questions really began. 

“[I was at] a solidly evangelical seminary but there were plenty of people who did a lot of questioning. I have to credit them for opening my eyes…”

Josh’s questions led him out of the Christian church, but he hasn’t given up on spirituality. Josh’s life has meaning as he lives with compassion and love for others. Always a beautiful thing to behold. 







“I realized…I had been brought up [in the Netherlands] as an evangelical…I realized that we were always ‘set apart.’ We were always part of a minority. ”

“I really hated worship music. I’ve always hated it.” 

“[I was at] a solidly evangelical seminary but there were plenty of people who did a lot of questioning. I have to credit them for opening my eyes…”

“I was given white privilege even as a foreigner.”

“[Justification by faith, now] simply refers to an immaterial fantasy in order to avoid material responsibilities.” 

“Systemic thinking does not come easy for evangelicals.” 

“I call myself a radical theologian but not a Christian.”

“Even though I’m not a Christian, I’m not against religion.”

“Basically 99.9999% of all god concepts are neurotic constructs to drive us away from ourselves, and so, therefore, I’m not too excited about religions.”

“If religions go, then you get something else. You get ideology, and all ideology is just as bad.” 

“That’s the problem with religions and ideologies. They are not just glasses for how we see the world; they are our eyes, our instrument for understanding…”

“Knowledge is social and perspectives are transmitted socially.”

“There is no meaning in life, and you need to accept that before you can create meaning.” 

“…once you leave the Christian faith you don’t have to become an atheist. Atheism is often another version of a committed point of view about which we cannot say anything for certain…”


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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 rate and review the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. If you are doubting deconstructing going through the dark night of the soul, you do not have to do that alone. Join our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous and be amongst friends. You can find us at Next week's guest is Holly Laurent from the mega podcast. Holly and the mega podcast crew are amazingly funny. And now they're about to do a special series that you're gonna love. Mega is an improvised satire in a world of a fictional mega church, and they're releasing a comedy investigation mini series inside the world of their own show called The Rise and Fall of twin hills. The Rise and Fall of twin Hills is a hilarious riff on the self important truth seeking that happens around church scandals and the twisted psychology of those who are inside them. This mini series is chock full of ridiculous scandal put it this way. If you think that the real mega church pastors improprieties we've seen over the last few years are bad. Get ready for the outlandish high jinks of Pastor Steven Judson. If you're a fan of great comedy parody or just want a light hearted take on deconstructing the harmful beliefs we know so well then go check out mega and their new mini series that comes out on May 21. My favorite past episodes have awesome guests like Cecily Strong and Louie Anderson. So look up mega now and follow them. You're not gonna want to miss the rise and fall of twin hills. It's on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, our lien interviews. This week's guest Josh de Keijzer. Josh calls himself a radical theologian. He no longer calls himself a Christian. You can find him on Instagram at after God's end. And he brings a really interesting perspective to the table. Josh is Dutch the discussion that Arline and Josh get into reflects on the differences between the Netherlands and the United States. Near the end, Arline and Josh talk a bit about post modernism. And Josh begins to describe something that I would call secular grace. Here is our lien interviewing Josh de Keijzer.

Arline  2:54  
Hi, Josh, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Josh de Keijzer  2:57  
Thank you, Arline.

Arline  2:58  
I'm super excited. A past guest, Tony, George sent me your information and said, Hey, he may want to be on the show. And I reached out and I was already following you on Instagram. So I was excited when you said yes. And yeah. I'm excited to hear your story. So the way we usually begin is just tell us about the religious environment that you grew up in and tell your story.

Josh de Keijzer  3:21  
Okay. Well, thanks for inviting me on the podcast. And I'm excited to tell a bit about myself. I'm, I'm from the Netherlands. And I have studied in the United States from 2009 to 2017. So it was a long time. an MA in, in Christian thought and then a PhD in systematic theology. Oh, wow. And so I left America, actually, I wanted to stay in America and teach at a college but the whole theology thing in academia was collapsing. So an early sign an early sign of, I would say the de Christianization, or the upcoming de Christianization of the US anyway, so I had to leave and and after returning to the Netherlands, I was unable to make the significant meaningful theological connections. So my academic life finished with me leaving America and now I'm a copywriter and enjoying it very much and taking on bigger names, and bigger jobs. And I'm a ghost writer. Now I write books for companies and for people. And I'm always able to throw in quite a bit of my theological heritage, even though I'm no longer a professing Christian. Anyway, so I started by being born in the Netherlands a long time ago in the 60s. He's, and it was only much later, let's say, you know, toward the end of my stay in America, that I finally realized that I had been brought up as an evangelical as an American Evangelical. Oh, wow. And specifically, you have to attach evangelical to, to the nomenclature because I realized that growing up as a Christian, we were always set apart. We were part of a minority. And we had our network of people. We were not alone, as a family and as a church. But we also didn't really fit into the wider scheme of things. We were strangers in a strange land. Yeah, so later, I realized that's because I was an American Evangelical. And so I've always had a deep interest in America. I also had family in states in the Seattle area, my uncle and and emigrated to the United States in the 60s. So it was kind of an infatuation like America was the real deal. That's where that's the origin of my faith, and, and the whole shebang. So I grew up as an American Evangelical, and we met American missionaries who would come over to Europe, and we, my father was very much in love with an organization that originated in America by the name of Operation mobilization, okay. And he always wanted to join that organization. But he didn't. But eventually, I did. And I spent a couple of times with a couple of years with Operation mobilization on their, on one of their ships, initially, until it sank in South America, and then stuck around for a total of eight years with that organization. During that time, I also wrote a course for like, missionary awareness. So, you know, if deeply, deeply invested, and later I did my bachelor in, in theology, and biblical studies, and then eventually I ended up in, in advertising as a graphic designer, and later as an art director, but I wasn't really satisfied intellectually, I guess. And so it feels like I had an intellectual awakening. And then we're talking like, early 40s. But the intellectual awakening was accompanied by a renewed interest into sources of my faith and the foundations of my Christian faith. So I, I got deeply interested in apologetics, and which is the defense of the Christian faith. A lot, lots of that in the US. And I applied to go to seminary in applied for a seminary in the US for my Masters, and then got admitted at a Christian thought program. And by then I'm in my 40s. So that's where I come from.

Arline  8:02  
Yes. Wow. Okay. I'm curious. What is you said, you guys were set apart. You are clearly like this American version of evangelicalism. What is the like religious look of the Netherlands? Or is that it's very broad, or is it very secular? I have no idea.

Josh de Keijzer  8:18  
Oh, the Netherlands is very secular. Okay. So we experienced our de Christianization moment in the 60s and the 70s. And by the 80s. Basically, nobody went to church anymore, but nobody is not entirely fair. There are still, you know, a bunch of Catholics in the south. We have strong roots in Calvin Calvinistic reformation. But it's, it's only present mostly as a cultural cultural memory. And it is not a there. So we have our Bible belt to like you have in the in the US, we have our Bible Belt. It's really like a narrow strip that crosses the entire nation is like this, where the very conservative people live. And as an Evangelical, I did not belong to them. I had a allegiance elsewhere.

Arline  9:22  
So what did your upbringing look like? Like, was it Church on the weekends church on Wednesday night? That's what I think of evangelicalism, like the more modern music, or was it traditional? Was it at your home to that was another thing

Josh de Keijzer  9:35  
that started to house church in? Oh, wow. The late 60s. And I still have fond memories of that, you know, I don't ascribe to that faith anymore. But fond childhood memories of you know, all the interesting stories of the things that happen there. But yeah, it's very much a kind of a brother in church, met at a house and later at a A synagogue that was no longer in use in our town, gathered a group of people, I think the maximum number of members at one point was at 88, or something, usually much smaller. But there were a lot of a lot of hypocrites around. And let me nuance that because we're all hypocrites we cannot get by in life without being hypocritical. But there's, there's just like the basic level of hypocrisy. And then there is next level hypocrisy where people really try to achieve objectives with sneaky by sneaky means. And I've met a lot of dead men a lot of that. And so as a teenager, I struggled with my faith, because I liked all the music of the world. And I like punk music and new wave, you know, if we're talking about the 80s, and I was a member of a band, I was a singer and a keyboard player. And on the, on the other hand, the faith thing. So I struggled with that. And now when I look back, I realize that even back then, the hypocrisy that people had, and not just general hypocrisy, but people who try to con my parents and, and put them down and just did humiliate them. And replace them. I guess it really did something to me at a subconscious level. I know that I always hated worship music, I just hated it. And luckily, being the pianist at church, you know, you hit along and you turn all those songs, either in jazz or, you know, whatever you fancy you improvise around the song. And so that was the fun part. But actually, I really hated worship music. I really hated it. I've always made it. Interesting, right? Was that, like an early rebellious response? I guess. So I guess like did, this didn't work for me.

So and then later, when I, I came to the US to study theology, I was invested at a sort of an intellectual, from an intellectual point of view, looking that, you know, if you can nail down the intellectual foundation of Christianity, then you don't have to worry about the worship styles and stuff that I don't really care for. But then at least you were making a contribution at a very fundamental level, that kind of, I think that was my objective. And so he can make your contribution that way intellectually. But the culture never appealed to me.

Arline  12:42  
Oh, that's fascinating. I liked a little bit of both of it. Like I also have good memories, I did not grow up in the church. But my years in church, for the most part, were good. But I did I liked the Hillsong music, but I also liked the reading all the dead white guy books like So thinking back to when you were young, and you're talking about being rebellious, like young people take their often will take their beliefs very seriously. Like if Jesus really is the only way to God and like all the stuff that you're being taught is true. When you see people's lives not be changed, and the way they treat your family and the hypocrisy. It's much harder to like, make it work. Because it's like, if there really is a Holy Spirit, who's supposed to be changing people, why am I seeing this kind of behavior from these people, especially the adults that you're supposed to look up to? And things?

Josh de Keijzer  13:32  
I was not self differentiated enough. So in my view, it was just like, my dad was being beleaguered by evil men. Yeah, of course, that's not what Christians were like. So there was something wrong and maybe it was the devil. You know, he was he was waging a spiritual warfare here. And oh, good. Those lines. Yeah. So I think I think my rebellious ness is more at a subconscious level. And my hatred for worship music was a sign of that. It was it was a sign of things to come.

Arline  14:04  
Ha, that's funny. That's funny. So yeah, so what happened? Were there small things that happened that you started losing your belief? So we're

Josh de Keijzer  14:12  
no, no, no, not at all. So I struggled with my faith, but I was committed and I remained committed. And by the time I had my intellectual revival, or whatever you want awakening, I was, I was still firmly committed to the Christian faith, and already gone through a couple of phases of, like, recommitment or deepening or whatever you want to call it. I don't care. But so no, the questioning started only at the seminary. That's where I started going haywire from the Midwest, and I'd finally kind of achieved my dream. And so it was at the the Walhalla of Christianity, so to speak, you know, my, my blend of Christianity and And so now I have come to the truth right now. Now I would figure it all out. But then we were. And this is a personal anecdote, so I'm not going to go too deep into it if you don't mind. But in my family situation, stuff went really bad. Between me and my wife. It resulted in me living alone on campus. For the rest of my stay in America. Okay, so that was a first dent. And I'm like, so How was this possible? You know, the Lord guided us it was God's will. God knows everything, he knew that this was going to happen. So how can God make this happen? Why couldn't he have prevented us from going because then this wouldn't have happened bla bla bla. So you know, the questions start coming. And I guess my I also met people at that seminary, it was a thoroughly solidly evangelical seminary. But there were plenty of people who did a lot of questioning, and to credit them for, you know, opening my eyes, like, Hey, you can think differently. You don't have to be a mentalist. And one of the one of the major insights was, and it wasn't my first year that I realized, hey, look, you can describe certain things as sin, you know, or rich people need to repent and and get right with the Lord. But you can also do family marriage therapy, and then help them see where it comes from, and not sin, and they start feeling much, much better in the Lord. So that kind of I realized that. So I struggled along and try to embrace some some like postmodern notions, blah, blah, blah. But the big change for me came. In my second year, I had a black classmate, and she posted something on on Facebook, and one evening, where narrated how she had been stopped by the police in her own her own neighborhood. And police had told her, Hey, you drove through red light? And she had answered, No, I didn't. And then I said, okay, but next time, you know, you better be careful. And so she narrated that. And suddenly, it dawned on me, comparing myself with her situation. There she was in her own country, in her own name, having to experience these things on a regular basis. And here I was, as a foreigner, in America, driving my sports coupe, vehicle, speeding everywhere, all the time, under any circumstance, not just not worried. It's like, it's not in my mind that I should be worried about the police. And if I would have been stopped by the police, I would have thrown my hands in the air and say, I'm sorry, officer, I'm not from here. I'm from Europe, and we drive differently. I was just not thinking what I was doing. I'm sorry, it would have just let me get off. But hey, if you're a black, it's a different story. Ah, even even in the northern parts of the Midwest, and, and so I realized what was going on I was I was given white privilege, even as a foreigner, and I was living it out subconsciously, like all these other white people around me. And she was not having that, any of that. And she had to be careful in her own neighbor. So that set off a chain reaction. I finally started seeing racism from like, from the inside. I was already pretty much aware of it, but I started seeing it from the inside. And next I realized that racism played a large part in how things were being done at my seminary and university, because they have diversity committee. Oh, sure. And guess who was on the Diversity Committee of this all white seminary? X, black person? Why Asian person Z? And who is the president of the committee? Asian background, Professor, okay. Yeah, like African American professor. And so they were allowed to do their little thing in their little corner. As long as the rest of them could just go on doing what they were doing.

Arline  19:24  
It didn't look like anything was actually going to be changed or accommodated.

Josh de Keijzer  19:29  
at a deep level, not at a deep level. I see. And, and then, of course, you start hearing the voices and it started it's with like, a theologian, like what's his name? Nevermind, nevermind, his name doesn't matter. Like a very moderate, pretty conservative theologian who had a Hispanic background. We noted that you know, in history, the history of theology See that many decisions were made out of concerns of power, and over truth. And so you started, I started seeing more and more of that, and it became more and more uncomfortable.

And so I would say that racism was the big, the big chain, the big changer for me. Because how is it possible there you have a seminary, and we all have the word of the Lord. The Bible is God's absolute word contains God's absolute truth. And you know, we are so lucky to have it and to understand how it works. And so let's expound the Bible, the word, let's do a little bit more of Bible study or systematic theology, and you know, can get doctrinally righteous. But at the same time, they these very people were not able, and still, to this day, and 10 year from now will not be able to address the latent, not just even latent, blatant racism in their city. So what then broke?

Arline  21:10  
Again, it goes back to like, for me, at least I understood that the Bible, the Holy Spirit, all these different spiritual things were supposed to change people's lives. And when you watch people who have privilege and power, use those things for more privilege and power, and not to take care of the groups of people that when I would read the gospels, and even the Old Testament prophets, it looked like this is the stuff that God cared about. Now, I have a very, you know, a different perspective on lots of lots of parts of the Bible now, but Jesus seemed to hang out with the disenfranchised people. And yet, we watch, especially white American evangelicalism literally keep power and privilege for themselves and not not want anything to change, because why would they want things to change? Because then other people might have privilege and power and they don't? They don't want to have to share anything. It's, yeah, but it doesn't make any sense. Because you think that they're being changed by this magical supernatural stuff?

Josh de Keijzer  22:16  
Yeah. And so the funny thing is that, that I realized at one point that the entire theological structure structure, the way theology is set up, is a setup, to avoid the moral consequences of, of the gospel, whatever the gospel may be, I don't know. I don't know what the gospel, but it is, it's insane. So it always talks about the personal sins, and and it always addresses the vertical relationship between a believer and God. And so it's a very sterile kind of faith, justification by faith. For instance, when Luther first coined that that term, in the early 1600s, early 16th century, when he first coined that term, it was a revolutionary term. And it meant justification as in just pneus, as injustice for free. What does it mean technical term, as a technical term and evangelical theology, it means to get off the hook with God. So God is opening the invisible realm, blah, blah, blah, and nobody knows what happens. But magically, you're off the hook. So it's a real term, it doesn't it basically doesn't mean anymore. It's anything anymore. It simply refers to a to a non material fantasy, in order to avoid material responsibilities.

Arline  23:50  
That makes a lot of sense of I've heard it said that. I can't remember the name of the book, but it was it talked about the difference between how white American Christians and black American Christians and again, you know, there's nuance of course there's nuance, interpret the Bible, and there's this with white evangelicalism, especially, and maybe other other types of white Christianity, I'm not sure but it's very individualistic. Like anytime Paul's talking, it's not talking to y'all to use my like Southern Georgia. It's not y'all, it's just you individually. So then as long as you have done your vertical thing to deal with God, it doesn't matter the people that you've harmed. And then whereas with black Christianity, there's a much more a deeper understanding of the like, systemic things that are harming entire groups of people and because they've been part of being harmed by the system set in place. I used to wonder like, how do we help Christian when I was still a Christian like how do we help white Christians see this, but it was a chasing after the wind to use like a Bible phrase because I saw very little desire For to understand anything differently than what they did understand.

Josh de Keijzer  25:03  
There is there is no desire on the part of white evangelical Christians in America, by and large, because there are some there are some

Arline  25:12  
hashtag, not all I know.

Josh de Keijzer  25:15  
But it is very disappointing. It is deeply disheartening. And I have close friends at that particular seminary who are still close friends of mine. But when Philando Castile was shot by that police officer that happened in my street, by the way, I used to walk every day. It's a very long street, and I love to love that St. Larpenteur Avenue in Minneapolis, St. Paul, actually, anyway, so my friends for white hot, because the people were assuming things about the police officer, and things were not fully investigated. So they were white hot about the police officer being on what do you call that in English? Like leave, like afraid of leave, I think. But they could not muster enough indignation for you know, the shooting of a, of a of a black person

Arline  26:17  
who had done everything he was supposed to in that situation.

Josh de Keijzer  26:21  
I heard I heard audio. That's It's sickening.

Arline  26:26  
I had family who their perspective went straight to well, why was the woman recording? And it was like, because otherwise we would have never known what actually happened, like this poor lady has to has to like, extra traumatize herself to record this. And it was just, I couldn't understand. Sorry, I have a hard time articulating this, I couldn't understand how someone being just pointed, like murdered by the police officer was not the like, clearly this is a terrible thing that we need to figure out what's going on. I don't understand why it's not understandable.

Josh de Keijzer  27:07  
But for me, it highlighted my evangelical friends inability to, to understand or to even. And it's not like they hated blacks, those people? Well, they love black people. They had a very good friendship with our neighbor in seminary, he was black, you know, in time, they can't see it, and they're not willing to see it. And it's mind boggling, mind boggling.

Arline  27:29  
Have you noticed, I noticed this in the church. And I know that the worship of whiteness goes way outside the church like this is not just a church thing at all. But white church people that I knew, could have black friends, and even use that as an excuse to never deal with any kind of thing that they may have done that was racist, or see racist policies. But they could use that as an excuse. But it was like this bizarre I can separate you guys from the way that I vote or the way that I, you know, believe about police brutality, or I don't know, capitalism, I mean, anything, there's so many different things that, did you see the disconnect that people

Josh de Keijzer  28:11  
totally, I cannot figure it out, except that maybe as you when you're an evangelical you Your world is, in a sense, very simple. Because everything is your personal relationship with Jesus. And everything is seen from that perspective.

Arline  28:30  
And that little individualistic, individualistic approach, so

Josh de Keijzer  28:34  
you're not able to even understand the systemic nature of politics and the socio economic realities that surround you. All you can think of, we need to, you know, one issue here, to make sure that the Christians come back in power so we can do, can make sure that the Lord's will is done in this country that was founded as a Christian nation. But it's like, even there, the thinking is extremely simple minded. And systemic thinking does not come easy for evangelicals. And I know because I struggled to develop it, you know, at a later

Arline  29:11  
I was part of the group for a long time

thinking about Christian nationalism, what do you see happening over here with the Christian nationalism and trying to take back America and and all that stuff?

Josh de Keijzer  29:34  
Yeah. So I was I, I left the US in 2017. So I've had one year or good eight months of Trump. And I didn't know how quickly to leave the place. Yeah, because it was it was becoming a very scary place. And I think America is a scary, very scary place. And there's something deeply ironic and I I tend to revert back to the evangelical movement because I'm, I've been part of it for so long. So, in a weird way, I still identify with them, like I talked about us, you know, which is because I'm an evangelical but so what they're the weird thing is this. They are they are warning against an apocalypse and impending destruction of the world. And, and by their actions and voting in an absolute moral and moral monster, they are actually bringing about the demise of their own nation. Oh, wow. That's, that's how I see that I could completely exaggerate things here. But if I read some of the American media, not all the time, but there are people who say similar things like we're really sliding to chaos, anarchy, if we're not careful, and look at how polarized the American society currently is, there's even like Sean Hannity, and what's his name? Oh, cut of what did he call it? Breaking up the nation, they have a term for it. Civil War is that whatever euphemism of nation of states breaking away from from the off, you know, I

Arline  31:24  
know seceding, but I don't know. I don't know if that's the right

Josh de Keijzer  31:28  
thing. But that's not the term they're using. Yeah. This, my goodness, where you guys go on with this.

Arline  31:34  
It's sad, because there's this strange inability to see the idea of patriotism and love of nation, also bringing about what feels like the destruction of the nation that you say that you love them. But, you know, the nation that they love, I think is this mythical white supremacist world that I don't know that it's ever existed, at least

Josh de Keijzer  32:00  
for those are fantasy, people are always fighting, nostalgic fantasy.

Arline  32:05  
And if you live your individualistic little Christian world, then if your daily life is fine, it doesn't register that you're perfect. When you go and you vote, and you believe they do these different things, you're participating in what can make things way worse. But it depends on also your thoughts of what's worse, because for us, that sounds worse. But the idea of, you know, women having power over their own bodies, black and brown people having access to resources to like upward mobility, and more wealth, and all these different things that sounds bad to them. And it's, I don't understand it, I have a hard time.

Josh de Keijzer  32:42  
What I find very interesting is that evangelicals who always warned against post modernism, who Be careful post modernism, because that's like devaluation of absolute truth. They are the most postmodern idiots I've ever seen. But then postmodern thought is a great, then they are postmodern idiots. latently lie to you, when you confront them. It's something about Trump or they will ignore it. Now we keep talking about Trump, Trump is a little bit out of the picture, perhaps I don't know. But like the public debates that are going on, like there's been, there's often an obvious proof for for something, they will just deny it or they will, they will flock behind Fox News and and espouse those the lies that are going on there. So I find that very, very weird and ironic.

Arline  33:36  
That's fascinating. I hadn't thought about that. But that makes sense the idea of relative truth, because I remember learning that, that that was bad. You just don't believe that. Of course, there's objective truth. And yet here we are with those Saint very, very many of those same Christian people perfectly fine with ignoring objective truth, or believing whatever, what is it confirmation bias, whatever they are, whatever will already agree with what they've heard, which I know we're all guilty of. I know that's true.

So like, where are you now? What are like, metaphorically like, where are you now? What what are you doing as far as? Are you on a spiritual journey? Are you out you're done, or we were?

Josh de Keijzer  34:26  
What happened? Because of my family situation, I could not simply return to the Netherlands in 2012. And so in 2011, I applied for a Ph. D. Program at the same city. And I got in, amazingly, and it was a mainline Lutheran seminary. Oh, wow. And I have to say that was a breath of fresh air. And though I'm no longer I don't see myself as a Christian anymore. but I still like Lutheran theology, and of course Lutheran theology. There's two conservative kinds and that are not so interesting. But liberal Lutheran theology or if you will, radical Lutheran theology or where it intersects with liberation theology or feminist theology. I have to say it's it's fantastic, fantastic theology. And I did my research on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who is famous in the in the US a claim by different different factions of Christianity. But in order to understand Bahnhof rebel, I had to study Luther. So I had been back to the 16th century. And I discovered a minority report and Luthers theology, even though he said about, or initiated the Reformation, which became super big, of course, it's probably fair to say that his discovery or his invention, if you will, imagination of justification by faith, and the theology that came to be known as the theology of the cross is actually kind of a minority report in, in Christianity and as pumped up here and there. And it is always the story not of power. So the main story, the main narrative of Christianity is always about power. And how you secure power, either by apostolic succession, because then the first pope got the keys from Peter, who got the keys from G. JC, right? That's right, yeah. So that works. And then the other ways to say, the word of the Lord, we have the word of the Lord, and it gives you knowledge of how things work. So those have been two main strategies in Western Christianity to hold sway over the masses, and power and gain political power. But the Minority Report says something very different than it's as if Jesus is God's self revelation, which we all are suggesting is, then we can be safe, we're safe, it's safe to say that whatever God is, is always going to be contrary to our expectation, because there you have a baby in the manger, making dirty diapers, you know, he could die anytime he's in a manger. So he has poor parents, and he becomes a man of, of with, with a lot of grief and suffering in his life, and he dies on it. That's God. So the god, you thought was sitting on the throne, the true nature of that God reveals itself or himself or herself as brokenness, weakness, as death. And so and so that kind of theology can never come to a consensus about this is the right doctrine or the right dogma, it is ongoing searching, that tries to subvert every constructed makes, because every construct you make is already like trying to domesticate the idea of God. That's very interesting theology. And I still like a lot of it, even though I'm no longer a Christian. And some of the best thinkers in Europe have come from that tradition. Think of Kant and Hegel and Heidegger, not that the role morally clean people, but very interesting people, and they have set the course on Nietzsche. He has a Lutheran background Kierkegaard. So I really liked a traditional LOD I still do. And then toward the end of my studies, I came in touch, I was introduced to radical theology. And unlike the name suggests, radical theology is not theology. It is not, it's not a discourse that helps us connect with God. But it is the discourse that takes every god concept, and it says, Oops, look at that wrong, something is wrong here. It started with the death of God theologians in the 60s if you've heard of them. That was an entire movement at that time of a theologians that said that God had died. And what they meant is God died culturally, or the way we do theology, we cannot do that anymore, or Christianity is over and things have to go radically different. And so that movement has continued. And it is, again, a minority report, because in the holes of official theory, theology dumb, that's it's not recognized. It's not talked about. It doesn't have it doesn't get a place. But that theology is very radical. It's very subversive, antithetical, and it is, and that's the beautiful thing of it. It's a perfect tool to actually analyze society as such, and to analyze ideologies and it has The routings in continental philosophy, like strong links, but the thought of Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher who came up with the notion of deconstruction, which even extra angelical took over and turn to something else. And strong connections with the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Shishak, who started is also fit, very influential in Europe. But it has a lot of connections with practical theology. And so it's exciting stuff. And I traveled down that path. And so I call myself a radical theologian, I guess. But I'm not a Christian.

Arline  40:42  
I am familiar with some of those names. Mostly just the names. I don't know much more than that. But that's fascinating. I love it.

Is there anything I should have asked, but I did not ask that you want to talk about?

Josh de Keijzer  41:04  
Well, let me just say that, even though I'm not a Christian, I'm not against I'm not against religions or anything. But religions are complex. ancient ways are usually ancient ways, complex ways of understanding reality, and bringing in morals and finding answer for questions. But because we as human beings, when we become self aware, and self conscious, and we become aware of the nature of our life, lives as meaningless. And as has eventually ending, we get this anxiety that drives all human beings, we devise strategies to avoid our end and to avoid facing the darkness in the eyes. And so that religions conform to, to the anxious human being, and then becomes a tool that is unhealthy. And so basically 99.999 of all God concepts, are neurotic constructs to, to drive us away from ourselves. And so therefore, I'm not too excited about religions. But okay, if religions go, what do you get, you get something else, which is ideology. And ideology is just as bad. It's just got under a singular name. And it is the same drive to or away from ourselves and away from our fate. And as we anxiously avoid our fate fee, we try to trample on our people and lord it over other people seek wealth and seek diversion, and run away from the truth.

Arline  42:41  
Yeah, it seems like if we're harming others, and we're, I don't know what the word is that I'm looking for, like so attached, maybe that's attached to the ideology, or the religion, anything that gives us meaning or just answers questions that we that we have. And we can't detach ourselves from it long enough to ask any probing questions. All the while harming other people and harming ourselves. Like, that's not good. No, like, no matter what, what version of that, whether it's an ism, you know, a secular ism, or a, or a religious thing? Yeah, it's, it's true, it's

Josh de Keijzer  43:20  
that but the problem is that both with religions and ideologies, we are not able to, to understand reality, apart from it, there's just no way for us to do it. So during, during the years that I wasn't even Jellicle Christian, like actualizing, that God would not exist was not an option. It's not that I could not say, Okay, let me just play the atheist here, and there is no battle. I can conceptually do it. But from deep from within, I was not able to conceive the world as possible. Out of God. That's fascinating. Yeah. And so ideologically, if you look at capitalism, for instance, people who are are not haven't thought about this long enough and haven't done the hard work. They cannot envision a world where the free market does not reign supreme. It just, it's not conceivable, then how should we do it? You mean, it should become ease, you know? It's not conceivable, even though they can conceptually talk about it. And so that is the problem with ideology and religion. They are not some they're not just glasses through which we look at the world. But there are basically our eyes there are our our main instrument for understanding our reality. And, and they're often very unhealthy. They're, they're anxiously driven, and we can see it. So we think we're normal people, or we think we're decent churchgoers, or we think we're, you know, we're pursuing a career in society, but All the while they're just driven by it is deep in this thing deep down in us.

Arline  45:05  
Do you know and this, this is me thinking of the fly? What are your thoughts on like, how do we help people not think in such a? Well, if it's not this absolute thing, then it will only be this other absolute this binary thinking, like helping people have nuanced. Do you have any idea how we do that? Or is it like? Well, it's not really our responsibility to do that to other people.

Josh de Keijzer  45:25  
Yeah, it's possible by forging friendships with people who think different from you. Because knowledge is social. And so perspective, perspectives are transmitted socially. And that is a very good thing. And also, I think we should be brutally honest about reality. And so I tend to say like, there's a lot of people who would say life is meaningful. Life is not meaningful, there is no meaning in life. And you need to accept that before you can create meaning.

Arline  46:02  
Oh, that's fascinating. Yeah. I think humanist I think it's what I would, I guess, put myself under. And so yeah, I believe, you know, humans, we make meaning out of things. Even when I was a Christian, I was, like, theoretically fine with when I died, I died. Like I didn't, I wasn't, you know, didn't feel any kind of way about that. In theory, and you know, I never got so sick that I might possibly die. And it was, it came, you know, face to face with it. But yeah, that's an interesting idea that we have to realize that life does not have meaning before we can begin to make meaning.

Josh de Keijzer  46:37  
Yeah. And so what drives that? Is this, the moment we become self aware, so we become to realize, so Mommy, are you going to die? The child asking that question. And, yeah, one day, I will put this a long way off. And then will I also die? Yeah, but that's a long way off, it's not going to happen anytime soon. Still, that moment is the moment where the conscious human being becomes, you know, her true self. So you need to you need to face that you need to not run away from it. And it makes sense, once we can accept the main Oh, yeah. So this is what I was gonna say. So what makes meaning for us is, we try to turn the world, or COVID into ourselves. So we become the center of the universe, and make everything evolve around us. And that's how we think we create meaning. I'm sure it works to some extent. And I'm not saying we're super selfish beings. I'm not saying that. But it's just it's an orientation, like the self has to be the center, the self has to achieve longevity or eternity. Immortality, if not, for real, that may be in the books I write, you know that that kind of thing. The memories, the things I leave behind are the ones I love.

But once you can let go of self, and kind of can accept that you're finite. So like, throw yourself in that abyss of darkness, and accept that, that even though it's maybe 30, or 40 years old, except it is now. And once you can do that, then you can return to life. And then say I have a surplus on my back, that's my life that I just lost. And I don't need to center it anymore. And so then you can start centering other people. And when you center other people, I guess to the common word for that is love. And when you when you use your life, your surplus for developing of others, and you don't care whether you're remembered, or you don't care, whether you're rich or poor, you just don't care. Because you've already lost your life. And then when you invest in others, then you find the meaning of life. Because the meaning of life is to live difficult word, EXO centrically or outside of yourself. But that's something that because of our evolutionary upbringing, your evolutionary origins, we can do, our self consciousness forces us to center ourselves in anxiety. And once we can overcome that we be find the meaning of life to help others to be there for others to give love.

Arline  49:26  
Part of me, you know, having been a woman in the Christian world for a long time, it's like, but that's what we did for all that. That's what I did. You know, it's like, and that's what you did.

Josh de Keijzer  49:37  
That's totally unhealthy.

Arline  49:39  
Yeah, that yes, the not being able, like Brene Brown, I don't know if you're familiar with her work, she talks about the most compassionate people are people with boundaries, people who can like give and give and give and then say no, I cannot give any more I need to be able to take care of my own self are really

Josh de Keijzer  49:56  
saying this, because that is the absolute necessary addition to what I'm saying? Because yes, you're right. Healthcare comes first. But I'm talking about is not like, you know, just be the least just serve you. I'm not saying that.

Arline  50:15  
Oh, yes, I know. I know. It's, it brings up that same feeling. But I know what you're saying. And you're not the first use of Internet who are like, loving other people taking care of other people like, because there really is a lot of truth behind that. Well, I was gonna say pour yourself out for people, oh, Christian Christianese comes out all the time.

Josh de Keijzer  50:35  
But yeah, that's not what I mean. It's just like, if you live decentered, then it's basically the Buddhist tradition, once you can see yourself. So it's like Jesus tradition and the Buddhist tradition coming together. Because Jesus said, If you want to gain your life, you have to lose it. Because like, what does it mean? What does it mean? What does it mean? And then quickly, Christians turn it into you needs to be born again and saved. You actually, you don't need salvation, you need loss. But the Buddhist tradition is like, once you can understand that you are an illusion, here, you're an illusion, and you can let go of the desires. And then everything is sold. There's no problem anymore. But healthy boundaries, so but this weird error is that there is a component there of self care. And you can only truly love others when you are able to take care of yourself. I agree. I agree to that.

Arline  51:33  
Yeah. Do you have any recommendations, podcasts, books, anything that you read, as you were deconstructing or that you're reading now that you're like, This is so influential in my life?

Josh de Keijzer  51:48  
So I'd like to bring up one book, no three books. One is then sort of the academic version. That's the Palgrave Handbook of radical theology. Okay. And it's not a cheap one. But it brings together so thinkers over a period of what 50 years in the area of radical theology, and what I like about radical theology so much is like, Okay, once you leave the Christian faith, you don't have to become an atheist. Atheism is often another version of a committed point of view, about which we cannot say anything for certain so why? And so it's like, radical theology charts, of course, beyond the division between theology faith on one end, and atheism on the other. Although it can be quite atheistic, in its in its own way. Then two other books. So one is a book that recently came out and I haven't read it yet, but the the author asked me to review her book for her. And the author has had her Hamilton. And she's, and the book is returning to Eden a field guide for the spiritual journey. So I thought it was so nice to mention that.

Arline  53:04  
Okay, yes, it has popped up a few different places in my Instagram. So I have been hearing about this book, and it makes me curious. Yeah.

Josh de Keijzer  53:13  
And so I think it is a way for Christians who can no longer be Evangelical, to still do something meaningful with a biblical text and find a new way of making meaning out of it through a mythological interpretation, I think that's what I'm, that's my take on it. And then the third book is interesting. It's called safer than the known way, a post Christian journey, by Maria, Francesca French. And she is, uh, she actually was in my seminary. So we're friends. And I'm also I just did a review on her book. And so her story or her, her narrative in that book is very much like my own. It's post Christian. It is radical theology. And it charts of course, beyond the division, or the end and antithesis between atheism, and Christianity. And so I think that's a very interesting book for, for people who are done who are really done with religion. And that might be a good book to

Arline  54:17  
pick up. And I have found there lots of people who they're done with religion, but they might still love Jesus, they might still, you know, have an end for so many people being a Christian was such a huge part of their lives for so long. That it is you know, it's not always something you can just throw away like, the language is still there. The some of the feelings are still there. Now, sometimes it needs to be like, and we're done, like completely. But yeah, that's not always the thing. So I've heard of the second author or the Maria author, and then yeah, returning to Eden has popped up a few different places recently. So it makes me curious. Okay, how can people find you online? That's how I found you. How can others find you?

Josh de Keijzer  54:57  
Yeah, so I have an Instagram work out after God's end, where I usually post things that would make any Christian angry. Which are expressions of my anger towards Christianity.

Arline  55:13  
Yeah, I very much get it. I recently just posted to my like personal Facebook, I need a women's like Facebook thread where we can just be angry sometimes together, and I've had three people be like, I'm here for it. And so we have our little group that just, sometimes you just need to be angry with some other people. And then you feel a little bit better. Yep, I understand. You're right, you're

Josh de Keijzer  55:36  
right. And other than that, as a theologian i, okay, I call myself a radical theologian. But on the other hand, I don't call myself a theologian anymore. I've, I've an interesting career now as a freelance copywriter. Maybe I'll call myself a philosopher. I do that sometimes. That I tell people I studied philosophy of religion, which is actually very true, as far as my PhD is concerned. But I'm a copywriter. So I could give you my account, or mentioned my accounts, but they are. I'm on LinkedIn there. But I write a lot of Dutch these days, because I've written 1000s of pages in English. But no matter how much I try, it's never going to be as good as my touch. That makes sense.

Arline  56:24  
Yeah. I'm enjoying honing

Josh de Keijzer  56:27  
my skills as a Dutch copywriter. And who knows, I will, you know, pick up a book idea and work on it at some point.

Arline  56:36  
That's awesome. Well, Josh, thank you so much for doing this. I had a delightful time getting to know you better. I appreciate it.

Josh de Keijzer  56:43  
Thank you, Arline. That was a great conversation.

Arline  56:52  
My final thoughts on the episode, I really enjoyed that discussion. I love that Josh is using his platform today to just be a space to get his anger out. But also to let other people know that they aren't alone, that you can deconstruct the fundamentalist or conservative Christianity that you grew up with, or that you've believed as an adult. And there are places for you to go. There is radical theology, feminist theology, womanist, theology, queer affirming theology, like there's so many other ways to look at the Bible, or Christianity or Jesus and still love those things, and appreciate them in a new way. I personally have thrown it all out in in fine without there being gods or goddesses or any kind of thing like that. But everyone needs somewhere that they can, that they can land if they want to land somewhere. And so this is good that this exists out on Instagram, and the online community that you're able to build on Instagram really is amazing. And so I'm glad Josh is doing that. And I've learned a lot from his page. And I know other people have learned a lot and will continue to learn. And so Josh, thanks again for being on the podcast.

David Ames  58:19  
For the secular Grace Thought of the Week, I really can't help myself but talk about the post modernism and secular Grace aspects of Josh's story. I've found it just amazing, having been a part of the church when the idea of being postmodern to have truth be relative, the will to power to be a negative thing, something that was decried from the pulpit constantly to find ourselves in a moment where the church seems to have embraced this entirely. Unwittingly, they would never obviously call themselves postmodern they use post modernism as an epitaph. The other interesting thing about that is that the way that post modernism is used colloquially by the church is incorrect. Interestingly enough, post modernism is really important for those of us who have gone through deconstruction and deconversion. And it's more than Derrida and the original idea of deconstruction, that had nothing to do with religion. But more so the idea of modernism, modernism was about having answers, answers to life's questions, authorities that could be trusted. And post modernism was a departure from that the recognition that those authorities could be mistaken, were in fact mistaken, that the answers that we were satisfied with weren't good enough. In Dana Freibach-Heifetz's book titled Secular Grace, she draws a direct line from the enlightenment to post modernism to see secular grace, and that in her mind that progression is a healthy and natural one. Obviously, that's something that that I agree with. But I appreciate when I hear someone else articulate secular Grace without using those words. I think Josh was describing that a focus on loving people even serving people to use that churchy word is a part of this proactive love that I call secular grace. Next week is Holly Laurent from the mega podcast. Holly is amazing to talk to. She is a fantastic comedian, and I think you're gonna love that. And also check out the rise and fall of twin hills, a satirical look at powerful pastors within the pretend world of the twin Hills Church on the Mega podcast. Check that out as well. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheist United studios Podcast Network

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