Content Warning: Spiritual, physical and sexual abuse. Depression, post-partum depression, infertility and suicidal idealization.
Arline guest hosts interviewing author and podcaster, Nicki Pappas. Nicki Pappas is a writer who critiques the evangelical establishment that shaped her. She’s the author of As Familiar as Family: Leaving the Toxic Religion I Was Groomed For. She’s also the host of the Broadening the Narrative podcast where she interviews guests who are broadening the narratives she was taught within white evangelicalism. She has three young children with Stephen Pappas, her steady partner in the chaos since 2010. Through her work, she desires to spark hope in the world around her and live out an embodied faith.
Content Warning: sexual abuse, rape, spiritual abuse
This week’s guest is Jessica Moore, a life coach focusing on purity culture. Jessica grew up in a non-denominational Christian in Salt Lake City Utah surrounded by Mormons. She felt both the pressure to evangelize and be proselytized.
Jessica went to an unaccredited Christian college where she first began to have doubts. She wound up traveling to Israel and seeing life on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli border. She experienced the reverse culture shock coming back to the United States.
Jessica put a lot of pressure on herself to be a “godly woman.” Purity culture had a damaging impact on her life.
The focus of her work now is helping people recover from purity culture and religious abuse.
Ben and Ang have been married for seventeen years. They met as tender home-schooled church-kids. They married young, and the church’s “formula” worked well for a while.
They were mostly happy and went on to have kids of their own. But little things from childhood would pop up now and then—purity culture shame, fear of emotions, fear of the end of the world…
In June of 2016, the shooting at Pulse nightclub “broke” Ang, and she knew she had to find a different way forward. By 2017, they both were out of church—Ben trying to save their marriage; Ang trying to save herself.
Now, Ben and Ang are navigating a new and more intimate life together. They’re both agnostic, defining agnosticism a little differently from one another, but they both agree—this life is most important, and it must be lived to the fullest!
This week’s guests are podcasters, Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares of Beyond Atheism.
Nathan grew up Anglican and in his early twenties, he realized there were no good reasons to continue believing. Todd grew up Catholic—technically still confirmed—but even at ten years old, he was a skeptic, wanting to explore reality rather than make-believe.
In this interview, Nathan and Todd discuss racism, humanism, community-building and what it means to live thoughtfully in a godless world. It’s a sharp conversion you don’t want to miss!
“The thing the nuns will teach you in Sunday school: God answers every prayer, but the answer is usually, ‘no.’…If there’s always not an answer, then there’s no one answering.” —Todd
“I kinda wanted there to be a god. I wanted it to be true because it’s a comfort that there’s some ultimate plan for you. You don’t have to worry because things are going to work out for you.” —Nathan
“Once I took that leap into atheism? You realize it’s not really a leap at all.” —Nathan
“Instead of sitting around, talking about technology and trans-humanism and how silly religions are, let’s address what we need as the people that we are.” —Todd
“If you look at the base numbers alone, the largest religious group who vote Democrat are Nones—atheists, people with no religion. It’s huge, solidly so.” —Todd
“The road to becoming an atheist is so lonely. Everybody does it alone. It’s an individual experience.” —Todd
“In the long term, maybe, having these groups where people are forced to create them, build them and dissolve them is the way it should be. That sort of creative process might be the healthiest thing for atheists…compared to those institutions that just stick around forever and outlive their usefulness.” —Todd
“Right now atheists are disproportionately white, but…when you look at the younger generations, it’s the case that atheists as a group are becoming more diverse…” —Nathan
She married at eighteen and expected to have a similarly happy marriage as her parents, but no matter how hard she worked—both literally and metaphorically—that was not going to happen. Heather felt like a spectator, watching the men around her plan her life.
It took years of a one-sided marriage, churches refusing to help and zero answered prayers for Heather to realize she had to be her own savior. Once she had a well-paying job and more education, she no longer needed others to rescue her or her family.
Heather now enjoys a life that is her own and no one else’s. She is the trustworthy one. She can look to herself—her own intuition, her own knowledge and education—for what is best for her. That is a sweet gift that no one can take from her.
I have the freedom and confidence to call myself, Trustworthy.
“…the men were deciding my fate. I was just a bystander.”
…I tried to trust God, and I prayed a lot.
It’s a little easier for women to be financially trapped, especially coming from the Christian background where training in other skills is not always encouraged for women. So what else are they going to do?
…I started to think, Is this a cult that I’m in? because if we can’t consult with anybody else or counsel with anybody else and they don’t want me to visit certain people…”
…the scales fell off of my eyes and I began to see things for what they were…I had been praying for so long and there had never been an answer.
If God has this plan for my life, and I’m just ‘with the wrong people,’ why should that get in the way of an all-powerful god. That doesn’t really make sense.
Once I had financial security, that’s when I could drop all of the weight: I’ll be okay…Now, I can support myself and my children.
The further I stepped away from region, my world got bigger and bigger and bigger.
…Christianity often teaches you not to trust yourself.
Even if it feels as though everything has been stripped away from me, and it looks like there’s nothing left, I can be something…I’m going to be something amazing and beautiful and imaginative. I just need to give myself the chance…
Humanist author and speaker, Joe Simonetta, grew up in a Catholic home with good values. He and his brothers “did well,” and he is thankful for the foundation his parents gave him. As a young man, affected by all the suffering in the world, he vowed to be part of the solution. He has lived a fascinating life, holding degrees from multiple universities, traveling extensively and enjoying all kinds of professions. His full bio is available here.
Joe is hopeful about the future and has three basic rules that he believes can change the future for humanity: Be healthy. Be kind. Respect the environment.
“What triggered me was ‘suffering.’ When I observed the suffering in the world, it really disturbed me.”
“All the while I had this in the back of my mind; this concern about the state of humanity…”
“I said to myself, Do I really have to read all these books? [Metaphysics and religion] could not be this complicated.”
“As I studied all the world religions, it just hit me: There’s nothing here…This is old stuff…the products of our infancy of our intelligence.”
“Everything is connected to everything else. We exist, not separately, but in communion with all other living things…Everything’s in relationship. That’s the nature of the universe.”
“What level of thinking are we at? What level of thinking do we need to get to? And how do we get there?”
“These primitive instincts and emotions which are a biological reality and these antiquated and divisive and dysfunctional supernatural religious beliefs…are a lethal combination of behaviors…and they must be overcome.”
“Religion is clearly an obstacle to human progress.”
“The current great extinction is caused by…us! It’s caused by humanity.”
This week’s guest is the content creator, @boundless_and_free. Boundless grew up in a good Christian home, attended a PCA church and believed all was well in her life. She would later learn the term CPTSD and understand that her “good Christian upbringing” was not quite what she’d thought.
In college, Ms. Free first experienced anxiety and depression but had no vocabulary for it. (The Church rarely discusses these things.) It wasn’t until the “perfect life” she’d been promised began to unravel that she realized she needed a different way to understand both “god” and herself .
Now, as a “parts work” therapist, she helps others on their own journeys. Her personal experience of the divine centers around the ways that humans are connected to one another and the universe.
Once again—whether someone leaves religion and becomes an atheist or continues on a spiritual journey—the real purpose in life comes from connecting with other people. We are all in this together, and we each get one life to leave this world better than we found it.
This week’s guest is Keke. Keke’s family was in church, “running the show,” anytime the doors were open. Life at home was difficult for Keke, however, so the church provided a safe haven. But over time, domestic violence, mental health problems and other family secrets were too great a burden for her to carry.
After high school, Keke joined the military, got married and even led her husband to Jesus. Then in 2017, as she was reading a most peculiar bible story to her daughter, she started on a deconstruction journey she never saw coming.
Keke now is learning everything she can about ancient mythologies, African American history and many other cultures. She’s raising her children to be open to the world and its vast ways of living. She knows that human connection is truly what we need—whether with our ancestors through stories or with those around us today.
This week’s guest is Daniel. Daniel is a social scientist with a master’s degree in psychology. He grew up in the United Church of Canada, but church wasn’t a huge part of his life until high school. He then went to bible college and worked in ministry. He tried to experience God like others were, but it just wouldn’t happen.
He took on the “Office of Skeptic,” for himself. He hoped it would help both his faith and the church. He could articulate questions and doubts that others couldn’t. Were these miraculous stories true? Was God really even there? If so, what the hell was he doing?
Unfortunately, this only kept him in the church longer than he needed. By 2020, he’d been an agnostic theist for years and was finally seeing the harm done in North America by White Christianity.
Now Daniel writes and speaks, sharing his knowledge with those struggling with addictions and other mental health needs. He no longer looks to the supernatural for miracles but knows how much human connection is the true healer.
“I was now immersed in a group where experiencing the presence of God—like spiritual experiences during worship services—was very common, and I could never manage to actually feel those things.”
“[I had a]…brief but memorable career as a Christian Ghostbuster…”
“He took me under his wing and informed me that why I couldn’t feel God’s presence was because it was all blocked by demons. Obviously.”
“Why do you believe that? What evidence do you have for this? Can your observations or experiences be explained by more mundane means or is the spiritual explanation the best or only explanation?”
“To have someone convince [another person that they don’t need their] anti-psychotics because of [their] faith is something that hadn’t even occurred to me before…it was deeply alarming and stuck with me for years afterward.”
‘[In seminary,] many professors would make logically sound arguments but they’d be based on assumptions or premises that were unfounded…”
“For many of the Christian intellectuals I was trying to learn from…critical thinking was a valued skillset up to a point. When we approach the underlying tenants of the faith, we’re suppose to stop…they’re simply too sacred to be questioned.”
“I was trying to find a reason to stay.”
“It’s the human connection that we make between us that’s really changing our lives.”
“I was encouraged by my new [secular] professors to be absolutely ruthless in my pursuit of knowledge, truth and understanding.”
“Me staying in this religion…despite the fact that I was basically agnostic. It’s lending validation to all those Christians who are actively working to make the world a worse place…”
“If we don’t have practices in place—like scientific thinking, like the scientific method…we’re always going to be taken in by things that we’d rather believe or that are easier to believe.”
“Apologetics: Philosophy, but done badly.”
“I don’t shy away from uncomfortable questions or even more uncomfortable answers. That has been such a valuable change in my life and has led me to some incredibly valuable and beneficial relationships…even some from bible college.”
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the best are going to be ahead.”
This week’s guest is Treasure, interviewed by Arline, the Deconversion Anonymous community manager. Treasure grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition. Her whole family was focused on ministry. Treasure is a singer and was continually asked to sing for every church she attended. She was focused on mental health issues and ministering to people in need.
In 2020, Treasure began to quietly question her faith and then began the slow painful process of deconstruction. Though she still loves hymns, even music–once a joy–has become “confusing” due to the obligation to perform for churches and feels like a “job”.
Treasure has found spiritual and community fulfillment in her current spiritual practices of meditation, intentional journaling and yoga, including sound bowl healing. She is also a participant in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group where she says, “It is safe to vent.”
Does prayer work?
Why am I here?
I am OK with not knowing.
You don’t have to unpack it all.
Once…the mind is stretched, it cannot go back to its original form. It just can’t.