My guest this week is Joel. Joel grew up in the WELS Lutheran church. He met his wife at a Christian group during college. They attended a few churches, one of which was Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s church.
Joel began to question what he had been taught. He began noticing discrepancies in scripture. He began to see the way the Church handled LGBTQ rights and the role of women was wrong.
Am I waiting for revelation to confirm what I have been taught or am I avoiding an inevitable confrontation with my real thoughts and beliefs.
He was able to reconnect with his sister as they grieved the loss of his grandfather. He discovered that she had deconstructed as well. He began to see atheism as not just reductionist and evil but as a viable option.
I got really afraid, to be honest, because I am not thinking “oh, I am finally learning the truth.” I am thinking, “I am losing this faith that I should be given and I am falling away I am going to be punished for it.”
Today he is making his unequally yoked relationship work with mutual respect and love. And he is experiencing “absolute joy that the shackles are off.”
It started to make me think of blind faith as a concept. And I started to think, “Am I also blindly faithful of things and what does that look like?”
My guest this week is Eli Fuhrmler-Wheeler. Eli grew up going to Awanas at an Evangelical Free church. Eventually, he attended an Assemblies of God church and spoke in tongues. His parents forbade him from going to that church and “of course I felt they were keeping me from the gates of heaven and pulling me into hell.”
Eli’s childhood was traumatic in many ways. He experienced sexual abuse, neglect, his mom was very sick her whole life, her boyfriends were abusive, his father had an antisocial personality disorder, and he lived on and off in foster homes.
Eli sought the comfort of drugs and alcohol. He discovered he was a lesbian. He was told he was going to hell by his family.
As an adult he began a relationship with his now wife. At 30 he realized he was a man and began transition. Eli has faced rejection by family and some friends. However, his gracefulness through it all has won some of them over.
[Rather than show grace, why not be angry at those who have not shown you grace?] That wouldn’t teach anybody anything. It wouldn’t teach me anything and it wouldn’t teach them anything.
Eli deconstructed from Christianity through the years. He has explored various world religions including Norse Heathenry and various mystic traditions.
Transition and therapy have given Eli the wholeness he deserves. Eli and his wife show unconditional love for one another. This is the relationship that Eli has experienced grace for himself.
My guest this week is Daniel Kelly, the new co-host of When Belief Dies. Daniel began as a Charismatic Christian, moved to an Orthodox Christian church and eventually was at a Bible church that preached through every verse in the bible.
Daniel was a dedicated Christian working in a Christian non-profit helping those with disabilities. His mother had MS when he grew up so he was focused on helping his family through difficult times and did not always get to be a kid.
I believed I had to be perfect and I had to be helpful to everyone in order to be valuable.
Daniel’s feminism and belief in the humanity of the LGBTQ community, led to moral objections to some of the harder Biblical passages that do not uphold the humanity and full autonomy of everyone. His serious investigations into theology and the Bible were some of the early seeds that led to deconversion.
The grief Daniel experienced leaving the faith and the loss were profound. He lost his faith, his community, the health of his relationship and on top of that the pandemic hit. He was isolated and alone. He experienced “Hell Anxiety” and worried he was a “vessel of wrath.” The first year after deconversion was one of the most difficult of his life.
He made it through and today he is the co-host of the When Belief Dies podcast. He is building healthy relationships and restoring family relations. He is experiencing the freedom to love people unconditionally.
My guest this week is Arline. Arline became a Christian in early adulthood. She went to a Christian college where she met her now-husband. Her faith tradition was a severe version of Calvinism. She taught complementarianism. The roles allowed for women and complementarianism were not a good fit for Arline’s inquisitive personality.
Years later I realized that [complementarianism] was a very new thing and I was so angry because I had been taught it was this Bibilcal idea. So in my mind biblical means it has been around for thousands of years. No, it was like 1987. What is this?
Her husband went through an emotional deconversion first. Arline did not take this as well as she would now like. Alongside this was the long slow deterioration of her mother’s health. She slowly began to deconstruct. First by exploring other versions of Christianity. Eventually exploring other faith traditions including meditation from a Buddhist perspective. In short. she was letting her curiosity and intelligence explore all the areas of interest that were previously prohibited.
Here’s the succinct version: Christian fifteen years, since college. Super loved Jesus, the Bible, church, all the things. Tried my darndest to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Happily married to super Christian guy from campus ministry. He slowly (felt suddenly to me!) realized he had to be agnostic because god of the Bible is a monster. Sent me on a two-year spiritual meandering. Finally caved and am now figuring out what atheism looks like for me.
In the end, for her own personal intellectual integrity she admitted to herself she no longer believed. She has since discovered natural human habits that have helped her far more than her faith ever had.
My guest this week is Leah Helbling. Leah is the host of the Women Beyond Faith podcast and an incredibly important voice in the secular community. Leah has a long history of secular community building. Post-deconversion she started a chapter of Women Beyond Belief. She now is a team leader of Bart Campolo‘s Cincinnati Caravan. “Leah is often referred to as ‘The Great Connector‘”
Finding Freedom on the Other Side. One Story at a Time.
Leah and I discuss the gift of being present when someone tells their deconversion story. Leah shares her deconversion story which includes overcoming the purity culture and complementarianism of Evangelicalism. It also includes the unwelcoming atmosphere in the secular community for women and what she is doing about it. We talk about podcasting and what motivates us to do the work. Finally, we talk about building secular community.
CG grew up in strict religious home in Nigeria, where everything was banned except Christian media. His family was heavily influenced by the Pentecostal Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity movement. CG attended a tyrannical, authoritarian, and punitive college in Nigeria.
CG, later on, moved to London, UK. In London, he saw that the world was bigger than the Christian bubble that he had been raised in his whole life. He attended a popular charismatic church where he met people from different cultures, beliefs, and denominations. However, some of his friends challenged his Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity beliefs. He started theological beliefs started changing as a result.
CG, subsequently, moved to the USA to get a graduate degree at a Christian college. He lived in the American south where, as an immigrant, he felt isolated and disconnected from the Christian culture around him. This drove him to a personal intellectual journey, where he spent hours reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos.
After graduating with his master’s degree, CG came to the point where he could not ignore the damage that Christianity was inflicting on his mental health and personal development. He realised that he had to choose between completely losing his sanity & freedom by remaining a slave to religion or abandoning his beliefs and accepting his freedom/autonomy. A few days later, he became an Agnostic, and, subsequently, an Atheist.
CG has been on the path of freedom, healing, and recovery ever since. He is deconstructing sexual shame, self-hatred, misogyny, white supremacy, colonization, and western imperialism (and other forms of injustice). He also seeks to heal the havoc that religion has inflicted in Nigeria (and other African countries) through evangelism, cultural imperialism, and colonization. Religion, significantly, contributes to the apathy and passivity of Nigerians, which prevents them from fighting for their freedom and justice.
CG is very passionate about humanism. He believes humanism is what our generation needs to help make the world (especially Africa) a better place. He is an existential humanist, a cosmopolitan humanist, and a planetary humanist. He believes that humanists need to have freedom (autonomy), humility, compassion, hope, love for learning, curiosity, and open-mindedness.
And what else would you want from life except to connect with other people … and to talk about things that matter and ask the big questions?
My guest this week is Marie D’Elephant the host of the Everyone’s Autonomous podcast. Marie has a powerful and unique voice in the secular community. She is passionate about her own autonomy and the autonomy of others.
What is next? Since none of that is real, what is going on and how do I want to live?
Her new podcast jumps off where Everyone’s Agnostic leaves off. What to do now after a faith transition. The podcast “hosts conversations about reclaiming our autonomy and advocating for the autonomy of others through the lens of recovering from religion.”
OK, I’ve been heard, I understand what happened, how do I resolve this, how do I move forward?
We discuss existential dread, the fear of aging and facing death. Marie talks about her work on Everyone’s Agnostic and taking on managing Dave Warnock‘s Dying Out Loud tour. Mostly we talk about autonomy and how you can discover yours.
I love this autonomy and this is the life that I want to live!