Jessica Moore: Becoming You

Autonomy, Bloggers, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Hell Anxiety, Missionary, Podcast, Purity Culture
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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.



Series of Expansion blog



Marketing the Messiah


I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a godly women

Purity culture is a list of don’ts. It does not give you integrity or knowing your worth as a person.

I was not taught my worth. Obviously, I was taught I wasn’t worth anything until Jesus died for me.

[A “word” from God about shame] It felt special to me at the time, because I did carry shame.

My very black and white world turned very mucky gray.

I was on a quest to be a powerfully godly woman. I was just starving for that. What everyone else had, I wanted that too.

I had this strong devotion what was it all for

When I think about it, it wasn’t so much my faith in Jesus, it was trying to hold on to this good girl persona that was being challenged.

Oh my gosh, Jesus isn’t real!

I can’t even say I lost my faith, it really just dissipated.
It was like trying to grab a cloud and you can’t. It was gone.


My appearance on the I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist podcast

Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


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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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the rescue atheist podcast. My name is David. And I am trying to beat the gracefully. We have a whole lot of housekeeping. So I'm going to jump right in. Number one I was recently on the I was a teenage fundamentalist podcast with Brian and Troy. That was an amazing time. Please go check out their podcast, it is fantastic. They will be on this podcast in January of 2023. I'll have links in the show notes. The big news is that we are very likely to join a Podcast Network. The way that affects you is that this podcast will begin to have ads in the near future. In anticipation of that move, I wanted to give people the opportunity to have an ad free experience as well. And Patreon is the easiest way for me to do that. So at the end of 2022, I'm going to turn off the monetary support. If you have been giving to the podcast there that is just going to stop. If you're interested in supporting the podcast and or you just want to hear the podcast without ads in 2023 and onwards, please join at atheist. Mighty had the week off, so any editing complaints, send them my way. onto today's show, I first have to provide a content warning here. There is the discussion of sexual abuse, rape and spiritual abuse. If you're in a vulnerable spot, this episode may not be for you. My guest today is Jessica Moore. Jessica is a life coach helping people bridge the gap between religious programming and the freedom and becoming you. You can find her work at Jessica more sells has a blog there, you can find her on Instagram at becoming you dot coaching. And Jessica is really focused on the damage that purity culture does to a person and recovering from that. Here is Jessica Moore to tell her story.

Just come on. Welcome back to the graceful atheist podcast.

Jessica Moore  2:41  
Thanks, David. Great to be here.

David Ames  2:43  
Yeah, I say back because Jessica and I had recorded this conversation once. And unfortunately, the audio didn't work out there. So this is round two for for Jessica and I but all the better to spend time with you. So

Jessica Moore  2:57  
yeah, maybe I'll be a little more eloquent.

David Ames  3:00  
We will we will both try to be yes. We will start with the same question that we started with last time, which is what was your faith tradition? like growing up?

Jessica Moore  3:11  
Yeah. So I grew up in a non denominational church. And I also grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. And I think I asked you this before, have you been to Utah?

David Ames  3:23  
I have? Yes. Okay. And yeah, as I mentioned before, the it's a world unto itself, like even that, you know, to go to a bar, you have to be a member. Right. So very interesting things there. Yes.

Jessica Moore  3:36  
Yes. Such an interesting. Yeah, it's such an interesting bubble. It's its own little states. And I didn't really realize that until I moved away. But yeah, and I bring up Utah because it is such a heavily Mormon state, the state or the churches run by this, no, the state is run by the church. That's how that goes. And that also was even though I didn't grew up in the Mormon church, it was still very heavily influential in my life. So with a non denominational church, I mean, we, I grew up in church was fun. Like I when I think back on my background on my own, it was such a good time as a kid, and we met in a community rec center. And we had to set up every week and tear down every week. It was a lot and both of my parents were involved. But it just kind of was I was there ever since I was two years old, probably Yeah, to from 18 years old. And so it was like it was my home, my second home, my community. And I think, you know, when I think back on what I was taught in terms of my faith, I don't think a whole lot of it actually really influenced much of like, how serious I took my faith later in life. Okay, what I was taught was very kind of basic, very simple in terms of just, you ask Jesus into your heart so that you can go to heaven for eternity. Then here's the rest of how you just, you know, be a good person. And that seems pretty easy to me and my Oh, no problem. Now that doesn't go without hell, anxiety, rapture anxiety, that was still very, very prevalent in my life. But I can definitely connect the dots of this feeling of the pressure to spread the word. You know, it was very important to me that I all my family and friends made it into heaven. But what what was kind of conflicting was like with Mormons, I saw that they were different that were really that I was kind of the odd man out, it was, you know, all of my friends were Mormon. And it wasn't until I think I was in eighth or ninth grade where I finally met a Christian, and she thought that I was Mormon. And it was pretty funny, but Oh, yay. And we're still great friends now. So

David Ames  6:02  
yeah, okay.

Jessica Moore  6:04  
But what was interesting is I kind of grew up. I did ask questions of like, well, why is it that we're the right ones, and Mormons are wrong, because to me, all I ever saw was, you were a Christian, or you were Mormon, or you are an angry atheist. That was it. Like, that's all I had no other knowledge of different religions at all. I didn't even know that there were different, you know, denominations. I just thought, you know, we were it. Right. But what was also kind of funny is I also felt like, I had the cool religion. Yes, I, we, we had parties, and we could do things on Sundays, uh, we drank coffee, and it was okay, if you had a beer. And, you know, and my youth group, you played laser tag, and then here's the Mormons over here, where they and I could go to church in my pajamas if I wanted. And here's the Mormons that like, had to dress up and look super nice. And their church was super boring, and two hours long. And I was like, Okay, well, I felt good about being a Christian. But I also was really confused. Like, why is everyone Mormon? And we're not like, why are more people joining our side, you know, so it was kind of this interesting. Like, I was happy to be a Christian. But I was also very confused. And I didn't like standing out. And I think I remember, I don't know, probably five times in my life as a kid, like my friends kind of figuring out that I wasn't Mormon, and they'd be like, you're not Mormon? No. But you're so good. I never knew what to do with that. I'm like, Well, I believe in Jesus. And I, oh, well, you're practically Mormon then and. Okay. So it was just kind of like I got by, you know, and again, that was just simple. It was like, okay, I can blend in enough and also just have my cool little religion. And that was the other thing, too, that I thought was cool is we never called ourselves a religion. It was a relief. So that felt more like, why are y'all doing what we're doing?

David Ames  8:05  
You talked about like, feeling the weight of the salvation of the people around you. Yeah. Family members, probably your friends as well. But growing up next to a dominant religious sect, the LDS church. Did you also feel like you were the, the target of proselytizing so that they wanted you to become a Mormon?

Jessica Moore  8:25  
Yes. Yeah. There was that too. I'd say around. When I was in junior high. I, that's when I really started to understand like, okay, yeah, like Mormonism is like, huge, because they're at each public school. They had their separate Mormon seminary building on the campus. And they, they had a class period to go there. And I got asked to go like, ditch my own class, like, probably math. Who needs math? Math or biology? What are those? And you know, they would be like, you should just sneak into our class. And so I would, because I'm like, Well, I'm kind of curious. What is it that you guys do in this little secret building here? And, and it was very obvious to the I don't know if they were like bishops or they weren't. They weren't school teachers. I don't know who they were. But the the Mormon leaders, I guess at the in the seminary building, they knew I wasn't Mormon, they didn't recognize my face, because you just know everyone. And they're like, oh, like, are you? What do you know? What are you doing here? Am I Oh, I was told to come check it out. And they had no problem that I was missing my own class. And it's just so funny to me. I'm like, Huh? Like they never they're like, well, welcome. Welcome to my class and like, you have no problem that I'm literally ditching school right now. Yeah. So there was a little bit of that. And I did go to there. I did go to Mormon church a couple times. And just to kind of see like, why am I missing out on something here? And I did have a couple friends that were interested in coming to my church and they were so uncomfortable. And I think that, you know, it was it was very foreign. And you know, and I think that was kind of cool. Like, we were both trying to just see what you know what each other was what our lives were like. But I did come out on the other end of though I was a target. I was like, no, sorry, I still have the cultured. Eye bulging. But yet, there were things like, you know, my my parents drink coffee, Mormons don't drink coffee. And so I would hide my parents coffee machine when I had friends over. And I just, I didn't Yeah, I just didn't want it to be a topic. I didn't want to be not necessarily the target of someone like, preaching at me. Right? Because again, they kind of were like, Oh, you're you're practically Mormon. Anyways, you love Jesus. So, but it was more of like, I just didn't want to stand out anymore. So I would hide the certain

David Ames  10:56  
understood. Yeah, yeah. Especially like middle school. I mean, the whole thing is you just want to blend in with it. I wanted to just say a couple of things. One, my background is obviously evangelicalism as well, but Mormonism played a role in my deconversion because I discovered that I have this whole family wing, who are LDS members, and I did I was unaware of Oh, wow. And doing kind of like a just some due diligence exploration of okay, well, what did the what are these family members believe? What was striking about it is the LDS and just as strongly the the depth of their faith, the commitment that they have, I recognize, like, ah, that that seems familiar. And yet the things they believed in were so radically different. It was this moment for me where I recognize ah, I think they're crazy, but they think I'm crazy. And that was just that was a lightbulb moment for me, right? Like,

Jessica Moore  11:49  
yes, yes, exactly. It's like, okay, well, we still have this devotion. And we still are very passionate about like, I mean, honestly, it was just to be good, be this good person, be kind be loving. And then when you got deep down into the theology of it's okay, like we Yeah, we're both seeing like, we're both you know, crazy or whatever. But that was enough for me to be like, no.

David Ames  12:14  
Yeah, just one last comment here. I've also had the opportunity to interview some Mormons. Me Logan, in particular has the podcast ex Mormon, ology that was really fascinating to hear her describe, you know, from the inside, because I think as evangelicals we were trained, we knew all the reasons why Mormonism was false. Well, you know, Amy knew all the reasons why evangelicalism was false. Right? And it's just interesting to, to hear someone from a different religious culture, and all the propaganda really, that we tell each other.

Jessica Moore  12:46  
So true. Yeah, it's definitely a training up like you get I remember, closer into like, youth group when it was like, okay, the kiddie stuff is done, you know, you're not playing games and singing songs anymore. This is more of like the apologetics and all have, you know, my youth group, we were like, how do we, you know, kind of give an answer to when we're being asked of like, why we think we're right, and to also share, like, why Mormonism was wrong. And that was it is pretty fascinating to kind of be trained up in that way, where, you know, faith then becomes not faith, it's more of a system. And yeah, it's, it's so fascinating, that whole part of just like, Oh, here's, here's an answer you can give and then be like, Okay, I'm gonna take that and remember that and dish it out when it's time.

David Ames  13:36  
And then in the time period of Age of Reason, round that middle school time, was this something that you took on for yourself a sense of faith for yourself? Or did you you feel like you were doing that? Because your parents wanted you to? What was that like for you?

Jessica Moore  13:49  
I think it was definitely more for myself. Yeah, I think I inherently just always wanted to be good and be this good person. And so when I hear that I needed saving, and here's how you can show that you are saved or that you're born again, or that you love Jesus. That felt good to me. I was like, oh, okay, like I would do anything to show that. And so that's kind of what I guess faith was less about what Jesus did for me, it was what I could do next for Jesus, right? And then, fast forwarding a little bit to my second year of college, I decided to go to this Bible school. And this Bible school wasn't really it's not accredited school, it was more of a gap year. They focus a lot on just a guest speakers came in and talked about certain parts of the Bible, your identity in Christ, and a lot of outreach, service, ministers trips, that kind of thing. And at the time, when I was thinking about going, really my motive wasn't because oh, I want to get closer to God. I kind of felt like I already had that. Like I knew the Bible stories you pray, you're good Like, that's kind of how simplistic my faith was. And I felt good about that. Really, my motive was it was at Winter Park, Colorado, and I could go snowboarding. I was like, Oh, I

David Ames  15:13  
doesn't ever really want to do that.

Jessica Moore  15:17  
Oh, and I just did not like school. I didn't like college. So I was like, Oh, this is a win win here. I can win brownie points with God and go snowboarding. This is great. Yeah. So I go there. And this is kind of the start of where faith became more complicated. But it also was the start and foundation of me kind of forming into this more radical sold out devoted Christian, where when I say the simple, basic, you know, say a prayer and your good, that wasn't it anymore. Things became a little I don't know, fundamental is the right word. But that's kind of what it seems like. And so I'm at this school, and when we're digging into the Bible, but a little bit more, and it was like, kind of, again, I thought I knew I thought I knew all the Bible stories, like I grew up in this. So like, what can I know? Or what what can I what new thing that I learned? And so this guy, this teacher at the time, I think we were reading about the resurrection story. And I'm like, again, what's new here? But it was just kind of the way of how he was dissecting every verse. I mean, Bible teachers do this, right? Like, it's like a page within a page, I can find something to like, really dig deep. And I remember just staring down at my Bible and just kind of being like, what is this? Like? It just felt so bizarre and kind of this moment of like, if anyone who did not grow up a Christian were to be told this, this would sound totally bizarre. And I kind of started freaking out a little bit of like, did I just spend 10 grand to get involved in a cult? It was kind of this moment of like, oh, gosh, I don't know if I believe in this. Like, it just felt so intense and heightened. And we were diving deeper into these topics that I never did in church, where it was whether like, Can Can you lose your salvation? And, you know, what does? How do you know if someone has the Holy Spirit? And no, you can't just say a prayer. That's not good enough, you have to do way more. And then it was kind of men and women's roles. And I was like, wow, okay, this got really more intense. This is not, this is new to me. And for a while, I started to kind of not believe it anymore. But I really don't know if I, if I can, like that's something started to become problematic. But leaving wasn't an option for me. I mean, I think it could have been an option, but I made it not an option. I'm like, No, I people financially supported me, I cannot dip out now, like, I'm only a month in. And so I made it work. And I would talk to the Bible teachers and being like, Okay, I've heard this all my life, that it's about a relationship, where the heck did we get that? Like, I don't see the word relationship in the Bible. And so it's things like that of just the certain the Christianese, you know, the language that we've used for so long that became so normal that I'm like, Well, where did we get that? And eventually, like, I just, you know, it's kind of that saying, you are, who you are, who you surround yourself by, and I was surrounded by 40, something Christians and these leaders that I really was looking up to, and in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, and so it was like, I had no other influence no other, like we lived and, and studied in the same spot, you didn't go anywhere else. And so it was kind of like, I made it work. And I folded basically, and

David Ames  18:46  
the school is very small, so 40 ish people you're talking about. So I mean, that, that does feel a little claustrophobic and maybe a little bit like, you know that. So that is kind of the experience of you knew that. If you really expressed the doubts that you were having that maybe that would be bad, right? Yeah, that there was a lot of reinforcement.

Jessica Moore  19:05  
Yes, lots of reinforcement. And I did share at one point of like, hey, like, I'm kind of struggling here. Like, I thought this was a lot more easier. And like, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Bible, and I'm figuring out that there's not and so again, I think I was kind of that target of like, oh, well, this is great. She's the perfect project here. And I also was, you know, I have this personality of, you know, I don't want to I don't want to stand out I don't want to be the odd one out and so now that's different now, I don't mind but I'll say what I think. But at the time, I was like, Yeah, okay, yeah, fix me do what I need to do, because I just did not want to be the odd one out again. Yeah.

David Ames  19:45  
I do want to be clear here that I am not being critical of that. I know exactly what that feels like. Going along to have everything smoothed out. I think that's actually a good description of why religion is propagated so easily and so often is that you want to be a part of the community. And the community says, If you want to be a part of the community, you have to believe these things, and in this way, and you have to behave this way. Yes. And because we're social creatures, we need each other, we just are willing to do that, right? Like that is a normal human thing to do. So I don't want you to beat yourself up about it or anyone listening? Who has been through that same experience?

Jessica Moore  20:21  
Yeah, no, that's such a good point. It is kind of like, yeah, it's not our fault. It is very much and there's certain language that is used. It's just very compelling. Yeah, that's how that happens. And especially if there's no other voices that are maybe pushing against that, of course, that's going to happen. And when you are just starving for community friends, something to be or hope, you know, whatever it is, if you're, you know, for people that just hit rock bottom, or whatever, and they hear about this great God, of course, like why wouldn't they? Yeah, so yeah, it is pretty fascinating. Yeah, so I was there at that school for two years. One as a student, the other on I was a staff member. And that was a whole different deal. But again, just very much just trying to play the part be the part I wanted to, and I believed in the part. And I can kind of see now just how much I was trying to be like this very devoted, godly woman that seemed to be kind of like this badge of honor. Like, that's the achievement you want is to be the super powerful woman of God. And I was like, Okay, that seems like what people want. And I'm going to do that. And so after that school, I lived in Denver, and I was, you know, involved in all the things church youth group was a worship leader. Little missions trips, all of that. And that's when it like, kind of that that bubble disappeared a little bit where I'm like, oh, there are other influences here. So it was kind of like I was teetering between, again, kind of like trying to find, well, I wasn't even trying to find this, but it was kind of like I stumbled upon like, the cool Christians, I'm using air quotes here. And just like, it was like, Okay, I'm not being like super fundamental, here's these friends where, you know, we can have a couple beers at the bar and then go pray in the parking lot. This sounds great. Like this is, you know, it was like the best of both worlds of where you can not be of the world, you know, but in it and still be your Christian self. And this radical person. That was much of my kind of like my early 20s, mid 20s, of just, again, being so involved in the church and giving it my all and I never really like watch TV, if I wasn't watching TV, I was watching a sermon, or just really being devoted into Bible studies and just being on this huge quest of being this godly woman. And, and then it, it came to a point where I ran into a situation with someone who was my friend, and, and I'm not sure how much I need to do like, like a trigger warning, necessarily, but we'll

David Ames  23:15  
do that at the top of that show. Okay, in the intro, so yeah, you can just tell your story.

Jessica Moore  23:20  
Okay. So, yeah, I had a lot of pressure on myself to, again, be this perfect Christian, not mess up. And I don't know if that's necessarily something that I was taught, I still kind of go back and forth on that, like, who told me that it was that just me or, you know, what happened there, but I did put a lot of pressure on myself. And there was a moment where my my friend at the time, I was raped by him. I'm so sorry. Thank you. And it's hard to say that word because my situation feels a little difficult to use that word. But the reason why I bring this up is because within purity culture, I feel like we're given a list of don'ts, and especially what I was taught, especially within that school was like, you know, don't do this, the certain boundaries, like you know, kind of like this ladder of what was allowed and it's like, Okay, after this many months, you can hold hands after this, you know, just like this whole step. And you're given a list of don'ts, but you're not given any sort of integrity or knowing your worth. As a person. It's just kind of don't cross that line. Because God said so, and again, I just kind of was like, okay, like God said, So and is either you don't do it or you'll regret it. And, you know, regret sounded terrible. So I didn't want to do that. So I followed this list of don'ts as best as I could up until I was up at this situation that I didn't know how to get out of and again, I don't think purity culture really is sets you up for the preparing yourself for these kinds of situations. It's like, okay, I didn't, I still didn't do this. But yet I had no words to stand up for myself or get out of a situation. The only thing and I remember this so vividly out at one of the women's classes was because of course, in women's class back at that school, it was all about how to be you know, submissive wife, godly woman. Yeah, purity, culture, sexuality. And so I remember, you know, don't don't put yourself in those situations. If you, you know, you could be tempted, and if you are tempted, flee, literally run. And I think about that advice. And I'm like, that doesn't. That doesn't work.

David Ames  25:44  
Yeah. I want to be explicit here as well. And just say that, and I remember this from our first conversation, and I think you are being so careful with your words. And I think it's okay to just say it was right. If you did not give consent before or during doesn't matter. You didn't give consent. That's rape. Right. And I appreciate the care with which you are trying to describe this. But I think that's a bit of a vestige of that Evangelical, thinking that in some way, you might have been at fault. And you're not, right. You said, you said no, at some point, or even if you didn't even verbalize it, you just internally you were you were done. That was it like, yeah, it's okay. That is abuse. Right. And I just want to be clear on my end, that that's the way I see it.

Jessica Moore  26:32  
Thank you. I do appreciate that. It is. Yeah, it's it's fascinating to like, not be able to say the word in terms of because, you know, we do have this certain picture of what rape is whether it was violent or something. And that wasn't, that isn't my story. And so, my story is, is that I was in a situation where I did say, No, my body froze up. But it wasn't respected. And, you know, did I fight back? No. Because again, I froze. And I think that's a very common response, especially when you're not taught anything else was like, Okay, I was taught to, you know, to not do this, and I tried now what, so I was not set up for any kind of success, and my body froze, and, yeah, and so that is, there was no, it was not consensual. And so, you know, but at the same time, it was like, Oh, well, I shouldn't have put myself, I shamed myself. It was like, Oh, I shouldn't have put myself in this situation in the first place. Like, because that's kind of what we're taught is like, women are the temptation and men's minds are the monster. So it was like, well, it was my fault anyways, and so it kind of like I did blame myself. And I still fight that, even though it's been, I don't know, seven or eight years. And I, it's kind of, it's amazing, the the programming, whether it be through religion, purity culture, or just kind of like our society today of how they have defined rape, or whose fault it is, you know, that kind of thing. It's like, it does still go deep of like, where I do find myself like, Oh, that was probably my fault. And it wasn't, right. So I bring that up, not, you know, of course, I again, I'm trying to be careful, but I bring it up, not in terms of like, you know, it's funny, like, I didn't think this would be a huge part of my story. But after I started deconstructing purity culture, I'm like, oh, no, this is huge. Like, I and I, after I've heard many stories from other people, men and women, I'm like, Oh, this is a thing, like we were not taught, like, what we were taught about abstinence is not correct. I have no problem with someone choosing to be abstinent, it's the way of not giving any sort of value to the person. Right? I was not taught my worth. Obviously, I was taught that I wasn't worth anything until Jesus died for me. But anything else of like, no. Knowing your values, having any kind of sexual integrity is not offered to you. It's just don't do this. And then you're also promised if you keep your virginity, then you'll have a great marriage. And it's also not true. So there's, there's so many things that I can now see within the purity culture, teachings of just how false and the myths that they are. And when I think about my story, and how I really did want to wait for marriage and when that was taken away. Yeah, it was. I thought, Okay, well, now this is my burden that I need to make, right? And so me and that guy we did pursue a relationship and and you and I even have a little bit confession over him when I think like I, after some of conversations that I've had with different men, how purity culture affected them, and I'm like, man, yeah, that probably wouldn't have happened if he was also taught that like, he's not a monster and also what consent is. Yeah. And you know, I mean, I don't I, you know, I don't know, a whole lot of like his. He did say sorry, after. And so it was kind of like, that's how we could pursue a relationship together. And to me it it was like, Well, this is how we make this right. Like, because we were both hoping to save for marriage, and we didn't. So now we got to get married. Yeah. So yeah, I tried really hard to that felt like, this is how I make it right with God was to beat with my abuser, I guess.

David Ames  30:55  
I appreciate Jessica use telling the story so much, because I think you're totally right. I think a lot of people have had at least similar if not almost identical situations and, and have that same sense of obligation to continue a relationship with someone that with hindsight, you can now see was an abuser?

Jessica Moore  31:16  
Yes. Yeah. Yeah, there's lots of studies that I've read about now of just like the the connection between people who may be mostly women that will continue in abusive relationship, and a lot of their background is in religion, and so or some sort of theology. So I can totally see that. And, thankfully, that relationship did not work out and have moved on, but that shame of like, oh, I messed up, you know, I'm dirty. I am this deflowered rose, chewed gum, all the things that I was taught of, and, you know, was given these visual presentations of, definitely stuck with me of like, well, this is what it is. And I never really told anyone and, and then eventually, I started open up to some friends, because, you know, it was like, I wasn't a virgin anymore. And there were some that really were just, you know, were so kind and letting me know that this wasn't my fault. And even though at the time, I still never called it rape, I didn't call it rape till about two years ago. And so I was like, okay, and that felt really comforting. And then there was a couple of friends that just, you know, thought they could, God could heal me and make me a virgin again. Because that is, you know, that's the goal here is that's how you show that you're this devoted Christian is keeping your virginity.

David Ames  32:41  
What an absurdity that virginity has any any meaning at all to anyone at any time. Like, yeah, so so absurd.

Jessica Moore  32:50  
So absurd. And, and heard lots of, you know, stories, rather, like, oh, I, you know, God restored me and, okay, and I guess and so it was just kind of this weird conflict of like, I think I'm okay, because I also was, like, I, I know, it wasn't my fault. Or I guess I had more of a concept of grace. And that, like, I'm not this failure, but I also was, I will now I really need to be careful because, you know, that's a slippery slope I can see now and when they say you can be tempted, it's true is whatever.

David Ames  33:23  
Again, I want to just acknowledge human beings are sexual beings, and particularly in our late teenage and 20s like, there's just biology is moving you towards having intimate connections with another human being and might, it just seems so absurd on this side of things to to make that bad or evil, right? You know, when it's just like that. It's truly to be human is to connect with another person in that way, right?

Jessica Moore  33:51  
Yes, but only after marriage David. Yeah, it's like, oh, you can only you know, after the altar, you're all good. Yeah. Yeah. And, and no wonder like, it can cause such turmoil for people. You know, you're you're fighting yourself, you're fighting these natural things for so long. And it's like no wonder that causes problems especially with women. They struggle you know, after like, with vaginal dryness, like just this, you know, it's very painful intercourse and or pelvic floor issues, whether they're being intimate or not, and it's because it's just this locked up situation and then when the time comes, it's like, you know, you can't just flip a switch in your brain like Oh, it's okay now like your body is not you've been fighting against it for so long. Like it's not going to just respond to being everything's okay now. And I don't know too much about like, you know, the the physical effects for males, but I can speak to women.

David Ames  34:54  
We have had a couple of stories where male partner is almost asexual, and, and a lot of that is the purity culture leading up to that, and they just aren't as interested in in sex. And so, you know, in the header example, the woman is ready, you know, it's her wedding night, she's ready to go. And the man isn't so like, I don't know, you know, I wouldn't know what the statistics are, but it definitely can affect everyone. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Just as you say, if you spend your entire life suppressing that, and then all of a sudden, oh, I'm just gonna turn this switch. And now I can I can turn this on human beings don't work that way. No,

Jessica Moore  35:30  
no. Yeah, the the physical or any other residual effects of purity culture are pretty damaging. Yes. And so after kind of, like, you know, this situation of being with this, this friend, and you know, we pursued a relationship, then we didn't, after we had broken up, I was like, Okay, I am on this quest is just gonna be me and God. Now, I don't care about this person. And I'm not going to try to make it right. Because I think that took a lot of my mental space of just really trying to make this work. And just feeling like, I got to do this. And once it just finally ended, it was like, okay, you know, what, me and God, my first love, whatever. And I think I kind of started to want to discover more of like, what was truth? Because I think through the mix of all of this, I'm also being introduced to different forms of spirituality in terms of, well, Christian spirituality. And it was kind of like, you know, there's the fundamentals. There's the ones that, you know, we're the progressive Christians, there's the prosperity gospel. And so it was kind of like, I was just on this quest for truth. And what felt good to me, and not really what felt good to me, but I just wanted to see what was right. Not just kind of be like, Oh, this feels good. To me, it should be more like, No, this feels right. It needs to be right for you to that's kind of where my motive was. And so I tried different churches, just kind of like the trendy churches, you know, the ones with the pastors have got the skinny jeans and leather jackets and fog machines. And then I went to Bethel, visited Bethel for a week or two and saw more of kind of like that charismatic. And that's where I also sought healing for restoring my virginity. And it was kind of wild, that was a huge, I don't know, a whole door of understanding of like, oh, is this how God can work of just people shaking on the floor, and someone would always come up and say, I have a word for you. And like, oh, my gosh, God wanted me to tell you this. And it was kinda like, Oh, God can speak this way. So it was a lot of just trying to discover new things and kind of get outside of my box a little bit. But not too much. Because it was like, well, some of what I saw within like the Bethel culture, it was, they didn't use scripture enough, in my opinion, where it was like, Oh, you're a little, you're a little out there. Maybe you should plug some theology. And there are some doctrine, it was just kind of interesting. I forget what their like mission statement is. But it's, you know, the supernatural school of ministry, and a whole lot of people having a prophetic word for you. Just something always like they're channeling something. huge emphasis on physical healing. And yeah, just kind of like, to me, it was like a bunch of fortune tellers, or at least pretend for tellers kind of thing. And so I had, like, quite a few people come up to me and who didn't know me and just like, God just told me something I need to tell you. And it kind of felt magical. And what was so funny is like the words that I was given, there wasn't really anything super profound or specific to me, it was just like, God really wants you to know that he that he loves you and like, your shame is gone. And the shame that you carry, and I'm like, that could really be anyone. Or you know, and so it didn't. Really Yeah, yeah. And and so if it, it felt special to me at the time, because I did carry shame. Yeah. And so it was like, Oh, wow, cool. But yet, it was kind of this mix of like, super charismatic, but to me, it was like, Oh, you still need a little like scripture in there. There wasn't a whole lot in from my perspective. And so I wanted to step out of my box a little bit, see how it is that God, you know, may work in other areas, and maybe I'm closed off too and but yet, I didn't want to step too much into that because scripture was really important to me. So it was kind of like this mix of just trying to figure out what else is out there. Saw this Bethel experience and had lots of people pray over me and they have a lot of emphasis again on like physical healing. So they prayed for my physical healing as to become a virgin again, and that just kind of felt really odd to me because it was like, not that I didn't want that, but it didn't seem important where I was like, now it's done like, you know Yeah, there were some things were like, that doesn't resonate. But so there was the Bethel kind of experience. And then I decided to go to Palestine, and Israel. Okay. So my next quest was to see how it was that God worked in other countries where I wanted to see like how it was that, yeah, just just to be a part of people's world and put myself in their shoes. And so I go to Palestine, and my very black and white world turned very mucky gray. Okay. And, you know, and I thought, oh, what better way to get closer to Jesus and, you know, go to the holy land exactly where he walked. But that part of like that magical, the biblical sites just really faded, because that that part of the world is so heavily in conflict. And I think we all know that, and I did not know that at the time, very little. So I walked into, you know, quite the storm there. And feeling kind of confused where it was like, I just thought this would get it, this was going to be my moment of God, really, I think I was searching for like this light bulb of this vessel or channel just to really open and like God was always going to speak to me. And I would know really well, again, my quest of just being this like really powerful, godly woman. Like I honestly, it sounds very vain. But I just was starving for that what seemed to like what everyone else had, I wanted that too. And so, but while I was in Palestine, I lived with a Muslim Muslim family in a refugee camp. Then I lived on the other side, in Jerusalem, with a Jewish American family. And then I went back to the Palestinian side and lived with a Palestinian Christian family. So I kind of got a mix of everything. And that was really important to me of just like, Yeah, well, like, again, what is truth? What's going on here, and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity being with like, the Muslim family, it was, I felt very comfortable, like they didn't like try to, you know, convert me. And that was never their focus. And they just really wanted me to be involved, you know, involved with their family. And that was great. And then when I got into the other side with, like, the living with the Jewish family who was from America, you know, it was that this particular woman, my host, it, she was this yoga teacher. And she was all that she was like very much about peace and harmony. And she had said, you know, but Palestinians are poison, and we need to have an ethnic cleansing. And I was just like, whoa, and I don't think she knew that I had lived with Palestinians.

David Ames  42:44  
Right. Assuming that you would be on her side.

Jessica Moore  42:48  
Yeah. Right. Especially, you know, being American, and, you know, we're all for Israel or whatever. So I think that was, that was really challenging. I'm like, what that sounds conflicting here, where you, you say you're about peace and harmony, but yet you're willing to kill off these people because you think the land belongs to you. And so, yeah, very, very challenging. And then going back to the Palestinian side, and being with these Christian Palestinians, and how much they you know, I mean, there was definitely a language barrier, but they were kind and loving. And you they're just trying to get by while they're, you know, on, they're held under occupation. And so it was just kind of it was so intense. And then coming back into that, I thought, Oh, maybe I need to be this Palestinian activist, I just really didn't know what was next. But I knew that I was not the same. And so I also was under the impression that no Christian knew about this. When I shared like, my story, my perspective, like oh, my gosh, like Palestinians, like their homes are being taken away, Jewish settlements are being built on them. And like, that's not okay. Like, you know, there's a wall there, you know, all these things. And one of my Christian mentors at the time, she was a who I thought she was gonna be, oh, my gosh, that's, that's awful, you know, right, whatever. She said, Oh, well, you know, according to, I don't know, according to Scripture, yes, the land does belong to them and belong to the Jews. And I was like, I mean, that just put a knife right through my heart where I was like, what, like, that was so confusing to me. I'm like, Have I been fooled this whole time where I was kind of, I wasn't trying to have a bias, but it happened. And I was kind of becoming more of this, you know, on the Palestinian side, where I saw things that were really rough, you know, being under occupation, and I saw them get tear gassed. You know, I saw their homes get bulldozed, and I then I come back to my American home and I hear Yeah, that's what's supposed to happen according to Scripture. And I'm like, what like if I could not imagine speaking in front of my Palestinian friends be like, you know, I'm so sorry this is happening to you. But according to Scripture, This was supposed to happen. Like, how can we do that in the comfort of our own home? Of course, like, yeah, it's no problem when we're not a part of it. But it was just, that was kind of my first opening to theology and doctrine over people, right. And I did not want to be a part of that. And so I left the country again, like three months after that and went to Ecuador. And because again, it was still this, like, I want to see God work in other places than my American, because it was starting to become very like, yeah, the Americans got their own form of little Christianity going on here.

David Ames  45:42  
And this is quite an education, you're getting right, like, yes, really seeing humanity and culture, and even God and a different picture in each of these different cultures.

Jessica Moore  45:52  
Yeah, right. It was definitely an overload there. I tend to do that. But I saw I go to Ecuador, and I lived actually with a missionary family. But they did things kind of different, where they didn't live on like their, their separate for a lot of missionary communities. They've got their own separate land. And I forget the word for that. But you know, it's kind of like their own gated community. But these missionaries, they were very much about like, no, we want to be in with the people. We want to live in the city when we want to, you know, we're not trying, they weren't really trying to start a church or convert anyone. They were just wanting to, of course, like, you know, spread the gospel in some way. But it was like, setting up the other Ecuadorians to it was kind of like building up Ecuadorian leaders. They didn't want to be the leaders. But I mean, at the time, I was like, oh, that sounds a lot better instead of trying to be this white savior. But I can look back now like now, there's still a little bit of yc.

David Ames  46:47  
It turns out, it's difficult to escape your own culture and wanting to distribute your culture to other cultures. Yes,

Jessica Moore  46:55  
yes. And that was the thing. And you know, it was kind of it was great. I mean, Ecuador is I was living in the Amazon. And that was pretty intense. The jungle is very intense. It is the anti sexy, I'll tell you that. very humid, all of that. But again, just kind of observing, I wasn't really trying to change anything. And I couldn't speak very fluent Spanish, or even kind of there. They have like Spanish mixed with their jungle tribes. And so I really couldn't contribute in that way. It was just, I just kind of wanted to live in a different culture, see what was going on observe and but I was like, kind of the helping hands for the mission. They had two daughters. And so it was kind of like, I was not the nanny, but just, you know, helping hands for the family. And that was great. But there was also things that I took away of like, I don't see how scripture things that I was taught how they can be applied to this culture. Like, for example, I'm just gonna give monist modesty, like, Here are these people in the middle of the jungle, and they're literally wearing strings, like, yeah, thin strings. And a body is just a body. It's not sexualized, nothing, and they can walk around, basically naked. And that's not a problem. But yet, if I were to say, oh, modesty, you know, they're not modest. They need to cover up because being naked as a sin, it was like, Well, wait a second, like that doesn't that doesn't match up here. So how is it that it's a sin in my culture? You know, where I grew up? I hear you are in the jungle. And it's not. So there was I mean, that sounds kind of like an elementary comparison there. But it was kind of like me noticing that certain scripture cannot be applied to every culture, right? So it was like, What are we doing here?

David Ames  48:42  
You're experiencing that firsthand, right? If you're in 90 degree weather with 98% humidity, and oh, that's a rational thing to do is yes, that was little floating around as possible.

Jessica Moore  48:54  
Where strings that makes so much sense. Yeah. Yeah. So it was kind of like, yeah, there was just some things where I'm like, Well, how is it like, if we think God is also this powerful God, and He wants everyone to know Him and to go to heaven? Why is it always Americans that are going into these places? And isn't God big enough to, you know, meet or show up in the jungle? Like how he apparently did with Paul, you know, it was kind of like, where are we getting this, that we need to do this for other people? And why is it all I mean, I know that there's also other missionaries in other countries, but it's no big deal, you know, American families. I was just kind of confused of just like, I feel like if God really wanted these Ecuadorians to go to know more about him, he would have provided another way maybe or it was like, but we're still trying to change their culture. We're still trying to Americanize them and that just didn't feel right. So I come back and definitely had to do a whole lot of I was there for six Hans and had to do a little bit of you know, that the reverse culture shock is very real. And yeah, it took some time to kind of like debrief and be like, Okay, I've had these two experiences here, one in the Middle East one in South America, what do I and here I am in America, church just doesn't feel right anymore. Like I could not stand there anymore with these fog machines and worship music and, and our problem seems so petty. And I was just like, I can't, I can't do this. And so this is kind of where my my views like I still held on to my faith, and I still believed in Jesus and God, but yet the other things of what felt like I needed to do whether that be go to church, or even like my prayer, life change, where I'm like, these, all these problems seem really petty now, like, I can't, and that's where it was, like, you know, I'm not even going to worry about evangelizing anymore sharing the gospel, it was just I wanted to stay in my lane of like, I don't know the answers anymore. Where at first, I felt like I was pretty certain on, you know, whether I could tell if someone was saved or not. I don't care. You know, I'm not God, I'm backing off. And I'm just, I'm just gonna stay in my lane. Yeah. And so that's kind of where I was for a while of just, you know, I feeling very comfortable. And, well, I shouldn't say very comfortable, but just kind of riding. riding the wave of being a Christian had my thoughts and opinions not feeling great about church necessarily, or even how to read Scripture anymore. But I was like, you know, you and me, God, I got this and, but also feeling like way more open to having relationships with people that weren't Christian and opening up my bubble a little bit, because for so long, it was just this Christian bubble. And I was a barber for a long time. And yeah, for eight years and, and at first, like what I was doing here, it was like, that was gonna be my mission that like, this is how I get to spread the Gospel. Just how embarrassing. Like, just No, just cut hair. Because yes, because that's your job. You don't have to make it into a ministry. Yeah. And so but through that, like, I've met such great people, and that's where I was starting to recognize like, just because you're a Christian doesn't mean squat. Like it just I'm meeting these people who are so kind, loving, who, who don't claim to know Jesus or go to church, and they were loving, open and accepting. And I'm like, Okay, what is this? Like? What have I been taught here of like, I think I've heard this from your guests as well, it was like you are you're taught you have like this secret to life. And like you, you can tell when someone else is a Jesus follower. It's like, oh, and you're kind of formed that club a little bit. It's Clicky. And I just didn't want I didn't like that. I didn't want to be part of that. And I'm finding all these other great people that still, you know, are very loving. But I think there was still kind of a prejudice where I'm like, you would be so much better if you knew Jesus. You're so close. Kind of like how I viewed Mormons, too. When I was younger, I've just been like, Oh, you've got it, but you're not quite there. That's still followed me. Now more at which I think all of this has kind of been the start of deconstruction a little bit, but kind of more of like, okay, this is where it really, my deconstruction journey started was, I was starting to date and I was becoming more open to that. And because my standards were pretty high have they had to be a Christian and I had to be this super. I don't know, I think I was maybe looking for a pastor, but just someone that was so devoted to Christ. Yeah. And I was also told just throughout the years of just like, oh, it would take such a strong leader to lead you, Jessica. I don't even mean I'm like, What am I doing? Like, I thought this was the goal here. Like I thought, like, I'm supposed to be this godly woman isn't that what's appealing, but apparently was pretty intimidating for some dudes, so

David Ames  54:07  
just want to comment on that, like, you took it very seriously. And you had a sense of responsibility to spread the gospel. You know, whether I don't know if you put that in terms of ministry for yourself, but even talking about cutting hair as as ministry. Yeah. You know, women are taught to do all this to be ministers, right? And then at the very end to say, Well, no, but you can't actually lead. And that is just ridiculous, right?

Jessica Moore  54:31  
Yes, it was just kind of like, well, what the heck am I doing then? What am I wasting my time on? Yeah, it was like, doo doo doo. And then once the time actually comes, like, just so I meet this guy who is now my boyfriend, and he is not a Christian. And hello, oh, boy, you know, but I was like, I'm just gonna, you know, I just kind of wanted to date without this pressure of like, is he the one because I think that's also a huge part of, you know, what we're taught in purity culture or whatever is like You got to know right away. And so I dated and he is this awesome person and he was, quote unquote, pursuing me the right way. And he was respecting my boundaries and all these things. But yeah, he just had one thing missing. He wasn't a Christian. The longer I was dating him, the longer you know, people really started to chime in and was a hey, you know, you're really playing with fire here. You, you know, are you sure you want you don't forget what you really want. And you know, meaning this, you know, not being unequally yoked basic, right. Yes. And, and I still felt like I was like, Yeah, that's true. Like, I know, well, I thought at the time, like marriage, or any kind of relationships can not work. Unless you have Jesus in them like that I had no other knowledge of how relationships work. It was just if you believe in Jesus, and you are you have relationship with Jesus, both of you, you're gonna be great, you're gonna be golden. And that is so not true. And but that was like the only glue that would work. And so I did break up with him for a few weeks. And he was like, no, no, no, what's going on here? And it was just kind of like, I had to share, like, oh, I can't be with you. Because yada yada, you're not a Christian. And he was like, Well, you've never asked me and so then comes this journey of me trying to convert him. And me converting him kinda was the start of D converting me basically. Right. And he really did try, like we met with pastors, and we, he read the Bible. He said the prayer, I told him what to say. And I'm and on the other end of me just like pleading, asking God, like, why aren't you reaching him? And why aren't you answering him? Like he's trying so hard? Whether it was his motives was to be with me, it was like, come on, like, Don't you want this person to know you? And so it was kind of like, it wasn't so much of like, I came to this point like, well, maybe God isn't real. It was more of maybe what I've been taught of how someone knows Christ is not true, then that kind of started the the domino effect of like, well, if this might have been like a manmade myth, what else is?

David Ames  57:19  
Yeah? What a dangerous question. Yes, yeah. And I

Jessica Moore  57:23  
went to therapy. And just because there, there was a lot going on, and I didn't think it would have anything to do with my religious programming. But she read right through that. She kind of was pointing out some things of like, well, where why can't you be with someone who doesn't believe the same things you do as well, because we can't be unequally yoked. And she was kind of challenging that again, of, well, how do we know that's talking about marriage? And I was like, Oh, you're right. And so it was kind of like this domino effect of? Yeah, well, we're all just kind of taking scripture and interpreting it however we want to. And I really appreciate that my therapist was able to do that. Because I mean, on her bio, of how I found her, it says, Christian, and so that's how I picked her. But really, I don't know if if in person, she would describe herself as that maybe, I mean, she was definitely more liberal and opened my eyes. But if I wouldn't have just picked up, just a normal therapist, like Christian had to be in front of it, because I wouldn't have thought I could trust them. And so I'm grateful. I know, I'm so lucky to have found a therapist who was who could challenge my thoughts. And I trusted that, and she was more liberal. And so that's kind of how some of the things of like, yeah, what I was taught, just seeing that, like, yeah, maybe they really aren't true. And then also just kind of like, seeing more of where I've maybe had more spiritual abuse, and gaslighting and just some of the language I was using within my sessions. She kind of was like, hey, you know, some of the things you're saying kind of sound like someone who might have been brainwashed. And honestly, that felt, I don't know what a normal response would have been. But it was kind of like, Oh, thank goodness, like, yeah, because all of this inner turmoil or what I was searching for it, just, you know, the the intensity and devotion that I had, and still never feeling like I was measuring up or something was off. And for her to say, Hey, this is, you know, I think, you know, there may have been some brainwashing or programming or conditioning going on. It was like, Oh, that makes so much more sense now. Right. And of course, that had to do a lot of undoing. And so that kind of came the process of recovery and going through that process of all deconstruction of what we do have just kind of like the grieving process the the trying to figure you feel like you're it's your first day on Earth again, and yeah, it took a couple years after that. I'm just really that grieving part of like, wow, I had such strong devotion. What was it all for? Right? And then you just start to learn how to be trying to figure out what is normal. And what is truth outside of this bubble that you were taught. It's kind of like I heard your guys's episode on The Truman Show. That's exactly what it feels like it just, you're like, Whoa, there's this whole other world and I don't know how to function in it. Yeah, that was kind of the chink in the armor there of just being with my, my boyfriend and trying to convert him. And he asked really legit questions. And when I couldn't answer them, I think there was a lot of things of like, oh, my gosh, I should know this. And, yeah, there was just a whole lot of a mix with of trying to convert him yet. Here I am deconstructing, and so still trying to hold on tight to my faith. But really what I was trying to hold on to, when I think about it, it wasn't so much my faith in Jesus, it was trying to hold on to this good girl persona. And that was being challenged. And then from then on, I can't even say that I lost my faith, it really just kind of dissipated. It was like trying to grab a cloud and you can't it was gone. And then it was digging a little deeper into okay, maybe these manmade rules aren't true. So now what do I do about the Holy Spirit? What is that? And what do I do about this whole Jesus character then like, because I really thought that I had this personal relationship. And I had watched this documentary on, I think it's on Amazon Prime, but it's called Marketing Jesus. Okay. And so good. It was really fascinating, just kind of like watching. I think that's kind of where I got my first history lesson of how the Christian church even started and how even Jesus came about and digging deeper into Bart Ehrman. And just Yeah, knowing more of like, how did we get how did we build this character base? Yes. How did we build this Jesus? And I remember so vividly, I've just kind of like that was kind of like the last thing of like, okay, what do I do about Jesus? I figured out about these No, not totally figured out. But I've kind of made peace a little bit about these certain rules that I was following that aren't true. The Holy Spirit, what do I do about this Jesus? And when I found this perspective of how maybe we are how over history and over time of how this Bible was created, how Jesus was, came about all this, I was just kind of like, oh, my gosh, Jesus isn't real. And I mean, now I like, you know, did you live? Do you know, I don't know. It doesn't really matter to me right now. But it was kind of that part of like, feels like I was I learned about Santa Claus again. That you're that Santa? Yeah, I think in that moment, it was that was kind of like, okay, I really don't believe this anymore. And I can't deny maybe there's a higher power, I don't really, I don't care. I mean, I think there are certain ways to connect in spirituality, such a broad term. And I think that's the beautiful thing about it. And because Christianity gave me spirituality in certain form, and that really just put it in a box. But when you take that box away, spirituality can be anything. And I think that can be really fun. And useful or not, you don't have to use that and or deal with that and or be a part of your practice spirituality.

David Ames  1:03:36  
Jessica, you've done a lot of work after this deconstruction process for you, you have a life coaching that is specifically around religious recovery and spiritual views, as well as purity culture, we have a blog, just like you to talk about the work that you've done, kind of on this side of deconstruction.

Jessica Moore  1:03:54  
Sure, yeah. Thanks for asking about that. So, you know, life coaching and deconstruction, I don't know if everyone needs a coach necessarily, because again, I think deconstruction is, you know, it's so personal, you don't even know that you're doing it. And until you kind of through it, you're like, oh, that's what that was. But my coaching is to kind of help with that whole process of what to do after you've questioned some of those things. And now, just that moment of where you feel stuck of, how do I go forward, and also just kind of picking apart of how religious programming can still show up in your life, whether you're still part of church or not, kind of like the codependency or the people pleasing, like that's still very prevalent that can start in religion, and it doesn't just go away. The other part of with coaching, it's not so much like a new mindset, but just digging a little deeper as to how trauma or the certain things can be stored in our body and how to kind of move through that. And so that's a huge part of what I do, and especially with impurity culture, I'm very obviously Within my story that's very important to me of just educating of like, okay, how do we have healthy sexuality? Again? How do we have autonomy over ourselves? And what does that look like and learning how to communicate those things with, you know, partners and or prospective people. And so it's kind of, yeah, that whole new world of what we're learning how to be human again. And so, yeah, that's a lot of what I do, and just hoping to be a person that sometimes I wish I would have had someone along with me in my deconstruction journey, who could have walked me through those things. So that's not always a fit for everyone. I think a lot of people are different, and they can move forward, and they're good. And but for anyone who just feels a little stuck, needs help with understanding how religious programming may affect you negatively, but also, like, there are things that can show up that are maybe good things, you know, to kind of not throwing it all out. But just noticing how some good things could have come from it if that's what the person wants. And making peace with your past, I think is a huge part. And knowing how to move forward in the futures is a huge part of what I do in coaching and going through those stages of recovery with the confusion and the Yeah, making peace and learning how to in the stages of grief and how to release some of these things, I think is a huge part of the healing journey. So yeah, it's been very fun. I'm really enjoying it and hope to help more people

David Ames  1:06:34  
along the way. Fantastic. Yeah, we say so often that it's such a lonely, isolating process to go through so somebody can reach out to you and have someone to just say, Yeah, I've been there. That makes such a huge difference. Just anymore. I want to give you an opportunity to tell people how they can get in touch with you. What's the website? How can they find you?

Jessica Moore  1:06:53  
Sure. Yeah. So my website is Jessica Moore, my Instagram is becoming you dot coaching. Yeah, you can find me there on some of the religious recovery and coaching stuff on that. And my blog is called series of expansion, but it's also on my coaching website. So that's a great way to connect with me, you can email me or DM me, whatever.

David Ames  1:07:15  
Awesome. We'll definitely have links in the show notes for that. I want to thank you personally for doing this conversation twice. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate you giving us your time.

Jessica Moore  1:07:25  
Yeah, thank you. Thanks for giving me a second chance.

David Ames  1:07:33  
Final thoughts on the episode. One of the ideals that drives this podcast is brutal self honesty and vulnerability. And Jessica really brings that to the table in this conversation. Jessica's story is fascinating from beginning to end, the growing up in Utah, Salt Lake City around Mormons and feeling like she was on the outside. The experience of feeling both the pressure to evangelize the Mormons around her, as well as being a target of proselytizing is just absolutely fascinating. Then going on to, in effect, be a missionary in various parts of the world, including Israel on the Palestinian side and on the the Israeli side, going to South America, and then the culture shock of coming back to the United States. That really would give you a feel for the diversity of humanity and would make the confines of Christianity very difficult to remain in. Jessica is also very honest about putting pressure on herself to be a godly woman that she felt from an early age, he needed to be this picture of a godly woman she had in her mind, and she was driving towards that at all times. The purity culture that taught her these things is also what was so damaging, the lack of sex education, the lack of understanding and then of course, the natural desire for young people to connect with each other intimately led to a scenario where she did not give her consent, and I have no problem calling that rape. I grieve for Jessica and that experience and I grieve even more because I know that she's not alone that she is not the only one who has gone through this that probably many people listening to her story are thinking me too. And I agree for that. The hope in Jessica story is that coming out of purity culture, she can recognize the absurdity of the purity culture the absurdity of caring about virginity at all the absurdity of trying to live up to an impossible standard and seeing yourself as somehow less than human. Another focus of this podcast Just the embracing of our humanity that includes our sexuality includes our emotions and includes what the church can sometimes call sin. It is all of us, all of us as a human being that makes us whole and embracing that and accepting that is secular Grace loving oneself is secular grace. Near the end there, Jessica mentions an Amazon Prime video called marketing the Messiah. links in the show notes, I did watch that it is really pretty good at especially talking about the anonymous nature of the Gospels. The fact that Paul and his writings are written first. And Paul has a vision of Jesus, and so that we rarely do not have eyewitness accounts of Jesus in the New Testament at all. If that's your kind of thing, check that out. I want to thank Jessica for being on the podcast and especially for the vulnerability and the honesty that she brings to the table. You can find Jessica's work at Jessica more She's on Instagram at becoming you dot coaching. Thank you, Jessica for being on the podcast. The secular gray slot of the week is about grief. Last week was Thanksgiving in the United States. I talked about gratitude, and how important that is an attitude of gratitude. And I like these segments to be kind of honest, like what I'm feeling in the moment and I'm right now I'm feeling grief. I'm feeling grief about the shootings in Colorado Springs, the shootings all over the United States, the fact that people are dying for no good reason, the LGBTQ community and the grief that they are going through. I'm grieving having listened to Jessica's story, and hearing the damage that purity culture has done to people hearing the experience of what is rape and the grief that many people have experienced in a scenario just the same as Jessica. I feel grief for the last time the wasted effort. I feel grief for feeling so gullible. As I said before, when we were believers, we had something we could do in these scenarios, we could pray and we no longer have that crutch to lean on. So we must lean on one another. My encouragement to you is to join the community on Facebook dot com slash groups slash deconversion. Become a part of that community. Consider yourself if you are able to start a meetup in your area and just get two or three people together and talk about your experience and maybe even your grief. As I said in the intro, we're about 99% You're going to become a part of the atheist United Podcast Network. That does mean that we will have ads on the podcast beginning in 2023. So that you have the opportunity to have an ad free experience I have started a Patreon account Atheists if that is something you are interested in, please join that if you are currently giving via the and stripe that will stop at the end of 2022 I don't think that you will have to do anything to change that I will be able to stop it on my end. Next week is Arlene interviewing Nikki papas. And then the following weeks will be me interviewing Arlene and then Arlene interviewing me and then we'll take a break and begin 2023 with the discussion about the atheist United Podcast Network and joining there. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application. And you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on breast If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask if you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email, graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Ruby Gets Real

Agnosticism, Bloggers, Deconstruction, Dones, ExVangelical, Podcast, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Ruby. Ruby is an author, blogger and YouTuber, living her journey out loud for the benefit of her followers. Lutheran to her core, Ruby spent her life committed to the institution of the Church. It took multiple heartbreaks and difficulties in life before she began to wonder, “Is any of this true? Is any of this real?” 

She threw out the formal church experience first. Then, through her impressive consumption of non-fiction books, she was able to be rid of the Bible and finally Jesus. 

Now, Ruby’s life is all about love and kindness toward her fellow human beings. As far as supernatural beliefs, she looks to “the flow,” of the Universe. She’s able to define god in her own terms and her life—and the lives around her—are better for it.


“Confirmation was a social experiment for me.”

“I found that [enacting my faith] was what this was about…It’s always been about people.”

The Shack…was pivotal in my journey because all of a sudden, God doesn’t have balls.”

“If [all the Old Testament people] aren’t real, then what happens with Jesus?”

“People matter.”

“Love blossoms in the manure of my life.”



What do I believe?

Book blog and recommendations

Atheistic Lent


Post on satisfaction


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Meghan Crozier: Prog/Post Christian Deconstruction

Agnosticism, Autonomy, Bloggers, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Podcasters, Purity Culture, Secular Community
Click to play episode on
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Meghan Crozier, the writer behind The Pursuing Life blog and co-host of Thereafter Podcast. Meghan grew up in an Evangelical Free church and she was “all in”.

“I had my bible on my desk in middle school…so people knew that I was a Christian.”

After high school, Meghan attended a Christian university, signing a pledge to become a missionary. Her life turned out differently, and it took years to be content with that. Now, however, she is extremely thankful she never became a missionary. 

At the beginning 2020, when so much was changing in everyone’s lives, she clung to her faith. She journaled. She prayed for an hour daily and read her bible every morning.

“I don’t know what to do, so I’m going to pray through this. I’m going to try to figure this out.”

As the year progressed, she began to see other aspects of her church that she could not unsee—homophobia, gaslighting, ableism. Then the January 6th insurrection happened, and her church’s response to this disturbing event, Meghan knew she had to reconsider almost everything her life. 

“I’m a Person of Faith…ish.”

Meghan now holds her Christianity very loosely. She’s found community and connection through running half-marathons, social media, and her blog and podcast. Meghan is an important voice in the deconstruction world, influencing people with both the spoken and written word. 

“You have such a window into so many different pieces of faith change and deconstruction and discovering yourself.”


The Pursuing Life

Thereafter Podcast

Prog/Post Xian Deconstruction Coffee Hour
6 AM PST / 9 AM EST on Twitter Spaces

Book recommendations


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. Welcome welcome. Welcome to the Bristol 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 and rate the podcast on Spotify. subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. The Facebook community continues to be a thriving place for people to connect every Tuesday night at 530 Pacific 830. Eastern there is a get together to discuss this week's episode. So if you are listening to the show and you have a very very strong reaction, and you want to talk about it with somebody, come join Facebook group links will be in the show notes. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's podcast. On today's show, my guest today is Meghan Crozier. Meghan is a professor at a community college in the Pacific Northwest. She has a blog called The pursuing life that began as a Christian blog and has developed into a deconstruction blog. She is the co host of the thereafter podcast with Courtland where they discuss deconstruction and their experiences within evangelicalism. Meghan is a really important voice in the deconstruction community. She has a huge Twitter following and she hosts a weekly Twitter spaces on Monday mornings at 6am Pacific 9am. Eastern that is really filling a need and creating community within the deconstruction space. Here is Meghan Crozier to tell her story.

Meghan Crozier Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Meghan Crozier  2:07  
Yeah, thanks for having me.

David Ames  2:09  
This has been a fun connection. Arlene who does our community management for our our Facebook group reached out to you she'd heard you on a number of podcasts and I think on a discord connection and asked you to if you'd be interested in being on the podcasts. And when she mentioned you. I was very interested. And now that I've listened to a bit of your work and read a bit, I'm fascinated by your position and all this. As I was thinking about this conversation, I was thinking we're kind of very close on the other side of the fence from each other so close. We can reach over and shake hands, right? Yeah, absolutely. So you are definitely still a person of faith. But you have been in the deconstruction world now for a bit. A bit of your bone a few days. You have a blog called pursuing life. And you're the co host of the thereafter podcast. Yes, yep. Fantastic. And then you're a bit of a Twitter phenom. It seems that you seem to have a pretty big following there as well.

Meghan Crozier  3:14  
Yeah, I mean, it's it's too bad. You can't get paid to tweet you know. It, it's fun. And it somehow it works for me. I don't know. I love community on Twitter. So for sure.

David Ames  3:27  
That's awesome. That's awesome. So let's jump in and I want to hear about your story. We often begin the conversation with what our faith tradition was growing up. So I'd like to hear what that was like for you. Was it meaningful? What was it like?

Meghan Crozier  3:42  
Yeah, so my story starts where a lot of stories start, right. I grew up evangelical. I was in a non denominational church. Actually, it was an E Free Church, but we were we were modeled largely after Willow Creek Community Church. I grew up in the Midwest, we were very close proximity wise to Willow. And I was I was all in man. I was the student leader in my youth group and I was at the pole See you at the pole. You know, I was there I had my Bible on my desk in middle school, you know, so people knew that I was a Christian and and I went to a Christian college so I went to North Park University in Chicago, they're affiliated with the evangelical Covenant Church. And I didn't grow up covenant but I just fit right in and yeah, so I was very closely almost became a missionary. I studied Spanish in college and for a lot of reasons that led me to becoming a bilingual teacher instead, which I'm so thankful for I'm so I'm so grateful that I missed that missionary mark, because yeah, it's a whole thing. And

David Ames  4:56  
we've we've heard one or two horror stories. Yes. Yeah,

Meghan Crozier  4:59  
yeah. I really and it's funny because one thing that I write about sometimes is I signed a pledge at Urbana in Urbana Conference, which is a huge missions conference through university to become a missionary after college for one to three years. And it took a long time to feel like becoming a teacher was okay, and that I hadn't missed this, you know, path that God was supposed to have me on and, and all of these things, and it's kind of a mindfuck how I thought that becoming a teacher was such a, you know, not the path or the right path for me. And looking back, I'm like, oh, man, I'm just so glad that I never was a missionary.

David Ames  5:41  
It amazes me how we treat teachers just in general, like, but specifically, you know, you comparing that to being a missionary, you know, it's quite a noble profession. It's really, really important. So, yeah,

Meghan Crozier  5:55  
yeah, yeah. And, and so one thing that happened during the pandemic is I wrote through my story, I had time, and I was, I was, I was trying to process you know, I was teaching at the time, and I was trying to process the shift that I was going through, because, you know, for my husband, we were all working at home, but he just, you know, he was at a computer already. And he just did it at home. And for me, I had to totally change everything. And I had to learn, you know, how to teach online, I was teaching first grade in Spanish. And so it was a lot. And so I initially started with writing, and I was trying to process and I really at first clung to my faith that was, you know, I was like, Okay, I don't know what to do. So I'm going to pray through this. I'm going to try to figure this out. And I wrote a memoir, and it was a memoir of prayer. And it was very evangelical. And it was, you know, I kind of called it from college to COVID. And I had prayed for, to like, for two years, I had prayed for an hour a day. And I was trying to trace these arcs of these prayers through, you know, 20 years later, and how I ended up as a teacher instead of a missionary and in the Pacific Northwest, and, oh, I might have written about the Prayer of Jabez. Like it was, there was some cringe stuff in there.

David Ames  7:16  
Sure. And it all makes sense time. Yeah.

Meghan Crozier  7:19  
Yeah. And people loved it. I, you know, people I went to church with it, my parents in my, you know, family and friends were like, wow, this is so good. And I just didn't sit right with me. And it something was off about it. And, and the more I was reading the Bible, I'm like, there's some really, really messed up stuff in here. And I am, this is not okay. And, and I was, you know, I have a whole healing story with my daughter that people tried to really push, you know, pray for healing. And she has a whole genetic condition, which is a whole thing. But and she's fine. But people tried to say, she was healed for what she wasn't. And so there was just a lot of stuff happening in messages that I was in a lot of political stuff happening that I wasn't comfortable with. And so I just that I mean, slowly, bit by bit, started to really question things. And, you know, you say, you're still a person of faith, and I'm like, I'm a person of faith ish.

David Ames  8:18  
Okay, all right. Yeah, you get to label yourself, that's fine. I really want to I want to explore, and if it's too personal, please say no, but this, the social pressure about healing, is, if you're not involved as an objective point of view, you know, you can see that there's a bit of manipulation there. But the as the person who is being prayed for, or the person who's the parent of the person who is being prayed for, there's a lot of social pressure to say, oh, yeah, it's a little bit better. It's incrementally better. And like, you can see how, you know, if we're being kind, well intentioned, care and hope, can lead to ultimately becoming wise, you know, basically something that that just isn't true. I wonder if you just explore that a little bit like, what was it that difficult for you as a parent?

Meghan Crozier  9:09  
Yeah, for sure. And so I mean, yeah, this is not a private personal thing. This I'm absolutely willing to share about this. But when, when my daughter was a baby, we found cysts on our kidneys. And we had no idea what it was. And so we went to a small group that it was almost like there was excitement about, oh, there's this mystery medical condition that we don't know what it is. And like, let's pray for this. And, you know, I was in therapy because it was scary. Because, you know, a doctor had said, like, she could be fine her whole life or she could be on dialysis by the time she's two. And that was scary, right? And so we were navigating that and going to doctors and going to clinics and trying to figure that out. And in the midst of that. We have people playing praying healing for her and we are in the Pacific Northwest. We're not far from Bethel. Well, we had people say you should get take her to Bethel. And we're like, oh, we're gonna take her to doctors. And, I mean, they didn't, we didn't have pressure to not go to doctors. But then every doctor's appointment became this framing of okay, well, this is have grown, but her kidneys are still well, God is working on those kids, you know, and it was just the framing of what is happening. And when she was five, we finally we had an MRI, we did a diagnosis, she has a condition called tuberous sclerosis, and she has a very mild form of that condition. And many kids, adults live with this condition. And there's a range of severity. And there's a lot of kids that have that are on the autism spectrum. And, and so there was a lot of messaging of, Wow, thank God, she's not this, or thank God, it's not this. And I was not comfortable with that messaging, because I'm like, there are very whole people that are living with different versions of this, this condition. And, and I cannot chalk my child up to and say, like, Thank God, she's not this person, because I felt like that was just so I guess ablest I have that terminology. Now, for it at the time, I was like, something's wrong about this, you know,

David Ames  11:24  
you know, again, on this side of deconstruction, I find it fascinating that it's never considered the opposite side of that coin. So your daughter was incredibly lucky to have a, a low severity version of this. Sorry, if lucky, is probably the wrong word. You know, what I'm trying to say that it wasn't, it wasn't more severe. And yet, you're now aware of people who have significantly more severe versions of this. And, and so that, you know, or given the example of COVID, right, you know, people who haven't had COVID aren't aren't able to recognize, you know, that there are people who will have very severe versions of COVID, or the, you know, they just had a cold, right. Thank God. Yeah. You know, and not, you know, recognizing the statistics, and particularly on the the subject of poverty. For those people who are well ensconced in the middle class, it's, it's very easy to think, Oh, well, you know, God loves me, without recognizing, you know, how many people who are praying every day to have food on the table on they don't have it?

Meghan Crozier  12:27  
Right? Absolutely.

David Ames  12:38  
I feel like I pulled you off off your storyline a little bit. But so the writing of the book looking at prayer over time, your daughter's illness, you started to have some pretty serious questions. And and let's take it from there.

Meghan Crozier  12:52  
Yeah, I would say you know, a lot of people ask what pulls what was what pulled the first thread for you. And for me, I was watching an evangelical megachurch, locally, I'm in the Pacific Northwest, I said that. But locally, we did a huge series on race. And that was it was great. Our pastor, you know, he it was almost like a docu series. He had traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, he had traveled to, you know, Montgomery, Alabama, and there was a lot of really good stuff in that. And then, you know, there was a lot of chatter about well, he's not afraid to lean into difficult topics. And I was like, what does that mean? And I discovered that his prior church, he had preached a very well known series called God in homosexuality, and dove into that, and I was, you know, it was the first time that me as you know, assists at White woman really saw what was being asked of the queer community. And so I saw, I watched him go through, you know, you know, you have three options. If you're queer, you can be celibate for life, you can force yourself into heterosexual marriage, and that might be fine. Or you can, if you, you know, do live into your full identity, you're just really not living God's plan for you. And so I started to just started to listen to myself for the first time and say, hold on. And as I started to share with other people, the reaction was so wild. And I was like, Wow, there's so much homophobia and what and, and I, it's hard to say that now. And now because I have so many queer friends now. And I and I just think I was blind to it for so long. And there were so many ways that I just fit right into what was being asked of people in the evangelical church. And so I just really didn't wake up to the exclusion and the hate and now I see the depth of the harm and how far it goes. And I've, of course, you know, looking at colonization and all these other things. It just opened the door for me.

David Ames  14:54  
Yeah, I think that a lot of the missional you know, seeker friendly churches don't realize that by by not being positively affirming, they are non affirming. And they feel like they can get away with ignoring the issue. Don't Ask Don't Tell kind of thing. And yet they are causing harm. Active harm.

Meghan Crozier  15:16  
Yeah. And I think, you know, well, I mean, I could talk about that forever. But I will just say that what is happening to is, there are parents that are being pressured to disown their children, when they come out as queer now, and I just, I see things like that happening. And it's like, okay, you can either choose God, or you can choose your child, what are you going to do? Because your family is just here for now. So, you know, God is eternity. And the messaging is so awful about that. And, and, you know, you see what the damage that it does to people trying to sort through their identity and, and, you know, growing up with messaging that says, you know, I'm, I'm inherently wrong for being this way. And so yeah, it's, it's infuriating.

David Ames  16:01  
Yeah. I am amazed by how many says hit people, one of the major factors of their deconstruction is the treatment of the LGBTQ community. And in that, you know, it's not their personal experience, necessarily, but that they begin to recognize the humanity of this person is being is being minimized, it's being reduced in the same way that racism does. And, and that that is such a catalyst for people to begin to reevaluate. And why I find that fascinating is it's really a moral argument, one that from the evangelical point of view we shouldn't be able to make. And yet it is very strong. I feel like I didn't really understand the term righteous anger until about 2016. And then it was like, Oh, this is what, that's what that feels like. Yeah, kind of having a sense of this is wrong. Justice is not being served here. And something is missing.

Meghan Crozier  17:04  
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that in the context of what was happening politically, I mean, I this is going to be tallied on how new I am to deconstruction. But I will just say, I was still going to this mega church, when somebody reached out and said, hey, you know, there's a progressive church in Portland that that has some of your same deal breakers, and I've seen you write about this. And after January 6, I watched both online, and I was in I was, I've never been one of those people. That's like, if your pastor doesn't preach about this on Sunday, walk out, just do it, you know, but it just, I think, the watching what had happened on Wednesday, January 6, and then going to church and having this like, lovely talk on making good habits. And, you know, making sure that you sometimes it might be helpful if you read your Bible before you drink your coffee, so that you know you get that time in and then going to this progressive Church Online and just having space held to say, how were you feeling on Wednesday? How are you feeling right now? Let's talk about that. And I was like, whoa. And that was that was the last time that I had opened that, you know, the Facebook page for that mega church because I was like, I you know, I think I'm just gonna just admit that I'm deconstructing and so yeah, I'm new in this.

David Ames  18:29  
Ya know, I can hear that a little bit. Yeah, that it's also the that exciting time where you, you know, at some point, I call this the permission to doubt phase right? Or the information seeking phase where, like, up until this point, you have a lot of things happen to you, that cause you to question, but at some point, you take the kind of proactive step like, Alright, I'm gonna take, I'm gonna take responsibility for this, and I'm gonna go learn some things and decide what I believe or don't believe it's terrifying. But it can also be really, really exciting.

Meghan Crozier  19:01  
And I mean, exciting is a word. I mean, it can be like, it's, I wouldn't recommend somebody to just like, hey, this is an exciting journey. But yeah, it's magical, airy, maybe. And, yeah, it's it's work.

David Ames  19:26  
On that note, you know, we throw the word deconstruction around. I have a definition in my head. I'm curious how you define it. And is that something that you are recommending is a strong word, but is that something that you're you're active for people online to begin questioning that kind of thing?

Meghan Crozier  19:45  
Cool. Yeah, that's the L. That's a two parter. So yeah, deconstruction. I probably have a different definition by the day. But I really believe it's a process of leaning into those doubts that you have have an understanding and, and really, you know, for me starting to understand that the inherited faith that you've had your whole life might have been, you know, you might have been taught an interpretation of something. And that, you know, there are other interpretations out there, you might realize, oh, there's other faith traditions out there that, you know, better match what I'm looking for, and what my value system is, and what my deal breakers are. And, you know, for some people, there's people that say, you know, this is not for me, and, and so I really feel like it's an ongoing, never ending journey. I really push back when people say I've deconstructed but I, you know, I think I'll, I'll say this is kind of when I started deconstruction, and it's, it will probably be going on forever. I still use the term progressive Christian, I hold it very loosely, there are times when I wonder if it's just to stay comfortable, because it's scary to let go of that. And so, but I'm willing to admit that and sometimes I say agnostic, Christian. But yeah. And then I on the second question, I was recently in a conversation on Twitter spaces about this where the question was, should we be evangelistic about deconstruction? And even though that phrasing kind of sucks, and people said that, which is fair,

David Ames  21:27  
I hate that sentence. But anyway, yeah.

Meghan Crozier  21:29  
But, you know, it's a shortcut to asking the question, right. And so it's a language to speak, some of us speak. And so there was a lot of really good conversation about, you know, not trying to push people out of their faith or what you know, their value system, but yet wanting to really point out the harm, and really help people understand, hey, this is super homophobic, and this is super queer phobic. And this is super colonizing, and, you know, and all of the things and help people understand and the harm towards women. And you know, my dad and I have had conversations where I'm like, your experience in the church has been a lot different than mine, as a woman who grew up in purity culture. So I mean, and that's, you know, we can go there, if you want.

David Ames  22:27  
I think that unless you want to head down that road, I think what I'm more interested in is, it sounds like you were active. I don't know if you'd say leadership. But you know, you were a voice in the Christian world, right, writing a book, you had people that were listening to you, I believe your blog was originally more Christian oriented. I'm curious what the response was, as you began to change, and publicly so

Meghan Crozier  22:52  
yeah, so once I wrote my book, I started to kind of explore what what will I do with this, and the blog came after the book, and there are posts on my blog that are not public anymore, about prophecy, and it's great. And, but I knew that if I wanted to be an author, I would have to build a platform on social media, I did not have that. And so I started this the pursuing life, which I still hold to that name. And I think there's something to be said about an ongoing pursuit of truth and what matters. And so it you know, it was interesting, because I did have initially connections with, you know, people I went to college with, or people that used to be my mentors, or people I was in small group with, and slowly as I started talking about pro choice things, and, you know, being queer affirming, and things like that, I would get messages. It was like, interesting thing that you said, Are you and, you know, pro and with a lot of language that I don't even want to say, because it's super nasty, and I and just so dehumanizing. And but then on the flip side, I would have like a neighbor that would reach out quietly and be like, Hey, I've been reading these blog posts that you're putting on Facebook, and I went through this, and I feel so seen. And, you know, I or, you know, I really feel like I could talk to you about this, can I let you know, and it was like, that was the beauty of it. Because even though it was hard to have people, you know, be so assuming about things and not want to have a conversation, but just kind of direct me away from what I was talking about. It was beautiful to really connect more deeply with some people in my life and then new people and you know, you can see now there's, I've been part of building community. And so it started as platform building and now I really see it as community building. Wow.

David Ames  24:56  
Yeah. Fantastic. I definitely want to talk about community Need, I'm gonna pause there for just a second and say, I think an answer to the question earlier about being evangelistically. Towards deconstruction, I always think that my goal is not to make more atheist or more deconstruction, my goal is to be the place to land for those people who have already began that process, right? Or those people who can no longer live with it at all. And to be that safe place. And yes, just by being public, you know, you're putting it out there. There's there's some element but I feel like like your neighbor, there are many, many people sitting in pews questioning themselves and, and feeling alone and isolated, and not realizing that there's this huge wave of people who have been going through the same thing been asking very similar questions. And and I think the answer to that is community so yeah.

I know that you've been doing like clubs, clubhouse and Twitter spaces and things of that nature. How did that come about? And how's that been working for you?

Meghan Crozier  26:14  
So interesting. Really early on some when I was, you know, still kind of trying to figure out well, what was going on, somebody reached out and said, I feel like clubhouse would be a good medium for you just the way that you are and the way you want to connect with people. And immediately after I joined somebody from my profile, my friend teal, short, he lives in Chicago, and he lives in an intentional community. And he's a progressive Christian. And that's how I had identified on my profile. And he was like, I really feel strongly about community. But it's so hard right now with the pandemic. And I just What would you think about having a weekly room to pull people together to talk about stuff, and it was beautiful, and the conversations were amazing. And we had our first our first night was about LGBTQ ally ship or something like that, which now I look back, and I'm like, wow, I really said that, huh? Like I called myself an ally, I would okay. But it turned into this beautiful community, there's something to be said about live audio conversations that aren't being recorded. There's nobody trying to one up or get likes or retweets, and just kind of come there. And through that, I connected with some other people that and I was on some deconstruction panels. And it was so early. I mean, this was January of 2020. This was, you know, I told you, I mean, this was just a couple of weeks after the insurrection where I was still kind of processing. So I always say, you know, I will be moderating the clubhouse room on music. And, you know, I would say something like, God, I can't listen to worship music anymore, because it's so triggering for me, because the organizations that put out what I used to listen to were complicit in this insurrection. And I would mute they would go on, and I would be like, on the floor, sobbing, like, what am I gonna do with me, like, what music is gonna carry me like, I had so much grief over the loss of things that comforted me that I, it was hard, but I was processing it in community. And that kind of led to Twitter spaces. And what I do now, and I have, you know, deconstruction, bookclub discord and things like that. And then, you know, that's how I connect with Courtland. And they started co hosting their after pod and, and I just became this thing where, and I think people saw that authenticity, and they were like, I, I don't know if people resonated or connected or what, but I think just knowing they weren't alone. And that's a powerful thing, I think.

David Ames  28:46  
Absolutely. I think my experience so far has been, you know, once people find some community at all, they read, and they begin to say, Hey, I feel this way about this thing. And 10 people come along and go, Oh, that's me, too. That that experience, that recognition of one story being told by someone else, is incredibly cathartic and has some healing elements to it.

Meghan Crozier  29:12  
Yeah. And I will say one other thing is, and I share this a lot, and it's just a small piece of it. I was also I taught for 15 years, and I was leaving my teaching career at the time, too. And so I was just unraveling everywhere I was, you know, going through faith change, career change. And so I think, too, I was very vocal about not being a person that had all the answers. And I think that's, that's the thing that draws people in sometimes is like, Okay, who I have totally put all my hope in these pastors that I thought had all the answers for so long, or this church that I thought had all the answers to this faith tradition, and it's I think there's something comforting about being in community with people that don't try to make it seem like they have all the answers and you They're totally together whole people. You know, I'm super vocal about therapy too. So

David Ames  30:05  
we're very pro therapy here on the podcast.

Meghan Crozier  30:08  
Yeah. I love it

David Ames  30:19  
I want to talk briefly about the thereafter podcast I listened to when you were interviewed on the show. And then, you know, a bit later their second season, you became the co host. I'm curious what that process was like, because as a, you know, again, I haven't listed a lot of them. But from my perspective, it was like, here have this podcast, they just handed you the reins, which is great. But I'm curious, like, were Was that something you were looking for? And how has that been for you as as an outlet?

Meghan Crozier  30:49  
You know, I had thought it would be fun to have a podcast, I didn't really know why or would or, you know, I'm glad I didn't do it when I was writing my book, you know. And I have become good friends with Courtland. And that's a whole thing too. I think I've made some I write about this, sometimes I've made some really close friends that are men, and that has, its new and I really fiercely advocate for it is possible to be friends with people and close with people that aren't your partner and have good healthy communication about boundaries and, and know, you know, where things are at. And, and I love it. And I think you know, there's this messaging for so long that you should just not be close with anyone that's not your partner. And so anyway, Carolyn and I had become good friends. And his first season was awesome. But his co host wasn't going to continue on for the second season. And so I, you know, just kind of happened, I was kind of like, Hey, I'm thinking about doing this. And we had a conversation that was like, what if, what if this is what it looks like, and started to kind of have talks and there was a, I run, I have this big goal to run a half marathon in every state. And so I was flying through Denver, and he came to the airport and we sat down and had dinner together and talked a little bit about it. And, and I love it, I it's just been so fun to sit down like you're doing I'm sure the you know, and have people share their journeys and have people you know, process and you see so many you have such a window into so many different different pieces of faith change and deconstruction and discovering yourself and all of those things. And so it's been really fun to connect with people. And also like, it's just yeah, it's it's a, it's a fun thing.

David Ames  32:44  
You guys, I sound like you've been doing it forever. It's very well produced. Courtland has that radio voice thing going for him? sounds it sounds, it's a great podcast. So I recommend it. So we'll definitely links in the show notes for people to find that

one of the episodes that I listened to you in Portland, we're talking about the evangelical response to deconstruction. And this has been one of those things where I find it so infuriating that I hold back a lot like, you know, I've gone on some friends podcast, to vent and to be less than graceful. To say how bad it is, I've interviewed a couple of people who are in the evangelical world who consider themselves experts on deconstruction. And what I find most often is that you can tell they've never actually spoken to someone who is in the middle of deconstruction or or, or, you know, deep on the other side. So I'm curious from your perspective, what you think of the evangelical response to this moment in time that we are having?

Meghan Crozier  34:04  
Well, I'll say this, I think a lot of the people actually might have spoken to people at deconstruction, but they've never listened to people. Yeah, yeah. And I so I think that there's a lot of pastors that look around and they see this hashtag or they see you know, videos, or they see people unpacking and, you know, like me, people are living their journeys out loud. And they it's like, they want to jump in there like I want to, I want to have a pulse on what's happening here and so they bring their hot takes, you know, there's the matt Chandler that says, people just think it's a fad and that it's sexy and they never had to pay to begin with and Joshua Ryan Butler had his for reasons people deconstruct and, and it was, you know, it's, it's to be cool to for street cred, you know, and it's, it is is infuriating, it feels because this journey is so personal. And because the first time I sat down with the the pastor at the faith community I've been part of and said, I'm going through deconstruction, and he was like, take care of yourself. Like, this is like really, you know, be kind to yourself. And it's like, he knew, you know, and these people that are making their hot takes, it's like, you have no idea how how much grief there is on this journey, you have no idea how hard this is. I mean, I, I said, I'd be like sobbing on the floor. Like, you just have no idea because it was because I was reading the Bible and, and seeing, you know, David fight, like winning over wives for you know, as part of a war prize and things like that. And I was like, no, like, I just, I could not, I could not do it anymore. And, and I and a lot of them are, you know, white men that have a lot of benefits from their position, and you know, and keeping their position. And so it is it's infuriating. And what's even more frustrating is those people that I mentioned earlier, that have you know, pushback on the things that I say they'll send me articles, and they'll be like, Hey, I saw this article in Christianity Today, about deconstruction. And it really made me kind of understand a little bit more, and I just want to be like, no, like, please, it does not make you understand a little bit more. And so that's the frustrating part. Because I think Christians that are trying to understand what's happening to their friends that are leaving the church are reading this stuff, and they're like, oh, okay, I feel comfort and like they never had true faith to begin with. And it's like, no, no, that's not it. And so I think there's, it's it's really false messaging, and it is very infuriating.

David Ames  36:51  
In my Kinder moments, I try very hard to understand the position that particularly pastors are in. And having both sides of understanding both sides of that equation, I realize you realize that the very thing they are recommending, get closer to God read the Bible more, pray more, are the things that most people in deconstruction are doing, they have doubled, they have tripled, they have quadrupled down. They are working, you know, to maintain their faith, and they are being dragged away, kicking and screaming. And that's the part that they don't seem to understand. And I think you've said it really well that it is really a grief process. It is the process of losing many, many things, the intimacy of a relationship with God, the community, friendships, family, in some cases. And so while you're going through this grieving process, and someone is saying from a pulpit that you were never a real Christian, it's pretty, pretty devastating, pretty hurtful.

Meghan Crozier  37:52  
Yeah. And I think, you know, to tell somebody that's healing from religious trauma. And I would say, my journey is like fear, like, you know, when I say that, I just, I have so many folks and community that I'm in community with that have had more severe trauma than I have in all of this space. But to tell somebody that's going through very severe trauma, you need to find healing from trauma in the institution that traumatized you. That I mean, it's just it's so bypassing of what's really going on and and or they say, it's really not trauma or it's really not, you know, what you're saying it is or it isn't that bad. And I think that you know, which is gaslighting? And then or they're just, this is my favorite. Why What about the good that happens from it that like people try to say like, but but this pastor even though he was an abuser, like there were he wrote some really good books, and it's like, no, like, no. So yeah, I they just don't get it. They really don't. And they're not listening to people that are hurting.

David Ames  39:06  
You mentioned earlier that you person of faith ish. So I'm curious, what are the things and you also talked about, you know, what music will carry you through things? So what what are the things that you now find as spiritual however, you'd want to define that spiritually fulfilling for you?

Meghan Crozier  39:27  
Yeah, so it took me a long time to close my Bible. I you know, and I, there was I had been during the pandemic, I had been had this habit of journaling and reading my Bible, and I, you know, and Enneagram one, it was just like, he liked to follow rules and have that kind of thing. And I was in therapy, and I was constantly saying, This is so triggering for me, this is so hard for me and my therapist was like, what if you didn't read your Bible? And I was like, what would I do in the morning? She was like, What if you read other things, and I started reading Brene Brown and I started, you know, reading other things. And then I started, you know, reading authors of color and queer authors and just really having more routine and structure around that instead of you know, that instead of trying to force myself through something that was not healthy for me. And I also started a vinyl collection. And I just really was like, I'm gonna reclaim what the role that music has in my life, because I am a runner, I run to music, I ran to playlists, and I needed to have a I have things that I resonated with. And so that has been amazing. And it's funny, because I, I read a lot, and I have not dug into all the theological, all of it, you know, like, all of the things and so Christians will try the Theo bros, you call him on Twitter, try to come at me with, you know, do you really think like, what do you think about hell? And what do you think about, you know, all of these things, the resurrection, and I'm like, you know, I don't really know right now. And I'm actually okay, not knowing that's not something that I'm sitting with, you know, trying to understand I'm okay, just kind of setting it aside, and really just saying, I don't know. And that's very infuriating. You know, I talked about having a, like sex positivity, and people get real mad that I, you know, push back on people trying to preach abstinence. And they're like, that is the biblical sexual ethic. And I'm like, Really, it's not. And they get so furious, because they want to tell me that I'm not a Christian. And I'm, like, you know, believe whatever you want to believe, like, you have no way of having, you know, deciding what I am or what I'm not. Right. And so I think, you know, like I said, I have that label ish. And I don't know it, well, I have it forever. I don't know, do I, you know, am I uncomfortable with it? Not really, but it's not something that I will ever hold grip onto, like I have in the past.

David Ames  42:02  
And one of the things we've talked about on the podcast is that, you know, you own the privacy of your own mind, and no one has access to that you choose to reveal what you want to to people who are safe and trustworthy, and you don't owe anybody else, anything else. So they have no access to that.

Meghan Crozier  42:22  
Well, and I do think that the way that I approached my faith is what I mean, you know, my co host, Courtland for the podcast is an atheist. And I mean, it's what has given me the opportunity to have these beautiful friendships with people of all different faith traditions, or non faith post faith traditions, or non faith traditions, you know, and so I think, you know, the fact that I hold it loosely, I don't feel this urgency to try to convert other people to what I believe in. And I, I love listening to what's meaningful to other people, right. And so if somebody's finding meaning in other traditions, I love it, I'm here for it, I want to read about it, I want to learn about it.

David Ames  43:08  
So selfishly, you've mentioned running a few times. I'm a runner, and I, I talk about all the time that you know, I don't meditate I run. And it is so important to me as a as mental health. And I know that that is also a privilege that not everyone will be able to run, but I recommend that people do something, some kind of exercise something, get out of the house, move around, get out in the sunlight, that kind of thing. That's really, really good for you. So I'd be curious if that is that's meaningful for you. And tell tell us about the half marathons in every state.

Meghan Crozier  43:44  
Yeah, so it's, you know, it's just kind of a fun hobby, but half marathon, I just feel like it's a good distance. For me, it pushes me to have those, you know, 789 10 mile runs on the weekends, but and you know, kind of stick to a schedule on the weekdays. That are it's a little shorter, and do it more doable. I've done a couple marathons, it kind of tears up my body a little bit too much. But I'm gonna say this because it has been part of my deconstruction is trying to navigate this. And so I think it's an important piece. For a long time running was very tied to my spirituality. I felt like it was, you know, God gave me the strength to get through that run. I was listening to worship music on the run, I was crossing the finish line to I'm no longer a slave to fear, you know, and it's just a coup. So I will say this, sometimes what I do, just to try to I live in the Northwest, and so to try to knock out some of those East Coast states. I will run a back to back half marathon. So I'll do one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I just did that last October. I did West Virginia and Maryland. And it's so what I do is kind of a typical training cycle, but I'll do double long runs on the weekends. And so I'll run on Saturday and Sunday. And I had this experience when I was training for that Um, West Virginia, Maryland, where I spent, you know, a weekend running. I'm not fast, I don't go for time I wouldn't be able to run, you know, for half marathons a year or six or whatever if I did. But I had this weekend where I went out on a Saturday morning, I was running for like, a couple hours. I went out on a Sunday, I was running for a couple hours, and I got in my car, and I was just like, sobbing. And I was like, What is going on here? And it was like, I felt like I got my body back. Like, I felt like I did that. Like, I felt like I worked hard. I got up, I hit the trail. I did it. I was listening to podcasts, and audiobooks. I listen to all kinds of things. And it was all for me. And it wasn't this. Like, I was like, Finally, I've reclaimed the role that this has in my life too, because I felt like I worked hard. And I knocked it out. And I did a great job. And I slayed you know, and I was like, wow, that was amazing. And so I think that's what running has done for me. And you know, whether I'm consistent every day, not really I've you know, and it's also helped me learn to not be perfectionistic about something because I'm like, you know, if I walked or in a race, that's fine. If I you know, if I don't go running on Monday, and I hit it on Tuesday, that's great, too, you know, so it has been it has been life giving for me.

David Ames  46:18  
Definitely for me, too. And in my case, age knocks out the need for speed there. I just want to be able to keep doing it, you know, yeah. Great mechanism for listening to podcasts as well. So for sure. Meghan, thank you so much for for being on the podcast, I want to give you a moment here to share all the myriad of things that you're doing. How can people get in touch with you or interact with some of your work?

Meghan Crozier  46:44  
Yeah, well, the best place to find me is on Twitter. And I am super responsive. DMS, comments, things like that. And so I'm at the pursuing life on Twitter. Check out the podcast. We love hearing from people that have listened to episodes and connected there after pod on Twitter. They're after podcasts on Instagram, and it's on all the platforms you can listen to. And I do have a blog, the pursuing website. I'm kind of working on revamping it. Like I said, there's some older stuff that I'd love to update, edit, respond to. And keep an eye out because I have some writing things in the works. But yeah, like live conversations. We do Twitter spaces every Tuesday morning at 6am. Pacific Northwest time and so are Pacific time. I just must love to say the Pacific Northwest. Times. Sorry, I just I really do like it here. But don't tell anyone because we're good. But yeah, and I mentioned a deconstruction. Discord that's open, people can jump in. So if people want to see what that's about, they can send me a message and I can get them the link. And I think yeah, I think

David Ames  47:57  
that covers it. That's awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Meghan Crozier  48:01  
Yeah, thanks for having me.

David Ames  48:10  
Final thoughts on the episode. Meghan is truly fascinating in that she is in some ways in the early stages of deconstruction, when I said it's exciting, she pointed out that it's also very difficult that it's work. And at the same time she has become a central voice within the extra angelical deconstruction community. It's always fascinating when someone deconstructs in public the way that Meghan has, she began as a Christian blogger and was writing a memoir about prayer. And then to go through the questioning phases and identifying what you no longer hold to be true. Obviously, in Meghan's case, a lot of embracing the LGBTQ community recognizing the racism within evangelicalism, and the harm that comes from that, as I mentioned in our conversation, that that's truly a moral argument. And it is weird in many ways for us on this side of deconstruction to be making a moral argument. When evangelicals act as though we have no moral standing. I was deeply touched about Meghan's daughter, and I appreciate her being willing to share what could be a very painful part of her life with us. I am struck over and over and over again from people's stories about the dark side, the dangerous side of the concept of prayer for healing and the social pressures that a person is under to say, Yes, something is better. And especially if it was your child. I can't imagine the kind of suffering that that would cause I'm very glad to hear that her daughter is doing well these days. I appreciate Meghan's honesty and saying that she's a person of faith ish that she sometimes calls herself a progressive Christian, she sometimes calls herself an agnostic Christian. That is kind of what I've been trying to capture this early part of the year is those people who are really in the middle of it, although my core audience does tend to be the D converted, deconstruction is a part of that process. And not everyone will land in deconversion. But it is good to hear voices who are processing. Right now, in the middle of those kinds of questions. I have now quoted Meghan several times, in reference to my saying that many of the hot takes on deconstruction show that those thought leaders, quote, unquote, have not ever spoken to someone going through deconversion. And she corrected me and I thought this was really insightful. It's not that they haven't spoken to people who are going through deconstruction, it's that they haven't listened to them. And I imagine that you listener can relate to that, that it's very hard to be heard when what you are trying to tell them is threatening to their identity to, in some cases, their livelihood, and something that is so deep as faith. One of the most important things that Meghan is doing is that deconstruction voice against evangelicalism against the backlash from evangelicalism towards those of us who have deconstructed or deconstructing, I think that is an important role that Meghan is fulfilling. I want to thank Meghan for being on the podcast, I appreciate the vulnerability, talking about grief, talking about her experience with her daughter, talking about the work that deconstruction is, we need to hear that we need to understand that it is a process of grief, it is at times and existentially difficult time in one's life. I appreciate Meghan's honesty, and I think she is a significant and important voice within the deconstruction community. Thank you Meghan, for being on the podcast. I'm all over the board on a secular Grace thought of the week I have several things that are just popping to mind having read listened to Meghan's interview. First is the true downside to prayers for healing. And those of us who were a part of a charismatic or Pentecostal faith tradition, or had a more full gospel perspective within a Baptist or Reformed theology, will have that experience of the expectation as someone has prayed for you that you are prompted to say, Yes, I feel better the headache is gone. So much of the apologetic argument about healing is questionable not because I think people are lying, but because the kinds of studies that have been done on healing are very rarely double blind, scientific studies. And therefore the people who were the subjects have a motivated reason to say that they got better. And therefore those kinds of studies are just not valuable. But really, what I wanted to talk about is the pain of being the person who is ill put the pain of being the person who is disabled, the pain of being the parents of the person who is ill. What begin is well meaning and well intentioned, and trying to show care can turn very quickly into something painful, and something that induces suffering. So much better to be like Meghan, and just to be present with someone as they are going through difficult times. As you've heard me talk about losing my father in law, I've recently learned from a nephew of mine a really powerful way to try to be present for someone who is going through grief or some suffering, and that is to ask them, Do you want to talk about it? Do you want to have space? Or do you want to be distracted? And that's really powerful. Because sometimes if we just say, What can I do for you, the person who is in the middle of grief of some suffering, doesn't have the emotional capacity to tell you what it is that they want, but they can answer those simple questions. It's a practical way of being present. Letting them know that you care without putting social pressure on the person who is in need to have to say the right thing or do the right thing or live up to some expectation. The other thought I had was about the evangelical response to deconstruction and how we respond to that response. As I mentioned in the episode, I get very, very frustrated that that, especially for very public evangelical leaders, and again, they show as Meghan pointed out, that they have not listened. I've said before that if they truly did understand us, they would be condemned. instructing themselves. And in some ways that relieves the burden, that we know that we won't be able to convince them, because we wouldn't have been convinced double. And if they did understand they would be on their own deconstruction path. Having said that, I do think it's very important that we represent deconstruction and deconversion, atheism, secular humanism, agnostic, whatever label you choose for yourself, that we are moral, that we do have a sense of purpose and meaning that all of the shortcut dismissals from the evangelical response are incorrect. And one of the ways that we do that is by doing so in public, I don't expect everyone to have a podcast, I don't expect everyone to have a blog. But for those of you who do, or are interested in doing so, every little bit, makes an impact. The last thought is about the community that Meghan is creating with the Twitter spaces on Monday mornings. You've heard me go on and on about community about the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, but also we are nearing the end of the pandemic. And we need to begin to look toward a in person connection. And I just encourage you to think of ways that you can create community, wherever you are. As I keep saying, we've got a long slate of really amazing interviews coming up we have Marla Tobiano coming up, we have April, a joy from Instagram fame, Ryan will kowski who is a secular humanist hospice chaplain, we have community member Bethany coming up and also Luke Jansen of the recovering evangelicals podcast. So I'm excited to share all of those, we do have a bit of a backlog. If one of those people you're really excited about don't panic, if it doesn't come out in the next week or two, it will be there. And until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings, it's

time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? Do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Matt Oxley: Raging Rev

Atheism, Bloggers, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace
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This week’s episode is Matt Oxley. Matt has what he calls a “Bapti-costal” background—mainstream Southern Baptist with “some extra flair and drama.” At six, he was saved, by thirteen he was “hardcore about faith” and by high school, his beliefs were his whole world. However, at nineteen he left church over doctrinal issues, called it a “sabbatical” and took a few years to genuinely examine his convictions.

“The prayer was, ‘I’m willing to give you up to find the truth,’ and ‘you’ was God.”

He knew he had to believe the “cardinal doctrines,” if he was to accept all the other beliefs, but how much could he see was wrong and still ignore it? He was no longer one hundred percent sure he believed in God, much less Christianity, and it didn’t feel like God was doing anything to help him believe.

“I just felt like I was out. I was empty. The faith was gone. I could not refill the tank.”

Eventually he admitted to himself that he was an atheist. At first, he became an “anti-apologist,” spreading a different gospel, but over time he found a balance.

“I find myself as a person with a lot more grace to give today.”

Now that eternal retribution is no longer a possibility, Matt holds his beliefs lightly. He is able to parlay with both Christians and humanists, asking hard questions and stirring up all kinds of discussions—Biblical history, Jesus versus Paul, fundamentalism, capitalism, sexuality, and more. 

“I feel that’s like ninety percent of my social interactions: trying to fool people into representing their faith well.”

Today, Matt’s gospel is love. He no longer believes in a god or in strict dogma, but he is optimistic about the church’s future. He’s influencing it for the better, one kind and hard conversation at a time.

Raging Rev

Pastor With No Answers



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Judah: Anti-vax, Anti-medicine, Anti-government to Deconverted Medical Student

Atheism, Autonomy, Bloggers, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, ExVangelical, High Demand Religious Group, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Religious Abuse, Secular Grace
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This week’s guest is Judah. Judah grew up “Church of God, Pentecostal adjacent,” where Judah’s father was convinced, “God is alive in these people.” By eight years old, Judah was speaking in tongues and absorbed into eschatology—the study of the end times.

Around ten, at a more “separatist” church, the family started homeschooling. His church and family were convinced they were right and everyone else was wrong. Answers in Genesis was the science curriculum, but Judah was also exposed to science on public television.

“I knew if [the creationism] pillar is knocked out; it’s going to be really hard to recover from.”

As a teen, another pillar began to crack. Judah believed his attraction to guys and girls was sinful. It felt like God was two opposing forces—one god you lean into for love and grace, the other shames and condemns you. 

“If god really is all powerful, and I’m praying to him and wanting these things to go away, then why aren’t they going away and how can I be a better christian?”

Judah doubled down on young earth creationism and repressing his sexual attractions and dove deeper into eschatology. The family’s eschatology changed over time, but 2012 was the year the end of the world would come.

“Cling to family. Cling to beliefs. Cling to this idea that we will be saved from this awful place they call earth.”

Eventually 2012 comes and 2012 goes. This undid Judah. He spends the next three years learning what else was not true, debunking creationism, conspiracies and various theological matters. 

“If I deconstruct this all, and I fully leave the faith, I’m willing to accept the fact that I’m risking hellfire but I care about the truth too much to live a lie for the rest of my life…”

Judah was a more liberal Christian for a while but eventually science and logic led him to become an agnostic atheist. He came out with his beliefs to his family in dramatic fashion and hasn’t looked back. His future is in his own hands and whether his family takes responsibility for their beliefs and actions during his childhood is in theirs. He now lives a life true to himself and his own values and ethics. 

Judah’s blog


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Phil Quagliariello: PK, IFB, Emergent church and Insurrection

Bloggers, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Hell Anxiety, Podcast, Purity Culture, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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My guest this week is Phil Quagliariello who blogs at Phil Q Musings. Phil grew up moving around often as PK in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches and attending Christian schools even into college. Unfortunately, he saw the dark side of ministry when his father was removed from a church by its board for being too “new fangled.”

Phil eventually found himself in Calvary Chapel churches. They were were more exegetical, more focused on the Bible. He married and they both were worship leaders. Phil led worship for the service in which he was introduced to the idea of the “Emergent Church.” His marriage did not last, and Phil found himself seeking a church experience that was more authentic and “did not suck.” He found a faith community that met in the basement of a bar, and at first, it was satisfying.

Phil remarried a woman with two children. These children and the children they have together became the light of his life. When he became a father, he began to recognize the trauma of his upbringing: the fear of punishment and the fear of Hell. He focused on being parent who does not use fear as a weapon.

Phil began to seriously doubt Evangelicalism during the 2016 election. But he still hung on to the church experience until the Jan 6th insurrection when he could no longer call himself an Evangelical, a Christian or even a believer.

Phil has a particularly thoughtful answer to how he finds meaning in his life now.

Phil Q Musings Blog


Ginna’s Episode


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Mark Landes: Military, Deconversion and Humanism

Bloggers, Deconversion, Humanism, LGBTQ+, Podcast
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My guest this week is Mark Landes, a former Army officer working toward becoming a humanist chaplain. Mark grew up in the United Methodist tradition. He went to West Point, became an officer in the Army and hoped to become a chaplain.

It is surprisingly easy to not act on your hormones with a person of the opposite sex as a gay male when you are publicly declaring that you are not having sex before you are married due to your Evangelical Christian faith.

Mark’s army career is a fascinating tale in itself. He was stationed in West Berlin shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then during the Gulf War, he volunteered to go to Kuwait and experienced the first air raid of the Gulf War. Mark was also a gay man in the military, before the time of “don’t ask don’t tell,” when there were witch hunts to remove gay military members. He was investigated and removed with an “other than honorable” discharge.

I felt like I was letting down god, my family, my school.
Everything was being taken away from me.
It just seemed like my world was coming to an end.

Understandably, Mark went through time of deep depression. To make matters worse, when he returned to the states, he joined a 12 step group that was in effect group conversion-therapy. It is during this dark time that Mark began to question the reality of god. Through a years-long process, Mark deconverted, eventually admitting to himself he no longer believed.

I was holding on to the promise that god could help me, god could be there for me, and when I tried to speak to him, I didn’t get anything back, and that is is actually when I realized that what I had been doing this entire time is just talking to myself.

Mark has since become a humanist celebrant and has tried to get a Masters in Divinity to become a humanist chaplain. During the process, he began his “theological anthropology” which led him to tell his story. He now wants to get a Masters in Pastoral care and is hoping to create an “institutional chaplaincy” in the business world. This humanist journey began with him asking the question, “how can I make the world a better place?”

Eventually, I saw everything I did to go to West Point, become an Army officer, get a master’s degree in computer science, and rebuild my life was not supernatural, but the result of my hard work.

Mark’s Blog

Captain Cassidy

Sasha Sagan



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Thanks to Logan Thomas for the new Graceful Atheist Podcast art work

Sara: Deconversion Anonymous

Agnosticism, Atheism, Bloggers, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Humanism, Podcast, Secular Grace
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This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

When I lost my faith, it felt like I lost my voice, too. I am a musician from a home of musicians.

My guest this week is Sara. Sara is “a musician from a home of musicians.” She grew up in an Assemblies of God church in a “vibrantly faithful home.” She spent her teen years in a “cool” Southern Baptist Church. She then spent some time in Acts 29 churches and Reformed theology. To round things out she attended a Presbyterian (PCA) church.

Sara started having doubts in college, but she was able to ignore them for some time. They eventually wore her down. Parenthood was the last straw. She realized she loved her son more than God loved anyone. God’s “hiddenness” was neglect that any parent could recognize.

They needed my free labor and I needed to be needed.

I was used to being needed.

Sara had been a worship leader. This usefulness kept her in the church longer than she would have otherwise. It also contributed to her deconversion as she saw what church was like “back stage.”

They said my voice was “clearly anointed by the Holy Spirit.” I went away thinking “no, I just spent four years and $60,000 learning how to manipulate you with it.”

Now Sara writes on her blog, Former Protagonist, about her deconversion experience. She is also exploring Humanism and loving her family.


Former Protagonist Blog



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Chris Highland: Friendly Freethinker

Authors, Bloggers, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Podcast, Secular Grace, Unequally yoked
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My guest this week is Chris Highland. Chris is an author of over a dozen books, he was a Protestant minister for 14 years and an Interfaith (collaborative, open-minded, inclusive) chaplain for 25 years. Currently a Humanist celebrant, he has a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Seattle Pacific University and an M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary

The more I interact with freethinking humanists and atheists the more great opportunities I see for building connections rather than breaking them down.

My highest compliment to Chris is that he has been doing Secular Grace for most of his life.

A revival of goodness and graciousness!

Chris shares his love of nature and beauty. We discuss humanism, nature and loving believing spouses.

I am a follower of Beauty


Friendly Freethinker Blog

Clergy Project

Why I am not an angry evangelical atheist

I’ve never felt “called” to be an “atheist evangelist”. I don’t feel the need to convert anyone to my viewpoint or use all the mocking memes out there to prove what a great apologist for atheism I can be.

Do we have to choose between aggressive religion and aggravated atheism?

I don’t see religion going away, so I think it’s much more productive to find ways of working with those faith communities who are open to it, and those seculars who are open to it, than complaining about them top score AAA points or RRR points.




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Additional music
Dakar Flow – Carmen María and Edu Espinal

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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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As usual, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on pod or the Apple podcast store and subscribe wherever you are listening. I want to thank my newest supporter Andy all the way from Switzerland. Thank you so much, Andy. Andy has inspired me to set up a PayPal account, as I've had a couple of people asked over the years to be able to give to the podcast but not on a recurring basis. If you are interested in doing that. You can send money through PayPal atheist. As always, I'm more interested in people's participation. If there are things you can do for the podcast, I'm interested in that more. But if you want to support financially, I will leverage that to make the podcast better on an ongoing basis. Thank you to all of my supporters over the years it is much appreciated. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's episode. On to today's episode, my guest today is Chris Highland. He is the author of over a dozen books. He was a Protestant minister for 14 years he was a interfaith chaplain for 25 years. He is now a humanist celebrant, he blogs he has been featured on the rational doubt blog that Linda Scola runs, and he is a part of the clergy project as well. He has been very kind to send me two books from faith to free thought a natural journey. And nature is enough essays for free thinkers. I tell the story in our conversation, but I became aware of Chris's work on the rational doubt blog a couple of years ago, and thought to myself, Man, I really need to talk to this guy. And just recently he reached out to me, he had become aware of the podcast. It's just one of those times where here's somebody who has been saying the same things for decades that I've been trying to formulate over the last couple of years. As I say in the episode, Chris is doing secular grace. So I'm very excited to give you my conversation with Chris Highland.

Chris Highland, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Chris Highland  2:47  
Great to be here. Thank you,

David Ames  2:49  
Chris, trying to summarize your bone a few days is quite impossible. I was unaware of the fact that you've written multiple books, 12 books, it sounds like you're a prolific essayist, you've written for rational doubts blog, and the citizen times. You're a speaker and instructor. You're a former minister, chaplain for 25 years and you're currently a humanist celebrant does that almost cover all the things that you do

Chris Highland  3:14  
makes me so impressed with myself?

David Ames  3:19  
I had become aware of your work a couple of years ago caught one of your articles on a rational doubts blog. And I immediately thought, wow, this is, you know, somebody who I have a lot in common with. And so it's been amazing, you happen to reach out to me just recently with a recent article of yours that was kind of along the same lines of a bit of criticism for the atheist community, and more importantly, how we embrace the believers in our lives, how we actually go about doing good in the world, rather than just debating one another and arguing. My summary for this concept is secular grace is the word that I use. And really, I'm just describing my brand of humanism, but my highest compliment for you is that you've been doing secular grace for most of your life, and I'm trying to just trying to catch up. So we will spend most of our time talking about your work. But I'd like to hear first, you know, you were a minister for a number of years. So clearly a very dedicated Christian. And now you're a humanist celebrant and a part of the clergy project to talk to us about your your faith tradition, and what what led to some doubts, and what was that process like?

Chris Highland  4:31  
Well, yeah, thank you. That's a That's a loaded question and so many ways. I have tried to approach that description of the journey in many different ways over time, through writing and speaking and just a lot of thinking about and reflection, but it's it's kind of my own personal Exodus as I think of it, but at least it wasn't 40 years in the wilderness. Maybe it was a little bit actually. But yeah, I grew up in the Presbyterian Church in Seattle. And that was my upbringing and got involved in youth groups, from Baptists to evangelical to Pentecostal through the high school years and ended up going to an evangelical college. And the kind of the saving grace, so to speak. And that experience was that in this particular, evangelical college, there was a pretty good philosophy department, and good world religion teacher. So I took classes and really began to blow my mind expand my mind to way beyond Christian, beyond conservative Christian, realizing that there's a whole spectrum of beliefs out there, and it kind of set me going on a lifetime of, of discovery and investigation and what's out there. And and why should I ever think that my beliefs are any better than anybody else's? We're just a part of, I'm only a particle in the in the big ocean here. Yes. And then at my home church pastor in the Presbyterian Church to his, to his credit. In fact, I just recently reconnected with him. He's in his 80s now. And he encouraged me to go to the Seminary where he graduated from in the San Francisco Bay area. So I went down there, partially because it was Presbyterian, because that was my my roots, but also because of the graduate theological union and Berkeley that had, you know, very wide diverse faculty in different kinds of religious branches. So that was my, my ministry, education, my seminary education for the master's degree, but went on to find that the pastor of a church was just not going to fit me. And I kind of fell into chaplaincy, and that has shaped that shaped my my career, my vocation, whatever, whatever you want to call it for a long, long time. And what what made that really special for me and kind of blew my mind even even more, was that these were, these were interfaith chaplaincy. So even beyond ecumenical wasn't just Christian. It was Buddhist and, and Jewish, and Catholic, and Protestant, and Sufi, and a bunch of different kinds of flavors of faith. I kind of think of that as my, my seminary education after seminary, it was it was really getting in the trenches with with people who were mostly outcast, marginalized by by the church communities by all religious communities. And those were my that was my congregation for a whole long time.

David Ames  8:24  
Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. I think one of the healthiest things that believers and non believers can do is, is have exposure to that interfaith community right to hear cultural diversity, religious diversity, the wisdom of various different traditions, and just just like you say, have the humility to recognize maybe I don't have all the answers,

Chris Highland  8:48  
yes. And their wisdom. Wisdom is wisdom. And truth is truth. I mean, it just it doesn't really matter where it comes from. And, you know, even back in that evangelical college, one course I took one of our books that we were our textbooks, I guess, was the title of it was all truth is God's truth. And I thought, huh, that's already kind of breaking the mold a bit. All truth is God's truth. And now I would say, well, all truth is truth.

David Ames  9:24  
Yeah, yeah.

Chris Highland  9:26  
It really does open the doors and windows and, you know, that's, that's what it's all about to me.

David Ames  9:33  
Yeah. I think one other point of similarity is I often say that my I went to a very tiny, very, very conservative evangelical college, but I often say that my professors did too good of job. I wouldn't say they were quite as open as what you were describing, but the they taught me critical thinking and an investigation into the Bible and good exegesis and good hermeneutics and And that laid the seeds that that later I think led me away from Christianity.

Chris Highland  10:05  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, I took up somehow I took a year of Greek in college, you know, mainly to study the, the Christian scriptures. But what we did was we read a lot of classical things. So I was reading Socrates in Greek, before it was reading some of the New Testament in Greek. So, I mean, yeah, that can't help but open the landscape. In a lot of ways, you know, the, the little stream that I grew up with, really became a floodplain with with lots of streams of thought. And when, when one of my pious professors said, well, here, why don't you read Nietzsche? And it's kind of like, Well, okay. That's dangerous. But I did it. And I really enjoyed the, the engagement with, with things that made my mind expand.

David Ames  11:04  
So I think you identify with the term free thinker more than some others. Whereabouts in time. Did you start to say, you know, I think I'm a free thinker now and not a Christian any longer?

Chris Highland  11:18  
That's a great question. I think that I think it was through Susan Jacoby's book, you know, the free thinkers book that she came out with. So we're going back, you know, 15 years or so. And just reading that history of secularism, particularly in American context, pretty much convinced me Hey, if I'm not in that tradition, I sure want to be and it gave me Yeah, gave me an identity are a way to identify that wasn't based on a negative. So I will say that I, I do. I just feel much more comfortable with with a positive like that. And then saying atheist, you know, I really have in my life that it's been all about trying to build bridges be constructive, creative, open lines of communication, where possible, and to refer to myself as a non theist or non believer all the time. I'm not one of those. I'm not one of those, like going through life and saying, I'm not a Republican, I'm not a Republican. Yeah, it's like, that's not a, you know, it's not an identity to live with. I mean, I like what you're doing, because it's, it's focusing on a really positive aspect, that really, in my estimation, I think you feel the way same way I do. It's very important to, to interpret and reinterpret what, what nonbelief is about. So it's not all non non non all the time.

David Ames  13:00  
Yeah, I absolutely felt it was important to have a positive statement. You know, so I personally liked the term humanism or humanist, yes, but I like to summarize it by just saying I believe in people. Yeah. You know, we were talking about wisdom earlier in that, you know, if from a more naturalists perspective, you know, religion is a natural phenomenon. It's a human cultural phenomenon. And so that, that wisdom is human wisdom, and we can borrow from it as much as we want.

Chris Highland  13:29  
That's right. That's right. And I I'm attracted to that, too. In fact, a couple of years ago, I became a humanist celebrant. And that was partly to, you know, my identity for so many years was a chaplain, clergy person who could work with people of many different backgrounds. And so I kind of people ask, Well, what do you feel like you missed when you let left? All of that left the church left faith? And part of it is that role of being a professional helper, I guess. And so becoming a humanist celebrant really opened up the opportunity for me to be, you know, to perform weddings legally, and be a part of that. So I was working with an organization over the past couple of years. That was a consortium of of humanist celebrants and performing lots of weddings. And I've just found out Oh, a lot of couples were was just grateful. It could be that someone could work with them wasn't going to impose beliefs and celebrate love with them. mean, I mean, what better thing can you do?

David Ames  14:49  
That's a pretty pretty good, pretty good deal. Yeah. For people who are in the clergy project, the personality type is someone who is wants to be a helper to be pastoral. And we don't need to be afraid of that term right to to be alongside someone as they go through their life events, the positive ones like getting married, or the birth of their children and the negative ones of losing losing a loved one. And so do you still feel that pastoral? Like, call if I could use the term?

Chris Highland  15:24  
Yeah, yes, I do. I guess, at times, I've called myself a secular chaplain. I've kind of just played with that for a while. I, you know, it's not all about titles, of course, and I, I don't need to be a clergy person any longer. But I'll tell you, even though the word chaplain has deep roots in Christianity, that became such a part of my life, that that I respect that term. And, you know, I respect the person, even, you know, a person who's an evangelical chaplain or any other kind, you know, I have my critiques. And I have my own experience, what I think was the most effective what worked the best for the most people kind of utilitarian approach to chaplaincy. But, you know, we, we were always focused my, with my team, working with the chaplain team working with Chaplain assistants, in various settings, whether it was a county jail system, or on the streets and shelters, other places. It was, you know, we had a guiding principle, and it was presence, it was presence ministry, and it was simply being with people. So that takes away a whole lot of extra stuff that people feel like they've got to, you know, you have to have your own agenda. And you've got to be able to convince people and all that kind of stuff and pass along something. And, as I say, you know, becoming a chaplain was really a way to to begin an education that you cannot get in a classroom. It just can't and, and the people that have something to teach are the ironically, I suppose, or sadly, they're the ones that we're not listening to, because we talk too much, or we have our own agenda.

David Ames  17:47  
So one of the things that I think, drew us to one another is that we have some criticisms of atheist culture, and particularly online atheist culture. I want to preface this conversation by saying that I think you know, you have plenty of Skeptic bone a few days. So we're not talking about not having a skeptical outlook. And the way I've said it is, you know, it, it's frustrating to me that immediately as people go through a process of, however you want to describe it, the loss of faith, questioning doubt. deconversion deconstruction, the first sources that they land on are going to be very debate oriented, a very aggressive, dismissive, you know, almost angry. And so you've, you've written a couple of these articles where you're saying, you know, does this actually benefit us having that stance towards other believers? Do you want to expand on that?

Chris Highland  18:49  
Yeah, well, it's Yeah, I guess I pick up on these a words like, Well, other than the, you know, aihole. There's also just aggression, aggravation, anger, you know, an anti anti is a big one. Yeah. You know, if your whole your whole outlook is to be anti religion, particularly, in this context, I find that number one, I find that sad. Number two, I think that a person needs to look in the mirror and deal with their own stuff. And unfortunately, some of us who want to hold up on me, none of us like to look in the mirror about some of this

David Ames  19:35  
stuff. Uncomfortable. Yeah.

Chris Highland  19:39  
And so I think that's where some of the pushback is come toward my writing. But, you know, I'm, I'm married to a minister, my my wife is still in ministry. She's very progressive and and she's a teacher and a counselor. And we've been together a long Time. So she's seen me through this whole process and supports me. And that's an unusual story. I understand. That's an unusual story. But But I think what I like to point out to people, and sometimes it's a, I do it in a pointed way, holding up that mirror and say, look in the mirror. It's when people attack religion in general, or religious people in general, oh, they're all deluded. Oh, they're all just, you know, in a fantasy world, they're all really basically stupid idiots. And whenever I pick up on that, I say, well, Where's that coming from? Obviously, they've had a bad experience. And that's what they've learned about religion, that's, that's their experience of religion? Well, you know, I was once in a, in a little splinter of, of Christianity of one religion in the world, I was distant, a little tiny branch. Right. And that, as I've already said, it took a period of time to learn that there was a whole lot more. So I like to encourage, let's just put it this way, I like to encourage people to look in the mirror that and see that, okay, I am angry, I may be very justified to be angry toward my little group, right? Or a big group of it's the Catholic Church, or, you know, some bigger the Southern Baptists or something, I understand I get it, you had a bad experience, okay. So you can get all angry, you want to add that tradition. But, but when you start pointing the finger to make blanket statements, then you're talking about Quakers. And you're talking about progressives of a lot of different religion, you're talking about, you know, Catholic nuns who are doing running soup kitchens, and all of that, you know, a lot of good things going on, out there, in the name of religion, I'm not saying, you know, I'm not going to be a defender of, of everything to do with religion. You know, and I, and I have my own critiques. And I expressed those in a pointed way too. But I, I've done enough self criticism and self critique and self analysis, to know that, you know, it's kind of like calling myself a free thinker. Once again, it's focusing on what can we do to heal ourselves? What can we do to bring people together to deal with what really matters? Does theology matters so much to people that they got to argue about it all the time? You know, and, I mean, one of my neighbors, and I'm kind of exaggerating, it's down the road a bit from us is Franklin Graham. Wow, Billy Graham's empire, you know, is down the road from us here, where we live in North Carolina. And, you know, I could spend my time attacking him and say, See, that's what those Christians are doing? Well, that's not that's, that's only a small part of Christianity. And it's, it's not a healthy part of Christianity. And I've written letters to the paper about him, and I've written blog posts on their, some of their deception when it comes to the Samaritans person and all that. But, you know, I'm not going to waste my time, just attacking one branch of Christianity, one small branch of religion, or religion in general. I mean, what's the purpose?

David Ames  23:47  
Yeah, man, several things that I want to respond to you there, I think, one of one of my observations of, of just friends of mine, so friends in the secular community, who, who's still very actively engaged with people online, and you know, in a in a fairly debate oriented style, so people that I care about friends of mine, that still do this, and I think it's part of the, you know, someone is wrong on the internet phenomenon. Right? It's just, you see something that you have a strong reaction to, and that actually should be your indication to slow down and think more. Before I throw anybody under the bus. This I do this too, right. I think that Twitter brings the worst out of me, I take a potshot at a apologist every once in a while, and I immediately think, why did I do that? You know, and there's trollish behavior by Christians and there's trollish behavior by atheists is one of the things that I like about your work and I'm gonna try to give a quote here. The more I interact with free thinking humanists and atheists that the more I see the great opportunities of for building connections, rather than breaking them down, and it's that change in focus right from correcting someone's mistaken belief, from your perspective, to seeing their full humanity and finding out which ways can we work together? One more. One more way of describing this is, you know, I think apologists often critique humanism to say, Well, you can't justify being good or doing good or goodness. And I think, why do you care? If we can do good together, and you have your justification, and I have my justification? Isn't that better for everyone?

Chris Highland  25:40  
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, it does have to come back. I mean, humanism is great, because it's, it's about humans. And I'm a real nature guy. And I know you are too and a lot of this, we are common ground literally is, is the natural world. And we have to find ways of connecting. More people with that. That's one reason why I'm, I'm wearing my Yellowstone shirt today, to remind myself that, you know, the, the national park system, as I see it, in this country, is is made up of secular sanctuaries. I mean, this is the the secular answer to, to the church to sanctuaries is, and that's how John Muir and some of my, you know, my heroes might call them secular saints, sometimes, you know, people who have something to say about the natural world and want to draw people out kind of evangelists for nature. So, so how to do that in a way that that's inviting to everyone. And I love to, I love to say that I think this is responding to your question, let me know if it's not, but I can remember a time when I was in Yellowstone National Park, and I was observing a scene with a probably 100 other people. And it was a scene in a valley and there was a grizzly eating an elk. And there were bald eagles waiting to get their part of the snack. And then there was a moose that came running out of the woods chased by a wolf. And we all got to see that in one scene right in front of us in the wild in the wild. And he's kind of just I would just want to freeze that scene and say, okay, is that is that a Baptist over there? You know, is that a Catholic? Is that an atheist watching this scene? And it didn't matter? It's that sense of, it's that sense of awe and wonder and wildness, that I think, is really the core of our humanity. And why not? Keep urging, nudging us all toward that, instead of suddenly wanting to divide everybody up? Which is what religion tends to do? Why should atheism do that? Right? Why should atheism do the same thing that religion does breaking into this group and that group and getting and arguing and all that kind of stuff? There's a place for that, I honor a certain amount of what I hear from some of the more famous atheists the face of atheism out there. But I am concerned as you read in, in my one of my latest articles, I am concerned about what is the face of, of atheism? Partly because I want to, I wonder what is the face of free thought? What is the face of secularism? And if you ask people out there, you know, what do you think of or what do you think of if they only come up with these debaters and the agitators and the militants, and all those folks that are so anti religious, I want to say wait a minute, there's a whole bunch of us who aren't like that, right.

David Ames  29:20  
One of the things I've observed is the nature of social media is such that provocative tweets or posts get a lot of attention. So if you say something about, hey, we ought to be kinder to one another and love one another. It's, you know, crickets. Nobody responds, but if you say this group is stupid, you know, retweets and likes and so I've been very cognizant of restraint of restraining my desire to, to score points. And again, sometimes sometimes I don't live up to that but that but I'm aware of that as as a phenomena and so much of what we see, both in books and YouTube and social media is that the scoring of points is raised above actually trying to connect with one another.

Chris Highland  30:15  
Exactly, exactly. I've never been really a debater, I know I can, I can certainly I have a voice and I speak up and I write most of it, have my have had my shares of share of arguments and with people, but you know, a lot of this, I think David comes back to semantics. You know, I think I think choosing our words a little more carefully. Instead of speaking of religion, as I said, and some great broad brushstroke to say some religion, some religious people, some Christians, or as I said earlier, if you come out of some tradition that's been, you know, you feel like you've been abused, it's been at least a particular church you came from or whatever was, caused some trauma in your life and cause you agitation in your own life, then, then I understand you deal with that. But, you know, I like to bring up the possibility that someone could say, well, some in that church, now, I could probably spend a lot of time we could talk for an hour or more just about the Presbyterian Church, because that's what I grew up with. That's what I've known the best. That's what I was ordained in. I know that church probably better than any others. And I have a lot of criticisms. And here's the thing. I have a lot of friends, close friends and family who are members of the Presbyterian church now. Right, right. And so if I'm just going to say, well, Presbyterian, you know, the Presbyterian churches like this, well, someone's going to point out right away, and say, Well, Chris, don't you remember that other Presbyterian Church and what they were like, and don't you remember when they came out with this social justice statement? And they have these programs that are doing good in the community? So Oh, yeah, you're right. I forgot your right. So I forgot that I need to add a qualifier that says some Presbyterians. Yeah. You know, and so you do the same with with Christianity itself. You say, Well, yeah, there's a segment of Christianity that I have a real problem with, and I'm pushing on all the time, which is Christian nationalism, and some of that a member of the Americans United. And I, you know, I really believe strongly, we need to push, push back on all of that. But then I know a whole lot of other Christians who are anti that too. I don't want Christian nationalism either, right.

David Ames  33:26  
So you mentioned that your wife is a minister, and my wife is very much a believer, and we are navigating that together. And, you know, as I've often tried to tell her is that I love her for who she is, which includes her beliefs, right, that makes her part of who it's part of who she is. And I think of my my in laws are some of the most generous, loving, caring giving people I've ever met in my life. And they are both theologically and politically conservative. Right. So I mean, we have some disagreements. But so to point out that there are very, very good people who are believers is just a statement of fact, and we don't need to feel like we need to tear them down in order to work with them.

Chris Highland  34:14  
Right. Yeah. And I have a chapter in one of my more recent books on difficult conversations, and it relates a conversation with one of my family members. And, you know, she and I have some some very divergent thoughts. So these things, and we have some, some heated discussions, but we don't yell and scream, and we end by saying love you talk to you soon. Right. You know, and, you know, what's the problem with that? I mean, that really bothers some, some of the atheist circles that, that just think, well, you've just got to argue and argue and argue, and until you convince them well, that what is the difference between between being an atheist evangelist, and being a Christian evangelist, if you're just there to like you said to win, you gotta win, there's gonna be a winner and a loser. And then you can walk away saying, Great, I, I convinced them well, what did you convince them up that you're unable? Good for you.

David Ames  35:25  
One more quote of yours. I think this is from your more recent article, let me see if I've got this prepped here. I don't see religion going away. So I think it's much more productive to find ways of working with those faith communities who are open to it, and those seculars who are open to it, and then rather than complaining about them to score points, the point I want to jump off on is I think in some ways, there is a unstated or implicit and sometimes overt implication that secularism will just overrun religion entirely. And I think I agree with you, you more, I think religion is a human phenomena. And so I think it's not going away anytime soon. And so, if secular, as secularists believed that their role is to eradicate religion, I think that's a fool's errand. Yes. So I'm curious, you know, in what ways do you see that, that we could be more interfaith as secular humanists or a secular person and interact with people of faith in a positive way?

Chris Highland  36:33  
Yeah. Well, that's the That's the million dollar question, I think is what are we what are we going to do? What are we going to do now and into the future, when, you know, there are a lot of forces that want to fracture, fracture us and divide us? And really, David, I think it comes back to relationships. And, you know, I guess I get, some people probably get tired of hearing me say it, but I, you know, if someone has critiques of religion, but they've never talked to a Buddhist, or a Quaker, or even somebody in their own tradition, that that maybe wasn't in a small town in the Midwest or something, I don't know. Right? It comes back to relationships. I, I published a book a couple of years ago called Broken bridges. And it was, you know, really a collection of my, my essays that I write the columns are right for the Asheville citizen times. And the focus of that book, it wasn't a lot of, there weren't a lot of essays in there. But the focus was, you know, let's look at what's broken. And then let's make some decisions. Some bridges should just crumble and fall, let them go right now. Other ones might, maybe there's a way to repair those, but we're not going to be able to do it. One group of one faction of our of our culture or society is not going to be able to do it by themselves. So we have to find a way cooperate, and then then becomes that that real, free thinking moment when we say, well, maybe maybe a bridge over there would work better. Maybe we need to try something different. And what if that difference is, well, can we put aside our theological problems, our belief divisions, those broken bridges? Can we put those aside to finish this project, this program, work with these people deal with this issue, this this critical problem in our community, where it doesn't matter what you believe, or don't believe, right? That's, that's what intrigues me. And I will say that, you know, for 25 years of my life in those chaplaincies, I was working shoulder to shoulder with people that theologically No, I'm not there. I'm not going there. Right. But we didn't have the time. We didn't have the time to argue those things, or sometimes to even discuss them. It was it was okay, there's, there's that person over there who's dying on the street, what are we going to do for them? And then everybody adds their solutions to the to that issue, which might come down to that one person. And that's what that's what gets me charged up. That's what energizes me is not always focusing on the Broken bridges, but where where we can either repair or build a new one.

David Ames  40:00  
Yeah, I, I love everything about what you what you said, let's get about the business of, of doing good in the world together collectively. And if we're just focusing on the parts that we disagree about, we aren't effectively doing good in the world. And if we can just accept one another as in the fullness of each other's human humanity, we can work together and have a positive effect on on the world.

Chris Highland  40:27  
Yes, and I just want to add real quick here that I can already hear the criticisms because people say, Well, yeah, but you can't, I'm not going to work with those people are I can't, those people aren't going to want to work with me, maybe, you know, maybe that's true, that that's those, that's the broken bridges that maybe just need to crumble. But it might also be that, that you or I might not be able to, to make a connection, and build a relationship with that particular person, or that particular group or organization. But somebody else who has some, some, you know, relationships or connections that are already there, have some other way has some other way to make that connection. Let them do it. Right them do it if you if you can't stand Baptists anymore, because you came out of a tradition, where you just kind of you just can't stand it anymore. I'm not gonna deal with those people. Good, don't do it. But but others who, who are okay with that, and are open to that, and, and maybe have the time and the energy and the patience to try to try to build those bridges, let them do it. Right.

David Ames  41:40  
I think sometimes we need to step back and be more explicit about what our goals are. And I think you've touched on briefly here already, but one of our goals ought to be more secularism, more pluralism, meaning in the non scary version of that, right. So we're not saying more people who are non believers, but rather, freedom of religion and freedom from religion, right, that's ability to truly allow people there to follow their conscience and, and still give all rights and privileges and citizenship to everyone. And one of the things I think that the problem is, is that we we approach it as a zero sum game, sometimes like we, like we have to win, atheism has to win in some way, instead of what I think our goal ought to be is acceptance of everyone. And then that is truly a marketplace of ideas so that the best solutions can fall out of that. Why do you think it is? Maybe like, just give you a an impossible question, why do you think it is that we as human beings, we want to put people in a box and add categorize them? And and say, this is the other and this isn't? That person's not on my team?

Chris Highland  42:58  
Well, yeah, yeah, you're right, I'm not going to answer that. It's, it's, um, it does seem to be I mean, I guess we're tribal. And, you know, we want to identify somehow and with with one particular group of people, that gives us some, some way to make sense of our lives and give our lives meaning. And it's always the other, we don't understand them. We call them them. We don't want to deal with that group. Those people. And you know, what, what really changed me or let's just say, helped me evolve a more inclusive viewpoint is working with those folks who are marginalized the outsiders and, you know, working in a county jail for 10 years. You know, I was conducting seven gatherings a week, for 10 years in county jails, women, men, people and maximum security people and minimum security. And I had to go through some real change and you know, those people who are those people who are in jail, and I found out that there are some great people who end up in jail and some very hurt people who end up in jail and some very guilty people are in jail and some very innocent people who are in jail so I mean, just all across the board like that. And then the same on the streets working with people in the we do we all we always call them something that they don't have we say their home less home last. And, you know, we just we got to know people as people, right? Maybe they don't have a house. They don't have a permanent dwelling, but they're people. So it's I guess I'm gonna say it again. It's that relationship thing. It's like, it's like, Do you know any of them? Right? Know when when a family member told me a few years ago, they started complaining about, about gay people and all the gay marriage and gay, this and all. And I ended up saying, Well, what are your What are your gay friends telling you? That's a classic question. Yes. You know, and in applies in all these different areas people complain about all those people on the street. Have you ever talked to one of them? You know, do you know any of the names of those folks? And it does change things. So, you know, one of the things I'll say, to address your question, I think, David, is that the mentality we come to the world with? In other words, our worldview makes such a huge difference. If we see it as a battlefield. Right, where we're all you know, it's let's go out there and fight. We're the defenders, we're the defenders of reason and critical thinking and truth and all these things, you know, then I don't there's not going to be any hope for for people to ever work things out or find just find ways of working together. And you mentioned about, you know, should we be working on pluralism? Well, part of it for me is kind of flipping the question around saying, Well, where is the pluralism? Where is the cooperation already going on? And how can we participate in that. And I've seen it the most in interfaith communities. And I don't really like the word interfaith either. But it's a huge step forward from ecumenical which is just Christians working together, to people of different faiths working together. And then when when my wife was the director of a large Interfaith Council in the Bay Area, people like me were part of that, and and Wiccans. And some of the some of the, the Muslim members had a hard time with the Wiccans. And some of the, you know, hardcore, people of one faith didn't necessarily like the fact that I was there. And I would call myself a secular person. So so how do we, how do we look at a person and see a person instead of slap a label on them and say, well, let's go to the battlefield?

David Ames  47:58  
So I've got a question about humanism. But I guess I first need to find out is, is humanism, something that you identify as, is that a thing you care about? Or is that not a term that you use?

Chris Highland  48:10  
Yeah, well, as I mentioned earlier, you know, I am a humanist celebrant. So I guess I have to have some affinity. Well, I'm just gonna say that it's just it's just to me, it's just based on people being human together, practicing ethics. And, you know, whether people call it a religion or not, it doesn't really matter to me, because you as you brought up earlier, you know, I don't see religion disappearing, I see morphing, evolving, as it always has done. And if we're just talking about institutions, well, institutions come and go and leadership changes and dogma and creeds and everything, change over time. But the kind of religion I think we're talking about is is more what I get from people from some of the naturalists and scientists. You know, I love what Carl Sagan says about us. He, he used the word spiritual in spirit, and he didn't. He didn't throw that out. He didn't throw that the spirit words out with the bit with the Christian bathwater. And he went back to itself that I learned way back in college in Greek and looking at original languages that these some of these words came from very earthy, naturalistic things. It's a breath, it's the breath is the wind. Like you can't get more natural than that.

David Ames  49:39  
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Chris Highland  49:40  
So that's human.

David Ames  49:42  
Carl Sagan man, I can't say enough good things about him in that, you know, he so eloquently expresses hard science, and awe and wonder, and that's a that's a beautiful combination that is relatively rare.

Chris Highland  50:01  
Oh yeah, I get to be with Neil deGrasse Tyson this evening and a Gathering Online gathering by the Center for Inquiry. Okay. Neil deGrasse Tyson will be speaking for an hour and live and so it'd be kind of, that'd be cool. Like, a mini Carl Sagan.

David Ames  50:22  
That's right, he is carrying on the torch with cosmos. Yeah. Sorry, that was a bit of a digression on humanism, I often ask people who are active humanists. Why do you think humanism is, is so rare? Or people or the identification with humanism is so rare? Or another way of asking that is, why is humanism fail so badly?

Chris Highland  50:48  
Alright, well, I was suspicious of it for quite a long time myself. Partially because I'm such a nature person. So when you talk about the focus is on human humans. Right? I thought, well, that's not enough, you know, I. And so I guess I defined myself one time as a natural humanist or something like that. I think once again, it comes back to how comfortable we are with certain labels. And then we I think we need to be able to define those labels in a way. That's why I keep coming back to will, how am I going to define better do a better job of defining free thought, and free thinking? So my wife and I have a couple of years ago, we went on the freethought trail up in up in New York, and went to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's home, and Robert Greene. Ingersoll is home. And you know, just kind of all over the map, literally, to see, well, where did these folks come from? What were they thinking? And why are they why were they free thinkers? How were they free thinkers, and what did they focus on? And it was always a humanistic endeavor. It was something to do with with freeing with literally freeing slaves, freeing women to be fully members of the, of our society, freeing our minds from, you know, any kind of restriction, whether it's political or religious, or whatever. So, you know, to me, it just it's a constant self reflection, again, to say, Well, what do I mean by this word? And so I don't, I don't always feel comfortable saying, Oh, yes, I'm a humanist. In fact, I'm gonna be teaching your class, I teach courses over here at the university, on free thought, and I always pick one of the one of these folks, you know, these voices like Ingersoll, and yeah, and others to Frederick Douglass and, and some of these last names like Francis right, and Lucretia Mott, and I love these people, because you dig back into those, those people and they end those lives and what they were talking about. And it they always have something for us today, to help us define and redefine what we mean by terms like humanism, right? And being humanistic. What does that mean? Does that exclude the natural world? Well, I certainly hope not. Because we're, we're a part of it. We are part of nature.

David Ames  53:33  
Yeah, I I recently talked to a fellow podcaster named Sam Davis. And I mentioned that I feel like I came to humanism, late, I think we're already talking about sentient ism, you know, or, you know, the, you know, to broaden this to all levels of consciousness as it were, and, you know, to respect that. And so I definitely am very much open to that. And I think we've been talking about the nature part of naturalism. And that, you know, it's just important to recognize that we are, quite literally in a scientific, hard, naturalistic sense, interconnected with the entire ecology and that what we do to the environment, what we do to animals affects us so in a selfish way, we need to be concerned with that. So I never use humanism in the sense of excluding nature. But I think the thing that is important to me is people over ideology, right like that. I feel like we we focus so much on ideologies and those can be political, economic, religious, what have you. But when an ideology begins to hurt people is when it needs to be criticized and broken down. In my concern is we don't do a very good job of caring for one another. I talk about the homeless, you know, something so simple. My wife works with At the school district in a way that tries to help families that they are struggling with housing and that simple thing, having a place for a kid to go home to has a profound impact on that child's education. And you can make arguments all day long whether or not the parents are abusing the system. But that kid deserves the best opportunities possible. It's just something so simple as providing housing makes a huge impact. Yes.

Chris Highland  55:40  
I do appreciate when they're more secular voices coming out, and kind of taking this word secular and turning it around and upside down, and shaking it and trying to say, Well, what what is this, you know, how to be humans, you know, living together on this planet, and not getting to, you know, adding my own thing to it, I would say just, we don't we shouldn't get too hung up in our philosophical, theological, political issues and, and identities and debates, in my opinion, because it just, it just takes away from I mean, that's what I was gonna say earlier, is it you know, it's fine to focus on humans, and the best part of humans in terms of humanism. But then, as you were just saying, it's, it can't be anthropocentric or anthropomorphic. And if we fall back into that, then we haven't made much progress.

David Ames  56:51  
Right? When I went through my deconversion process, which was about 2015, and I started to think after the fact, you know, I think I want to speak into this world, I want to feel like I have something to say, I was very cognizant of trying to remember what it was like, as a believer. And I think, in our email discussion I mentioned, you know, I'm positive that it's not about intelligence, because I'm the same person, I was as a believer as I am now. So that, that helps ground you know, remove some vitriol remove some hostility towards believers. And then secondly, and this is where I want to get to with you. Because my wife is a believer, and much of my family and and friend group, are believers, that also helps ground me to remember that I love these people. And I, I respect them. And I think they are bright, intelligent, giving wonderful people. And you can stop me if this is too personal. But I wonder if you would talk just a little bit about what that was, like, where you went through a change of mind? How have you and your wife navigated that?

Chris Highland  58:01  
Yeah. Well, as part of what I've been writing about recently, that kind of got some people agitated. You know, because I was really talking about education matters, education matters. And if somebody is bringing up a topic about something, and I just didn't study that, or that it wasn't covered in my education, I would just say, you know, I, I don't really know what you're talking about, or I'm ignorant in that area. Yeah. And I think we just need to be honest about that. So, you know, that is to preface the fact that my wife and I both went to very liberal seminaries that had a lot of interfaith connection, she went to Union Seminary in New York City, and I went to San Francisco seminary, so on opposite coasts, okay. But we both got steeped in liberation thought liberation theology, okay. And which made a huge amount of difference because it gets you kind of away from a Bible focus, to to an action focus to a social justice, focus. And both of us came out of that. So that was a parallel, right to begin with. So Carol is my wife and I like to tell the story, we both get very amused telling the story that my wife and I met carrying the cross and it was a good Friday service at a Presbyterian Church. She had heard of me, I'd heard of her. She was doing advocacy work with immigrants, and I was working on the streets as a chaplain. So we'd heard of each other. We're both Presbyterian ministers. We show up for this, this Good Friday service, and someone had created this Big I guess it was. I don't think it was Styrofoam, but I think it was some kind of pressboard cross or something. And about four or five of us carry that up the aisle into this Good Friday service. So we kind of, you know, that's how we we met. But it was, you know, that event, in a sense, meant something different to us than maybe even some of the other people who were carrying that cross. And people who came to that service focused on Well, this is Good Friday, it's all about Jesus. It's all about Christians. It's all about being in church, without looking around to see, well, who's not here, who's not attracted to this kind of thing. And how divisive is that cross? For so many people? Well, she and I understood that from the very beginning. So I think, you know, that gives you have kind of a long background, but it's really, it started with us doing liberation kinds of work, which meant being out with a people presents ministry, inclusive, working and a diverse environment with diverse agencies and nonprofits. And so she she started this interfaith group, I was already doing interfaith chaplaincy. So it was, it was a natural, in some ways for us. So I, you know, all along the way. It really was. It made us love each other, for what we were doing and, you know, what we will be might see in the future for us doing together, which was kind of starts with marriage. So we just decided that we get along pretty well together and think a lot of like, when it comes to these matters, and she has a lot of criticisms of the church, her own church, the denomination, religion in general. She is a member of Americans United as I am, she's she's gets really upset about Christian nationalism, and a lot of that real. Yeah, boy, I mean, there's so many ways to say, you know, what I mean, all the crap out there that comes from various religious groups. But once again, we both have a background, we both have, actually, friendships, with colleagues, and others from a, from a lot of different faiths. And so, and now she's gotten to know some of my connections in the, in the secular community as well. And so we, we've decided to make a life of it. And it works pretty well. We certainly have disagreements, but yeah, like everything else. We've been saying, you know, it's really a matter of, you know, do I want this relationship does she want this relationship? How do we make that work? I don't go to church with her. But I actually know the pastors of the church where she goes, and her mother goes there to the family church for years. And I liked those folks and a lot and get get this a lot of the people that go to that particular church read my columns every week, and they really liked them. So that tells you something right there. Yeah,

David Ames  1:03:38  
yeah, definitely. One last thought here. I think that people like ourselves who have had a, a relatively long lifetime of faith and then subsequently find we no longer can believe I think we have a lot to offer to church groups, right like that, that they can learn something especially if we aren't being trying to be critical or trying to just tear them down.

Chris Highland  1:04:04  
Yes, and that's that's the purpose of my my writing almost all of my writing, you know, my columns as well as the books in my in my blog posts and other things. I'm always writing about these things and I I often come back to what one reason I really enjoy John Muir so much living in California for years and I've been to his boyhood home in Scotland and you know, he's just a I would highly recommend him to people of faith to people without faith doesn't matter. And I one of his his most succinct statements is in his journals where he says, the best synonym for God is beauty. The best synonym for God is beauty. So if we just would all take that and live with it. What does that mean? Does that mean to deny that there isn't beauty, that there's a lot of ugliness, a lot of death and disease and terrible things going on in the world. It's not denying any of that. It's just saying, if you're going to talk about a creative force in the universe, or within ourselves, bring it back, bring it back to nature, natural beauty, and work with that somehow. So now, maybe that's better, better than free, thought free thinker, and humanist and all that stuff. You know, I'm a follower of beauty.

David Ames  1:05:37  
That's amazing. I could not have thought of a better way to end up here. Chris, this has been an amazing conversation, can you let people know how they can get in touch with you. And then a topic we didn't touch on, but just maybe a plug for the clergy project? If we happen to have listeners that are working in the church in one way or another? I'm having doubts.

Chris Highland  1:05:55  
Yeah. So yeah, both of those. Yeah, I can be, you can read my writing and connect with me through C, which I also call friendly, free thinker. So friendly, free thinkers, sea All my books are listed on there, all my writings, and the clergy project. That's the, you know, clergy And if anybody is an in any kind of pastoral work, or clergy person, who's kind of making the transition out, and you either out with that, or still have to kind of stay in the closet, clergy project is a great place to get support and connect and network with other people. So and that's, you know, you can you can be as, as hidden as you want to be on the clergy project now, a little over 1000 people, I think now members of it. Yeah, I've been there maybe, I think 10 years I've been a member.

David Ames  1:06:57  
Okay. Wow, that's fantastic. Yeah,

Chris Highland  1:06:59  
that's a good organization.

David Ames  1:07:01  
Chris, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Chris Highland  1:07:03  
Thank you appreciate it very much.

David Ames  1:07:18  
As you can hear, nature is very important to Chris his book, nature is enough. He is talking about searching for the ordinary wonders in our extraordinary natural world. This is a 15 second clip of the bird calls that I heard on a recent kayaking trip. The audio is terrible. But I was out there, I was listening. I was seeing nature and I was thinking about Chris, this is my gift to Chris.

Final thoughts on the episode. One of the very, very exciting things about doing this podcast is all of the frustration that I described about people who are going through a deconversion deconstruction process, finding the angry or louder, more argumentative, more debate oriented voices is becoming less true. Because I'm finding people like Chris Highland. I'm finding people like Troy more heart. I'm finding people like Bart Campolo and Leah Helbling. I'm finding people like Sasha Sagan, I am finding people like Reverend bones is harder to find us maybe. But we are out there. That is incredibly meaningful and exciting to me to find another voice out there who is doing secular grace. And even though that is not a term that Chris would have used prior to this conversation, that is what he's been doing. He was doing secular grace as an interfaith chaplain. And he is doing secular grace as a humanist celebrant. In his writing, what attracted me to his work is that he is expressing secular grace and several of those ideas are really important. One is obviously just about relationships, as he describes it is about our connection with other people. And that's what matters and winning points or arguments is not the point. We also I think, agree that if the end goal of the secular movement is more pluralism, and more acceptance and freedom of religion and freedom from religion. attacking people of faith is the wrong way to accomplish that goal. At one point, Chris says he is looking for a real Bible of goodness and graciousness, that is secular grace. I also appreciate Chris's relationship with his wife who is a minister. And the more voices we can have on that are people who are making an unequally yoked relationship work in a loving and kind, generous and humble way, the better we all are. So I think Chris and his wife are a great example of that. I want to thank Chris for being on the podcast for sharing all of his lived wisdom for sharing his secular grace. And I want to make sure that you are where you can find his website at sea Of course, I'll have links in the show notes. He has written a number of books, those are all available on his website. Many of his essays have been published in a few different media, including the rational doubt blog that Linda Scola runs Lindell Escola and Dan Dennett are a part of the clergy project that we discussed as well, I want to give a huge shout out to the clergy project. If you happen to be paid by the church in some way or another, and you are going through doubt clergy project is the place to reach out, they know what you're going through, they've been there. And as Chris mentioned, you can have the level of anonymity that you want. For the secular Grace Thought of the Week, I want to just emphasize Chris's focus on nature itself. He talked a lot about John mirror and beautiful places in California, like Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon in Arizona, places where you can go where you experience or at just the grandeur of nature itself. And one of the things that we mentioned is to be cognizant of our connection to nature, that evolution works in such a way that there is a web of interconnectedness amongst us and I mean, this in the most naturalistic, non woo way possible. We literally are connected to the ecology and we are connected to one another by interdependence, by relationships. And all of that is critically important, selfishly, for the human race to succeed, we need to take care of the environment, we need to take care of nature. I really appreciate Chris's focus on bringing out the wonder and beauty of nature itself. As always, we have some amazing episodes coming up next week is going to be Vanessa. And she describes her story as opposed to dramatic church syndrome. She's incredibly funny and humorous, and has beautiful laugh and a wonderful life story to tell. We're going to then take a break over the Fourth of July weekend. There'll be two weeks there one week without a podcast. And then when we come back, I'm going to have Thomas, who is actually a relative of a previous guest, Jimmy that we had on a number of months ago. So we get to hear a different side of that family story. And then after that, we'll also hear from Daniel, who is the co host of that when belief dies podcast, he was a part of the interview team that interviewed me for my recent episode, and he has been actively participating in that podcast, so look forward to that as well. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the shownotes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate, podcast, please get in touch. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist Podcast

Transcribed by

Travis: Measure of Faith

Agnosticism, Bloggers, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Secular Grace, secular grief
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My guest this week is Travis. Travis documented his deconstruction on the blog There Travis has documented his journey from a questioning but dedicated Christian to a doubting agnostic. He delves into the apologetics that were supposed to give him comfort but which ultimately led to loss of faith.

This is one of the more emotionally raw episodes. Travis opens up about his grief at the loss of his beloved father. His dad was an example of faith well lived and it had a profound impact on Travis. We discuss what secular grief is like after one no longer can be comforted by belief in life after death.

I have been feeling a little conflicted putting this information out there that can potentially help people lose faith because it was so important to someone like my dad. It makes me question whether I really want to be a participant for taking that away from someone.

These days Travis feels like he has said what he needed to say on the blog. His compassion and empathy is evident in that he is more concerned with caring for the people in his life than endlessly debating apologetics and counter-apologetics.




Secular Grace

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats