Ian Redfearn: Meaning Making

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Humanism, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Secular Community, Secular Grace, secular grief
Ian Refearn
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My guest this week is Ian Redfearn. Ian deconverted over 12 years ago. Since then he has continued to obsess over his deconversion. He is still asking the why? and how? questions. Ian is concerned with the deep questions of life and continuing to find ways to make meaning.

When people ask the question, “why did you leave it?”
I say it came down to credibility and integrity.
Credibility, I no longer found it credible to talk about a loving interventionist god against the reality of what was going on in my life and in the life of those around me and in the world.
And integrity, in that, I just couldn’t keep on pretending.

Ian has experienced the full force of the chaotic world we live in. His 24-year-old son has Cystic Fibrosis which is particularly frightening during an airborne pandemic. His father is experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease. All of this is happening during the time of Covid 19.

In spite of the difficulties of life, Ian has a joy and a sense of purpose. He is a committed father, husband, son and community member. He takes time to wonder at the beauty in the world. He recognizes that relationships are what give us our most valued meaning in life.

So there is much to wonder … are we allowed to use the word transcendent? Just that which completely expands your mind.
So there is meaning in that.

But above all else I think there is meaning in relationship and for anyone going through this that will not change you will find the relationships that matter.

Also don’t stop giving … you will find meaning in reaching out and helping those less fortunate than yourself.
That will serve to give your life meaning

He is now attending the Manchester Sunday Assembly and becoming an active member of the Secular community.

All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.

Links

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/ian.redfearn1/

Sunday Assembly Manchester
https://www.facebook.com/sunassemblymcr
Zoom 11am (GMT) Sunday mornings  https://zoom.us/j/2472709402

What is your favorite #DeconversionSong?

Music is important to Ian and it influenced his deconversion and how he talks and feels about it now.

Use the hashtag #DeconversionSong to tell us your favorite deconversion song

Here are some of Ian’s favorites:

My favorite is A Great Big World’s Say Something

Interact

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.com/2016/10/21/secular-grace/

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Brian Blais: Bayes vs Apologetics

Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Philosophy, Podcast, Thought Experiments
Brian Blais
Click to play episode on anchor.fm
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Brian Blais, professor at Bryant University and IBNS, Brown University. He is the author of A Measure of Faith – Probability in Religious Thought and Statistical Inference For Everyone. Brian is an expert in Bayes’ Theorem and how it applies to philosophy, theology and apologetics.

I am a Scientist, Skeptic, and Professor at Bryant University and the IBNS, Brown University. My goal is to make technical subject matters widely accessible and to use my analytical and computational skills to assist anyone with their science-related problems.

In this episode, I take the restraints off myself and express the reasons why I think apologetics is faulty. Brian is the perfect guest for this. We bounce ideas off one another to articulate good epistemology. We discuss how mathematics and Bayes can be abused by injecting unstated information which changes the probabilities and ultimately the conclusions one comes to.

We also discuss how beliefs have consequences. The current rash of conspiracy theories have had real-world effects. Brian explains how decision theory can be used to make difficult choices.

Links

Brian’s website
https://bblais.github.io/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/bblais

Statistical Inference For Everyone (Free Version)
https://bblais.github.io/posts/2019/Jan/14/stats-for-everyone/
Amazon Version
https://amzn.to/2O2onzQ

A Measure of Faith: Probability in Religious Thought
https://amzn.to/37QzEKt

Bayes’ Theorem
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem

The Monty Hall Problem
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

Very Bad Wizards episode with Agnes Callard
https://www.verybadwizards.com/203

David Deutsch

Interact

Deconversion How To
https://gracefulatheist.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.com/critique-of-apologetics/

Apologetics Epistemology and Moving On
https://gracefulatheist.com/2017/10/02/apologetics-epistemology-and-moving-on/

Previous episodes referred to in this episode
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/10/04/randal-rauser-conversation-with-my-inner-atheist/
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/11/01/ian-mills-new-testament-review/
https://gracefulatheist.com/2020/11/15/barrett-evans-the-contemplative-skeptic/

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Attribution

John Monson and the Brothers Galaxy: Dawg Biscuits on the Moon

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

CG: African Polymath

Adverse Religious Experiences, Agnosticism, Atheism, Autonomy, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Humanism, Podcast, Purity Culture, Race, Religious Trauma
CG sculpture
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Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

CG grew up in strict religious home in Nigeria, where everything was banned except Christian media. His family was heavily influenced by the Pentecostal Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity movement. CG attended a tyrannical, authoritarian, and punitive college in Nigeria.

CG, later on, moved to London, UK. In London, he saw that the world was bigger than the Christian bubble that he had been raised in his whole life. He attended a popular charismatic church where he met people from different cultures, beliefs, and denominations. However, some of his friends challenged his Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity beliefs. He started theological beliefs started changing as a result.

CG, subsequently, moved to the USA to get a graduate degree at a Christian college. He lived in the American south where, as an immigrant, he felt isolated and disconnected from the Christian culture around him. This drove him to a personal intellectual journey, where he spent hours reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos.

After graduating with his master’s degree, CG came to the point where he could not ignore the damage that Christianity was inflicting on his mental health and personal development. He realised that he had to choose between completely losing his sanity & freedom by remaining a slave to religion or abandoning his beliefs and accepting his freedom/autonomy. A few days later, he became an Agnostic, and, subsequently, an Atheist.

CG has been on the path of freedom, healing, and recovery ever since. He is deconstructing sexual shame, self-hatred, misogyny, white supremacy, colonization, and western imperialism (and other forms of injustice). He also seeks to heal the havoc that religion
has inflicted in Nigeria (and other African countries) through evangelism, cultural imperialism, and colonization. Religion, significantly, contributes to the apathy and passivity of Nigerians, which prevents them from fighting for their freedom and justice.

CG is very passionate about humanism. He believes humanism is what our generation needs to help make the world (especially Africa) a better place. He is an existential humanist, a cosmopolitan humanist, and a planetary humanist. He believes that humanists need to have freedom (autonomy), humility, compassion, hope, love for learning, curiosity, and open-mindedness.

Links

African Polymath Blog
https://africanpolymath.wordpress.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/AfricanPolymath

Reading list and resources
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/193EJcKRNIxAftLb6daW9f_blMaJ2QwrQ?usp=sharing

Email
AfricanPolymath@gmail.com 

Interact

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.com/deconversion/

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.com/secular-grace/

Graceful Atheist Podcast
https://gracefulatheist.com/podcast/

Send in a voice message

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Jon Steingard: The Wonder and The Mystery of Being

Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, YouTubers
Click to play episode on anchor.fm
Listen on Apple Podcasts

I really did believe and I had questions,
but I was afraid to even ask them alone by myself.
I was afraid to present them to myself.

My guest this week is Jon Steingard, the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. In late spring of 2020, Jon posted a gut-wrenching confession on Instagram that he no longer believed in God. He is one of the more prominent recent high profile deconverts. Jon risked more than most by publicly acknowledging his lack of faith as his career was tied to the Christian music world. This confession and the public discussion of his loss of faith has and will continue to have reverberations throughout the Christian community for some time.

I was ensconced in this culture and my career was a part of that
and questioning it would have meant undermining my career
and so for a long time I just didn’t.

Jon has made himself widely available to honestly and vulnerably tell his story both to the Christian community and to the atheist humanist communities. It is Jon’s honest seeking after truth and his willingness to respectfully engage apologists and other prominent Christians that are having such a large impact. He has become a safe person for others in the Christian world to discuss their doubts.

So often I would say, “You know I am really wondering about this,” and you would just see this look of relief go over their face
and they would be like, “oh, thank you for saying that, I’ve wondered that too.”

I noticed there [were] a lot of people in Christian culture that were my age that had grown up in the church that were beginning to ask the same questions that I was and also similarly intimidated by what it would mean to say [this] out loud.
And so I just found myself being like, “well, I’ll go first!”

In my conversation with Jon, he describes a major turning point in his life when he saw poverty, starvation and abandonment of the Batwa children and community in Uganda. This began a quite reasonable time of questioning: if God is all-powerful, all-knowing and good, why are the Batwa suffering?

{Witnessing poverty starvation and abandoned children in Uganda} And that kind of thing wrecked me

The things that I am seeing here, do not dovetail with the idea of an all powerful and all loving god.
Because when I read scripture, when I listen to what I hear in Christian culture,
I hear about a god who intervenes,
I hear about a god who answers prayer, certainly not always but definitely sometimes.

And so I grew up hearing [answered prayers for parking spots], and then I go to Uganda and I see this [poverty …]
And I go like, “God, maybe answer a few less parking spot prayers and a few more prayers for these children who are literally dying
and suffering unimaginably.

I came back from that trip and I was just like, “There is no way that I can believe in god the way that I used to.”

In January of 2021, Jon started a podcast and YouTube channel called The Wonder and Mystery of Being.

Links

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/jonsteingard/

The Wonder and The Mystery of Being podcast and YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUjFcPl10_QMxoevHL4jLXg

Jon’s deconstruction story

Twitter
https://twitter.com/jonsteingard

The documentary Jon produced while still a Christian

Interact

Deconversion from Christianity
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: A History
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/jennifer-michael-hecht-doubt-a-history/

Clergy Project
https://clergyproject.org/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

I Was Mistaken

Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Grace
Photo by Khoa Vu00f5 on Pexels.com

I was mistaken.

That is it really. After the books have been read, after the arguments have been considered, and after the process of deconversion has run its course. This is my conclusion regarding my former faith. Rather than arguing over philosophy, history, meta-physics and ethics, I just need to tell you one thing:

I was mistaken.

I believed the Bible was Truth with a capital T.
I believed miracles happened.
I believed that Jesus was the Way the Truth and the Life and the only way to the Father.
I believed the Crucifixion and the Resurrection atoned for my sins and gave me Living Water.
I believed that God … was.

I was mistaken.

Years after deconversion and after much study I now have words to describe what was going on in my head when I believed: attribution, community knowledge, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance. But really, it is much simpler and clearer to say:

I was mistaken.

The honesty, the humility, the relief, and the release I feel when I say the words:

I was mistaken.

Deconversion is the ultimate repentance.

I was mistaken.

Is it possible that others have been mistaken too? I suspect I am not alone.

I was mistaken and so can you.

Barrett Evans: The Contemplative Skeptic

Atheism, Authors, Book Review, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, Secular Grace, Spirituality
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It is proper to doubt.

My guest this week is Barrett Evans, author of The Contemplative Skeptic. Barrett wrote the book for those who are skeptical but drawn to spirituality.  A former evangelical seminarian and ex-Roman Catholic, Barrett is an agnostic who has retained a fascination with contemplative spirituality.  Building on what he learned in his divinity, counseling, and historical studies, he draws on hundreds of religious and secular sources in an effort to combine honest doubt with the best of contemplative experience.

Perhaps ironically, dogmatic religions claims now seem to me to critically undercut two of the most valuable spiritual ideals for fallible people – humility in the face of complexity and honesty in the light of human limitations.

We discuss how honesty and humility lead to doubt. Barrett’s look at comparative religion reveals the reasons for doubt and the wisdom of a contemplative life. We ask what does it mean to be “spiritual.”

And as history of religions and other psychological phenomenon show, delusions can be passed from one person to another with some rapidity, especially if they are in close relationships and it is a time of stress or excitement.

The tremendous range of religious diversity is one of the greatest reasons for skepticism towards any particular religious belief.

Links

Barrett’s website
https://www.americannone.com/

Honest Doubt
https://www.americannone.com/post/doubt-and-the-good-life

Twitter
https://twitter.com/ContemplativeS4

Books

Interact

Secular Humanist Graces
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/secular-grace/

Steps to deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Ian Mills: New Testament Review

20 Questions With a Believer, Critique of Apologetics, Naturalism, Podcast, Podcasters
Ian Mills
Click to play episode on anchor.fm
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My guest this week is Ian Mills, a PhD candidate in New Testament studies at Duke University. His dissertation is “Rewriting the Gospel: Second Century Evangelists and the Act of Gospel Writing.” His key advisor is Mark Goodacre and Bart Ehrman is on his dissertation committee.

[Regarding methodological naturalism] I am making a claim that when we do history … we do not, and in fact we cannot, include supernatural explanations (entities, forces or actions) in our successful explanations.

Ian is a professing Christian who confesses the resurrection of Jesus. I ask Ian to provide intellectual cover for believers. His example is one of honesty and intellectual integrity while maintaining faith. What makes him interesting is his commitment to methodological naturalism as it applies to studying the first and second century gospel writings. He explains why even as a believer this is not threatening to his faith.

I am genuinely interested in the history of the first century and the second century is where my research is focusing on and I do not see it is threatening or challenging my faith.

Ian is the co-host of the New Testament Review Podcast. He and his co-host Laura Robinson rose to internet fame (at least in secular circles) after they did an episode giving an unflattering review of Lee Strobel’s “A Case For Christ.” Ian’s approach is a breath of fresh air particularly when compared to popular apologetics.

What [popular apologists] do is bad for you. And it is because it is a complete inversion of what people of integrity and what good science inquiry should be.
Instead of starting with questions and data and going and looking for explanations that satisfy your questions, they start with a set of conclusions and go mining the evidence looking for that.

I personally learned a lot from Ian in this conversation. He is a wealth of information and expertise on the early Church and the process of gospel writing and canonization. As I say in the interview, I felt transported back to the best of Bible college. I suspect we will be hearing from Ian for years to come.

Links

New Testament Review Podcast
https://soundcloud.com/user-829560134

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR8SeIgZf4x0-wUMWVvWchw

Academia
https://duke.academia.edu/IanMills

Twitter
https://twitter.com/IanNelsonMills

Interact

I mention Ted Chiang’s Hell is the Absence of God
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/review-hell-is-the-absence-of-god/

Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

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Support the podcast here.

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Randal Rauser: Conversation With My Inner Atheist

20 Questions With a Believer, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Naturalism, Podcast
Randal Rauser
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Randal Rauser. Randal is, in his own words, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion.” He is a professor of systematic theology, aplogetics, and worldview at Taylor Seminary.

Randal has written a number of books on apologetics and atheism. I first became aware of Randal’s work around 2017 when I read “Is The Atheist My Neighbor.” At least in the circles I am a a part of, Randal is considered to be a fair and honest apologist and is widely regarded for “steel-manning” atheist arguments before giving his arguments against them.

My own shifting relationship with certainty and doubt, confidence and questioning, is reflected in my history with apologetics.

This week we discuss his new book, “Conversations With My Inner Atheist.” In this book, Randal personifies his doubts as an interlocutor named Mia, My Inner Atheist, who presents the atheist, humanist and naturalistic arguments against his faith. Randal shows real vulnerability in several of these dialogues and often leaves the matter without a satisfactory conclusion by either party (believing Randal or non-believing, Mia).

Instead, I believe that certainty can journey along with doubt, confidence can welcome questioning, and together they can work to create a healthy and balanced Christian community.

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on these matters most of which I express in the Final Thoughts section of the podcast. We also discuss a recent back and forth between Randal and Ian Mills of the New Testament Review Podcast fame on the topic of methodological naturalism.

The truth is, I’d rather accept that there are some questions I may never answer rather than return to the simple days where I thought my answers were beyond question.

Links

Blog
https://randalrauser.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/RandalRauser

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/RDRauser

Books

Discussions on Methodological Naturalism

Randal’s a Miracle isn’t a violation of the laws of nature

Ian Mills (a believer) defending methodological naturalism

Randal’s Respones to Ian
https://randalrauser.com/2020/09/methodological-naturalism-as-a-wet-firecracker-a-response-to-ian-n-mills/

Interact

My Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

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Support the podcast here.

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Joel Furches: Why Christians Become Atheists

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters, The Bubble
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Joel Furches. Joel is a Christian and a psychologist researching topics of religion. He has a BA in psychology an MA in education, and he is working on his PhD in Behavioral Analysis. He he has focused on conversions and deconversions and has written a well researched article entitled: Why Do Christians Become Atheists? A Case Study.

The people I find most likely to adopt the label atheist and deconvert are the people who tied their identity most importantly to the Church.

Joel and I discuss his research and walk through his model of deconversion. We discuss the “Market place of ideas” and “The Christian Bubble.” We define the terms disaffiliation, deconstruction and deconversion.

I would advise intellectual humility and the ability to say “I don’t know” about things.

Joel’s advice for Christians who are seeing more deconversions:

[What] I would say to Christians in general is that it is not their responsibility to re-covert [the deconvert].
They have not failed because this person deconverted and they will probably not succeed in re-converting them.
It is to respect the person who has deconverted, respect their experience. Give them the right that any other human being would have which is to defend their views. And interact or engage in those views as important.

Links

Joel’s Website:
https://joelfurches.com/

Switching Sides
FB: https://www.facebook.com/Deconversionstudies/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SidesSwitching

Why Do Christians Become Atheists? A Case Study
https://hubpages.com/politics/Why-do-Christians-Become-Atheists-A-Case-Study

Perez, S. and Vallières, F., 2019. How Do Religious People Become Atheists? Applying a Grounded Theory Approach to Propose a Model of Deconversion.Secularism and Nonreligion
http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.108

Interact

Deconversion How To
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Support the podcast here.

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Podcast
Click to play on anchor.fm

My guest this week is John Marriott. We are talking about deconversion from the Christian perspective. John is the Director of Global Learning and teaches in the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University. John did his PhD dissertation focused on deconversion from Christianity to atheism. He has written a book on deconversion called “A Recipe For Disaster,” which is directed to the Church on the ways they are setting up believers to lose their faith.

I define [faith] as having enough reasons for a hope worth acting on.
I think there enough reasons for me to act on this [faith].

I first came across John’s work in an interview he did with Randal Rauser. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he had in describing deconversion. In particular this quote:

Something similar underwrites a significant percentage of deconversions. The biblical narrative that once easily fit within their childlike understanding of reality began to get squeezed out as they matured in their understanding of reality. The stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa. To resolve the problems they may seek answers that will allow them to continue to believe in such things as adults in the 21st century. This is the experience not just of those who deconvert but all educated, reflective Christians today. I suspect that even for those that do remain Christians, the cognitive dissonance never completely goes away, it just has been reduced to a level that allows them to continue to believe. For deconverts however, the cognitive dissonance is not sufficiently assuaged by apologetics. It grows despite their efforts and reaches a tipping point. As in the case with Santa, the only way to resolve the tension is to admit what they know is true. God does not exist.

John proved to be as honest in person as he is in his writing. He met me in an honesty contest and we found points of agreement on what it is like to deconvert. Even though we disagree on the conclusions we were able to have a vital conversation.

The reason why I believe it is there is enough evidence for me that I find it persuasive. I don’t find the counter-arguments conclusive so there is sufficient and adequate reason for me.
But why do I find it sufficient and adequate? That is the real question.
And to answer that question it is so complicated:
there are personal reasons
there are sociological reasons
there are emotional reasons
of course there are some rational reasons
but at the end of the day we’re are so much more than mere Cartesian thinking machines.
To be able to say well “I am a Christian because its the truth and it is true because the evidence points in that direction so clearly and I have reasoned it out this way.” Is I think naive in how we actually go about forming our beliefs.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. John and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.

Links

Website
https://www.johnmarriott.org/

Randal Rauser interview
https://www.christianpost.com/voice/the-problem-of-christians-becoming-atheists.html

Books

Interact

Deconversion and How to Deconvert
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/deconversion/
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Support the podcast here.

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats