Four Years of the Graceful Atheist Podcast

Deconversion, Movie Review, Podcast, Secular Grace
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week we are celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Graceful Atheist Podcast!

In this episode, you’ll meet everyone who works alongside David on the podcast, the website or the online community. Joining David are Arline, Mike T, Jimmy, Colin and Daniel.

They discuss some of their favorite movies, shows and books highlighting deconversion or secular grace.  It’s a great conversation that you won’t want to miss!



  • Avengers: EndGame
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Wizard of Oz 



  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • To the Forest of Firefly Lights
  • Somebody Feed Phil

Mike T

  • Vikings 
  • Yesterday


  • Lars & the Real Girl
  • Kumaré
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Wolfwalkers
  • Oblivion
  • Equilibrium




“Seems like one of the things that people often fail to recognize about community is that everybody is different…dysfunctional in their own way.”


“This is just about life and learning to respect other people for who they are. We don’t have to stick to these traditions that we’ve been told about all our lives.”

Mike T

“Sci-fi is never about the future; it’s about right now.”


“Love does involve pain. Love is difficult. Relationships are hard, and yet they are still worth it, even if you know it’s going to end.”


“…you actually can’t have something forever, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or any less meaningful or any less special.”


“Because life in general—or love—is finite and has an ending, it makes it so much the sweeter while we have it.”


“You’re doing a lot of it…There is a credit and a pride that you deserve to feel…”


“Seeing the kids in Harbor Me, and the way they come around one another, it’s incredibly moving and wonderful…things I didn’t have.”


“The questions I ask – she doesn’t, the things I wonder about – she won’t.”

Jack Harper in Oblivion


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. A part of the Atheist United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest reviewers on the Apple podcast store thank you to EC free and mm oh five. Appreciate you reviewing the podcast you too can rate and review the podcast on the Apple podcast store. You can rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. If you are in the middle of questioning, doubting, deconstructing, or even deconversion you don't have to do that alone. Join us in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find us at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show. Today we are celebrating the four year anniversary of the podcast officially March 14 2019 We started the podcast. And every year I like to do a bit of a state of the podcast address. Every year we try to innovate in one way or another this year. We began by joining the atheist United studios Podcast Network, which has given us really good exposure outside of say my social media reach. We have continued to do the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, which Arline is the community manager of Arline continues to do Tuesday evening Hangouts that review the previous week's episode, and that is thriving and doing really well. As of this morning, there are about 722 members in the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, which is amazing. We only started that about a year and a half ago. And it's been incredible to watch as people join and participate. We've started to do more social media outreach. Thank you to Ray for creating all the beautiful memes that are quotes from the guests that you see on both Facebook and Instagram. We're hoping to expand to tic toc at some point. All of these things help the podcast grow and reach a broader audience. In about a week and a half, we're going to cross the 250,000 Download barrier. As I've said before, downloads are not a particularly good metric, but it's one that is at least consistent. And we have definitely been growing. And we have a consistent audience somewhere in the range of 1500 to 2000 people every week. This year, we also started out Patreon. Because of joining the atheist United studios podcast network we have ads for people who want an ad free experience they can become a patron at any level. But I want to thank all those people who have jumped in immediately. I want to thank Joseph John Ruby Sharon Joel, Lars Raymond, Rob, Peter Tracy, Jimmy, Jason, and Nathan. Thank you all for being patrons. It makes a huge difference. With that Patreon money this year, we have started to do transcripts. Now the show notes have a full transcript that is AI generated. And we hope to continue innovating in one way or another if you have any interest in participating in the podcast, whether that is the community, the podcast itself, social media, everything from web design, to graphic artwork, to audio work, anything that you are interested in doing. We would love to have you be a part of this community and participate. Reach out to me at graceful My guests today are the people who have participated throughout the years who have been my support who have made the podcast possible are Leanne who is our community manager or copy editor, co host and Outreach Coordinator, Mike T who does the editing again, something that I just would not have the time to do in both cases. Jimmy and Colin have been people I've been able to talk through ideas and what's working and what's not working and really help on the mental health support side of things. And Daniel is a new friend who brings the social sciences and psychology background and some actual hard science to the table. And we've been able to talk through several things look forward to having a future conversation with Daniel to share with you as well. Today we are talking about our favorite movies, books, YouTube podcasts, what have you anything that inspires us? That has to do with either The topic of deconversion or secular grace. Now, of course, most of these things are overtly about these things, but under the hood, they very much are. And you're about to find that out. One word of warning, spoiler alert, we spoil a number of movies, books, stories. Each of us takes a moment as we introduce the new topic. If you are interested in going and seeing that or reading that, then you need to stop there because it will be spoiled. In the show notes, there's a list of everything that we're going to talk about, you might want to go take a look at the show notes first, before listening to the episode. Otherwise, celebrate with us for years of the podcast. Thank you, the audience so much for being with us. Here our lien Mike, Jimmy, Colin and Daniel.

I have with me the brain trust of the graceful atheists podcasts are lean, Jimmy, Mike T. Daniel and Colin are with me. We are celebrating the four year anniversary of the podcast. It started in 2019 in March, and we're here to celebrate and ostensibly, we will be talking about our favorite movies, television programs, podcasts, YouTube's videos that have inspired us. For in the topic of secular grace, or deconversion. I want to start with just a quick hello from everyone. And I'm gonna start with our lead.

Arline  6:33  
Hi, I am Arline, I am the community manager for the Facebook group. And I get to work with David and all these wonderful people. And yeah, if you're interested in being in the Facebook group, please DM me, all my information will be in the show notes.

David Ames  6:50  
And co host and interviewer and guests liaison and blog, copyright editor, all the things Arline does all the things. And I'll go with Colin next.

Colin  7:05  
Yes, my name is Colin, I was on the podcast a couple of years ago, thanks to Jimmy connected me to David was an incredible experience to get to share my my story since I porn a lot of people in my life who asked me about it. And so was honored to share and to stay involved and to listen to other people's stories. And something I talk to David a lot about is movies and how they are these parallels and ways of getting at our experience. So I'm, I'm I'm quite excited to be here today and honored to be part of the anniversary.

David Ames  7:43  
Thank you. Yeah, and Colin is a master storyteller. So that is a lot of a lot of what he made that

Colin  7:49  
I made that title up of

David Ames  7:54  
let's go with Mike T.

Mike T  7:57  
Hello, everyone. So I am Mike T. or Mike can I'm always behind the scenes editing all the episodes and I get to hear I guess firsthand. Everybody's story. And it's it's kind of a privilege to really dig into these stories and, and just be able to, and just enjoy what people have been through. And Dan, I just I enjoy myself. So that's what I do.

David Ames  8:29  
Yeah, and then obviously the podcast would not happen with without my tea. There's just no way the amount of time that you spend an hour in the editing booth, so to speak. Very, incredibly valuable to the podcast. Thank you. Let's go with Daniel.

Daniel  8:46  
Hi, everybody. My name is Daniel. I was on the podcast, just this past year in the episode entitled The Office of the skeptic found the podcast last year, I think I think the exact Google search I did was humanist podcasts that aren't angry.

David Ames  9:06  
Found this one, which is the sweet spot.

Daniel  9:09  
This has got to thread that thread that needle and yeah spent, I don't know, almost about 10 years deconstructing. And then deconversion the beginning of the pandemic, officially, I guess acknowledged the inner reality that had been there for a while and this podcast was really great throughout that process of leaving the leaving the anger and the hurt behind.

David Ames  9:35  
Yes And then Daniel you like do a lot of writing and your your background is is it psychology or social science? I always get it wrong.

Daniel  9:45  
It's it's a college I have a bachelor's in social science and a master's in

David Ames  9:48  
psychology. So it's all the things there we go.

Daniel  9:52  
All of those very specific thing that's very specific. I can't help you like rewire your house. If you want to up.

David Ames  10:01  
But Daniel is the the erudite voice amongst the group, the educated ones. And last but definitely not least, Jimmy is Jimmy, just let us know who you are.

Jimmy  10:14  
Oh, yeah, Jimmy. I was on the podcast in 2020. Pretty shortly after I had left the church. So you may not have heard the episode unless you have gone back through the entire back catalogue. But that's no problem. I have started writing blog posts for the blog. And I'm mostly a lurker on the Facebook group. But yeah, glad to be here.

David Ames  10:43  
Yeah. And Jimmy has been kind of a sounding board for me, along with Colin as well over really a couple of years now. So a lot of me working through some of the things that we do on the podcast are we have been helped along because of Jimmy and Colin. And now Jimmy is writing blog posts, and has comes a lot from the perspective of the stoics. So again, very deep reader, I think, Jimmy YOU ARE and you're bringing a lot of, of philosophy to those those blog posts. Alright, guys, so yeah, we made it through the introductions. So what we want to talk about today are media of any kind, but specifically movies and television programs that have some element of the deconversion or secular grace that have inspired us. And we're going to do what I call a snake draft. So we're gonna go through the list, we're gonna go through the same list we just did. And I'll be last and then we will reverse that order if we still have time, and we'll keep going for as much time as we have. So we're going to lead off with Arline.

Arline  12:00  
Oh, all right. Okay. So when you told me about this idea for talking about movies, I was like, that's awesome. This will be so fun. I love all these guys. I don't watch a lot of movies. Oh, God, no idea what I'm doing. But I was able to come up my favorite that I think, movie wise. That is secular grace, not deconversion. But secular grace is possibly a lot of superhero movies, but in game. Now, I'm going to assume people have already seen it if they haven't.

David Ames  12:35  
I'm gonna, at the beginning of the show, like intro I'm gonna say spoiler alert for everything that we mentioned. Because for sure, I'm gonna ruin some things.

Arline  12:45  
So yes, Marvel movie. I don't know if y'all just heard that my husband just like through things. I have no idea what just happened. In game, the Marvel movie, it's the the Avengers. And basically, like, half of humanity, half of the universe has been snapped away by the bad guy. And the Avengers realize, especially Tony Stark, they, they have to change this, even if it's going to change and alter their own lives. It's going to take away things from Tony Stark's lives. He's had a little girl, he's gotten married, like all these wonderful things, but they can't in good conscious conscience, not fix everything if they can figure out how to fix it. And so the whole movie is them figuring out how to fix it, and being willing to sacrifice some to the death for the universe for half of the population of the universe to be able to bring them back. And they didn't have to do that. And I was like, this is secular grace. To me this is selflessness without being like sappy because I have a hard time with sappy characters who just saying, I say too unrealistic. These are superheroes so but yeah, that was the that was the first movie that came into my mind was in game.

David Ames  14:01  
That's great. I say all the time that you know, it's unclear to me whether the, the story of of sacrificing yourself for the people that you love is but just Western prior to Christianity or, or because of Christianity. But there are a ton of movies where the the person the hero gives themselves up for the sacrifice of others. And this is just deep, especially in Western societies, deep, deep, deep in our culture, and inescapable. Like it's everywhere. And superheroes are a classic example of that. Anyone else want to respond to endgame?

Colin  14:42  
This might be a deep cut. I was gonna give snaps in this context, that's quite that's an evil. Yeah, it doesn't work.

David Ames  14:51  
That's bad taste bad. Word choice. Too soon. Daniel.

Daniel  14:59  
I think It's a great pick Arline. I've always wanted to be, you know, in the theater for a moment like Darth Vader telling Luke He was his father, you know? And because I remember my father telling me about that moment in the theater and and how people were like jumping out of their seats, like, oh my god, like everyone's having this huge reaction. So I got to go opening weekend with some friends to end game and, and they were just so many moments like, you know, Steve picking up the hammer and the the arrival their way through the portals and like all these, these things, and Tony's final snap, there were all these things that just were just like that moment that you had people like jumping up in their seats in the in the theater and going nuts. And I was just very, very grateful to be a part of that kind of moment. So I'm really glad that somebody brought it up.

Arline  15:53  
Yes, we, we are Marvel people. And I am a crier, when it comes to movies, like I will just weep and sob. And we, we were in the movie theater for Infinity War. And I just, I mean, I just bawled the whole time. It was just it was so sad. And then at the end, this woman just turned it turned to me and she was like, It's okay. Black Panther had one movie, if they're coming back, they're totally coming back. And I was like, Okay. And so yes. And being in there in, in game because yes, we were in the theater for opening weekend, and it was just, oh, it just gives me chills. It's such a and we've seen it multiple times. And I still cry and it's still fabulous. Oh, I just love it so much.

David Ames  16:36  
That's awesome.

Jimmy  16:41  
We're pretty bad at watching Marvel movies in my family. I think we started and game before watching whatever movie came before it. Know what order they were. I love movies. Yes, let's pick one. Pretty quickly.

Arline  16:59  
Yeah, we've been watching them since Iron Man, the first one. And it's kind of it's kind of ridiculous. Maybe?

David Ames  17:07  
Yeah, if you have Disney Plus, you've got to watch him like in chronological order.

Colin  17:12  
Exactly. Although, to be fair to Jimmy, it's sort of like recommending the wire now because it's like 100 hours of entertainment. There's that element of like, I really should but who? Yeah, and I love that idea. You just jumped in. You're like, Okay, so who is who is everyone?

Jimmy  17:31  
Almost like in the middle of a scene? Not quite. Yes. Yeah. Almost in the middle of a scene. So yeah, we got to realize that we had no clue. We did it right. Yeah, that was better.

David Ames  17:43  
All right. I'm gonna tap Colin for your first choice.

Colin  17:47  
I mean, basically the same example as Avengers, endgame. Lars and the real girl from 2007

David Ames  17:54  
are really comparable. Exactly.

Colin  17:56  
Same budget. I don't know if people know this. And I do want to echo David, I have to spoil it to talk about it. So you can like jump ahead. So if you want, but what I'll say is Ryan Gosling before he was hot, weird. Really interesting. Indie movies. I mean, I've been a fan of him way before he got jacked and did Crazy, Stupid Love. And the notebook. Lars and the real girl is a story about a man and his wife and their, the man's brother who's living in the garage who is very disturbed in some way. He's a hermit. He is. He can't make eye contact. He's he can't be touched by people. This is Lars. And he one day he buys a real doll, which is a sex doll. It's like a $2,000 anatomically correct size and weight woman and it is the I mean, everybody is just like, What? What do we say? Like he treats her like a real person. He brings her on dates. He asks his sister in law for clothes for her because she lost her luggage on the trip. I mean, it's a complete, you know, break from reality. So they take him to a psychologist who says he's working something out and he's in a very fragile place. And you need to go along with him until he reaches the end of whatever this is. And they're like, people are gonna make fun of us. And she says, yes, they are. And it's the first instance of people acting on large behalf even to their own cost and what ends up happening is first off he creates a lot of confidence by doing these by simulating life he takes her to a party he, they go on dates, they go bowling. I mean, they go bowling. I mean, it's really strange, but it's very, it's very funny in that I think it's played mostly straight, he starts making eye contact, he starts to talk to a woman at work who he has a crush on a real,

David Ames  20:23  
a real human

Colin  20:26  
capital girl, a woman. And what I would say is secular gay grace to a tee is that essentially, this whole town of people go along with him. And they take Bianca out. And Bianca is the name of the doll, she starts volunteering, and they cut her hair and they and they support him as he eventually reaches a complete tragedy of she's, she's died. And it's him emerging from this episode. And along the way, discovering that all the people in this town love him and will do whatever he needs. And I talked about chills, Arline, I get chills thinking about it. And it's, you know, there's no mention of there's a little bit of a mention of religion, but it's, it's a pretty clear example of someone in our community needs us. Yeah. And I highly even though I sort of spoil it, it's really fun. Really fun to watch. And, you know, to watch people kind of at first, especially, like, what are we do, what are we? Not, you know, and, but But playing along, and it's, it's a great one,

David Ames  21:45  
I love this movie and call it thank you for being brave enough to bring it up. It really is. You know, the premise sounds so odd and strange. And yet, you absolutely love Lars who absolutely love and you love the community by the end of the movie, and it is about the community loving someone and caring for them, where they are at. Right not asking this large character to to, you know, do you know, be normal, right? They're not asking him to do that. They're letting him go through what he's going through, and ultimately leads to healing in his life.

Colin  22:21  
Hmm. Yeah, absolutely. It's really, it's really something to watch.

Jimmy  22:26  
Seems like one of I mean, we talked about community a whole lot. And it seems like one of the things that people often fail to recognize about community is that everybody is different, you know, to sort of adapt Tolstoy everybody's dysfunctional in their own special way.

David Ames  22:47  
Yeah, just to summarize them. Yeah.

Jimmy  22:51  
Well, it's, it's the intro to anacreon. Pretty sure

Colin  22:56  
was first line.

Jimmy  22:58  
Right, exactly. But, you know, it's one of those reality checks that once you kind of come to terms with it, it's fine. It's, it's good. You accept it, you move on. You, everybody sort of starts adapting to the reality of the situation. Like, like the community adapted to to Lars, his sort of oddball situation. That's it is beautiful. Yeah. That's awesome. Sure. Yeah.

Arline  23:26  
Yeah. Haven't seen the movie already down to there. So we can see it. But I'm sure the community like he brought his own uniqueness to the community. And that added value to their lives, that they probably wouldn't have expected. Yeah, that's cool.

Colin  23:40  
He's a wonderful person. I mean, there's a really funny moment at a party, when the women have sort of sat with him. And this, would Bianca. And he's sort of whispering to her. I mean, they're clearly in love. And he, if tiempo he gets up and they go, like, I'd love to find a man like that, you know, so even though we've departed reality there's, you start to see large, good qualities. And I think it's heroic, I think it's heroic in a less flashy way. I have a friend who struggles with mental health stuff and is up and is down and we've been friends for years and I am deeply invested in the outcome of him reaching the person he wants to be and he is in me and so I'm like, that's, that's also the model. If you're not Tony Stark, you can still do heroic things.

David Ames  24:36  
Awesome. Mighty you're out man.

Mike T  24:41  
Oh, boy. So so far, I haven't seen either these movies that we talked about, but now I know I have to go back and watch him. So I think the first thing that kind of came to my mind it wasn't a movie. It was a series of hidden it was Vikings. and like it's on Netflix, you can see it all. And it's it's it's violent, but it's there's good storylines with the characters. And I guess just the overview is the main character Ragnar Lothbrok. He, he finds a way that he can travel to the east. You know, they're known for their looting and plundering, so they want to go to new lands. So he finds this, I think it's basically a way to mount the, you know, the, by the stars and everything and how to make sure they're traveling east to these new lands they hear about so they get to, you know, England area and, and they come across, I think the first place that come across is where a bunch of monks are staying. And they ended up kidnapping one of the monks. And they're Christians. So you have the Christian gods and then you have all the Norse gods, you know, Odin and everything. So that kid that just one month taking back and he ends up kind of assimilating into their community. And him and Ragnar become almost like best friends, mutual respect for each other. And it's really interesting, how they, how they interact in by the, I guess not to make a spoiler, but I guess it's hard not say stuff.

David Ames  26:35  

Mike T  26:37  
You know, it's deep into the series, they almost come to the place where, you know, we talk about these gods and things in, there's really no evidence for your gods or my gods, we're just in this thing of like, trying to survive in what's the use of all this fighting over your gods being, you know, submissive to my gods, and Nate, and they kind of take in how their people are reacting to all this. And, in course, there's lots of tragedies and things throughout the story. And eventually, Ragnar, he meets his death, and he has a son that takes over kind of where he's from, and he does terrible things, and, but it all comes back together in the end that what he learned from his dad and stuff is, is is true that, you know, this is just about life and about learning to respect other people for who they are in that we don't have to stick stick to these traditions that we've been told our whole lives. And so that's, that's kind of what came to my mind.

David Ames  27:53  
That's awesome. Yeah, yeah. I would say like, you know, having comparative religion in say, school or something like that, it would be a really, really good thing. Because once you start to see the similarities and the differences, it's harder to say, Ah, but my group has the, the absolute truth when you just start to share notes

Daniel  28:21  
I think that's a really great show, Mike. And I think the history that comes out of that whole time period with the Vikings and, and Ragnar like his, his family settled a northern part of France, which became known as Normandy later, right. And Normandy became, like, the cultural center of Europe for a time, like being very, very highbrow and fancy. And then eventually, the Norman invasion of England kind of brought all that culture to the, to the United Kingdom. And it's so interesting to think how it all came from, like, essentially one guy who was just like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna read better than we did before. I'm gonna be better at attacking people. And, and now we have, like, all the stuff that came out of normal. It's it's such a fascinating part of history.

Mike T  29:18  
It is yes, yeah.

David Ames  29:23  
All right, Daniel.

Daniel  29:26  
Well, I'm kind of surprised. Nobody said it yet. But Star Trek, the next generation, especially, but for me, has been a really big part of my life and the deconstruction deconversion is no different. Growing up, the next generation was very important to me. I had, you know, I had I had a good childhood. But there were some parts that were really, really hard and painful. One of them was, you know, I, I had ADHD and was not diagnosed and so i i struggled with a lot of the things that came from that like rejection sensitivity, dysphoria, and so on. And also that there was a time where I was bullied quite badly for many years. And I know when you say you were bullied as a kid, people think like, Okay, you got beat up on the bleachers and took your lunch money kind of thing. At its worst, I got put in the hospital with a broken arm. It was quite, quite uncomfortable. And it was always very thankful for my father who, you know, he he took it seriously. And he, you know, threatened legal action, and the school division finally took it seriously, too. It was a different time. Nobody, you know, nobody really paid that close attention. Boys will be boys kind of BS. But there was a lot of Star Trek in my life. My parents loved watching, and I loved watching it. And the incredible thing for me was that I believed the things that they told me about the world over my own experience. Oh, wow. I could have thought like, this is like the the world is awful. You know? Like, yeah, I've got a good family and all this stuff. But the world is the world is awful. Like I'm being treated badly. And I know people who internalize that. And sure, there were some some things I carried with me for a while. But when, when you had moments in the next generation, where Captain Picard says, He quotes Hamlet, and he says, what Hamlet says What irony, or I say with conviction, what a piece of work is man and how noble and reason how infinite and faculty informed moving how express an admirable and action how like an angel in apprehension, how like a God. And he says that I can see us one day becoming like this as a species. And I believe that, wow, over my own experience, set me on a on a path was one of many different things that made me want to be a people helper when I got older. And after my long deconstruction, you know, leaving ministry in 2010, and then arriving at the start of the pandemic, and realizing I don't like I'm not a, I'm not a bully. I haven't believed in God in years, like, what am I doing? And getting sent to work from home? At my, my job, I sat on my couch with my laptop. And, you know, I was mostly doing writing and editing documents and put into their PowerPoint presentations for people. And I put my television on. And what do you know, the next generation is available on Netflix in Canada, and I rewatched the entire series while I was working, because I could do that I was a script for the odd zoom call, I was essentially by myself. And I was amazed how consistently the message of secular humanism, of hope of helping people of what humanity could be was just woven throughout. And so then I started, you know, I started Deep Space Nine, again, I started Voyager again. And I, I watched through all of this stuff that was so integral to me growing up and rediscovering it, you know, at almost 40 and realizing this is containing messages that that really cast a great hope for humanity. And there's a quote from Gene Roddenberry about the first Star Trek series where he said that Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and different life forms. And I just it, it helped bring me back and I, I was, for a large part of the pandemic and my early deconversion, I was very angry, and I was very bitter. And it really sunk into my my soul. And among the many things that helped bring me out of it, like this podcast, and like my wife and her patients and love and my, my family. Star Trek was another piece of that puzzle, and I'm very thankful for it.

David Ames  34:09  
That's so awesome. Oh, wow. Yeah.

Jimmy  34:13  
Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about optimism lately. And how someone said that being a pessimist is like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. It'll take 10 years off your life. And you look at you look at the world around you. And if you pay too much attention to the way it's presented to us, then you end up in the plane alanda pessimism. So optimistic sci fi is, is definitely special giving a sort of a vision, you know, casting a vision for for this is what we could be. And this is what we are at our best. Because sci fi is never about the future. It's about right now. typically great Daniel. Yeah,

David Ames  35:05  
even the framing Daniel of the quotes, the difference between the irony and, and sincerity, we're Gen X. And you know, we've taken, you know, irony to the to the next level and then the generations following us have just exploded that so that it's almost uncool to be sincere and Star Trek is just heartbreaking lessons here. And I love that. First of all I you know, kind of my early 20s was next generation and it was huge for me. And I realized now how much of my humanism is informed by my the next generation actually. And then just last thing is a plug. I'm right now working out to discuss with the podcast hosts of humanist trek, Sara Ray and Ella alley, let me get her name right. Allie Ashmead are the hosts and they are going through the right now through the original series and pulling out all the humanism that Gene Roddenberry had within it. And we're really looking forward to that conversation with them. So

Arline  36:14  
who that'll be a lot of fun. I grew up on T and D. And then I grew up on the movies because my mom grew up on the original series and she would do like trick dramas with her grandma like they would watch all night long. And so I grew up on tng in the movies. And I think it was Lars that's in the group not Lars on the movie, an emerging group. One day mentioned how his humanism his worldview had been very much influenced by next generation. And I was like, I haven't thought about it. So Daniel, this makes me want to go back. And yeah, watch, because I haven't seen these movies or the shows and movies since I was. Well, when we first got married, we went back through next generation and watch them, but since I've D converted, I haven't even gone back and watched any of them. So this makes me want to do it. Yeah.

David Ames  37:06  
Me too. One last bit of irony is that I was watching tng while going to Bible college. Yeah, well, but yeah, but also like, you know, my whole thing was about grace and, and that, you know that the Christians around me didn't get it. Anyway, we'll drop that. Jimmy, you are up, sir.

Jimmy  37:30  
So speaking of sci fi, optimistic sci fi. Arrival is one of my favorite movies. Yes, it's it's based on a short story called The story of your life. And the short story is very different in style. It's sort of a very short story, a short story, if that makes any sense. But the movie, it there's a lot of themes that really stand out to me for the movie, but one of them is that of acceptance. And, of course, obligatory spoiler, spoiler alert, the linchpin of the movie is that she can see past present and future because she's learning this special alien language. I'm going to pull out a couple of quotes. If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things, if you are omniscient about your life, or then and then that's sort of near the middle of the movie. And then at the end, despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every moment of it. And if you've watched the movie, you know that there's some hard stuff that's going on, it's, you know, second watching, it's pretty clear what's being foreshadowed. It's pretty muddy the first time through, I think, intentionally. But, you know, whether we like it or not the life we have is the life we have. It's the one that we are currently living. And the you know, acceptance is such a major part of living at well. I'm kind of obsessed with not dwelling on the past. And this is it's just such a powerful like, you know, regret I find problematic. Guilt I find problematic. Number all these dynamics to sort of have us looking back at the past and beating ourselves, our present selves up about it. I almost hate it. I'm not willing to dismiss all of it. I'm not willing to throw it all away, but but I just keep finding reasons to try to avoid regret altogether. Just, you know, just let it go and look forward. And on a related note, Alan Watts did a he had a little spiel, you know, you hear recordings of Alan Watts every solid Unlike in video games and stuff, it's the weirdest thing. He's really recordable, I guess. But he he asked us to imagine dreaming a dream where we could live a 75 year life over and over again. And the first time through, you're like, it's the perfect life totally comfortable. You love it. It's just total, all pleasure, no pain. And then at the end, you're like, oh, let's change things up. Let's do it again. This time, we'll throw a little uncertainty in there just to make things interesting. And then you sort of iterate on that over and over again, and eventually you land on your life right now. Which I thought was a pretty powerful framing of just how uncertain life can be and just how rough it can be and how it's the life we have it can be if that makes any sense. So yeah, arrival wonderful movie, and now completely spoiled.

David Ames  40:56  
I'm gonna spoil it further that was on my list. The one of the main ideas, you've just, you've just suggested is would you live the life knowing ahead of time, and one of the main storylines is a very rough relationship with the main character and her daughter. It's very difficult. And, and then ultimately tragic. The daughter dies at the age of 25. And so she is still making the choices that lead to that her daughter existing and, and loving her and experiencing all of that pain and tragedy. And I just think that's just utterly beautiful that that you know that the humanism there of you know, love does involve pain, love is difficult. Relationships are hard. And yet they are still worth it. Even if you know it's going to end even if you know, tragedy is looming. It's still worth it. And I think that's just a beautiful part of that that story.

Arline  41:59  
Yeah, yeah.

Jimmy  42:01  
That's one of the rare movies that I could watch. I don't know. Twice a year. Yeah. Very, very, very few movies like that. That even watched twice at all.

Colin  42:14  
Not spoiled Jimmy. Everyone should watch it. Yeah. Incredibly constructed and filmed. And yeah, the vote the language, the way they represent the language is yeah, it's, it's wonderful.

Jimmy  42:29  
And I'm partial to linguistics myself to begin with. So the whole idea of Zeno, linguistics is different topic.

David Ames  42:40  
And I'll say a plug for Ted Chang short story is amazing. And the book, stories plural of your life is an anthology of his short stories. It's just absolutely amazing. I talk I've actually got a blog post about one called Hell is the absence of God, very relevant, really, very, very relevant. So

Jimmy  42:59  
yeah. And his second volume, exhalation stories is also he deals a lot with religious themes, spiritual themes, to being being two different sets of themes. Very, definitely worth reading.

David Ames  43:14  
Fantastic. I'm going to reorder mine because everyone did secular grace. So I've got I've got a deconversion one to talk about next round. But the one I want to talk about is somebody related to and I was actually going to almost pair them with the rival so this was perfect. Jimmy, thank you for planning it this way. Is Interstellar. Interstellar is a Christopher Nolan movie who I'm just like, he's like crack cocaine. For me. I also love Tennant and inception and basically everything he's ever done, but the premise of Interstellar is the relativity and the way that time works. And so, the the main character of the father is an astronaut, he goes out into deep space towards a black hole. Time and relativity, time and relativity take place and so his daughter is aging back at home. But the the heart of the story is that he is like almost communicating with her throughout this and they keep touching base over time. And I the the analogy that I love in this is that that love is fifth dimensional, right? Ultimately he gets to directly communicate with her in real time. And again, spoilers. And then at the very end of the film, he meets her in her old age, he is still young, and he meets her in her old age and it's just this incredibly touching and loving moments. But for me the analogy of love as fifth dimensional also springs to mind why religious thoughts? takes place right? Like If I kept I repeat to myself all the time, love is fifth dimensional. And it has this deep and profound meaning for me. But of course, I don't mean it literally. And I can see how easy it would be for. If I were passing that in for that, that story along with someone else to begin to take it literally, you know, like, let's say three generations later to begin to take that literally. So you can see that impulse to do that. And yet, I still think that this is an amazing analogy and that, and that love transcends space and time, metaphorically, and connects us as human beings.

Jimmy  45:38  
The love of your past parents to your past self has meaningful impact in the future and being able to rely on just just just a specific example. Being able to rely on the love of someone else. Moving into the future. Yeah, I like it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Colin  45:56  
And that theme to that theme, that musical score, right. That was in the airport in Charlotte. Last week. And somebody the piano player was playing it.

David Ames  46:11  
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jimmy  46:15  
So my, my son and I were watching the the movie on our previous TV, which was a hand me down of a hand me down or something like that. And all Christopher Nolan movies just basically start clipping on the speakers. So it was very hard to hear. Yeah. But anyway, we were watching this movie. And it's the scene where he's leaving his family, which is as a father of daughters is pretty rough on me. And so I was sitting there watching this, then my, my wife and two daughters come back in the room, or they come back from some event or something. And my daughter sits down next to us and starts watching with us. And then she left and said, I hate this movie.

David Ames  47:06  
Yeah. All right. So we're doing a snake draft. So it's back to Jimmy. So your number two choice.

Jimmy  47:13  
Alright, so authenticity. My movie for authenticity is Mrs. Harris goes to Paris. Which was a surprising, you know, it's, I tend to go very Wait, I weighed Rotten Tomatoes fairly heavily in my day, you know, whether I decide to watch a movie or not. And it was pretty high. And sometimes that just means it is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything but more. And sometimes it means this is an AMAZING film. Well, this this was a good story. It was just a really good story. And it's hilarious because she's an English woman. She goes to France and she meets some people who are heavily into existentialist philosophy, like, just rattling off to each other all this these technical terms and stuff. And it occurred to me while watching this, she is like the ultimate existentialist when Mrs. Harris, she is a widow. She is middle aged, she's working class. She decides one day she's going to buy ay couture, handmade couture gown from whatever the the fancy brand was. doesn't stick. It was a It's a well known brand. Anyway, you've all heard of it.

David Ames  48:35  
High fashion. Yeah.

Jimmy  48:37  
So but she's just this regular lady. And she just decides she's going to save up the money to go to Paris and order this gown, which makes sense. You go to a store and you buy some stuff. Well, she arrives. Yes, Christian Dior? That's right. So she arrives in Paris and immediately she's just contact with people contact with people, all kinds of different people. She's showing kindness to everybody. She's just bringing people together, just making human connection, sort of overcoming all these boundaries. So the the people the staff at Christian do don't know what to make of her. But they're kinda like, this is kind of cool. They're, they're sort of like, we have no idea what to do with this lady, but we like it. And then she brings, you know, she brings the two existentialists together and blah, blah, blah, and, you know, whatever. Not not to spoil absolutely every detail of the movie, but it was it's hilarious because one of the dynamics of existential philosophy, existentialist philosophy is that of a facticity. So, we're born with different characteristics. You know, you're a man, you're a woman, male, female, whatever, you're white, you're black. You're An American, you're French, you're upper class, middle class, you're a nerd, you're a jock, you're whatever, all these things, and to live an authentic life is to sort of transcend, that that indeed involves transcending that and in, she just was in the process of doing that, just by living her life, she transcended the fact that she was middle class or working class by deciding to buy an upper class gown, even though she really didn't have anywhere to wear it. She transcended, like, all these different expectations of her. One major theme throughout was just her age and how you sort of become invisible when you're, the older you get. And so, but she didn't, she didn't stand for it, she, she took various actions to sort of overcome that. So I was, it was funny to me when it occurred to me, but it was also kind of delightful, just because here's this middle aged English lady. And she's like, way more actually existentialist than these. Talking about start, whatever at each other. That was pretty cool. It was a good movie.

David Ames  51:16  
I liked the message, too, of just, you know, being comfortable with yourself being comfortable with who you are, and, and not feeling out of place where maybe other people think you're out of place, like you're just comfortable with yourself, and you accept yourself and you're able to move about the world.

Jimmy  51:33  
And the point is, yeah, and I kind of went overboard on the existential side of things. But the point is that she was living an authentic life. Yeah, that's Yeah, exactly what you're saying. Yeah. Yeah.

Arline  51:44  
Yeah, I especially admire women who can do that. Because that is it does not come naturally to me. And for years being like, I grew up in a home where boys were more favored than girls, and then become a Christian. And they're like, that's true. And it's like, okay, so you just keep going and believing it. And then coming out of all that, it's like, oh, I can, you know, be my whole self. I can, my husband uses the phrase exert my presence, like, yeah, it's like, for me, it's hard to set the gym. Nobody's ever said anything unkind or been rude. But I see these women who can just go in there, and they just do it. And I'm like, I have to talk myself into it all the time to like, just exist and not be apologized all the time. So yeah, I want to see that, that that movie sounds really good.

Jimmy  52:31  
And if just to put a book plug in how to be authentic, is as a good introduction, especially to sort of feminist existentialism, because it's, it's very accessible introduction.

David Ames  52:47  
Awesome. Yes.

Arline  52:48  
my happy place.

Colin  52:51  
Well, I just want to say, Arline, thank you for sharing that. That's absolutely, that's, that's kind of the, the heroic thing I was talking about earlier. Is, is overcoming a story. And in your case, not an internal story a, a cultural programming. You know, just like, that's really, really interesting to hear. And it seems like there was progression over time. And I resonate with the mantra idea to like, I need to notice the thought and then provide a new thought that

Arline  53:29  
is really wallpaper in my mind's time and I was like, Oh, I like that. Take that. Yeah, I like it.

David Ames  53:36  
That's great. Daniel, you are up for your second choice.

Daniel  53:42  
Well, I think this one might be a little esoteric. Just because it's, it's not a it's not in Western media at all. There's a short Japanese animated film named Jota, Ruby, no, Moray II, which translates to in the forest of Firefly light. And I know one thing that was really hard for me when I was D, converting, when I was looking at what I was losing, I was losing the idea that, hey, what about the afterlife, like we all want to, you know, we all want to go on forever, I think is the kind of natural biological inclination and we, we have a survival drive. It does not like to be thwarted. I think even when I was talking through, like becoming agnostic and becoming a humanist with somebody, they said, Why don't you want to go to heaven when you die? And I was like, Well, I gotta think there is a heaven. Like, it's not like I do you want to go Disneyland someday? And I don't think I don't think it's real. And I was really distressed by it. And I think that one of the messages that we get, especially evangelical Christianity is that Your life is precious, because it's just going to go on forever and ever. And it's going to be this never ending thing. It's going to be amazing forever. You know, and, and that was a really hard thing to let go of. And early into it after I D converted, I watched this short film, which is about a girl who when she's, I think she's six years old, she goes into this, this forest and Japanese mythology, there's these spirits called yokai, that live in deep in the woods in the mountains and things like that. And they're, you know, there's sometimes tricky, there's sometimes mean, and it's sometimes pleasant, you don't really know what you're gonna get. And when she's there, she meets a young man. And the young man is a human, but he, he was abandoned there as a child and was going to die. And the yokai saved his life. But on a condition, he could grow up and grow up very, very slowly, he would live many, many lifetimes of a human being, but he would never be allowed to touch another human being if he touches them, he disappears forever. And so it's a little bit funny and sweet at the beginning, as this six year old is just like, I want to I want to play with you, I want to spend time with you. And he's like, don't touch me, like, this is the stairway kind of thing. And they slowly become friends. And she returns to the woods every summer because she's visiting the woods while she's staying with her grandparents and, and it's about her slowly growing up, and then slowly becoming closer. And as she reaches his, you know, age, and their equal age, they realize that they're falling in love. And, and he can never touch her, and she can never touch him. Because if he, if he doesn't, then he's gone forever. And it's it's about navigating this kind of really bittersweet beauty of this relationship, knowing that you actually can't have something forever. But it doesn't make it any less beautiful, or any less meaningful or any less special. And I actually am not going to, I'm not going to say the ending because I do think this is something that you all should watch, and that everybody listening to this should watch. And go into that little journey. It's it's a 42 minute film. So it's not like a big ask, that's what I'm saying. But it is a it is a theme of, you know, being authentic and being true and being loving. And understanding that something is not beautiful, because it lasts, something not precious, because it lasts, it can be beautiful and precious, just as it is. And nothing can ever take away that time that you had. And I think that watching that was in a weird way, kind of healing for me. As I realized that I didn't need to, you know, I didn't need to experience like the quote unquote loss of heaven as a as a loss anymore. Because the time that we have here that I have my children with my wife or my parents, with my friends with people like yourself, this is this is always going to have happened it's always going to have been a part of the the universe no matter how long it lasts. I think that this this story reminded me again of how of what makes us human. Humans elevate things, that's what makes us special we, we take normal things and we lift them up, we elevate things in ourselves and in the world above where they actually occur in nature. Like we look at chemical reactions in their brains, and we call it love. We look at the colors of a sunset, and we name it beauty. We look at life and decide that so wonderful. We told the story but it lasting forever and even though it won't last forever. No matter how long the universe is here. The time that we had. We had we will always have been here and that's what that movie did for me in a weird way this animated film

David Ames  59:14  
that's beautiful. And I think we're constantly fighting the you know the Christian conception that it it isn't worth it unless it's eternal. And and it actually turns out that it kind of is the opposite right like that. Because life in general or love or what have you. He is finite and has an ending. It makes it so much the sweeter while while we have it while we are here.

Daniel  59:40  
Exactly. Okay.

Colin  59:41  
Thank you if I can make a quick Oh, it's my turn. Yes. Your turn interjection to Daniel's beautiful description of that. The forest of the Fireflies. Two themes you mentioned the not being able to touch the person you love. There's a show called pushing daisies. Men have a similar dynamic. And it's so interesting and it's a really cool, totally different reasons. It's really really cool to watch these two characters in love who can never touch each other. And then there's also a movie from last year a couple years ago called wolf walkers, which is an animated movie. Yeah, that is also about she's told to never go into the forest. And when she does, she discovers the opposite, I guess into what she's been told the people who are dangerous, or the wolves, I guess, are not dangerous. So gosh, amazingly watched

Daniel  1:00:37  
wolf walkers with our kids and just like the whole family just kind of wept like it was such a beautiful family we do that did Song of the Sea and the Book of Kells I think it's an Irish studio and it's it's just fantastically beautiful films. The most unique animation style ever seen. I have yet to see Pushing Daisies but I've heard that it is another weird entry in Lee paces IMD page just he's such a diverse actor. So I've heard lots of

Colin  1:01:15  
good things. Yeah, it's it's really great canceled before it's canceled too soon. So I, I am writing down the movies that just themes you all are mentioning. And I just I just love one of my great loves in life is movie. So in an effort to stretch your knowledge or your what you are aware of, and maybe some of you've seen it. There's a documentary called Kumari from 2011. And it is a trip. A man named Vikram, who grew up in I think, New Jersey or Brooklyn or something is of Indian descent, but he's American. Goes to India and sort of observes the Swamis and the yogi's and the spiritual teeth, the gurus. And some off about it for him. He he sees hypocrisy, he sees inconsistency. And so he goes back to America, and he presents himself as a guru. And he speaks with a fake Indian accent. He's mimicking his his mom who was Indian born, and he grows his hair long and his beard, and he begins to attract followers. You have a sort of a unknown narration where he's talking about the process. And he is you know, he's wearing the orange robe, and he's got the staff. And he is saying nonsense, essentially, there's just nice things, and people are following him. And you start to watch these people evolve in really positive ways. They get more into yoga, they find levels of peace with broken relationships, a woman loses a significant amount of weight that she'd never been able to lose before. People start meditating. And throughout it, Vikram Kumar Ray is beginning to freak out, because his intentions were good. He was trying to poke fun at this idea of the guru. And these people believe him and he doesn't know how, where to go from here. Yeah. And he, I feel like it's important to share the end. But I'm suddenly debating on whether it's I feel like I've teed it up really nicely.

David Ames  1:03:44  
Yes, that's right. Yeah.

Colin  1:03:47  
So there's a scene at the end of the movie that is, I think, one of the great scenes in documentary, you know, the world documentaries, which is where he unveils himself to these people, and he does his best to soften it. But it is, it is ugly, it is a rupture for these people. And for himself. He's he's, you know, really regretted a worried about what this will do. And he says the message I want to share with you ultimately, is that the only guru you need is the one that is inside of you. And that's why I did this. And in a sense, all of the changes that you made you made you used me as a sort of a catalyst but you did it. And what's really cool is some people walk out and are there's sort of an end a title and credits where they tell you where people are. And one woman a couple have never spoken to him again. One went on to get her yoga certification. One said how can I help you in your next adventure Vikram because You're a special person, one is paying off her bills and still made it meditates every day, the woman who lost the weight has kept it off 10 of the 14 people who followed him have stayed in contact with him. And I guess agreed with the accidental premise thing, which is that you have so much power and magnificence within you, we all do. And you don't need a guru. Here's how I look at it. If there are people listening, who are still, within a specific religion, it's important, I like to try to be respectful and say you're doing a lot of it. That your your beliefs, I'm not challenging your beliefs at all. I'm just saying that there is a credit and a pride that you deserve to feel. And that is something that I learned in my journey through and then out of evangelical Christianity was I was doing so much of that the whole time, I was waking up early to read a book to edify myself, I was forgiving people, I was going deep with people I was, you know, doing all of these things, and you get to go like, that's a that's a good person. You know, a good heart. So, Kumar, Akuma are a it is, it's a trip, man. That's a great.

David Ames  1:06:34  
That sounds awesome. I've just got one comment that I want to move forward is that, you know, again, apologetics is always saying, you know, how could How could Christianity have spread so far, and like, these little examples of many religions that pop up, even in a scenario where it was, you know, under false pretenses as it were, like, just this is the human condition, we want to follow people, we want someone to say here, I have the answers. Do what I say? Like, that's so common that it you know, it's happened throughout all of history. So I just I think that that's a really interesting.

Colin  1:07:10  
And just to add to that, David, some religions have a replicable, scalable quality to them. There's a there's a way that they grow. And there are other ways of thinking that just don't have that fire. And one of those I think of as the the UU the Unite Unitarian Universalist Church, it's just not the imperative. Yeah. To grow into scale and to convert, it's it's meant to be a refuge to people who left that. Exactly. So it's just fascinating, right? Because then you have, you know, Mormonism or Christianity or something, where it's, it's, there's this imperative to go out and, and to grow it. So, yeah, it's, but yeah. Okay.

Arline  1:07:54  
So my happy place is middle grade fiction, preferably with strong female lead character, not necessarily. But so there's so many great books, middle grade fiction is, like five stars highly recommend adult children there. It's just perfect. It's not vulgar, and has all the gross things that adult stuff can have that isn't for children, and then it, but it's not, not that picture books are dumbed down, because that's not a true statement. But it's not like little kid kind of books, it middle grade fiction tackles really hard stuff. So for authenticity and secular grace, harbor me by Jacqueline Woodson. So it starts with these six kids who are thrown together in this room, where once a week, they will meet in at their school, and there are no teachers, and they just talk and they're able to have conversations that they can't talk to anybody else about. They can't necessarily talk to their family, they can't talk to friends, because people will judge them. But they're sewn together for this. I can't remember if it's an experiment or a class or how they how they did it, but they call it the art room, a room to talk. So they're in the art room, and once a week, they hang out in it at the beginning. These kids there there's one kid whose family is like his dad maybe deported soon. One kid who's dealing with like, racism at school and racism, racial profiling just in his neighborhood. There there's just so much Oh, one little girl that's right. Her father is incarcerated, she doesn't get to see him so there's just all these different kids who normally would not have hung out would not have been friends. And they build this relationship this room becomes like a harbor for them one and they they become a harbor for one another. And oh, it's one of those just it's a tear jerker. Sweet, wonderful story, but also, like I said, it just tackles really hard things that these kids are dealing with that it's fiction, but are very real experience. It says that kids are having. And, and the way they come alongside one another the relationships that are built and one of the, towards the end the the main, the main character who's telling the story, she says Back then we still all believe she's talking about when they were kids when they were young when they were kids, you know, these, they're in middle school, but when when they were young, she's back then we still all believed and happy endings. None of us knew yet how many endings and beginnings one story could have. So like these kids have gone a year together. There has been, you know, family and prison and all these these crazy things happen in I can't remember. But I know, the immigration services come at one time, I can't remember if the dad is deported or not. But like, just they didn't realize they could be for one another, like a savior, a friend of champion, all these different things that they didn't need, they didn't need grownups for and then they didn't need like supernatural help for they were able to be it for one another. And it really is. It's a very short book. It's not very long. But it's, it's incredibly it's one of the most moving middle grade fictions that I've ever read. And it's, yeah, it's a beautiful, it's a beautiful story. And thinking about like me, personally, I did not have that when I was that age, like middle school. Like, I don't know if you've guys who have kids who've watched turning red, but like in turning red. She's like, all freaking out because she turns into the red panda. And our friends are like, Oh, we love you. And they just like, run and hook her. And I just again, because I cry on movies, I just burst into tears when we watch that into like, triggered Alyssa just burst into tears. Because I was like, I did not have that people were so Daniel, you talked about being bullied. That was me. Yes. And cruel. Like kids were so cruel to me. I had horrible middle grade experience. And so just seeing the kids in harbor me and the way they come around each other, it's it's incredibly moving in just wonderful. And, um, and like, the things I didn't have, I didn't have the parents to go to because they didn't take the bullying seriously. Kids are kids, they'll do what it you know, girls or maiming girls, you know, all that stuff. But But yeah, it's it's a fantastic book for any age, and it's on audio, which anytime there's a great narrator that can just make a book even. Even better. So, yeah, it's pretty good.

David Ames  1:12:28  
Awesome. Yeah, the secular grace for kids, you know, like, the, like, school is rough, you know, like, you know, for them to experience that, you know, understand their need for community with one another, and to protect one another that that's beautiful. Okay, so we are rapidly running out of time, I have a hard stop in 20 minutes. I want to do a quick speed round. So literally one minute 60 seconds. I'm sorry, we can't do it justice. But we're going to do our last pics in in a speed round. And we're starting with Arline.

Arline  1:13:05  
Alright. The Wizard of Oz. Nice. Yes. They're literally like, let's go see some supernatural guy. He will give us all the things we need. Just kidding. This guy's a complete try. Turns out it's we've had it the whole time. And we could totally do it. And I was like, wow, this is exactly this is deconversion and secular grace. They're like we will make sure you make it to AWS whether or not you know I get a heart or whether or not I get a brain and I was like, Yes, I love it. There you go. Wizard of Oz. I love it. Fabulous. Middle grade fiction.

Daniel  1:13:38  
Completely agree or lean? That's a great pick. I I've loved the story for a long time. And I think it completely fits with the theme

David Ames  1:13:45  
I call in Europe.

Colin  1:13:47  
Okay, I'm going to do two really fast. Perfect deconversion stories Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, an equilibrium starring Christian Bale. And I will not spoil these I'll say that Oblivion is a story about the sort of post apocalypse world where Tom Cruise is told not to love what's left of the world. But he feels this connection to it. And that takes him somewhere. There's a great quote up front, where he looks at his partner and he says with questions I asked she doesn't the things I wonder about, you won't. I think that's an incredible parallel for relationships where one goes a different direction. Equilibrium really quickly, is about a also a future world where people cannot feel human emotion. They've decided that all danger war, violence comes from emotion. So they take a tablet every day that cuts off all emotion. He's like the lead enforcer of this and then he stops taking his dose. Yeah, and you watch this guy have all of these firsts that I think people who have left an orthodoxy discover listening to music, physical touch, reading literature, looking at a sunrise. And it's like he's a baby. Like he's blown away by these things. It's very moving for a movie that has a lot of gunfights in it. That really spoke to me, right? Just being allowed to expand and experience more.

David Ames  1:15:24  
Both of those are awesome. Those are fantastic. Yeah.

Jimmy  1:15:27  
The sense of what I'm sorry, the sense of wonder, maybe being allowed to delight in stuff. David, you were talking about? Yeah. Daniel, David, we're talking about how cynics cynicism is sort of a default these days. Being jaded means being realistic and seeing people delight in things is just Yeah.

Arline  1:15:48  
Or then you had something. Yeah, just wanted to say like any dystopian fiction, like is deconversion like The Truman Show, The Giver quartet. All of those are like, there's this one person who realizes

Colin  1:16:03  
the matrix Yeah.

Daniel  1:16:07  
That the matrix and equilibrium taught us that you cannot D convert without engaging in a lot of martial arts battle. That's right.

Colin  1:16:15  
And I missed that. Personally. I never got to kick down a door and

Daniel  1:16:22  
yeah, let us make up for that by just getting into fights on Facebook.

David Ames  1:16:30  
Daniel, you're up for speed round.

Daniel  1:16:33  
Speed Round. All right. I am going to start a stopwatch. This is gonna be super dorky. But I can't I can't not go there. Somebody feed Phil. It's it's a it's a travel show. It's a food show. I know calling your apps. There it is. It is a good show. My wife grabbed me and said like, we got to watch this show. And I said I don't love, love, love, love reality television. I don't love food shows because all these snooty, like, except accepting Anthony Bourdain. You know, it's always snooty, people doing snooty things I just couldn't be bothered. And this is the opposite of that. It is a it is the lead writer and the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. So he's a comedy writer, and he loves food, he loves people. And he goes to all these places, and he meets like fascinating people. He does like food trucks in Bangkok. And he does, you know, these little stalls in, in Israel that have been there for like 1000 years. And he does all kinds of things in in cities all around the world, and just loves every person he meets completely authentically. Rosenthal is is Jewish. He's a secular Jew. And he is just here for everybody's everything. Like he's going to Buddhist temples, he's going into churches, he's going into synagogues, he's going into restaurants, most importantly. But also he goes to people's homes like he, he meets chefs at restaurants, and they invite him home for a home cooked meal. And he's just in there with their kids and their families. And just the explosion of delight that he brings with him everywhere is just the that's the kind of humanity that I want to belong to. And I see everything he does as just being this just absolutely no holds barred joy in every kind of human interaction you could possibly have. And and a lot of people love it. It's got I think six seasons now. I think Season Seven is on the way. It's it's really, really delightful. Most people who are like food critics hate the show, because they say things like he doesn't criticize anybody. Yes. Yeah. And it's amazing.

David Ames  1:18:49  
And also, the the recognition that people are people then even dramatically different cultural experiences. We're just human beings and like we connect with each other and even just laughter in the human touch is a connection with one another and that binds us together regardless of where we came from. So

Colin  1:19:11  
Daniel, I think of how, Phil when he takes a bite, he smiles with his entire body. You know, like, yeah, he's like, whoa, and what you find is these like, Thai? Grandmas are like just feeding him food. Yeah,

David Ames  1:19:30  
just so it's so fun. Yeah,

Colin  1:19:33  
he's the ultimate you know? Guest Yeah, just

Daniel  1:19:37  
don't get it so skinny. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It looks like it weighs 100 pounds soaking wet, and he's like six feet tall.

David Ames  1:19:46  
Last comment really quick, you know the importance of, you know, breaking bread with one another to use a Christian term like I think there's value in doing communal meals to with one another intentionally And that that is such a meaningful thing as well. Mike, do you have anything?

Mike T  1:20:05  
Yeah, I was thinking of something. You know, I'm a music lover. And I don't know how this ties into what we're talking about. But I thought it was a sweet movie A few years ago, a movie called yesterday. Fans. So this this guy is like a singer songwriter. He's kind of washed up, he can't really make it his songs are not very good. Some kind of event happens a blackout he has accident. He wakes up in the and there's no existence of the Beatles at all. Nobody knows them they slightly they've never existed, but he's a big fan. So he knows all their songs and stuff. He starts playing yesterday to his friends and they're just mesmerized by it. You know the words and the poetry and he's like, You got to know the song you know, and for he answered, he realizes it. Nobody knows about the Beatles. So he starts playing their songs board. And it's like, almost overnight, he becomes a the world's biggest music sensation, you know, playing Beatles stuff. And that's awesome. Anyway, kind of towards the end. I think there's a few people that that know about it, though. It's not just him. So they realized that the Beatles, you know who the Beatles were at one time. And anyway, they he, he's feeling awful about it. And they just tell him well, you know what, you know, it's okay. Keep singing the songs, you know, because this really, you know, it's speaking to people and I just, I just thought that was might be a good thing to bring up.

David Ames  1:21:45  
Yeah, for sure. And music is so deep. We've talked about that a lot to that, you know, that both manipulative Lee with worship, but also just inspirationally. I've been listening to a lot of more secular gospel music that, like Lawrence comes to mind, they've got a song called don't lose sight that just just inspires me every time I hear this song. So yeah, music is the Jimmy

Jimmy  1:22:13  
I'll go with Jaber Crow, by Wendell Berry. I may have mentioned that in my episode, but it's, it's a book about people, really, people in nature, in community, warts and all normal people, messed up people, all kinds of things. And I've been through it twice. It's the kind of book you finish, and then you just sort of stare at the wall for a while.

David Ames  1:22:44  
Yeah, yeah.

Jimmy  1:22:47  
Yeah. Highly recommended.

Arline  1:22:50  
Yeah, it's, it's on my TBR list. It's, it's been there for a long time, though. I keep having so now, I will definitely read it.

David Ames  1:22:58  
For my last one. And because we have, we're running out of time, I'm really just gonna do this as a recommendation. I'm gonna try not to spoil too much. But it is severance on apple plus, it is an amazing story incredibly well written incredibly real, well executed. The premise and I'm not giving away anything here is that the technology to split your consciousness so that the A version of yourself independent version of yourself goes to work every day. And the remaining part of yourself experiences the rest of life without having to go to work? This is deep philosophically about identity and consciousness and ask some incredibly deep questions. But beyond that, within the realm of work, is it and I'll just say, the obvious also, it is also a deep criticism of capitalism and office culture. But beyond that, is there's a religious aspect, very hinting of Mormonism and, and the Puritan work ethic. And that is interwoven throughout the whole thing. And as you can guess, there is the the, the work versions of themselves begin to you know, want to discover more about the real world and then without giving away too much, you know, the experience of being a fish out of water, that kind of thing. So highly recommended. I would love to do an entire episode with some or all of you on on seperates it is absolutely amazing. So with that, I just want to say thank you to this group of people the podcast, wouldn't be what it is, without each and every one of you. You've done incredible work, either behind the scenes or in front of the mic. You've supported me my mental health and my vision for the podcast. I just cannot say enough. How grateful I am for all of you guys. This is for whole years. It's just, it's amazing that we are here.

Arline  1:25:12  
Yes, it's exciting to be part of it.

Colin  1:25:16  
Love to see how it's become this bigger thing and just affect so many people and brought people together. And yeah, thank you, David for taking that little seed of an idea and just persisting. Yeah, it's gonna grow.

Daniel  1:25:31  
Awesome. Yes, yes. Thank you, David. Yeah.

Colin  1:25:35  
Actually, for Did you say four? Yeah, for you happy four years. Yeah. Amazing.

David Ames  1:25:47  
Final thoughts on the episode. It is hard for me to overstate how important the people you just listen to our to the podcast. I know I'm repeating myself so much. But Arline has done almost everything, including the community management and CO hosting, copy editing. But she is the engine that drives the podcast, she helps with a lot of coordination in the background, the podcast would not be where it is that today without our lien. Same goes for Mike T, the amount of editing time that Mike spends is amazing. And you guys get a weekly podcast instead of a monthly one. Because I couldn't do that at all. There's no way. As I said, Jimmy and Colin have been really helpful for my mental health, for supporting me for giving me ideas for letting me bounce ideas off of them, and actually providing a slightly critical view to tell me when I was wrong at times. And that is incredibly valuable. And I really appreciate it. And Daniel, for sure is going to be that type of person. Daniel, I have not spent quite as much time with each other. But we already can tell that there's a deep connection there. And I want to see what more Daniel can do within this community with the podcast and as a support for me as well. So thank you so very, very much to all of you for supporting the podcast and what we are trying to do here to spread secular grace to spread humanism, to provide a safe place to land for people in the middle of doubts, questioning deconstruction and deconversion. And lastly, I want to thank you the listener, obviously, none of this happens if you aren't there. I've tried very hard not to focus on numbers. I've said a number of times that we could double quadruple the numbers if I were more antagonistic, more debate oriented, and just bash Christians, that's pretty easy to do. But having a message of secular grace and caring about human beings is not terribly popular. As we talked about in the episode, being sincere is not going to go viral. I wanted to do that. Anyway, the mission of the podcast was to allow people to understand they can accept their own humanity and the humanity of others. And coming out of religion of various kinds, particularly very traditional particular, very high control. That is quite a challenge. That's difficult. And it is really hard to do that alone. Hopefully you haven't felt alone as you've listened along with other people's stories. Hopefully, you've heard your story, as someone else told their story. And that magic, that connection, is what will help us. That's what this podcast is all about. I want to put out one more time that participation in the community and the podcast is not about status, or lien, Mike, Jimmy, Colin, Daniel, there's nothing special about them. They just were willing to do work, they were willing to participate. So if there's any area of expertise that you have, or even just something you're interested in doing, please let us know. Reach out to our lien. Reach out to me and let us know. As I've said, social media, graphic design, even audio work, website design, marketing, there's just 1000 different ways that you could participate in the podcast. Please reach out to us if you're interested in doing that. And thank you so much for being a listener. That means a lot. Next week, our lien is talking to David Hayward, the naked pastor. That's going to be an amazing conversation. In early April, I'll be talking to Holly Laura, that's from the mega podcast, really excited about that. And many many community members in between. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by Mackay beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full Episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Stacie: Apostacie

Atheism, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Hell Anxiety, Podcast, YouTubers
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Stacie, the creative mind behind the @apostacie on Instagram and the co-host of @skeptichaven on Youtube.

Stacie grew up in charismatic churches, believing what she learned about and experienced at church was normal—from speaking in tongues to full-on demonic oppression. It wasn’t until Stacie was an adult that she began to seriously question her upbringing. After watching a Reformed-Christian documentary about the Charismatic church, the questions started coming.

“I made the promise to myself: If I had questions, I was going to find the answers to them.”

Now, she uses her online platforms to reach both atheists and doubting religious folks. Her compassionate wisdom is helping so many people.



Skeptic Haven


Thinking Atheist podcast & YouTube

Deconverted by Seth Andrews

Childish Things: A Memoir by Dave Warnock

Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist by David McAfee

The Belief Book by David McAfee

The Book of Gods by David McAfee



“Basically I didn’t think that I had a choice but to be Christian because that was how I was raised. It was: This is the Truth. Why would I not serve [God]?

“…looking back I can see all the anxiety from the time I was a young child, especially with spiritual warfare, always believing there were supernatural forces, whether they were demons or angels. That causes a lot of terror in a small child.” 

“I made that promise to myself: If I had questions, I was going to find the answers to them.”

“I thought, If I’m going to do this, I have to know I’m not going to go to hell for it.”

“I would listen to [sermons] like I was someone hearing them for the first time. I was like, This sounds like a fairy tale. This sounds very ridiculous. I don’t know if I would believe this, if I wasn’t raised in it.”

“To find out there’s this big, huge, amazing community of people [deconverting]…you have this connection instantly. It’s like: You get what I’m going through. You know what I’m going through. You know the words I am saying!

“For anyone out there…who’s having doubts: Don’t be afraid to continue exploring those doubts. Don’t go to your pastor. Go to someone else who’s neutral.”



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 United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As always, thank you to my patrons. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast, please become a patron at any level at atheist. I wanted to highlight our blog. Jimmy and our lien from the community have been participating in writing on the blog and I'm just really excited about the work that they are doing. Please check out the blog at graceful If you are questioning, doubting, deconstructing, or D converting, you don't have to do it alone. Please join us at the deconversion anonymous Facebook group at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. onto today's show. Our lien interviews today's guest Stacey. She goes by the moniker apostasy which I think is just amazing. You can find her on Instagram @apostacie and she is the co host of Skeptic Haven on YouTube. We'll of course have links in the show notes. Stacey stone story is amazing. She began in a more Pentecostal charismatic environment Word of Faith. She eventually went to a more Reformed churches. Her and her husband and her family were excommunicated multiple times. Apparently, she talks about health anxiety, a fear of literal demons and angels, and then going through a really investigatory timeframe where she was searching for the truth. She saw a documentary from the reformed perspective against the charismatic movement. She saw documentaries about multilevel marketing as cults, but it was ultimately the response to COVID within the Christian community and deconstructing her belief in the devil, and hell itself that led to hurt deconstruction and deconversion. Here is our Lean interviewing Stacy.

Arline  2:23  
Hi, Stacey, welcome to the

Stacie  2:24  
graceful atheist podcast. Hi, thank you for having me.

Arline  2:28  
Now, you have a fantastic Instagram presence. And a friend sent me your information was like you need to check her out. And I I love it. I have not just learned a lot but like laughed, and I really appreciate the work that you're doing. Usually we begin with just tell us about the religious environment that you grew up in.

Stacie  2:49  
Sure. So my name is Stacy. And well, first of all, I live in Canada. So the west coast of Canada near Vancouver just for context of locations. And I grew up mainly in a charismatic environment, Pentecostal word of faith, so very much believing in the supernatural, the healing, speaking in tongues, prophesying, if you were to see kind of the pastors and preachers on television that pray for people, and they're being slain in the Spirit, that's sort of the environment that I grew up. And it was very much quote unquote, normal for for church services, in my, my formative years, and throughout my teenage hood, so very much, you know, spiritual warfare was a huge part of that as well. So not something that I recommend for people, but that's what I thought was normal for Christianity and believing in God.

Arline  4:15  
I was part of the Calvinist part of Christianity. So we totally just, yeah.

Stacie  4:23  
Well, it's interesting, because I don't know if you know this about me, but later, actually, that's super interesting that you are out of Calvinism, because I would love to hear your story later on. But when I was leaving Christianity, that is kind of the stepping stone. That was that was what I left. That was my way out of Christianity as I dabbled in Calvinism. Wow. Yeah. So about in 2019 I came across a documentary called American gospel. I don't know if you're familiar with when I have not seen it. Okay. Well, it is a documentary that is a Christian documentary. But it is from a reformed perspective, kind of exposing the charismatic Word of Faith theology. Okay. And when I saw that documentary and 2019, that is, I feel like that's where my deconstruction sort of began. I felt like my world had been turned upside down, because I thought, everything that I had grown up believing about God and Christianity, and Jesus, I felt this was all a lie, because it exposed speaking in tongues, and just how ridiculous it was and how it's not biblical and how it was. It gave scripture backing up how that was only meant for that time period. And so I leaned into that reformed perspective quite heavily. And I thought, well, if, if I've had Christianity wrong, I need to figure out the right kind of Christianity. So I went into kind of the Calvinism side, and I thought, well, this is the closest to the Bible. So I wanted to be correct in my theology. And so I thought, well, I didn't think Christianity was wrong at that point. So I found a Reformed Church. And I started listening to a lot of Reformed preachers and reading a lot of Reformed books and getting involved into into that side. And I feel like I just went from one culty, Christianity to another culty Christianity. And that is the last bit of church experience that I had. And yeah, it's interesting that you have that background, because I don't have a ton of experience in it. I can't really speak from a Calvinist perspective a lot, because I don't have a ton of knowledge on it. But that is the last church that we were a part of. And, yeah, they are bizarre. They are very much legalistic, what I was always told about. So you were told that we were probably bizarre in our own way of being heavily into the Holy Spirit and like, wacky, probably, but I was told growing up, oh, they don't have the Holy Spirit. They're dry. They're legalistic.

Arline  7:55  
But you guys are right. That was.

Stacie  8:00  
So there's a bit of it's so weird how it's just everyone's kind of pointing fingers. Like you don't have it. Right. You don't have it? Right. And it just, yeah, I fell right back into that like, Okay, well, no. The charismatic people are right now. I'm right. So it's, it's so there's just so much to it. But the church that we left, that was the first time I ever experienced becoming a member of a church formally. Oh, wow. Yeah. And then being called out with church discipline. And

Arline  8:39  
that's definitely a thing in the world, I think.

Stacie  8:43  
And so when we left and yeah, we got excommunicated, and publicly called out many times over last last year, 2021, and over their live stream on YouTube, and not just us, but our children's names too. Not that not them calling out our kids, but basically naming our children because of our quote unquote, sin. So that was harsh. But yeah, anyways

Arline  9:26  
so you grew up charismatic, did it work for you in your teens and 20s? Like, was life like it was all working fine, or?

Stacie  9:35  
Well, I mean, I guess that's all I was used to. Oh, that was all I was used to. So I don't I didn't think there was any other way of I. Basically, I didn't think I had a choice of not being a Christian. Because that's how I was raised. I it was, this is the truth. Why would I not serve? Jesus? I felt like people who didn't were just either blind. They didn't have their eyes open to to it, or they were just ignorant. And I felt sorry for them. I, so I just didn't see any other way to live. And yeah, I wouldn't have ever chosen not to. Because I, I fully believe what I was living was the truth I wouldn't have committed to it for so long if I didn't believe what I was doing was right. So yeah, even though it was not easy, because I brought on a lot of now I'm looking back and I can see all the anxiety. From the time I was a young child, especially with, like the spiritual warfare aspect with always believing that there were supernatural forces, whether it be demons or angels. That causes a lot of terror to a small child,

Arline  11:14  
children up to a certain age, they don't know the difference between real and pretend. Know Exactly. And then when things we teach them, and we were guilty of it when our kids were little, we were reformed. But we, we liked Hillsong music, we didn't literally go to his church, but like, listen to Mark Driscoll is preaching, and he had spiritual warfare stuff. Okay. And so we did believe that there were invisible forces doing things. Of course, we were teaching our kids that because that's, that was what we were convinced was true. Looking back, I do not have any, I didn't grow up in the church, I became a Christian in college. So I am very thankful to hell. But I'm looking back, I did not have any experiences that I can't now just explain by my brain thinking that these things are true. And since I believed that they were true, I saw things through that lens. Like, did you do you have experiences having grown up in the charismatic church? Do you have experiences that now you look back and you're like, like, how would you define them? Or explain them now? From when you were younger?

Stacie  12:25  
Yeah, there were there were times where, see, I was told by I have a lot of stories of me being a toddler, seeing things in the spirit realm. I don't remember those things. But it's interesting, because I have a lot of memories from that age. Like, I have a really good memory from the time I was one and two and three years old. Wow. But all these stories that happened at that age, I don't remember them taking place. So I, I don't know if they were just sort of fed to me like, oh, did you see this? Oh, is that what like, I don't know if that's true. But I just grew up always thinking, Oh, I used to see in the spirit realm and a toddler. And it was mostly my grandmother who kind of influenced that, oh, stories. And then as I grew up, having a lot of anxiety. Sometimes she would be the person that I would go and asked, please, can you pray with me? I'm just feeling like, just not right. I think I'm being attacked by Satan. You know, I think anxiety was not the word that I would have used back then. Always. This is an attack because I'm such a strong Christian, the devil knows that. He needs to take me down.

I tell this story somewhat often, because I think it really gives a picture of sort of the mind frame that I had, but I remember sleeping over at her house when I was in grade eight. So I was probably 13 or 14. And I just said can you please pray with me because I just feel really oppressed. But that was the Word and she said, Sure. I can pray with you. So she did. And after she was done praying for Satan and his demons, just leave me alone. She basically said, okay, but just remember, now that he's, he's left you alone. If you let him come back to bother you. He's gonna bring back seven times the amount of demons.

Arline  14:57  
I remember the story that This idea comes from Yes. Right from the Bible where sweep your house clean. And then yeah, that's yeah.

Stacie  15:07  
And I was like, Oh, great. Okay. So I felt a lot of pressure to make sure I wasn't opening any doors to the enemy. So I'm, you know if anyone is a former Christian though, they'll recognize these little catchphrases and Buzz phrases. But so here I am at 13. And I thought, Okay, well, I didn't really do anything that was wrong. I never I knew what Christians considered doors that would, would open to the devil or give him a foothold, which would be right. That's all the words. I don't know how to say them. Not in Christianese. But I understand. Yeah. And so I didn't read my horoscope, even if I had like a 17 magazine, I would rip that page out because I didn't even want it in my house. I, I wouldn't, I would really censor the movies or TV shows, if they were doing a scene on television or safe. The teenagers came across a Ouija board, I would shut that scene off. Because I didn't even want that to be something that would open the door. And they could come through my television screen. Right. So I was very, very careful about what I watched. And so when anxiety came back, because anxiety always does it wasn't the devil or his demons. I was petrified. Great. Now I let them back. What did I do wrong? And now they're going to come back and it's going to be seven times stronger. So I was terrified. Yeah.

Arline  16:53  
And that makes your anxiety worse. Because lately, so it feels like seven more came because now it's

Stacie  16:59  
because you're just freaking out. And then you have that guilt of what did I do? Yes. What the word that I open? Yeah,

Arline  17:09  
it has to be your fault. So then you have more anxiety? Because now you're trying to figure out like,

Stacie  17:14  
exactly, yeah, hey, Stacy, I had a lot of just my mind was always racing, your mind was always going and that continued up. I mean, I now I'm on anxiety medication, because good for you. It helps, right? But even just leaving that environment helped. Tremendous, I'd say 80% of my anxiety just left from leaving that environment and leaving that way of thinking, and deconstructing spiritual warfare, and just realizing that's not a thing. And I began deconstructing that without even realizing that was what I was doing when I came across that documentary. And so when I, when I watched that in 2019, I answered a lot of questions that I had about the Bible and about Christianity that I had been raised in. And I promised myself then that I would never not allow myself to find answers to questions that I had, because even though it was a Christian documentary, it answered a ton of questions about the craziness of the charismatic Pentecostal faith, right. And so I started doing major deep dives into that and finding out well, when did speaking in tongues become part of the church again, and when did this happen? And when did like the Foursquare church become the Foursquare church? And I started really investigating all these things. And now I'm like, Okay, that is kind of like a deconstruction, of finding out the roots of all of these things. I also believed in the rapture my whole life, I had the kind of fear of, you know, when is Jesus gonna come back, even though, I had a bit of an excitement towards that, there's still a lot of anxiety, especially when roll events start taking place. And you know, people who kind of subscribe to that mindset. They are always looking at the news. And anytime there's a war or a rumor, or they're like, this is it and I've heard that for my entire life. Yeah, yeah. And so that was sort of the next thing that I do. instructed without realizing it, and I thought, okay, I don't think I believe in that anymore. And I was still a Christian. I was more reformed, but I was like, No, I don't think that I'm, I believe in the rapture, I don't think this is something that's going to take place, or at least a pre tribulation rapture, which means, if anyone doesn't know what that is, it's Jesus come back, collects the true Church, and then there's going to be like a seven years of absolute chaos. And basically, hell has broken loose on earth, and it's survival of the fittest, so to speak. So I stopped believing in that. And, you know, found out where that kind of theology came from. And it's like, okay, well, I feel better. So, yes, I really made myself that promise, if I have questions, I'm going to find out the answer to them. And so it just kind of naturally progressed from there. And it was in the summer of 2021, where we moved away from our, our family, our church, our whole circle, we move four hours away. And once we moved, I was kind of free. In my head, I wasn't surrounded by all of the propaganda, I guess. I had myself very well insulated. By everything, Christian. Yeah. And when we moved, it was like, Oh, I can sort of listen to these podcasts, or, you know, like, when we were living in where we lived before I was this, like, very Christian woman, and I spent all day listening to sermons. So all day, that's all that I had on AI. And so, you know, like, you start to have doubts. So it's like, feed your faith, you know? And, yep, that's what you would do. And so, but when we moved, I was kinda like, I don't want to do that. I want to, I want to listen to other things, I want to start kind of exploring. Just, it wasn't even like I was looking to, like, deconstruct by faith that wasn't even it, it was just sort of like, oh, this podcast is kind of interesting. And then it kind of got me thinking, Oh, well, that actually makes a lot of sense. And another one would sort of get suggested or recommended, and it kind of went from there. And it wasn't even anything really to do with Christianity, I was really interested in in like, swell kind of cults and not just like, like religious cults, but even like multi level marketing call, yes, political call. So I was listening to a lot of those podcasts, and sort of seeing the similarities between those and religion. And that's when the wheels really began to turn.

I also was seeing a lot of just the Christian response to COVID. And that was also a huge eye opener to me. And it all just kind of went from there. It was not really like one specific moment, but it was, I just say it was the fall of 2021, where it all just popped open like a can of worms. And it was exciting. At the same time, like, because I had gone through times in the past, where I would have major, major doubts and just think this is all ridiculous, but I would keep it inside. I wouldn't say anything to anyone. And I knew how to kind of get through it. And come out on the other side without losing my faith. And one of the ways was, it's like I would just kind of think my way in a circle. And I'd be like, well, this doesn't seem true. This just sounds ridiculous. And then I'd come back around and think but when it comes down to it, I believe that there is a devil because I was so afraid. Oh, wow. And I thought, Well, I'm afraid of going to hell. I'm afraid of a of the double. I can't believe in a devil and not believe in Gods so I'm just back at square one. Okay. i Yeah, I have to just believe in God, then. You have

Arline  24:54  
to stop this like okay, yeah, exactly. No farther.

Stacie  24:58  
That's exactly it. So I would I've kind of like, take the next step in my brain, take the next step and then be like, but if I believe there's a devil, and I believe that more some times, and the fear of that, and that would just stop me dead in my tracks, and then I'd be like, Okay, well, I give up. Yeah. Okay, I can't believe in the devil and not believe in God. So, wow, yeah. And so I really, in order to go any further in my questioning of things, and my search and my doubts, I thought, if I'm going to do this, I have to know I'm not gonna go to hell for this. And I know a lot of people, that's sort of the last thing that they, they get rid of, for me, it had to be the first thing. And so I, I talked to my husband. And I just asked him, I was like, I'm just so nervous about finding out certain answers to questions. Because what if I'm sitting, and I, I commit the unpardonable sin? And then that's it, I'm doomed. I'm gonna go to hell. Yes. And he never like, everyone always asks me, Well, what did your husband feel? What's his belief system? So he was a very supportive husband who had a he, he always thought it would be great if there was a heaven, and he would love to go if it existed, but he has a very analytical scientific mind that just, he's like, there's not enough proof for me, but he was very supportive in my faith.

Arline  26:44  
So was he not a believer while you guys were married? Or

Stacie  26:49  
I think he was just really good at at being supportive, and all of that, but he just was like, No, this is, but I didn't really know because he never really liked he didn't challenge me on anything. He just, he's amazing. So that's awesome. When I would go to him, and at this time, he just offered me these little like, pieces of of encouragement or advice. He never like, nudged me, or was like, yeah, do this, go for it, like, stop believing he was just like, just use caution. Don't, don't go overboard. Because this was my whole identity. He didn't want me to, like, lose my faith, and then spiral and be like, well, now what you know,

Arline  27:35  
it can go really badly really quickly. Because it is a scary thing, especially if this is like you said, this has been your identity for your entire life. And we're fed the idea that like without Jesus or without God, we we have no purpose. We have no meaning everything you know, you're nothing to be thankful for. You know, everything falls apart. It doesn't. That's all just lie, they have to sell you that idea. So you'll stay because it's kind of just boring. Well, I'm coming out of Calvinism. We were boring, you guys, you're not boring.

I am curious, I'd like to go back. How did you go from listening to sermons super godly woman to watching that documentary? Oh, but

Stacie  28:25  
you said it was a Christian, it was a Christian document.

Arline  28:29  
You weren't necessarily asking questions or anything. You just happen. You watched it. And then you started asking questions. Part of

Stacie  28:35  
watching that documentary was, I was a huge Hillsong listener. And I was really big on like, the emotional music and all of that, but I was like, I really wanted to get to like, the heart of like, God, and theology. And like, I was starting to really think, Kay, these people sound like they're worshiping themselves. And that's not what I'm here for. So I started to just really look into their music and and, excuse me, not just them, but also like Bethel and elevation, and all those really big, big Christian names, right? And I was just like, these, these people are just, they're in it more for themselves. They're not in it to bring people to, to know the gospel. And, and so I came from it from that perspective. Yeah, so I stopped listening to all all Christian music in general, because I was listening to all the lyrics. And I was like, No, I sound like I'm singing about myself more than I'm thinking about God. And that's not what I want to do. So that's how I found that documentary. Yeah, it was. I was Just wanting to just be really pure in my worship. So, for people who tell me you are never a real Christian, I'm like, Okay, well, first of all, that's such a straw man.

Arline  30:14  
Yeah, straw man. missive. It's like, I can't think anymore. This is making me uncomfortable. I have to just dismiss your whole story. Yeah,

Stacie  30:23  
exactly. And I'm like, No, if you had any idea, but whatever. If that makes you feel better, you can no. Yeah, but I'm like, No, if you had any idea, like, I dedicated everything, to finding out who God was. And that's all I ever wanted to do. And it led me here. In the end.

Arline  30:45  
Yes, I can empathize with that. The listeners of the podcast have heard bits and pieces of my story over and over. But um, he realized he could no longer believe he didn't choose to stop believing like he just realized I cannot His thing was I can't worship the God of the Bible. All the stuff I've been told is true. Like, I just can't square it with reality anymore. And that burst my little bubble because it's like, okay, well, now what a were Calvinist, he can't lose his salvation. But I know he had always been a Christian. So that we're, I'm having to figure that out. And so I needed to make it make sense. So then I go on my own journey, trying to figure out like, what do I believe? What do I think is true? And it led me to now I'm an atheist, like, I don't believe there are supernatural things. And all of it was just all of it was in my head. I was telling some people last night like, my daily life is almost exactly the same as it was when I was a Christian. But my brain is so much more quiet. Yes. Yes. The anxiety the I didn't have as much. No, I did have a lot of what I thought was demonic oppression. When there are lots of rules to break, you're constantly worried about, you're breaking the rules. Exactly. So yeah, I can empathize with being like, I was trying to be the best. I was trying to bring my husband back to Jesus. I was trying to, like explore more parts of Christianity. I had friends who had come out of charismatic churches. So I was trying to like, learn from them. Seventh Day at Venice, and I was like, Oh, this is so great. And then slowly, I started remind mine went through like Catholicism to then learning more Buddhism to then realizing like, actually, all this stuff is much more helpful than all the things I was doing. And then, by 2019, the end of 2019, I was like, Yeah, I think it's all made up. And yeah, I like it. And people will say, Oh, it must not have been, it must have been just head knowledge. And I'm like, if you saw the Tupperware full of journals, you would know this is not this was not had. No.

So you spent 2021 What's happened since then? What's happened since then?

Stacie  33:06  
I know, it's, it's 2021 was not that long ago. But, like thinking back, I really feel like the deconstruction did we got begin in 2019. Even though I did like without realizing it. I kind of gave it that last hurrah. 2019 finding that Reformed Church and and then, yeah, it was it was the fall of 2021. And it was like, I know people say it's like, okay, it's not like you wake up one day, and you're like, Okay, I no longer believe but it was, it was a pretty short time period from the doubting again, because I would come around every couple, like every year or so I would feel these doubts, but from the time it started, again, to the time, I was like, Nope, this is all made up. It was about two months from now. Yeah. And but I had felt for a long time. This is just so ridiculous. Because when I would break it down in my head, and I would sometimes listen to it, like even to sermons, I would listen to them. Like I wasn't a Christian. I would listen to them like I was someone else hearing them for the first time. And I'd be like, This sounds like a fairy tale. This sounds very ridiculous. I don't know if I would believe this if I wasn't raised in it. Yeah, and yeah, so there were just little things, especially in the Old Testament, that once I realized or discovered that I like the story of Noah's Ark, because I was also told probably like you as a Calvinist, the Bible is infallible, inerrant, you can trust it. There's, there's nothing in it. That is not true. And so I believed every word of it, I believe every story that you could take into history. Very scalably, unfortunately, but I didn't really have any reason to question those things. Right.

Arline  35:35  
Yeah. It's taught to you as though it really happened.

Stacie  35:39  
Yeah. So once I heard that, that Noah's Ark myth, in other mythologies that predated it, that's when it was just like, holy cow. Yeah. And that, to me, is a very interesting thing that I even believed that that was true, because I was also kind of told that, like, I was a young earth creationist, so the fact that I even was like, even though that didn't square up, totally, because I still, that I had a big question mark over it. I kind of sort of subscribe to it. But I still had a lot of questions over the whole six that I was like, I don't know how that works. But sure. But then hearing this predated and it was in like the Epic of Gilgamesh, yes. And then hearing, you know, there's a lot of different cultures around the world that have a no, a flood myth to them. And they all have a similar, they all have a similar vein of like, the gods were angry, and they save one part one family and everyone, and I was like, Okay, if that story, if that story is not true, that means none of this is true. And I can't trust anything written in it. And that was just, that was kind of that moment for me of if one thing is a lie, then it's all a lie. And because that's just, I don't know, it just, you can't be like, Okay, well, it's just this one thing is a lie when you're told it's infallible the entire thing. So from there, that was sort of my like, cake, go for it, you have, like, I gave myself permission to just go for it. And then what I was saying earlier about my husband is and deconstructing Hell was, this quote that he told me when I was just like, I'm really afraid of going to hell I'm afraid of sending is he saw this quote on Twitter a couple of days prior to this conversation we had, and it said, Life is a spark between two identical eternities, the one before birth, and the one after death. And it was like this, like, this weight on my shoulders just like left because I thought, Oh, my goodness, before I was born, was an entire eternity. And I have no concept of what that even was, there was no, like, I wasn't in a paradise. I wasn't burning in the lake of fire. There was literally nothing. So I thought, why wouldn't it be the exact same? And I feel like, after living my whole life being so afraid of like, Oh, I really don't want to go to how it was just gone from that quote, and I was like, thank you so much for sharing that with me. Oh, my gosh, you have no idea. Like, I just thanked him and thanked him. And he's like, you're welcome. Because he didn't believe in it. But I was just like, You have no idea what you just did for me. And he's like, okay, that's no problem. Like, can you please send me that? Can you like, wherever it was? Can you send me that I need and so I kept it on my phone as my back ground screensaver because I just needed to look at it and remind myself I kept it on for like, three or four months and just every time I looked at my phone, I was like, you can you can question everything. There's no hell, it's just like before you were born. That is awesome.

Between that and finding out about the Noah's Ark myth, and just, I was like, Kay, I think I'm pretty much out. And from there, I just find everything I learned so fascinating. Every one I listened to who has been in the same situation. And I started seeking out stories like this of other people giving their accounts, because the next thing I wanted to do was know, who has been in this situation? Have there been other people? And were they feeling the same way that I'm feeling? And so I started just connecting, without them knowing, just listening. And just wanting to know, Okay, who else has gone through this? Because I didn't really know, if there was other people, well, obviously, there were, but it's not something you hear about when you're in the church at all, at all. And so to find out, there's like this big, huge, amazing community of people that are just, like, once you know, someone that's come through it, it's like, you have this connection, instantly. And it's like, you get what I'm going through, you know, what I'm going through, you know, the words that I'm saying, as words. And it's just, like, it's so amazing. So, that's why like, I love sharing this, because if you know if I can help people, if people connect with me, it's like, awesome. I'll be your friend. Because you, you do lose people too, in the process. It's hard stuff.

Arline  41:39  
Yes, I've heard that. Often people stop believing long before they leave the church simply because you know, you're going to leave your community, you're going to be alone. And it is very necessary for the church. Well, I don't know that they can do it anymore. But used to to make it feel like there isn't going to be community, if you leave, there's no other place, you can get this now. People know, there are so many places that I can get the needs met, that I used to get from church. Now I know there are so many other places that I can get those thinking back to the anxiety conversation, mental health help, yes, the church does not corner the market on your spiritual world. Like this is all BS, I can go therapy, embodied therapy, I mean, you can find so many different places to get the help in the community that you need. And it does not have to be in church anymore.

Stacie  42:35  
No, I don't think they really have any idea. Unless they are, you know, a licensed professional, they don't know how to handle mental health at all. And, you know, I used to think, Okay, I should only talk to Christians for counseling, but that's not even true, because they're only going to you know, point you in one direction for everything. So, no, step outside that.

Arline  43:05  
So, here you are now, how do you find community? How have you been able to connect with people? Have you in real life because I have not in real life?

Stacie  43:15  
But no, I have thought because we have moved away from but even then, my whole my whole community was was Christian, Christian, Christian. And other than my, my in laws on my husband, we have my husband's family. They aren't necessarily Christians. But they live where we used to live so we don't see them often. Unfortunately, they would have been the only people that I still would have had and they they've rallied around me for sure. But I don't have any in person connections besides my husband, my kids and my amazing mom. Yeah. And then that's that's plenty for me right now. Like it's, it's amazing. But other ways of finding community is online has been the most powerful resource if you're not sure of where to start online, there's YouTube shows are amazing. There's a lot of live YouTube shows that you can watch throughout the week. And wow, there's a lot and I watch you know, I don't watch them all. But if I'm, if I'm doing dishes or something or cooking dinner, I'll turn them on and then there's a live chats and so you get to know people that way. And there's also I was just on recovering from religion. Their Zoom meeting last month. I didn't even know about that until I was on their show. And they do like a weekly Zoom meeting. And it's amazing because it's like, it's like a group therapy in a way they have a guest, guest speaker, and I was their guest speaker, but then you can ask questions to the speaker at the end of the show, and you can have your camera on, and you can see the people that are there. And that was really awesome. And then, of course, there's just, you know, you can connect on Instagram and tic toc. And, you know, there's just so many ways to get to know people who have gone through the same thing. And so I've really utilized that and connected with people and made some really good online connections. And so when I do, I also host, a weekly YouTube show. And that's been a lot of fun. And getting different guests on as well. And yeah, so it's been, it's been a really fulfilling journey, one that I wasn't expecting to, to, then have it go this route. But yeah, so I find just online has been huge. And then if you are in the States, I have not, but they do have conferences throughout the year in different locations. So depending on where you live, you can also just go and meet different people at conferences, and I would love to attend one at some point, but you can, if you are familiar with different YouTube shows or or different activists through social media, a lot of them attend, but you can you can either meet them, but also other people who are there just to attend and then make those connections. So we have

Arline  47:09  
not the graceful atheist podcast we have not had in real life meet up things yet. But there are some people in the deconversion anonymous Facebook group who all live in North Carolina. And so they just set up their own thing. And they all met and hung out and ate. And I was so jealous. I'm in Georgia. I was like, oh, it's only eight hours away. But um, but yeah, people, it's just like building the online friendships. And then you get to meet people that you can meet in real life. And then, like you said, the conferences like they're just, we live in a time where geography no longer, I guess, like, prohibits us from building community? Yeah, I have friends that I talked to so consistently, and like we haven't met in real life yet, but like they are there they are true good friends,

Stacie  47:58  
I really, really, really are.

Arline  48:09  
Well, I've really enjoyed this, is there anything, Stacy that I have not asked that you that you want to talk more about?

Stacie  48:17  
I just think that if anyone out there who listens to these types of shows, and if you're just listening because you either are skeptical of people's stories, or you're questioning yourself, don't be afraid to continue exploring those doubts. And I also think, don't go. This is just my own advice that I did for myself. Don't go to your pastor, I think go to someone else who's neutral or because they're just going to steer you back to what they want you to believe. I purposely didn't when I started having doubts. I didn't want to talk to our pastor because I thought he's just going to tell me what he wants me to know. That's not what I

Arline  49:09  
want. It's the same stuff we've heard over and over.

Stacie  49:13  
Exactly. I already knew the resources he was going to give. But don't be afraid to ask the questions. You're not doing anything wrong. There is no such thing as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit or the unpardonable sin. That's just a way to control you into submission. And I heard it was either Seth Andrews, or I think it was Seth Andrews, but he did a really good kind of blurb on that that I recorded and I'm going to share it on my Instagram but yeah, it's just it's a way that the church has controlled people is just Putting up this like, No, you don't even know what that is. Everyone's kind of in question. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It's this invisible thing that you're just afraid of? Yes,

Arline  50:11  
it's it's it's this vague enough. Well, vague, but like scary enough. It is a Bible verse Jesus said is so like somehow, yeah, it has power Bakley there's a former guest named Lars, who he often talks about how Christians and you know, we were one of them. Oh, yeah, of course. Believe that, like words are just magic. Like, if you just say these words, or if you've read these words, or if they're written out somehow, there's magical power that will harm you or benefit, you know, however. And yeah, so it's like if Jesus said it, and it's written down, even if I have no idea what that means. Then I need to take it

Stacie  50:50  
seriously. Yeah. But you don't? Yeah, so don't let just because they're written down in this book bound by leather called the Holy Bible, it's, who cares. And another thing that I really realized when I started really looking at some of these stories in the Bible is they're really grotesque. And there's a reason why you're not told to turn to them on a Sunday morning. You know, we're, we're always told, let's turn to this, and it's the same ones over and over again, you're not told to turn to the ones where, you know, the guy throws his daughter out to get rate continuously, and then she's chopped up and sent to the 12 tribes of Israel. You know what I mean? Like, you're not told because it's, if someone brings a guest, and they're like, what the actual What are you talking about? So? Just, yeah, just, it's, it's not this holy, magical book. It's literally an old

Arline  52:04  
table. There's some cool stories like my boys, and I like some of the cool stories, of course, you know, they're like, they, they always well, my older one, he was, I don't remember how old he was when we realized that we couldn't believe anymore, but he was old enough that like, he had just kind of learned to read. And he would read his little Jesus story book Bible because we were good. Calvinists.

Stacie  52:29  
Yes. We had that.

Arline  52:32  
And, and then we would read the real like real Bible, the grownup Bible. And he was like, Wait, I didn't know David cut off Goliath his head, like, why don't get to miss that. Like, because you know, and now now, it's nice, because we can, we can read those like myths, although there aren't a lot of children book myths of those stories. But we can also read Greek stories and Roman and Norse mythology, and we can just indigenous peoples, and just enjoy the stories for their coolness factor. Without and I don't have to be afraid of them. I don't have to worry that it's gonna lead my kids astray. They just, we can just enjoy. Just read them. Yeah, and alums and stuff. And then, and just go on with our lives. And it's fun.

Stacie  53:20  
Yeah, that was one thing I felt with my kid that was always like, no, don't look over here. No, don't look over. No, no, no, no, no. It was just this constant. Like, I have to keep you focused. And looking at only this. And that was a lot of stress, too.

Arline  53:36  
I didn't realize and that my older son again, when I did, because we were homeschool. We're a homeschool family. And at one point, I guess this was in 2019. Yes, it was in 2019. I was like, I don't want to do Bible store. I don't want to read this right now. Like I don't even know if I believe and he was like, okay, that's fine. You know, he has no like baggage, he just looks or whatever. And he's also like, sweet another thing we don't have to do for school. Yeah, but whenever I finally was like, Baby, I think it's all made up. I don't think it's true. He goes, so I don't have to believe in the Noah story. And I was like, no, why? And he was like, I didn't like all that all the animals dying and all the people getting left. So this whole time he had this little like, thing. He didn't love that. He had to believe because it was supposed to be true that and then I think it was the next Christmas he goes and I don't have to believe that King Herod killed all those babies. I was like nope braziers. Like all these things. I had no idea he was tucking away. Now he did like the David killed Goliath by cutting. Totally dug that part. Oh, keep that one. But um, you just don't know how like,

Stacie  54:49  
how it affects. It affects our kids. Totally. Wow. That's very profound. Kids are great. They are. They are

Arline  55:07  
Do you have any recommendations, podcasts, books, anything that helped you on your journey or where or that you're reading now that have been or listening to? Yeah,

Stacie  55:18  
I all, you know, I always like to recommend Seth Andrews, a new atheist. I think he, he comes across just so kind and compassionate in everything he says. He grew up a Christian as well. And he converted. Actually, I think he was around the same age I was. And so his book was the first book that I read. It's called D converted. I was just looking for books at the library, again, just Has anyone else written about this as I've gone through this, and I found his book had no clue who he was had no clue. He had a podcast, nothing. I just wanted to read a story. And I came across his and it was just captivating. And I love his his show. So the Thinking Atheist on YouTube. And he's, he's fantastic. He's so kind. And I listened to even shows of his from 1012 years ago, they're still relevant and they've helped in my, in my journey. And, yeah, there's just there's so many different people that you can just look up their names on, on YouTube, Dave Warnock. His book, I just finished reading a memoir called childish things. And he's another amazing person that I admire. He's become kind of a friend to He's so kind. And, yeah, just, there's a lot of just phenomenal people. And I also like, David, and I think his name is David Mack. You pronounce that David McAfee. He has some really great books as well. Mom, Dad, I'm an atheist, and he has some really good books for children as well. Really good. And I check them out of the library, David McAfee, a couple about different religions and different gods and I got those for my oldest son to read.

Arline  57:29  
We actually have I think we have those they look like little stick people that kind of, like, cartoony or colored Yeah, yeah. In pertaining to we've, we've read the belief book. Okay. I think you got Yeah, and we haven't read the second one yet. That's what we do for school now. Yeah. And just to like a shout out idea that we we did with the book, you get to create your own religion, like make up your own. Cool. Yeah. So it was fun. They, we, you know, what, are our followers going to sacrifice? What, what are some of our rules, where, where do they worship? What do the temples look like? And it was such a fun thought experiment with the kids. Our whole family did it. It was, it was a lot of fun. And you know, you have a seven year old who's like, pizza, they're sacrificing their pizza, you know, and then I'm like, I want them to be a nature because I loved it. It was just it was a neat. It's a neat experiment. It's those are those are cool books.

Stacie  58:27  
Yeah, super cool. So yeah, I recommend those, especially if you have kids that need to kind of want to expose them to just gently especially if you're a D converting and you've exposed them to religion. Yes. It's a nice way of sort of like here. Here's some information for you. Especially, you know, my son, he's 10. And my oldest and so he really enjoyed them. When he read the first one, he was like, Can you give me the second one? I was like, yeah, it's on hold. I'm waiting to pick it up at the library. So yeah, those are good ones. And I'm actually really thankful that I've had the opportunity to just chat with Dave Warnock and David McAfee on our show and Seth Andrews, I get to chat with him next week. So

Arline  59:19  
that's exciting.

Stacie  59:22  
So, yeah, but they are, they are some of my favorites. Just because I've talked to them. It's just, they're wonderful people.

Arline  59:32  
So that's great. Well, we will put all of these, all of these in the show notes so that people can just click and find things. How can our listeners connect with you online,

Stacie  59:45  
sir? Well, you can follow me on Instagram. Add me on Facebook. Follow me on Tik Tok or Twitter. So my my screen name my screen name is a POS to see, but it's it's my name. So a p o s t A C i e. Thank you. And then I'm also yeah, like I said a co host on secular soapbox once a week. So if you search skeptic Haven on YouTube. That's, that's the network. And we have a bunch of different shows and I co hosts a secular soapbox with Michael Wiseman. So okay, yeah. Well,

Arline  1:00:34  
Stacey, thank you so much for this. This was a lot of fun. You, I really enjoyed hearing your story.

Stacie  1:00:40  
Thank you. I really enjoyed meeting you and sharing my story. So thanks for having me.

Arline  1:00:52  
My final thoughts on the episode that was just simply lovely. Oh, I enjoyed that so much. Stacy is so kind and so thoughtful in everything that she said, I just I loved it was such a wonderful conversation. Seeing other people seeking after truth. She wanted to know, are these things true that was so important to her. And so she pursued that knowledge, and eventually had to stop keeping herself from moving forward with questions. And being too afraid of what those answers might be. And when she did that, it led so many places she didn't expect but to the word she is fulfilling to a fulfilling life. And I just love it. It's wonderful is so inspiring. Oh, I don't know how to use non Christian II type language. But it is it's inspiring to see to see people doing that. I very much empathized with what she talked about when it came to the anxiety. It is amazing and sad. How much anxiety how much our brains are just constant and our bodies are constantly concerned about so many things. When you are a religious person, are you glorifying God, you're not glorifying God, well, maybe I am or is that the devil? Or is this my flesh? Or is this me just constant, constant constant. And how when you leave that it's not necessarily immediate, but like, slowly your brain and hopefully also your body can slow down and calm down. Live in the present, enjoy the life that you have. Do the things that need to be done without all that added anxiety and worry and oh, it's just so much. So yes, Stacey, thank you so much for being on the podcast. This was just a lovely, lovely conversation.

David Ames  1:03:02  
The secular Grace Thought of the Week is my two favorite words, error correction. Stacy story reminded me again that the brittleness of in particular the doctrine of inerrancy but dogmatic doctrine in general, and the brittleness of any ideology that cannot be questioned. The reason there are droves of people deconstructing and leaving the church is that there is no subtlety allowed. No nuance allowed, no doubt allowed. And when one begins to doubt, even a tiny little thing, a small doctrine, the House of Cards begins to come down. Both Stacey and an upcoming guests named Stephanie, really remind me of the opposite of this, of the investigating of the finding of truth, the comfort of resting in evidence. The scientific method is not about believing in science, it's about the process. The process is not believing things that don't have sufficient evidence and being skeptical. And keep in mind here, I don't mean cynical, I mean, skeptical, Show me the evidence. And that applies to so many areas of our life, not just religion, but the onslaught of advertising that we are put under on a daily basis. Even bad science, the medical claims that come out all the time about this diet or that fad, more coffee, less coffee, more drinking alcohol, less drinking alcohol, all of those things tend to be bad examples of science but the better the example of science that it is the more double blind, the testing the number of people who have been in the study, the longer it has gone on, the more you can trust that and the irony of coming out of Christianity is that we are told we can trust that we can rest in Jesus in dogma. And the truth is, as we come out of that when we start doubting that, and we can no longer trust that we can rest in things that have evidence, we can rest in the process of the scientific method. We can rest in things that we can be critical of, and still stand after that criticism. I'm very excited next week is my interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht and her book The Wonder paradox. It's an amazing book, please go check that out that will be released in early March. The week after that we have our four year anniversary officially March 14th is the anniversary of the podcast and I have our lien, Mike T. Jimmy, Daniel, and Colin on to talk about our favorite movies, books, podcasts that talk about deconversion or secular grace in one way or another. I also want to hint at I'm in negotiations right now to do a crossover promo and have Holly from the mega podcast on to interview I'm super excited about that. I hope that comes to fruition. That will be in early April if it happens. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats that you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Anne: So I Persisted

Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, LGBTQ+, Missionary, Podcast
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Anne. Anne grew up in an English family whose Christian history goes back generations. As a young child, Anne and her twin took their beliefs seriously, even the damaging ones.

Her parents’ divorce shook her up, though. Her family had been “that Christian family,” and it felt like her parents had become strangers. Still, she clung to her faith throughout her teens and twenties. 

Anne married young, meeting an American missionary while in Scotland, but it seemed her partner wasn’t as devout as she’d hoped. His was on his own journey through deconstruction, but she didn’t want to see it. 

In her thirties, Anne began to acknowledge the questions and the psychological distress she’d had for years.  “It’s almost like this pressure had been building and building and building and finally it broke through, and I just thought, What if it’s not real? I had not allowed myself to ask that question.”

It took a little googling, excellent therapy and other people’s deconstruction stories for Anne to see that she no longer believed. It’s been freeing for her to see the world as it really is. No more “magical thinking.” 

She and her partner are asking whole new questions, and it’s growing and changing them in ways they never could have imagined. 


Rob Bell’s podcasts and books

Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole


We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle


“I often equated feelings of anger with sin—feeling angry is sinful.”

“I think a lot of it was magical thinking. I really wanted it to be true.”

“Looking back, I think there was a lot of clinical anxiety and depression…[but to] me, everything was a spiritual problem.” 

“Everything was a spiritual fight, so…if I felt bad, then maybe this is a test from God!…It made me double-down rather than thinking something’s wrong.”

“It felt like praying was escaping to a magical place where I felt like things were going to get better, but that was the opposite of how to heal myself.”

“It’s almost like this pressure had been building and building and building and finally it broke through, and I just thought, What if it’s not real? I had not allowed myself to ask that question.”

“It was a total ‘on the road to Damascus’ experience. It was like, all of a sudden I could see. I could see the real world.”

“I feel like the hardest thing to undo is this feeling of ‘badness.’” 

And so I persisted. And I persisted in spite of negative feedback.


You are not broken, you are human

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

United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I trying to be the graceful atheist.

Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening.

Thank you to all my patrons, if you too would like to have an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at any level at atheist. And as a quick note, where we're spending the money, I'm using a tool called otter AI to get transcripts of our episodes. So now the show notes have transcripts as well. I am trying to backfill those that's going to take a while to get to all of them. But this is a great way for Google and SEO to pick up the website. Thank you to the Patrons for making that happen. The deconversion anonymous Facebook group continues to thrive if you are looking for a safe place to doubt, to question to deconstruct and even D convert find us at

Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show. My guest today is an content warning that N gets into her mental health including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. If you need immediate help, you can call 988 in the United States and get immediate assistance. We also talk about being very pro therapy, you can reach out to recovering from religion if you want to discuss elements of deconstruction and deconversion. As well as reaching out to the secular therapy project to find an ongoing therapist and grew up very serious about her Christianity took her Christianity even more serious than her parents. She continued to believe that God would participate in her life. She went to why wham, she chose missionary style work. Even in her secular occupation. She was constantly trying to live up to the standard of Christianity. Things began to break down as after she was pregnant, and the pandemic hit. And she was out of context of church, the key line of the entire episode as she says, and so I persisted, she continued to try to double down to make it work. And yet it did not work out in the end.

Here is Anne to tell her story.

Anne, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Anne  2:57  
Thank you. It's great to be here. And I'm really excited to be able to tell my story and thank you for this opportunity. I really, I really think it's great what you're doing.

David Ames  3:07  
I very much appreciate it. I really think that this is the the magic is hearing people tell their stories. And and I promise you that there will be people that recognize themselves in your story. So I'm excited to hear it. I understand you've already prepared an answer for this. But you know that our first question is what what was your faith tradition growing up?

Anne  3:26  
Okay. Yeah, I tried to think how to how to summarize this. I guess the very short answer is that from my dad's family, I inherited this fairly conservative and evangelical

And I, I, I'm fairly sure from kind of limited stories that have been told that it goes back actually to my great great grandfather around there, who was apparently an alcoholic who lived in a very kind of deprived life. And apparently he was out in the streets and heard a call to repent from the Salvation Army and kind of immediately dropped to his knees and repented. Okay, and that's apparently where this this comes from. And since then, everyone, everyone that I know in my family has been an extremely kind of committed Christian in that sense. And so his son or grant son, I'm not sure he was a pastor for the Manchester City Mission during the Second World War. And, and his son, my granddad, I knew very well and was always very, very serious about his faith, kind of have memories of going to his house. And he would have like the study guides to each of the books of the Bible lined up in order, okay? And yeah, like after church would be like discussing the sermon very seriously. And, you know, that kind of thing. So that's where my dad, where my dad kind of came from and what was handed down to me.

David Ames  5:28  
Okay. And, like a question that I like to ask is, did you feel a personal faith? Did you have a sense of this was something that you believed or that it was just handed to you from your parents. So

Anne  5:41  
I did. Strangely enough, it was only after I D converted that I really realized that this was a family thing. Like, I always had the sense that I had converted, okay. And it goes back to a very young time in my life. And we were going along to a church a time when there was this. And it sounds so old fashioned and ridiculous that it makes me laugh. But it was this group, this couple who traveled around with an accordion, and songs with actions for children, and they do these missions. And they came to our church and did this mission, where I guess it was like, every evening for a week or something, okay, yep. And they were all like, you know, children's songs, and then they would do the altar call at the end. And my parents must have given me the option to go or not, and I have a identical twin sister. And she had gone to this last session, and I chose not to, and I was kind of convicted, I must have been about four or five, I was convicted that, you know, I, she'd gone and responded to this call. And every all the parents were talking about the children that had gone up and gone to the front and said the prayer. And they'd given us these tracks that I carried around with me for for my entire childhood. It was inside my NIV Bible. Interesting, that was falling apart. And this tract has picked had pictures of hell in it. You know, it was really like outlining, like, you know, sin, hell, this prayer that you have to pray. And so that evening, I asked my twin sister. You know, please remember the exact prayer, I want you to do it exactly how they did it, but you do it for me. So that was my kind of conversion experience. And I was I took it very seriously.

David Ames  7:47  
It sounds very much. Yep. And then, you know, throughout your childhood and into like, The Age of Reason, was it still like a major part of your life at that point?

Anne  7:59  
It was. So I guess a detail that feels like in retrospect was probably relevant is that that conversion experience happened at a time when our family had quite a tragic thing happened, which is, so my, my parents were very, very young. When they had me and my sister, in fact, they were kind of teenagers, like, weren't married, and they got kicked out of the church youth group for it. Oh, no. Okay. When they when they found out it was twins, apparently, it turned from being a sin to a gift from the Lord. Everything was fine. Yes. So. So that was kind of the origin story of our family. So they were pretty young. But when we when me and my sister were about four, we had a baby sister who only lived for about a month, and then she sadly died. So we were obviously very young and too young to be able to appreciate that. But in the work that I've done since I, I feel that there was something about the way that I responded to this message about sin in the the environment that I was in, and I think I felt it was easy to feel that I was bad, because I was surrounded by a lot of very intense kind of emotions associated with obviously extreme grief. And I see. So I think I really internalize that.

David Ames  9:47  
So on top of the fact that Christianity kind of tells you that you're bad that you're a sinner, were you also feeling like, because you were around this grief that maybe somehow it was your fault. Is that what you were feeling or

Anne  10:00  
I think I felt that I didn't feel it was my fault. But I think I felt that, you know, if I invoked bad reactions in people, it made me bad. Or if I had bad feelings they were they were bad. So I often equated feelings of anger with sin, for example, feeling angry is sinful.

David Ames  10:21  
Got it? Okay. So the adults around you are in grief and probably not responding in the most healthy manner. And if you've elicited that response, you felt like that was on you in some way?

Anne  10:32  
Yes, yes. Okay.

David Ames  10:33  
So, okay.

Anne  10:35  
Yeah. So I think I think, you know, that's something that I I thought about in retrospect, but obviously, at the time, you know, you've kind of experienced it as a child, you just kind of absorbing it all.

David Ames  10:50  
Yeah, absolutely. It's all very, very real when you're a child, and especially if someone tells you that hell is real, and gives you a graphic depiction of it in a in a track tends to leave a mark on a child.

Anne  11:03  
Yeah, and for a long time, but you know, I was, I really believed that God would judge the soul of my sister, and I would never know if she had gone to hell or heaven, but God would make the right choice. And it wasn't till a couple of decades later, that good friend, who was also a Christian said, Well, of course, your baby sister's going to heaven. And I kind of thought, oh, but you know, at the time, like you say, kind of taking it on as a child, it all is kind of internally sync it consistent in some way. Yeah. So, yeah, so I guess that probably played into it. And the other aspect of that was that it felt like the church was what we fell into, like, they, you know, the very few memories I have of that time, include, you know, my mum being really, you know, grieving and, and weeping in church and the church ladies coming in taking us away and looking after us. So it felt like they were they were the safe place where we landed. And so that's, we always saw them that way.

David Ames  12:20  
Yeah. And again, I think it's important to recognize the human need for community and sounds like the church responded in a time of need for your family in that aspect.

Anne  12:32  
I think so. Yeah. Yeah. And, and our family also, always, the I saw my parents always having a very kind of generous and fun loving way of looking out and to the world. And my mum tells stories that when we were babies of Jehovah's Witnesses tend to the door, she'd say, take a baby, take a bottle, and you can sit here and talk to me while you feed a baby. And then she, and then she gives them the number of, oh, I have a good friend who you know, left the Jehovah's Witnesses. And now as a Christian, if you ever want to leave, you can take the number. And we had all those kinds of people in our church who had all sorts of backgrounds. And we even had in one very deprived place that we went to church, we had kids turn up without their parents, and my parents kind of took them under their wing and turned out they have a lot, I had a lot of social problems. And we kept in touch with that family. And we and I even visited one of them in prison with my parents, because, you know, that was that level level of social issues. And my parents kept in touch with them and and kind of, yeah, they sought you could tell those that kind of mission orientation, you know, the appeal to them?

David Ames  14:01  
Well, I think you can encapsulate it with the social gospel concept for some of the evangelical listeners, you know, there are versions of Christianity that are more focused on feeding the poor, you know, housing, the house less said in visiting the prisoners, that kind of thing. And so, there are some people who actually do try to do what Jesus literally talked about. And it sounds like that's the environment that you that you grew up in.

Anne  14:27  
Yeah, yeah. Suddenly, suddenly start with at least Yeah, okay.

So we were involved in a lot of different organizations. We used to go on like Christian family holidays where we'd stay in, you know, big old house with other Christian families, and there was tons of things like that. And, you know, I really had the sense that we were, we were always in this small Churches so they always used to welcome us because like, my mum would be happy to do the Sunday school and, you know, the we would join the Sunday school and they'd ask us to play Mary in the, in the Nativity or whatever. And so I always I thought we were that Christian family and, you know, it was all good. And then my parents got divorced, and very quickly remarried. And it was I was 12 at the time, okay. And it was like a really devastating shock to me like it really. I felt like I'd been betrayed, because I had these very strong convictions, like at that age, it was very black and white for me. Yeah. And so, the other thing was that because my mum didn't come from a Christian family, she had kind of converted around the time that she met my dad. And because my grandparents on my dad's side, were very kind of devout and very kind of serious. I think, well, that was the way it was explained to me anyway, they decided that the story would be that my mum had left and, you know, she'd note basically left, and just kind of abandoned the whole Christian life at the same time. So she did everything that she didn't do when she was 19 and pregnant and a Christian.

David Ames  16:36  
I say,

Anne  16:39  
Well, maybe not everything. But to me, to me, it seemed like wild living.

David Ames  16:45  
And you know, that, that's honestly, though a common thing, right? People who lost some of their teenage time or young adult time to the restrictions within Christianity, they come out the other side, and they go a little bit wild, and maybe maybe not make the wisest choices.

Anne  17:04  
Yeah, yeah. And, and so we went with her, and we were, you know, some distance away from my dad. But really, it made me double down in my faith. And so me and my sister at that point, we were living in a different town. We were actually near my mom's family, but none of them were that just tall. And we kind of independently like, went to church hopping found a church and would go along, every every week. All right.

David Ames  17:37  
Wow, you guys were really dedicated. Yeah,

Anne  17:39  
we were Yeah. And yeah, we didn't have any kind of mentor or any kind of like connection. And, honestly, I think it made me feel quite disconnected, because it was very weird attending this very family, church without your parents, okay. People, I almost felt like people didn't quite know how to treat us like we were doing. We were kind of quiet. Nobody asked and nobody said anything. And we just went along every week. And we would walk there because obviously we can try. Yes, yeah. So yeah, we'd walk down the hill every morning and, and then like, walk back up again. And we didn't really have a lot of Christian friends, because in England at that time, you know, as you will know, like, the kind of state religion I suppose the Church of England is, was extremely loosely kind of held on to by most people. So they might be christened as a baby, and they might get married in church, that might be very common, but other than that, most people they might call themselves Christian, that that's really kind of it

David Ames  18:55  
more and more of a cultural moniker rather than a internal thing.

Anne  18:58  
Yes. Yeah. And we certainly would see them as in need of being saved, like absolutely kind of thing. So yeah, so we felt like I grew up feeling kind of isolated in that way, because it was rare that I would have friends that would understand at all right, kind of evangelical background. So yeah, me and my sister went on this kind of journey. And we ended up that was the first time that I was exposed to charismatic Christianity actually, through through the we went to this Methodist, kind of this Methodist church, we talked all around we've been to Baptists, Anglicans, you know, in the past after after these kinds of small evangelical churches, but we ended up in this Methodist Church because just because it was in walkable distance, and they took us along occasionally to this end. I'm very charismatic church, and I don't actually know what denomination it was. But it was the first time I really experienced it. And I think the first time I experienced it, I just felt like, I felt scared. But I interpreted it as a sign that then maybe that's because this is something that it's almost like, I felt scared, therefore, is something that I should do. Because maybe like, the the maybe like, the devil would make you scared. And maybe this is like it. So this is maybe something that like, hey, you know, maybe this is more spiritual, more, and I was all about anything that would lead me to be more spiritual, more kind of closer to God more, whatever. And we moved a lot growing up. So that's kind of part one reason why this story hops around a lot. I went to kind of eight different schools and Oh, wow. Yeah, I've moved about 30 times in my life altogether. So it's one that was kind of throughout. Yeah, yeah. So anyway, we ended up moving somewhere in the south of England, which has a lot traditionally has a lot more kind of evangelical Christians. And we ended up getting hooked in the new school with like a little group of people who were quite kind of on fire with the very kind of eclectic backgrounds, okay. And that we were kind of tangentially connected the sole survivor, which runs a big festival that's quite well known in the UK, but also has a fairly small church in Watford. And they are very charismatic kind of think, connected to the kind of Toronto Blessing movement. Federation's. In name Anglican, but somebody went, and somebody went to Toronto, and then somebody came back, and there was this kind of like movement within that little group.

David Ames  22:09  
In those kind of early days, especially after the Toronto Blessing a lot of churches that are denominations that you wouldn't expect, took on some charismatic elements, probably because of that. And if you start to trace all the lines of the church history, and you know, you can tie things back to events like that, like you say, a pastor goes and experiences something like that, and wants to bring it back to their church, even if their denomination isn't known for that.

Anne  22:36  
Right? Yes, yeah. And I know that my parents were influenced by Billy Graham, as well. So that was another thing that came over from the States. Even though we were in these little very, like English places, there was a, there was influence, right, and these different movements.

So yeah, I ended up going to one of the festivals in the summer. And I really think I just was very, like tortured teenager, wanting to not miss out on anything and wanting to be so kind of close to God. And I was still quite scared of these charismatic kind of things going on. But I ended I think I tried so hard, it was so intense, that I had this kind of experience, where I felt this new sense of being in this kind of spiritual realm and being close to God. And so that was kind of another chapter in the life of kind of. And, and it's funny, because when I look back, when I was much younger, I would read these books that my parents had on the shelves that were from, I think 70s 60s, maybe even earlier, the kind of missionary books so there was, well, that's how I think there was the Cross and the Switchblade. Yeah, okay. They can't David Wilkinson, I think. And then there was Brother Andrew, who like smuggled Bibles into behind the Iron Curtain. And there are all sorts of miraculous stories in those books. So although my family did not really have those charismatic beliefs, or they wasn't happening at church, I had it in my, in my mind that kind of miraculous Sure. And so I did definitely at that, from that point, really kind of started to believe in God speaking directly to me and things, but I didn't have any looking back. I didn't have like I said, I didn't have like a mentor. My dad wouldn't have held those kinds of beliefs. My grandparents certainly didn't. So it was quite internal internalized. Yeah. And I think that when I look back, I think a lot of it was Magic of magical thinking. Yeah, now you realize, yeah, yeah. And I really want this to be true.

David Ames  25:08  
I think you've hit on something that's really important that if the children can take on something much more seriously than even the parents do. And so it sounds like not to question their faith in any way. But like you were taking it, another step forward, right, another another step deeper, as it were, of more more truth more reality in your life. And even though that wasn't your parents experience, this was becoming yours. And I think that's relatively common as well.

Anne  25:37  
Absolutely, yeah, definitely see that. Yeah, in many ways, I really felt I had feelings of resentment towards my mum for leaving, because I saw her as a rebel. You know, I remember her telling me at one point that she had thrown away the Bible, because it was like it was shouting at her from the shelf. And to me, that was a sign of, you know, maybe there was something demonic going on. Right. Okay. It was how I interpreted it, obviously now, I don't think that, you know, it really, it made me will often protect my faith and feel that I had to

David Ames  26:20  
double down. Okay. Roughly, how old are you at this point?

Anne  26:24  
So I was having these kinds of experiences and sole survivor and things around 1718. Okay. Okay. Yeah. So we're coming up to kind of finishing school and deciding what to do next. And I'm very much feeling like God speaks directly. And this crazy thing happens, which is that I am a chaotic, messy teenager, and I happen to have a leaflet about a YWAM Youth With A Mission Discipleship Training School, lying on my bedroom floor. And I am applying for universities to get into vet school, which is very competitive. And I'm getting these rejections. And I'm thinking, what am I going to do, I'm planning to reapply next year if I don't get in, and it's all kind of stressful. And then one day, I just kind of look down and see this leaflet. And of course, it's a direct like, word from God, it's a message. It's a message from God. I know, all I've wanted is to be a missionary on adventures, like all like, like, all I wanted, like these stories in these books. And

David Ames  27:42  
yeah, sounds like

Anne  27:44  
great. That's it, that that's exactly what I'm gonna do. So I did get into vet school, but I actually postponed for a year because my heart had already, like, totally fallen for the idea of going and training to be a missionary. So I postponed for a year and I went there. And it was a weird year a little bit because, well, firstly, I went to Scotland and I went to Scotland because that's where the leaflet was advertising. But I learned afterwards that useful, the mission is really global. And I could have gone to Hawaii or India or anywhere in the world. But I went to Scotland.

David Ames  28:22  
It's a long way to go really? Yeah.

Anne  28:27  
And it also happened to be just a couple of weeks after 911 happened as well. Okay. All right. And of course, a lot of Americans went there are a lot of Americans who wants to go and discover their Scottish roots and travel to Scotland. And, you know, it was an adventure for them. But of course, when we arrived, there was a lot of like, nobody knew exactly what was happening with air travel and things. So we ended up doing our mission that originally could have been anywhere in the world. We ended up doing that in Scotland as well. Okay, I see. And so there was a couple of months of training, which was like these lectures and a lot of kind of prayer sessions very charismatic, a lot of a lot of pressure to speak in tongues, a lot of like, looking for the miraculous and really like people making projections about kind of about suddenly seeing the whole town like saved and things like that. And I was just very, like, taking it very seriously. And it just so happened that there was this American guy there who looked kind of like this in retrospect, he looked kind of like good looking American Jesus, like you have the long hair and you had the bright blue eyes. White Jesus. He was he was white Jesus. And of course like my dreams. Like, fulfill, because all I wanted was this like Christian man and like this missionary life. And so one thing led to another, and we ended up getting married like very, very young. Same as my parents really, I'm really against the will of my parents, my parents were very strongly against. And we also did not have very much money, or like, everything was very much kind of in the moment. And so the way it worked was that we basically, were in a long distance relationship for a year. And then he hopped on a plane, and we moved into a single room basement in the middle of London.

David Ames  30:48  
Okay. I imagine that was a shock. Yeah.

Anne  30:52  
Neither of us had any previous relationship experience. Yeah. No support from my parents, his parents were a long way away and thought that he needed to become a man and be responsible now. And that was that was Yeah, so that was kind of an I had this like, vision that we were going to be this kind of missionary family. And we were going to travel the world. And, in fact, I really wanted to live in that location in London, because it was very socially deprived. Okay. And I had been going during my first year of university, when we'd been in this long distance relationship, I'd gotten involved in this, really in a city church that had this big Salvation Army mission, where they said homeless people and like treated dread, drug addicts, and homeless people in the basement. And then that was really like, I was really drawn to that. And they really wanted so much to kind of forgot to use me. And so we ended up doing that I ended up volunteering us in the first year to get involved in a, a summer mission. Like on top of my veterinary school. We were involved in this summer mission, which I decided that God was leading us to plan, which involved hosting young people to go door to door, which we did. And then on top of that, the same summer, I also planned and found funding for a trip to Central Asia to go and explore being missionaries. So I was kind of like,

David Ames  32:30  
wow, well over a little over

Anne  32:33  
a little over achieving. Yes,

David Ames  32:36  
exactly. Yeah.

Anne  32:38  
And this is where the I think the first real cognitive dissonance really came in. Because in reality, my husband had already begun the process of D, of deconstruction, okay. And I was completely unable to see it or recognize it. Because I did not want to see it. But also, he didn't believe that God spoke in that way. And again, I couldn't see it because I didn't want to. And so every time we'd have like this feeling, I have this feeling like I was forcing these things. And I didn't feel it didn't feel spiritual. It didn't feel like God was answering, it didn't feel like there was no fruit that I expected from this level of commitment. Like I had gone against my parents, I had taken this risk. I knew nobody who'd got married at that age, because like I said, it wasn't there wasn't a normal part of my culture. So none of my friends, it was crazy thing to do. Okay, so my friends, I think, so we didn't have any network and that sense of other married couples. And on top of that, there was a lot of them. And I guess the word is psychological distress, I think, because we were dealing with adjusting to a huge life transition.

And so my partner, it was the first time living in the country, first time living in an inner city. It was the first time managing a budget, really. And we were in this very enclosed space. And like I said, no prior relationship experience at all. And so, I think, you know, there was a lot looking back again, I think there was a lot of like, clinical anxiety and depression, and neither of these us even had the thought to reach out for help. I don't think we even we didn't even kind of categorize it as a medical problem. Like to me everything was a spiritual problem. Virtual fight. And so yeah, it's kind of shocking to me looking back now, I recognize a lot of distress. And I remember as going to a Christian conference, and we were surrounded by other students, and I remember coming to in the morning, really having suicidal thoughts. But I didn't even really recognize it. I just thought that's, that's strange. But I was, think psychologically, I was looking for an escape, because it felt I think the cognitive dissonance of being in this, like, we were, like I said, at a Christian conference, we were signing up to everything Christian, and yet nothing felt like I was getting any feedback from anywhere, anything good was coming out of it.

David Ames  35:57  
You know, I do think that this is important, as well as that the most faithful, that people who take it the most seriously suffer from it the most, because God made these promises, and you believe that God is going to come through and going to be there for you and then participate in the ministry that you feel called to. And then nothing happens or reality, just normal reality hits. And it's this deafening silence. And that can be really traumatizing and difficult to get through.

Anne  36:29  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I didn't have an eye everything was, like I said, as a spiritual fight. So in some ways, when I felt bad, I felt like well, you know, maybe this is a test from God. And it's going to come later down the line, that fruit, and so maybe double down rather than thinking something's wrong, I signed that I need to do more. And so I persist it. And I persisted, in spite of, in spite of like, a lot of negative feedback that like, this reality was not going to emerge. And I tried to make things happen a lot. And I thankfully, both of us graduated from university, which I'm really grateful, but and feel credibly grateful, listening to other people's stories that I was, have had access to a lot of education, that has been very much secular. But I what I did is every chance I got to make my career closer to being a missionary, I took that option. Right. So I went back. Yeah, after being a vet for a couple of years, I went back to university to study epidemiology with this idea that like, if I can't go and be initially I was like, I'll go and be a vet overseas, and I'll use my veterinary training to bring good news to like, livestock farmers and and when it I just wasn't getting the kind of enthusiasm from my partner. And so I went back and trained to do epidemiology thinking that if I can't go and do that, maybe I can do some kind of public health research that will allow me to travel and in and I actually did that I ended up doing a PhD, which involves me doing fieldwork in Central Asia. Okay. Okay. And I, I also traveled quite a bit during that time, again, I was very lucky. And everywhere I went, I would go and find the church. And in places where it wasn't, you know, they didn't have where it wasn't acceptable to be overtly Evangelical, I would use my contact networks to find the advertised church. And I would go so I went to those churches and like China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India. I went to a lot. And I also felt like maybe I was being a missionary, like I carry a Bible and I remember I left a Bible somewhere in the in the like an apartment that I rented, and things like that. But again, it felt like I was making it happen, and like doors weren't opening and I still wasn't getting the enthusiasm from home and things are still difficult.

And then, I ended up after I finished my PhD, I ended up accepting a job as a postdoc researcher in the States. Okay. And so we moved I dragged my reluctant partner back to the states and promised he was only committing to a year

David Ames  39:59  
okay, Uh, yeah,

Anne  40:01  
within the year I was pregnant. And, and kind of the rest is history. But I do think that was an important part in my deconversion because it removed me away from everything I knew on the Christianity that I knew. By that stage, by the way, we've just set taking the steps to more or less charismatic and more. More liberal Christianity and churches, mainly to keep my partner happy if I'm honest, yeah. But increasingly, I felt that sick feeling like the sick feeling that something made me feel uncomfortable, but I never would have labeled it. But I remember the day when a friend shared something on Facebook about how women should be really equal to men. And I remember kind of thinking, yeah, do you know I actually think that? Yeah. And and I had insisted, as a 19 year old that we would that we I wanted the old fashioned vows where I promise to obey. Very seriously. Yes. So there was a kind of, there was a move to more liberal sure things. And trying to accommodate and find like, what, what would work and what felt right. And then when we came to the States, I, we tried to find a church that felt right. And a lot of it was because my partner was really falling away, and really not wanting just had no enthusiasm to go to church. And, and some of it was health related, like he could find excuses. But really, he just didn't. And so I was often going on my own. And it felt very foreign, which was a really weird feeling. Because church had always felt like the place where I understood the language. And I understood the culture. Yeah, and then just going to a church in America, I felt like, I don't, I feel uncomfortable. And I experienced situations where I felt like people were superficially trying to, like, bring me into the church. Yeah. And that felt really uncomfortable, because like, I was the one who was like, the most saved. Like, and yet, I felt like this outsider. And it all felt very, like superficial. And I noticed, it was like, I was noticing that it had a lot to do with money. And also, obviously, I was going for a time with a very young baby. And I was realizing that when you're there with a baby on your own, it's limited how much you can really interact during a service, you're just trying to keep a baby happy for the whole service. And then you're exhausted and not able to do much or suddenly for me for the rest of the week, either. So then it was like my role changed. And I felt like I was the one in need. And yet, whenever I asked for help, I felt like that was just a way for them to get me in.

David Ames  43:04  
And I can feel what you're describing, like. So there's several things happening at the same time, just what you described, obviously, being a mother with a baby is one element. But coming to the United States had to have been a culture shock, like you say that the language of church was different. But even more than that, like you're beginning to have that cognitive dissonance and that need to church hop or to find something that feels right. And then it just doesn't is so painful is so it hurts so bad. And like, that is really common. I hear that all the time. I know that I've experienced that myself as well that you're looking for the thing that you know, should exist, and you can't find it. And then on top of all of that, like you're describing, you've been the giver and here you find yourself in a place where you need and recognizing the superficial nature of the response. So oh, man, I can feel for you that that was a rough spot to be in.

Anne  44:01  
Yeah, yeah, it was. And then the pandemic came. Yeah, I think before the pandemic came, I really hit a low spot mentally with the small baby. I was on a work visa. And so I had no option but to carry on working. And I come from a culture where it's normal to take a year off after you have a baby but this was kind of six week deal. And no, not much support around and trying to match up like where is God's plan or purpose in all of this. It just feels so far removed from what I was trying to get to and I've tried so hard to stay on course yeah.

And so I started experiencing like signs of over clinical depression at that point. And I had access. Yeah, I had access to free clinical psychotherapy, which again, so grateful for it through my job. And so I was able to go along. And that was huge for me. Because she did not, it was it was just very skilled, very professional.

Really good therapy. And she didn't touch the religion thing, because I remember her asking your what does it mean to you? And my response was, it's everything. Yeah, it's everything. And I remember her asking, you know, you've had kind of a difficult time what, but you're kind of resilient. What, what are your resilience factors? And I said, Jesus, and my twin sister.

David Ames  46:04  
Like, interesting.

Anne  46:06  
Yeah, she didn't. She didn't press that further. But she just simply like, did the, you know, the, whatever. They're kind of like, psychotherapy kind of tools, and listening and things like that. And I started to feel like, a lot of it was to do with internalizing things. And I remember having a moment when I felt like, when I was praying that I was actually doing was like, working my way out of my bad feelings. Okay, I started to feel like that's the opposite of what my therapist is trying to get me to do. I like felt like praying was like escaping to a magical place where you felt like things is gonna get better. And that's the opposite of how to heal myself. Yeah. And so I kind of, without even thinking about it, I just kind of thought, I've got to stop doing that for a bit, I need to actually be present, and work through what's actually going on, then I think that was a step. And there was no thought of leaving Christianity or anything. I just felt like I was just following my intuition, purely, I think. And then the pandemic.

David Ames  47:24  
First, let me just say how insightful that was, and self aware to recognize that to begin with, is really quite impressive, honestly. And I know there's the pandemic probably makes things much worse, but just acknowledging that, that it is a bit of fantasy, it is a bit of Magical Thinking prayer is and then to the need to remain in reality and deal with the emotions that you're experiencing, or the depression or what have you. It's really quite insightful.

Anne  47:53  
Thank you. I appreciate that. And it took me a long, long time together. I mean, we're talking about like, 30 years after convention. Yes. Yeah. And I honestly think that one of the reasons I was able to get to that place, because I was so far removed from my place of origin. And I also think that it was because my therapist created a kind of safe place, like I felt some level of safety of emotional safety. That allowed me to do that. But I remained as far as I was concerned, a Christian. Yeah. And I never had conversations with my partner about him D converting, even though he kind of, well, I don't know if he would say D converting so much as deconstructing. But he, I think he knew that I couldn't deal with it. And I subconsciously knew that I couldn't deal with it either. And he was incredibly gracious in that respect, that he did not push me. And he was able to kind of contain it himself, okay. And then, basically, anyone who's kind of been through the academic system will know that, as a postdoc, you're always on temporary funding, or you kind of you don't really have job security. And so with the small child and the pandemic, we also needed to find a job. And I had been kind of like, looking low key, but it all kind of came to a head. When I had I had this offer in the midwest of a permanent job as an assistant professor, that would be the like the way for us to finally have this kind of stability and security. And so we came here and so bizarrely, we've come to this place that is just surrounded by these huge Churches, they literally put messages in my mailbox. And it's so strange. And I hear people talking about church when I'm like in a restaurant or something, which is so bizarre to me. And I can almost like I can spot them. I'm like, Oh, they're Christians, I can see. See the way the smiley, I can tell by the T shirts. Yeah. And instinctively I had this like, reaction to the mega churches in the big churches, I just could not stomach it. And I tried zoom church for a little while for, like, Anglican church that I just felt like, what's the point of trying to do a zoom church with a small child, and yeah, just pointless. And then, one day, I had this distinct memory, I have this distinct memory. I was just on my laptop, just kind of, I guess, doing that kind of Googling, zoom, zoom, Facebook, whatever thing. And I just kind of, it's almost like this pressure had been building and building and building. And finally it broke through. And I just thought, what if it's not real? Wow. And I had not allowed myself to ask that question.

I was too scared. Like, I know, when people had questioned theology earlier on. I'd felt like kind of sick feeling like I can't do that to the idea of like, there being no help had been so disorientated. I just feel this kind of dizzy feeling. Yeah. And but at that moment, I just felt like, Oh, that's a question. Yes. And I immediately, you know, just immediately googling these like words. I didn't have the word deconversion or deconstruction or anything. I just started Googling and I came across how I should have written down her name that she's well known in this community have has kind of written a book called leaving the fault.

David Ames  52:15  
Yes, Marlene? Well, that's right. Yes. Yeah, I

Anne  52:19  
came across her YouTube video of her, her story of how she kind of D converted. And it was almost like, as soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer. It happened that fast. Yeah. And so yeah, I just did lots of research. But I had this, it was total, kind of like, on the road to Damascus experience, I felt like I felt like all of a sudden, I could see, I could see the real world, I could see everything and like, the weight is just kind of gone. I was like, free. I was just able could discover just kind of living without the weight of the, what is God telling me? What should I be doing it? And my, you know, I think that was the main thing for me a feeling like I was not on this spiritual track, but I still wanted to be. Yeah.

Um, and so yeah, that was really like the main thing that happened. But that opened the gateway to like, a lot of discussions. So that have been very,

in a way kind of as life changing in terms of it's allowed us to discuss the reasons why we got married, and why certain things have been so hard and allowed us to discuss well, do we want to stay married? Like, and in a completely a way that just was not possible?

David Ames  54:01  
You're being honest with each other?

Anne  54:03  
Right? Yeah. Yeah. And I also kind of, I think I also discovered that I am not. I had always just assumed that I was this very normal, straight Christian. And now I'm kind of more feeling like, I'm probably bisexual and doesn't have like, you know, that doesn't necessarily change a lot. But it's like, something that I would for all these years. I never even asked the question, right, because it was not even a thought that

David Ames  54:44  
was allowed. Right? Right. You can't even think that thought,

Anne  54:48  
right. Yeah. And so that feels like it feels like there could be more to come down the road like it still feels quite early. It's kind of Who, maybe it's coming up to two years. But it feels like this kind of these kind of surges of like, realizing that I'm freer than I felt like I was for so long,

David Ames  55:18  
it's almost being introduced yourself, right, you get to suddenly be authentically yourself, whatever that may be. And the discovery process of taking off the layers of kind of mental protection that you have been carrying around up until that point, I always say it's terrifying and absolutely wonderful. That you that this discovery process that it sounds like you're still kind of in the middle of so

Anne  55:45  
yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I feel like the hardest thing to undo is this feeling of, of badness, you know, like, and I feel like that might be something that I am still working on, like in therapy, and just in my, the way that I'm processing and trying to kind of move through this is trying to separate myself from those beliefs that were introduced. So Young. Yeah. And, and to realize that, I don't have to, like be trying really, really hard not to be bad.

David Ames  56:29  
Yes. What, you know, what we've talked about on the podcast a lot, the idea of secular grace of humanism, for me is about embracing our humanity. And religion takes that away. Not all religions, most, most traditional religions take that away, they strip you of your humanity and tell you that you're bad that you're no good. And like, so I think a part of this coming out of it is, is embracing who you are, and accepting yourself for who you are without having to have these external expectations placed on you. And that, again, can be very freeing, and also very scary.

Anne  57:09  
To Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I feel again, so lucky that I'm able to access therapy, the good therapy here as well. And also that I have a career that's not really reliant on my face, right. Which allows me to have it allows me to have a domain of life, which wasn't dominated by the Church, which I think it was healthy for me.

David Ames  57:39  
Absolutely. So we are very pro therapy here and often recommend the secular therapy project for people to find therapists beyond therapy. What other things have been helpful for you any any particular books or podcasts other than this one information that you found? Inspiring or useful?

Anne  57:59  
Hmm, yeah. I mean, I think I, a lot of the things that I've found just by following, you know, your podcast and others, has led me to similar things that have been mentioned before. Now, I didn't mention that in the early days. Before I deconstructed I found Rob Bell really helpful.

David Ames  58:22  
Okay. Yeah.

Anne  58:25  
As a kind of stepping point. Yeah. And also an he has a podcast and lots of books. Also, let me think I'm terrible at remembering things. I have actually opened up my

David Ames  58:42  
that's fine. Take a second time. Right now.

Anne  58:46  
Yeah. So I won't mention all the bisexual podcasts that I've been listening to you because maybe it's niche, but maybe it's not.

David Ames  58:56  
Please do go ahead. Yeah.

Anne  58:58  
Oh, my gosh, there's a ton of so there's one called coming out with Lauren. And they call and a lot of the people they speak to have a religious background. A lot of them don't. Yeah, but the ones that do you really see that intersection between you know, the oppression from religion and the oppression from society and figuring out who you are. And I just love hearing people's stories. That's one of the things that I love about this podcast. Yeah. So the coming out with Lauren and Nicole is kind of like that, but for for quite a queer people. Fantastic. Yeah, I love expand Jellicle I love I love Glennon Doyle's podcast. We can do hard things, which I put in the kind of category of like, self help a little bit. Yeah. And I'm not like, I don't believe everything they say. Like, I don't think we should make a new religion out of self help. Right, but I find it I also find a lot of humor. mentality in the podcast. I like that. Yeah. And yeah, and it feels like it feels like that thing of like being in a small group and being able to buy your soul.

David Ames  1:00:09  
Yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Anne  1:00:12  
Yeah. Well, then my real kind of go twos,

David Ames  1:00:18  
I think. Okay. Yeah, yeah. And I can't tell you how much of your story that I related to like just a lot of touch points along the way. And you were incredibly eloquent, I could feel what you were feeling. And again, that's the magic. That's what we're trying to get to. I talked about an honesty contest you came, you came with that honest, authentic part of your story telling your story. So I just want to thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Anne  1:00:47  
Oh, well, thank you so much for this opportunity. Yeah, once again, I just think it's great what you're doing. And I think it helps people on so many levels. So thanks for

David Ames  1:01:00  
final thoughts on the episode. And so I persisted, that is such a great line with with a nod to Elizabeth Warren, but captures that desire to double down, I'm going to make this work. I love Anne's honesty, she, as I said, there at the end, I could really feel the experiences that she was going through as she told her story, I think you the listener are going to have felt that as well. And it is the honesty of telling one story that really is the profound part of this work. There are so many elements of Anne's story that are incredible, growing up and being more serious about Christianity than her parents getting married to another why Whammer the focus on more social gospel actually reaching out and helping people picking her careers based on the missionary effect. Ultimately, going into epidemiology and traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. And then the depression and anxiety that she experienced as she was at the beginnings of the deconstruction process. And her pregnancy and the pandemic so much happening at the same time. As many other guests have said the being outside of the context of church having to have zoom church or streaming church begins to allow one to reflect and and it. My favorite part of her posts. deconversion is the hardest thing to do is the feeling of badness to separate from beliefs introduced when she was young. And she realized she doesn't have to really try really, really hard not to be bad. She's just a human being. And that's okay. She discovered her bisexuality, she's becoming herself. I want to thank you and for being on the podcast and again for telling your story with rigorous honesty, with passion and letting us feel what your experience was like. Thank you, Anne, for telling us your story. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is you're not broken, you're human. I have a blog post of the same title. From the early days of the blog. I'm going to link that here, but ends discussion of letting go of the feeling of badness of the need to constantly be on guard to feel judged. The human experience is difficult. The human experience can be tragic at times, the human experience can be joyful and wonderful. But Christianity in particular, and traditional religions in general have a tendency to warp that normal human experience and to say that it is because of one's brokenness, it's because of one's unrighteousness. And that message is internalized, particularly for those of you who grew up with a more traditional religious background, and that is very difficult to shake. The core message of the podcast has always been embracing your humanity and the humanity of others. And that includes the human foibles the Nui the the desire for more the mistakes and the human error is all a part of being a human being and it can be a meaningful part of your life. As soon as you're not fighting yourself. You are not broken. You are human. Next week, we have our Lean interviewing Stacey who goes by apostasy love that moniker still. The week after that is my interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht. And the following week will be the four year anniversary of the podcasts. So March 14 is officially the anniversary of the podcast. Please join us as we celebrate we're going to talk about our favorite movies and television programs and books that have elements of deconversion or killer grace on them and it was a blast to have that conversation. Check that out. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful For blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Audrey: Deconversion of an American Christian

Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture, The Bubble, Unequally yoked
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Audrey. Audrey spent her childhood and adolescence deep in American Christianity. 

In college, she took a course in “biblical perspectives,” and she had many questions. She would shelve the cognitive dissonance for years, though, pretending that everything was fine. 

After years of experiencing church from the inside and working around more “secular” people, the uncertainty could no longer stay buried. “Something just wasn’t right.”

Audrey is an atheist now, but deconversion is fresh. The past guilt and shame still come up at times. She’s reconnecting with her body and mind, though, and loving the woman she is—the woman she’s always been.

“It’s so incredible how once I stepped away from christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself.”

“All I wanted to do was be a Woman of God. I had my future planned out: I was going to find a husband at college, be the perfect godly woman, and he was going to be the man that was going to lead me in Christ.”


“I was so oblivious to the bubble that I grew up in.”

“Those things I’d buried started to rise up again.”

“There was so much cognitive dissonance that I don’t think I could verbalize to you what doubts I was struggling with. It was just ‘something wasn’t right.’”

“Fuck being equally yoked!”

“To be able to off-load all of the things that I had been dealing and also find solace and comfort in mutual doubts with somebody—and not just somebody—my husband.”

“In my upbringing, from my perspective, being a good Christian was the ultimate for my parents. That was the definition of a good child—a good Christian, so I was like, Okay. That is what I’m going to be.

“I have never felt more free in my whole entire life…I was walking around without feeling guilty for every little decision I made.”

“The last year of my Christianity, I feel like it can be boiled down to: I am just believing this because I’m scared of the alternative.”

“I can be a decent human and it not be connected to a deity.”

“I really, really love the person that’s underneath [all the layers]. The confidence I have found in myself, owning my femininity, owning who I am, taking up space in the world, no longer subscribing to that dialogue…of a ‘sweet Christian woman.’” 

“I have control over the information I care to share. I have control over how I present that information. I have control over my reactions and the words that come out of my mouth. I have zero control over what that person on the other side wants to say…I don’t need to concern myself now with what they think of me because it’s none of my business.”

“Well-being is not ‘your relationship with the lord.’ Well-being is how you’re taking care of your physical body, how you’re taking care of your mental body.”

“It’s so incredible how once I stepped away from Christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself.”


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


NOTE: This transcript is AI produced ( and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider reading and reviewing the podcasts on the Apple podcast store. You can rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Thank you to all my patrons if you too would like an ad free experience become a patron at any level at atheist.

We are trying to create a safe place to land to ask questions to doubt to deconstruct in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous. Please join us be a part of a community so that you do not have to go through this alone. You can find it at

Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arline interviews Our guests today Audrey. Audrey is one of those people who was fully dedicated completely within the bubble. She went to camp every year including becoming a counselor and began to see how the sausage was made. She also participated in ministry and her experience working at the church also caused her to begin to doubt. It turns out that her husband had de converted ahead of her. And there was some tension there. But when she finally told him that she was having doubts, she felt much better. She felt that her and her husband became closer. Audrey talks about telling her parents her mom specifically and how hard that was. I think you're gonna love Audrey story here is our Lean interviewing Audrey.

Arline  2:21  
Welcome Audrey to the graceful atheist podcast.

Audrey  2:24  
Hi, thanks for having me.

Arline  2:27  
Yes, I'm excited. You and I connected shortly after I did my episode on the podcast. Yes, I heard you. Yes, you and I had some some church things related. And you and I were able to talk and so I'm excited to hear your story.

Audrey  2:44  
sYeah, for sure. Yeah, I heard I heard you on the podcast. And when you talked about where you lived and where you came from, I just thought I'm gonna reach out to her because I feel like we have some similarities. And I was just at a point where all of this was just starting to unfold. And I knew that it would be or I thought it would be beneficial for me to just chat with somebody who had been through it because it was all so new. And I just didn't even know I don't know, it was felt kind of like the rug had been pulled out from under me. And I was like grappling for something to hang on to somebody to give me some kind of advice. I was like, I'm gonna reach out to Arline and you were kind enough to immediately respond. So thank you, because that was very, very helpful for me.

Arline  3:30  
Oh, you're too kind. Yes, I, I enjoyed it. It was my first experience. Like I had talked to David during my episode. But there was no deconversion anonymous Facebook group yet. I had maybe found some other podcasts. But I had no idea that other people near where I lived. Were also going through this. So it was it was good for me. It was good to have that conversation. So yes, we usually start tell me about the spiritual environment that you grew up in.

Audrey  3:58  
Yeah. So to your point. The reason why I wanted to reach out is because you were from the old state of Georgia. I was like, I want to talk to a fellow southerner. It's been interesting, born and raised in Georgia, born and raised in just a small suburb north of Atlanta. I guess not small, pretty big, pretty big. Metro Atlanta is pretty big. But I still live here just further north. So not in the same suburb that I grew up in, which I'm very thankful for. Because I am the kind of person that does not like going to the grocery store and see people that I know and I got to a point where, you know, growing up in the summer working in the same area, I worked at a church in the same area. So it's just every single where every single place I went, I saw somebody I knew and I'm so happy that my husband and I are now 20 minutes further north because I don't run into those familiar faces in in the grocery store, um, but yeah, so fake background, I guess. Well, where should we begin? Definitely, I'm born and raised in a Christian household, from the very beginning pretty much popped out a Christian, I guess. I remember, I'm the youngest of. So I guess I'll just start with my family in the background. I'm the youngest of three brothers. So I, there's my family definitely. sort of formed who I am today, by being the only girl. Both my parents are still together. My mom and I grew up really close to just being the only girl in the family but born and raised into a very, very conservative household I was. But I didn't really realize it, you know, because when, in when you're in the bubble, or when you are born into a conservative family, you tend to hang out with other conservative families. And yet, homeschooling is a whole thing in and of itself, which is its own bubble. So you don't really realize this until you get outside of it. But I was homeschooled until about fifth grade. And then my mom put us all into school in the same year. So we're all two years apart. So I was fifth grade, my brother above me with seventh grade, my brother above him was ninth grade. And then my brother above him was 11th grade. So I'm not envious of my eldest brother, who was homeschooled pretty much all the way through. He did a few schools here and there. So wasn't it was definitely split up. And for the majority of his high school, he was at a private Christian school. But for my brother and I are the two youngest kids. So me and my brother, who's two years older than me, we got put into a very small Presbyterian Christian school. So it was basically, if you can the equivalent of like homeschooling, but the church version where you actually go, it was like, the place where other people that were homeschooled, went to school. If that makes sense, the graduation from homeschool. So still very, very sheltered environment. It was a Presbyterian school.

I think the name covenant was in the name.

Yes, very much. So. And I should mention to go back just a second, I went to a sort of a one day a week hybrid program in the third and fourth grade, which was also it was a classical school. And it was also Yep, it was also Christian. So education thus far has been all entirely Christian. And then, in eighth grade, when my brother graduated from the school that we both went to, it was only up it was K through eighth. So he went to a bigger private Christian school down the road, which was, you know, entirely a new experience for him, because going from homeschooling to just to give you an idea, the school that I went to in middle school, fifth through seventh grade was there was about 20 people in my grade. And we were divided into two homeroom classes, you know, 10 and 10. So very, very tiny. Yes. And then, so he, when he was finished with eighth grade, he went on to the bigger private Christian school that had, you know, probably like 8200 people per grade. So that's, even though people listening to this that might have gone to a public school, that seems so tiny, I actually ended up going there. The plan was for me to follow him and go there in high school, but I just, I wasn't having the greatest experience in my middle school environment. So I just went ahead and transferred. And that was a completely new experience for me again, all the while. Christian, Christian, Christian, Christian school, Christian, small school, bigger Christian school, throughout this whole time period of mine developmental years. I was in this bubble, that it was cool to be a Christian. And like, the more the more Christian you were, the cooler that you were. So it was definitely there were incentives outside of just what the Bible said to sort of walk the walk, if that makes sense. And I'm trying not to get too much into the nitty gritty here, but I feel like it's kind of important to bring some con Next up sort of my developmental years, because I'm in my later 20s Now, but that was, you know, elementary, high school, early college, you know, all of that was in this bubble, and it was all it was cool to be a Christian. Right. So, um, anyway, so that's kind of my schooling and into high school. Definitely the, the vibe, I should say, at the bigger Christian high school that I went to was, you know, it's cool to be a Christian. You know, definitely in a group of friends where, you know, the kids that maybe didn't, didn't follow the way if you will, or kind of rebellious work, gossiped about, you know, rumors were started that kind of thing. So, I definitely set myself up in the group of friends that was not rebellious, but also, you know, not super uptight, but just in that comfortable, sort of, I guess, it's hard to bring vocabulary to it. But it was just this element of, we're all Christians, we talk about it, it's cool if you're a Christian. And if you're not, you're going to be gossiped about, or if you choose to do things that are quote, unquote, like against what the right way to do things is, then you're going to be considered rebellious or a black sheep, or you're gonna get a rumor mill started about you. So God forbid, quite literally, you know.

All throughout elementary, middle and high school, my parents, you know, wanted us all to be involved in church wanted us to be involved in the youth group. And I one more aspect, and I think this is probably the most one of the most important aspects of my sort of developmental years for forming my faith was I was a camper. So I went to church camp every single year, and it wasn't affiliated with my church, so to speak, it was can I say the name? Is that okay? That's, I feel like it might, some people listening might even resonate, but I went to camp called Kanak in Missouri, and not super popular in my state of Georgia. But so many people from Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, all the surrounding states were Frequenters there, and this camp was, you know, the best thing that ever happened to me in my elementary school mind, it was just so cool. I remember going there the first year. So I started going there when I was eight years old. Yeah, yeah. So the way that camp works is that it's one you know, the big name, but with the big name, there's several camps spread out in the same area in Missouri, that based on age group, and duration that you want to go and sort of your focus. So I went started out in like the elementary age camp, then went to the middle school age camp, and went to the high school age camp, and then was a counselor. So all in all spent about 13 summers, wow, my life at this camp. And, you know, the more and more and packed that the more and more issues I have with things that I learned at this camp. But I remember going when I was eight, and talk about it was cool to be a Christian, you know, this camp, it was an app like a sports camp, but you know, all under the guise of evangelical Christian ism, I guess, if you will. So the whole goal was you know, how many people can we get in the doors and how many kids can we get to pray the prayer and then like, fire them up to go home and then spread the gospel and all that, you know, whereas now I just, it blows my mind really, and some of the experiences that I had there I quite frankly, look back on it and I'm just like, there was a coat it was it was a cold. It was so secluded, you know, when you go there, you don't have your phone. You can spend I was at Canberra one summer for a whole month. So as a high schooler being at a camp without your phone you know, it's it's weird because you go and you know, it's healthy in a way to you know, but just be out in nature and there was parts of it that I loved. The now looking back back on it. That was so it was like every summer I would go and it would be like a reboot to my fate that reboot to my bit the reboot to my bit. So every year it was, you know, I get reminded of why I believe in this. And this is so incredible. And not to mention, all the while and I'm trying to get to sort of a very vital part of my story was that, you know, my mom, my mom and I, and I had my dad really, I had this incredible desire to please my parents and what they wanted me to be and I knew that my parents loved you know what I learned at camp and I remember my mom saying something to me in high school, just she goes, you're just when you get home from camp, you're just better I don't know how to explain it, but you're just better. You know, I don't really know exactly what she said. But how do you interpret that you know, as a, as a high schooler, she said something along the lines of You just have this better demeanor, you seem just more kind and all of this stuff. And I'm thinking in my head, all right, well, better try to be exactly the way that I am. When I get home from camp all year long. I don't know what that even means, or how to interpret that. But it just kind of became this thing of all wrapped up in I left camp. But I also loved the fact that my parents loved that I went and it was like this, this whole toxic feedback loop, I guess, of just wanting to please them, but also, you know, enjoying the camp in and of itself. But that is sort of where my I would guess people might remember this term, you know, my fire for the Lord was sort of kick knighted, you know, and you see the counselors, the older Christian college girls and how awesome they are. And you're just like, I want to be just like that. And then you know, you get on the other side of it. And I worked at the camp for four summers as well. And it kind of de romanticize it it sighs did a little bit for me. D romanticized it a little bit. For me just being on the other end of things and seeing how things were run by the leadership and seeing the attitudes of people behind the scenes, that kind of thing. So with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and maybe if I could pinpoint sort of, I don't know how to say it. Where I started maybe asking questions, but but I didn't want to admit that I was just kind of seeing the other side of things, you know, and then, you know, reshelving that not wanting to get into it, it like I could feel something and I don't even know if I knew how to verbalize it. But and I don't even think I could pinpoint when this happened. But maybe towards the last summer so I was probably I guess this would be summer going into my sophomore year of college. Okay, I have no summer going into my junior year of college would have been my last summer working there. And I would say you Yeah, questioning a little bit. I'm just I left with a bad taste in my mouth is what I would say. But if I could really so, you know, I feel like I'm skipping around here but that's my long intro to elementary, middle school high school, then I go to college. You know, still camper Audrey still coming from a Christian high school, all I wanted to do is just, you know, be a woman of God, you know, had my future planned, I was going to find a husband at college and, you know, be the perfect godly woman and he was going to be the man that would lead me in Christ and all the things and didn't really think about like a career much. I know that sounds so cliche, but I knew that my quote unquote, heart's desire was to just be a mother. So that's what I was paying attention to working at a summer camp, working with kids, I was a nanny, you know, it just it makes me angry. And I don't want to be angry. But I think back on it, I'm just like, if I had just had a little bit more of my own opinions that my own drive and I didn't try to morph into what the Christian community wanted me to be. And I'll get into that a little bit, but I'm trying to be concise with my background here. So I feel like if I could pinpoint sort of when the beginning maybe that first thread you know, got pulled from from the stitching I took Biblical perspectives class in my freshman year of college. So I should mention that I went to a Christian college that I was going to. Yeah. So I went to a Christian college called Samford University, you might have heard it in Birmingham just for a year, though, I went for my freshman year. And that was where, you know, my heart was set. It was basically like my high school but bigger.

Basically, like the the college version of where I went to high school and looking back on it, I'm just wondering why in the hell, I wanted to do that. But anyways, did it went and I took a biblical perspective class at Stanford. And you know, still remember where I sat in the class, I remember my professors name, it was just the first time in all of my years of education, that someone took the time to teach me, it wasn't just biblical perspectives of just a Christian perspective of the Bible. But this class taught me perspective, other religions and other people's perspective of the Bible. And that was so eye opening, and I am so appreciative of that professor, because the way that she chose to teach the class was from a completely unbiased place. You know, I think that she is a Christian, and I'm not really sure where she is today. But she was, she had a grace about her. That was never, she never came from a place of condemning or laughing at other people's perspectives. And that was very different for me, because I actually came from in my high school courses, we were required to take Bible classes every year, but also our junior year, we took an apologetics class. And my professor, I guess, teacher, was very, very, very biased and very judgmental, and kind of like, would give the perspectives of other people for the sake of teaching us the arguments. And he was very good, he was very good at teaching us how to argue and do it well, but it's funny, my husband and I were actually just talking about this is a very good app, because we went to the same high school, but we took the same course, actually, I'll get into him, he's also part of my story, but it was just always from a place of look at what these other people believe how silly is this, how ridiculously stupid of them to have this perspective, and of course, as a malleable, you know, 16 year old, and not to mention, that teacher was like, the Cool Teacher, you know, that all the students looked up to, so if it comes from Him, you're gonna kind of if you're a robot that follows what you're told, You're gonna mimic his sort of attitude about other people's worldviews and perspectives, which is so toxic, and there's so many things wrong with that, which I could spend the whole time venting my frustration about that. And my issues with teachers, you know, pushing their own, not teaching but pushing their own opinions on to a very impressionable aged students. But so then to go from him to the professor at Stanford, that was very much so this from an unbiased teaching place, was just very helpful for me. And at the time, I maybe wouldn't have said the word helpful, it was very confusing and very frustrating to sort of deal with that, and not understand what was happening, but the reality of it was my brain was actually starting to work. And I was maybe seeing things from the other side and being frustrated with the fact that, you know, on one hand, this is how I was born and raised. And this is what I was trained to believe in, and this is the stuff that I was robotically, you know, told to spit out when people would ask me what my faith was in the God that I served and whatnot, and then on the other hand, I would see other people's perspectives and be like, that doesn't really seem all that weird or silly to not believe in Christianity or even hearing, you know, people that might be Islamic or Buddhist in coming from their perspectives of the Bible and seeing the core relation between, you know, their religious upbringing and what their perspective is in seeing how there's lots of commonalities in religions across the world and things of that nature. But when you're born and raised in good old Georgia, and there's a church on every corner, of course, the religion that I believe is the right one, right? How could it be any different, right? It's so silly to believe in anything else. Obviously, I'm kidding. But that is just, that was the first the start of it. And then it became one of those things where, so this was probably 1920 year old Audrey, and I just, I shelved it, I was too frustrated, and too confused, and probably a little bit too immature to actually wrestle with it. And it was a lot more comfortable for me to just pretend that I found closure, but I really did it, if that makes sense. So I came to a point in my faith where I told myself, well, look at your life, Audrey, look at all of the things that you have been blessed with, look how fortunate you've been to, you know, grow up in a family that could afford to send you to a school like this, or, you know, afford to send you to a summer camp, that that wasn't even, you know, something that I mentioned, but of course, it was predominantly a white Christian summer camp. So if that is any, and it also was not free. So that's any indication of the camp campers in the families and the kind of people that were there, and the kind of people that ran the camp. So I just, I was so oblivious to the bubble that I grew up in. And I, you know, I used to be embarrassed to admit that, but life is a journey, and I'm, you're learning every day, you know, and I can't help that. I can't help the background that I came from, but I can proceed in a different way. So

Arline  27:24  
we know better, we can do better.

Audrey  27:26  
Exactly. When you know better, you can do better. And so from all that, I just realized that. Okay, look at my life, look at all of the things that I've quote, unquote, been blessed with and how things have quote unquote, worked out like, of course, that's the sovereignty of God. Of course, he exists, of course, you know, how can he not and that sounds very naive, you know, saying that from where I was to where I am now, but that was kind of what I fell back on. It's like, okay, I have a lot of questions. But it seems like God has been utterly faithful in my life. So I'm just going to cling to that. And I'm just going to sort of bury all of the concerns that I have that cognitive dissonance, right. So that went on for a while.

Flash forward, took a little bit of a break from school. My junior year decided that I wanted to pursue songwriting, which is kind of a hobby of mine, but I for a year took just a break and moved out to Nashville and was on my mat. Yeah. During that time, I reconnected with someone who went to my high school and we actually started dating. We were not I actually dated one of his good friends in high school. And then we reconnected later because I transferred from Sanford to Kennesaw, which is a school near close to where I live now. But during that time, started dating Mason, my husband. And then I took a break from school, went to Nashville, highly recommend anyone who is of college age to just take a year and do it completely on their own because I feel like even though at the time still a Christian still trying to pursue my faith with the Lord but just to kind of be on your own it. You know, some of those things I buried started to rise up again. Being a waitress out in Nashville writing songs being in a completely secular world, you know, going from a Christian High School to Christian College, then transferring to a massively secular or university was the best thing that I did, but at the time didn't know. Right? So slowly starting to become way more ingrained in the secular world, and having secular friends and all of that. So maybe those things I buried might start to rise up again. I remember just still dealing with some questions. And I actually when I saw I was in Nashville for a year. And then when I moved back, I decided I wanted to come back to where I'm from. And when I came back, I actually got a job working at a church as a, I guess my title was intern, which I have issues with, because I was paid. But I was, but not that internships can't be paid. But I was an intern, I think it was youth group intern was maybe my technical title on my contract. However, I called myself the student ministry coordinator, because that was, quite frankly, I was the student ministry, there was it it was a very small church in the student ministry, it was very small, and they just needed to hire someone part time to sort of establish a ministry, it really and I, so that was very, I was there. My contract was for two years, it was part time. And the job itself was very administrative. So it was kind of, you know, that typical female church role of, you know, they females work on the staff, well, they work in the children's ministry, and they do admin, you know, or the same thing for the student ministry, I was admin, I was never considered, you know, the pastor or anything like that, because I didn't have those credentials. However, it was required of me to teach lessons every Sunday and leave Bible study, but I was just strictly, you know, the coordinator.

Arline  32:11  
The requirement of having testicles, really does put a damper on things are some of this

Audrey  32:18  
exactly, and unfortunately, I do not have balls. So I was the intern or the coordinator or what have you. Um, but this church is very small. I was. At the time I was working there, there was only four people on staff. So including that. Yeah, so it was a pastor worship, Pastor me, the student ministry, and then another person who was definitely the church wouldn't have run without her. The admin gal that was pretty much the pastor's right hand, everything, you know, fell on her pretty much is what I would say. And I never knew what she was paid, but I bet you wish she was undefeated. But, so that was ultimately very unfulfilling. And I just, I would never have said that, you know, when I was in it, but looking back on it I felt the whole time that I was there, that I wasn't doing a good job. Because I it didn't come natural to me to you know, part of being a student ministry coordinator or leader or what have you is, you know, showing up to things for the students on random weekends and going to their homecoming and sort of being in their life and I'm sure people listening to this can resonate with that, you know, that cool youth group gal or guy that showed up to your homecoming pictures or went to your high school events just to say hey, and you know, be in your life. And I was very much so I would that was not natural for me, you know, going to grab a coffee with a student. It's just it wasn't I didn't love it. And I always felt very conversation felt very forced. I don't think anybody that was on the other side of those coffee dates when we would have said that but it was never I was never I never felt fully comfortable. Doing those kinds of outreach things. It felt forced, it felt in genuine like, the whole purpose in meaning behind me meeting for coffee with you is to really, you know, how's your heart?

Arline  34:48  
It's not I like this person. We're friends. Let's hang out and do a thing it here is part of my job and part of my job is hanging out with these kids but I've checked off this box I did this I went to this soccer game like that, that isn't loving, it doesn't feel loving.

Audrey  35:05  
Absolutely, I couldn't have said it better myself, it just being on the other side of it, having that church paycheck, you know, all the things that you do seem very and genuine. And I use this word before, but just like working at the camp, kind of de romanticized camp, for me, working at the church completely de romanticize the church for me. And that really was where the threads started pulling a little bit more and a little bit more. And I the whole time that I was there, I was wrestling with this, you know, I feel like I'm pouring out and pouring out and pouring out, but no one is pouring into me, I feel completely drained. I'm not really connecting to what I'm doing here, because I feel like it's coming from a place of engine Uranus. Yes, while I did form relationships with some, you know, high school girls and students that I still today, you know, think of in love, I don't reach out to them just because I don't think that that would be appropriate, just for where I am. And I don't have no idea where their worldviews are. And obviously, they're all older, probably college age now. But it's just looking back on it coming from this place of how can I lead you in love and guide you in love if I don't really feel connected to what I'm supposed to believe in? I was just impostor syndrome, like I, this is not. I'm not connecting here to what people are telling me to connect to. And then on top of that, I am required to now teach it to these people that I are young and impressionable. But I'm not really connecting to it. So how am I even supposed to teach it to them? So I got to the end of my contract, and I that was it, I was just like, Okay, I'm gonna leave all the while I had been getting my personal training certification, this was back in 2017 2018, getting certified as a personal trainer. So Little did I know that would completely set off the trajectory of you know, what I do now in my career, but fell in love with that whole industry. So that's kind of what I pivoted to after working at the church. And I had been training part time because the job at the church was also part time. So two part times make a full time. I was a busy gal. But all that today, the contract ended. Right around it. August of the pandemic of 2020. Oh, wow. So yeah, so I did the whole youth group thing from March to August, like virtually, which was a disaster. I was trying to pivot and figure out, you know, how to navigate that. And then of course, came to the end of my contract. And that was it for me, and, to be honest, took quite a long hiatus from going to church. And I knew when I my contract was up that I would I wanted and needed a break for myself almost like my own sabbatical. Because I had been pouring out so much. And I was just like, I don't even want to go to church. I just want to take a break. I'll listen to the podcasts, I'll listen to sermons, what have you, but I don't want to set foot in church for quite a bit

so it was throughout that process, that things kind of changed a little bit foggy for me, I guess is what I would say things became a little bit foggy.

Arline  39:17  
And what do you mean, what does foggy mean?

Audrey  39:20  
I would say I, I feel like a huge frustration and almost like a burden is that I, I always carried around so much Christian guilt. And I hated that, that during that period where I took time off from going to church, I was wracked with guilt for doing that. And dealing with that frustration and feeling like starting to feel disconnected. But not minding. Not good Going to church was a chore for me. And so finally it got to the end of those eight months or what have you. And I was like, okay, Sunday's the day, I'm gonna go, we're gonna go to church, I'm going to try something new, I definitely didn't want to go to the church that I had worked out. So I actually tried to go to the Woodstock City Church, because my husband and I are actually moving close to the church, not for the church. But we were in the process of moving out of our apartment to a, we were building a new construction home. So I knew that we were going to be in this area. So I started just perusing seeing what kind of churches were out here and started going there. My husband actually never went with me, even though, I asked him if he wanted to come, but again, never wanted to pressure him. So again, that was what I was wrestling with kind of like, maybe he doesn't, you know, want to do this anymore. I'm a little bit confused, because I thought, you know, I had this whole idea that we were going to be, you know, the Christian family and our kids in the church and all this stuff. So I was kind of dealing with a little bit of fear that I didn't know where he was. And so you know, months go on, I would infrequently visit the church, but I guess foggy just meant, I started dealing with frustration and doubt and almost jealousy of, you know, he sleeps in on Sunday, and doesn't feel bad about not going to but we weren't really having conversations about it, but I was jealous I want to sleep in but I have this Christian guilt. So I have to drag my ass out of bed, and you know, get up and go and then not really feel anything from what I just heard. You know that that whole you want to emotionally I'm uh, I was very much you know, I'm a singer and, you know, creative. So worship was a big thing for me and you want to feel that Holy Spirit, you know, rush of fire and you know, what have you but just stuff wasn't sitting right for me. And so I eventually, I remember distinctly sitting down with him at dinner. And I keep I keep using the phrase stuff didn't sit right with me and not really getting into the detail. Because at the time, that was all it was I it was so much cognitive dissonance, that I don't even think I could verbalize to you what doubts I was struggling with. It was just something wasn't right. So I feel like once I get past this portion of my story, I'll be able to explain the things that didn't sit right with me. But at that point, it was just like that feeling of something's not right here.

Arline  43:06  
Something's not right.

Audrey  43:08  
Something's not right here. And I don't know what it is. But I remember we were at dinner, my husband and I and we had just come to see our house for like, the last time before we like moved into. It's very, it was definitely like the closing of a chapter the newness it was very timely, but we were at dinner. And I remember going into the dinner with this. This plan to sort of ask him where he was in terms of his fate. And you know, how he was what that has turned into, because I've noticed that you haven't really wanted to come to church with me and that kind of thing. And I don't really know what happened, but it was like, I opened my mouth to start to say that. And then it was it became a conversation of I've actually been really struggling like, is this something that I want to do? And he was like, eyes wide like, Oh, finally like, Oh, yes, talk about this, because he was all the while Little did I know having his own deconversion and didn't want to say it to me, because, you know, every you know how that goes. One person's a Christian one versus not what's that going to do to our relationship? This is something that really matters to her, you know, and I don't want to I think ultimately his heart and I so appreciate and love him for this. But he didn't want to persuade me he didn't want to be the reason why I decided that I wasn't a Christian anymore. My husband

Arline  44:47  
was the same way like he told me we had what we called our one on ones because that was like our like time to talk about the hard stuff happening in you know, marriage, parenting work, whatever. And he told He could not believe anymore. And multiple people have said on the podcast, you don't suddenly decide not to believe you just realize, I don't think I believe the same. And he told me, but yeah, he didn't want to tell me anything more or keep having conversations because he was afraid he didn't want me to go through because it was very important to me to go through what he went through. He didn't want to talk to the boys about it, because they were young and impressionable. And he did. But because he loves us, He cares about us. Now, we did fight, because I was like, if it's not true, then you need to tell us because I was not I did not take it kindly. Whenever he then led me that, you know, that's my own story. But yes, I understand. You don't want the other person to go through what you know, destroy the thing that they love. Yeah,

Audrey  45:49  
exactly. Exactly. And I think I still relate to you in that way of, except for the fact of the matter of I was already kind of unraveling when we had that conversation. So thankfully, I will i am just, I'm very, very, very happy with the timing of that, because I feel like spirit, serendipity right. That we were able to sort of both open up? Well, I don't want to say both of us, because he obviously had been going through silently for a couple of years, which I you know, that that I feel for him in that I can't I don't know what that's like, so I am. I'm so grateful that he's stuck around right? Here. I am like working at a church all the while I'm like, you want to come to church on Sunday? He's probably like, Hell, no, I don't want to go to church. But I love you. So I guess you know, but again, he would, thankfully was not super open at the time. Because I couldn't have handled it, I really don't think that I could have handled it. And he was wise enough to know that it was not the right time. So when I opened my mouth to have a conversation about are you a Christian? Because I am actually turned into a conversation. Are you a Christian? Because I actually am not sure I am either. Which I just I don't know, it was almost like, I think it's kind of interesting to think about. It was like one side of my brain knew the conversation that I was supposed to have with him. And the other side of my brain knew the conversation that I needed to

Arline  47:33  
have with. That's interesting. Yeah.

Audrey  47:36  
My mind knew that something wasn't right. But the Christian side of me, the Audrey, you have to be a dedicated what godly woman like you need to talk to your husband about where he is in his faith, because this is this is going to be an issue in your marriage or whatever. And the fact of the matter. No, it's not, you guys need to just get on the same page here, because both of you are going through it and you're not talking about it. So that just kind of the floodgates opened. And I would say that Mark did a very significant date for me, but also like, my relationship with my husband comes in, completely changed in the best way. Because, yeah, because I no longer was like dealing with this. Oh, we're not, you know, equally yoked or that. I hate that term. Now, just like wool makes my makes me nauseous, really. But like, there was no longer that. Okay, how do I phrase this in the Christian bubble that I was born and raised. And most a lot of people listening to this might relate to this, there's like a standard, there's a way that your marriage should look like and the way that you should portray yourself to other fellow Christians. And if I was looking at our relationship, outside looking in, did not meet that standard. So I was the word is concerned, too, go from a dinner, being concerned and then to leave a restaurant being like, oh, my gosh, I have a peer, a fellow person that I can finally like, unburden all of my doubts to and not feel condemned or judged. And I'm also you know, fuck being equal to whatever that means. Like, I love this man. And there's nothing It was almost like for me there was this like barrier between us. And you know, he's gonna he's probably gonna listen to all of this first time, but there was like this wall that that I was this wall of concern. And that's the only way I know. And then it was like once I was able to eliminate that wall of concern, there was no longer a barrier between us. And I just felt it's so interesting because you didn't have that Bible verse like you. You become one

Arline  50:17  
that you felt that happened,

Audrey  50:19  
right? It was in that moment, that I finally felt like, oh my god, this is my person, and it had nothing to do with a deity. It was just like, Oh, finally, I feel like I can take a deep breath. And that was amazing. And that was like, I would say that conversation was, you know, I've been referencing like a slow thread unraveling. Or people have said, you know, the statue has crumbled, or the foundation starts getting chipped out, shut down, shut down, and then once it crumbles, or once that scarf unravels, there's, it's quite frankly, impossible to put back together. Right? Yes. So, after that night, I would, I would say that was the statue crumbling for me.

I have felt like the past year of my life, I have met myself for the first time. And the Audrey that existed underneath the I am an onion essentially, like referencing Shrek, I feel like my whole entire life, I had been putting on layers of myself to fit a mold that everyone in my Christian bubble wanted me to be, especially my parents. And what are reference? A huge part of my unraveling was the realization that I didn't choose this belief system, this belief system was I was born into it. And it was quite literally force fed to me from the time that I could talk. And then not until I'm 28 years old, or 27, I don't even know how not into my upper, you know, upper 20s had this realization of not only was I forced by this religion, but it was so wrapped up in pleasing the people that were in charge of me, even after they weren't in charge of me anymore. How twisted is that? And obviously, I love my parents and I did the best they could, they really did with with their worldview. They loved me in the best way that they knew how to, and they still do. But I think it's very important. And it was very important for me to recognize and find out through therapy, etc. that a large part of what I was trying to be back to that onion, that those layers, I was trying to appear to be the person that they wanted me to be. Yeah. And because of that, those layers hid the root of who I really am my opinions, what I care about, you know, what I actually think is right, and just, you know, it was almost immediately after having the conversation with my husband, I was like, Okay, no more sermons for me, I immediately started looking up, you know, atheists podcast,

Arline  53:53  
you just jumped like,

Audrey  53:55  
immediately, literally, I have not listened to a worship song or a sermon since that dinner. So I immediately jumped. That's actually how I found this podcast, which I am so thankful for, because that's been a big part of my deconversion as well, but I started listening to it's called Voices of deconstruction by Steve hilliker. I don't know if that name sounds familiar, but I quite literally found the podcast just I think I typed in like deconversion in the search bar, and Spotify is how I find a lot of my podcasts anyway, just like a keyword. But I typed deconversion in my search bar, and found his podcast and I started listening. And I remember the very first girl that he interviewed or the very first podcast that I listen to, um, he interviewed a bisexual girl and she was talking about, you know, just with her sexuality and how she said the phrase, I couldn't subscribe to her religion. That didn't allow me to love all people. Oh, wow. And I was just like, I was running, but I almost stopped. It was just like, holy shit. What have I been doing? Like, just wanted to weep because that's that. That's it for me. Like, if I could boil it all down, I don't want to subscribe to I mean, there's a million other things at this point now that I could say this is it for me this is it for me this is it from that I think we all can relate to that of there's just a slow unraveling of in this in this in this and I, I think I felt shared full transparency before we started that I was like, a little bit unprepared because I feel like there's just so many things that I am gonna forget to mention. And it might take me a while to get to the point of my of my deconversion. But I remember hearing her say that. And, you know, she was sharing how she, you know, had struggled with her sexuality. And then when she, you know, obviously was able to go through the process of de converting and accepting herself for who she was, and being bisexual and all of that. It just was so eye opening for me. And honestly, I doubt a little bit for a while of just feeling horrible for subscribing to a worldview that as much as I said, it didn't matter. At the end of the day, there's that rhetoric, it does depend on what set of religion of Christianity that you belong to. But there's that rhetoric of that I don't even want to say it because it makes me want to throw up but the love the sinner Hate the sin. The phrase, it's like, That doesn't even make sense. Like, if you're hating a part of who someone is at their core, then you're hating them. Like it's not, you can't separate the two. And so I think that was a huge thing. For me. It's like, okay, I immediately know to be a Christian. I just like had this moment of Yeah, that's not who I am anymore. Absolutely not. And I have never felt in the week of like that dinner with my husband and the week following. I felt like I was floating on air. Like I had never felt more free in my whole entire life. To get to a point where I was walking around and not feeling guilty for every little decision that I made or questioning. I think for me, a huge thing was I always wanted to you know, be in the Lord's will and do what he wanted for my life. So every single every damn decision was prayed about, you know, and gosh, that is tiring. It's exhausting.

Arline  58:07  
I remember when I consciously I didn't I didn't know I was deconversion. I didn't know you don't know what's happening. You just, you're just you're just asking questions or whatever. I remember when I was like, I don't think I'm gonna pray about stuff anymore. And I don't remember exactly why I decided that. But it was like my brain like my I have ADHD. So my brains already busy. But it was just like, my brain just slowed down. And I was like, Have I really been causing this this whole time? Like, the just constant hamster wheel inside my mind of I need to pray about this. Is God gonna answer? What's God's answer going to be? Do I need to read in the Bible? Do I need to look for signs? Do I need to ask them? I mean, like, and then it was just like, I'm done. And my brain just slowed down? Absolutely. Yes.

Audrey  58:55  
I feel like when I made that decision of, yeah, this isn't working for me anymore. I felt like I was able to take a deep breath for the first time in my whole entire life. Like to really know, it was like 100 pounds had been on my ribcage and I didn't know the difference. You didn't know. I didn't know what it felt like to walk around without 100 pounds on my ribcage. And so when I was able to take that deep breath, it was like, I was just realizing so many things about my upbringing, so many things about my past so many belief systems and neurological pathways that I had, like, two that started to unravel. That's a huge one. I'm just like, catching yourself in these thought processes of guilt and then being realizing, Oh, I don't need to feel guilty about thinking that, you know, or doing that, you know, and also I think for me, it was at the end For the last kind of year of my Christianity, I feel like it could be boiled down to I'm just believing in this because I'm scared of the alternative. Yeah. And I shared that with my husband. And he said something to me at that dinner. He said, I said, You know what, what happens when we die? That's really scary. What if, you know, I don't want to go to hell. And he was like, what if when you die, you just die. And that's it, you're just dead, you pretty much disintegrate and you lived your life. And there's nothing that happens after. And I was like, that sounds really good actually. Like, I like that. And whereas a year before, that might have terrified me to think God, eternal life doesn't exist. And then to be in a place with where I believe now is that, you know, I don't claim to know everything, I know that there are things that we can explain. And that is, I'm happy to just kind of leave it at that. And I will never say that, like, my belief is the absolute correct belief, because I just don't think that anybody really knows. But I'm happy to believe that when I die, I just die. And I am okay, I'm satisfied with that. And honestly, it's super free, because it just is more motivation to live a life that I really am, I love and enjoy. I agree. It's like now

Arline  1:01:31  
this life is way more important. So let's, you know, whatever the things that we value, let's be sure that we do them. Exactly.

Audrey  1:01:39  
And I think a huge thing for me was that realizing, I, there's this sort of this dialogue, and this way of thinking, as a Christian, at least from my background of like, life is just a drudgery, life is something that you have to kind of get through to get to the good part, which is heaven. Like, we're servants, we're bond servants of Christ. And this is just the, this is like the time we have to surf in order to get that mansion in the sky. And so, first of all, it's a horrible, sad way to approach life my opinion, because then you're just living your, you know, 75 Hopefully yours that you have on this planet in this sort of mindset of I'll just get through it, you know, just get through it. And now it's like, no, I have, I have maybe 55 solid, good more years on this earth, and I'm going to try to milk it for all it's worth.

The other thing that I was, quote unquote, scared about was that argument you always hear of like, what it's making you be a good person, if you're not a Christian, you know, it's like I can, I can be a decent human, and not be connected to a deity. And I can also there are aspects of Christianity that I can value and that I can teach to my kids, not the religious aspect of it. But you know, I think it is a wonderful thing to be a person of integrity. I think it is a wonderful thing to be a person who, you know, is honest in the in in his kind. But I don't have to say, you know, this is the Bible verse that tells you that you need to do that right.

Arline  1:03:43  
Now we we still use the phrase, love your neighbor as yourself. And that's why you have to brush your teeth, children, like you're going to be around your friends and you love them. Please brush your teeth. It's Jesus. Like, this is why we love our neighbor.

Audrey  1:04:04  
Yeah. All right. Um, so all that to say, I'm definitely spent about a year sort of detoxing, I guess, if you will, from the Christian garb. The Christian diet that I had been on for my life, really, honestly, that's the best way of saying it. Like I put my Bible in a box in the attic when we moved in. Haven't gone up there since. Like, I don't maybe I'll get to a place where I want to go, you know, from a different perspective, sort of read and just for information sake, but I have just been, you know, eating up all the podcasts and listening to all the things that I would have felt guilty for listening to before are, you know, really just diving into everyone else's, everything outside of the bubble has been for the past year. And it's just been super enlightening. A bit disturbing. To realize the brainwashing that I went through. I know that sounds that that term is kind of thrown around. And it seems like harsh, but in reality is a little bit brainwashing, you know, to be, you know, put through. And so that sort of crumbling started last October. And I, I knew I wanted to come on this podcast, but I because I had this, this community has meant so much to me. And I felt like, maybe I'll share my story, because I feel like there's a lot of people out there that might have a similar one. And just like a lot of people that have been on this podcast have said the same thing. And I've related to a lot of people. So I was hoping that, you know, maybe someone would hear this and say, Oh, my gosh, I went to summer camp to and that you never know. But I wanted to take a year to just sort of, like I had mentioned earlier, unwrap the onion, D layer myself and figure out who I actually was the center of all of the outer clothing and layers I had put on to fit the mold that people wanted me to be. And I really, really love the person that's underneath all of that. And the confidence that I have found in myself back to how I was saying I needed to take this year to detox. I took a whole year to process because I knew that I want to tell my mom, but I didn't want to tell her as it was happening. I wanted it to be this has happened this is where I am now. So take that and process it how you will because

Arline  1:07:15  
yeah, Audrey, you are not responsible for how they respond, which is something else. So I have had to learn as a full grown adults. Yes, that is my responsibility.

Audrey  1:07:27  
That has been such a huge source of battle for me and realization that I have control over information that I care to share. I have control over the way I present said information, I have control over my own reactions and the words that come out of my mouth, I have Zerbo control over what that person on the other side wants to say how they want to react, also their own thoughts that are in their head that I don't know, I don't need to concern myself of what they now think of me because it's none of my business.

I have had two best friends from the time I was in eighth grade at that private Christian school until now. And I told them as kind of like my prep to tell my mom, I also waited a year to tell them and that was really difficult. At least in my story. That was what I was the most terrified of doing. Because I had grown up in this bubble and every, every my community, everybody was a Christian. So I got to this point of like, what do I do? You know, how do I move forward? I know that the second that I tell my two best friends, it's going to completely change the dynamic of our relationship. Because we are best we have been best friends. But a lot of that friendship has been deep talks about our faith in our Christian unity. And that was sort of the thread that connected us. But telling them I was like, Okay, once I told her, I felt like I could be my authentic self. The reason why that was this is such an important part of my story is because my relationship with my mom, very much so really correlates with my relationship with God because it was like, Oh, wow. We've been very close, but a huge sort of foundation of our closeness in our relationship with our spirituality. And I think she and I connected because my dad's not super outspoken about his faith, and none of my brothers really We're and so for us to have that mutuality and connection there. And then also to see, you know, always hear from her, like, you're just the daughter, I always wanted, and I love you so much. And I'm so happy that you're the person that you are, you know, hearing that my whole life and then sitting down to dinner with my mom and saying to her, you know, how do you tell somebody something that you know, is going to break their heart? Yeah. Without a doubt, it's not like, Oh, I hope this doesn't affect her. It's, this is going to affect her in a major way. And it is going to affect our relationship, it's going to affect the dynamic that I have with my parents right now. So I sat down with dinner with her. Well, I had it all out, laid it on the table. I had, I went into the conversation, trying really hard to not have any expectations of the way that she was going to respond, because I didn't want to sort of set myself up for disappointment and failure. You know, I'm so sat down with dinner, waiting on the table. At first, I remember her saying, you know, it just seems so saddened to me, you're not one to make a rash decision, you know, like, like, Mom. It's been a year. Since I have decided I want to tell you, so it's definitely a year of me mulling this over officially. But it's been about three, four years in the making, I'd say. So this is where I am now. It was probably the most emotionally draining conversation I have ever had in my life. I told her that in this is just all because of the closeness that we shared. And the foundation of our love, I guess. And I remember, there was two pivotal things. One of the things that and maybe someone out there listening to this is struggling with knowing how or when, or if to tell their parents if that's like a difficult thing. And this is true, just for me, it might be true for someone else. But my mom loves me, my dad loves me. I had to come to a realization of, okay, I know my mom. And I know that I know her heart. And I know that once I share this with her, while it will change our dynamic, she's not going to stop loving me. So there's really and you know, if she does it, my business is none of my business. So I kind of had to had that, quote, unquote, come to Jesus meeting with myself, to use that terminology. And I shared it with her. And at the end of the conversation, I'm a big apologizer I understand that I'm learning that to apologize to Yep, that word sorry, has been a battle for me my whole entire life. And something I'm trying really hard to only say when it is appropriate for me to say. And at the end of the conversation, I said, you know, mom, everything in me right now wants to say sorry for something. But I'm not. And I hope that we can move past this. But, you know, I know you're going to need to take your own time to sort of process and it's new for you. Well, it's not new for me. So that's kind of where we left it. I asked her that she would tell my dad, because I didn't really feel like I felt like I owed it to tell my mom because of our relationship. My dad and I had never really had a super close spiritual relationship. So I didn't really feel like I and I also knew that he would not react the way that my mother did. And he is very my dad is very conservative, very, this is the way that you do it. And if you do it differently from this, then you're wrong and you're stupid. Yeah, so So kind of close minded there. I haven't asked her how he responded. Ultimately, my family's pretty conservative and it is interesting to go from being the perfect child to now kind of watching the vibe of I am the black sheep which I've never been in my whole entire life. But then also, I came to the realization that like we had been saying earlier that night after I shared with my mom, I thought that I was going to immediately feel this sense of like, relief. And my drive home, of course, I was bawling, because I just like, it was like a release for me, but a work home and I was like, why do I still feel just kind of icky. And it was because my brain was diverting to those neurological pathways of I want to please her, I want to please her. And also, I caught myself thinking, I hope she doesn't think a BNC about me, I hope she doesn't think this about me, I hope she doesn't think this about me. And then I got eyebrows like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, it doesn't matter. It does not fucking matter what she thinks about me anymore. I'm my own woman. I am really happy with the woman that I have started becoming right. I love my mom. We love her so much. I love my dad, I love my family. And I know that they loved me in the way that the best way that they knew how. But now I have to kind of remove myself, take a step back and accept that their perception of me has now changed. And it's not in my business, and I can still love them. And I can accept the the secret elbow nudges in the side eyes, and what have you, and what might come when we start having kids and the problems that might, you know, ensued from that dynamic. But I'm so happy with

the trajectory of this deconversion. While it has been incredibly challenging. I don't know, I just would encourage other people that if there are things that they're afraid to sort of tap into or unravel because of fear. Just do it bit by bit, you know, go in a little bit. And you might find that, okay, this is scary, but I'm feeling better. I feel like I'm finding clarity. And it's just interesting to I'm trying to wrap up here, but I think a huge part, not only mentioning, you know, the development of self confidence and just becoming sure of who I am, but my whole 2022 I set out to reconnect with my body. Because there's such a disconnect when you're, quote, unquote, living that Christian in that Christian perspective of, you know, that verse like the the adorning of your body or whatever. The you know, there's so much a highlight on you or your soul. And that's it. And I have lived my entire life in my head. And I I should have mentioned this earlier, but I'm a wellness specialist, I'm I said, I'm a trainer. So my my profession is very much so in the body. And I also just recently got my yoga certification. So I would say yoga has been a huge, huge lifesaver.

It's so incredible, how once I stepped away from Christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself, because beforehand, taking care of myself just meant working on my relationship with the Lord.

Arline  1:19:14  
Anything more be selfish.

Audrey  1:19:16  
Exactly, exactly. And now that I am in, or self care is selfish, you know, that kind of mindset, that kind of dialogue and now that I'm on the complete opposite spectrum, where I actually tell people all day or on how to take care of themselves and remind them to take care of themselves. It's just been it's been great. What else say and it's just, uh, you know, I am every day, sort of unraveling bits and pieces of my past and dealing with them as they come and taking deep breaths and trying not to be angry you And, you know, learning who I am, and tragically beautiful.

Arline  1:20:10  
It's amazing. And that was 28 years. It's been one year, you know, it's a journey. And there's so much to grieve so much to be angry about too much to move past. So I mean, it just, there's not a here's the timeline. And this is how things will work out.

Audrey  1:20:24  
Exactly, exactly. And I am thankful though, that it, it has happened when it has happened because my husband and I don't have children yet. We might kids. But I'm really happy that I am going to be able to, you know, right from the beginning, not have to deconstruct or not have to teach them something that I don't really, you know, believe in anyway. And also, I'm excited to give them the freedom to decide whatever they want to

Arline  1:20:55  
leave it. We homeschool and it's been fun to see like, I used to be really scared of like, Greek mythology, Roman mythology, indigenous wisdom, you know, these ancient stories, because they were so similar to the ones I was supposed to tell them are true stories. Oh, yeah. So we would just kind of like say, there are other stories, and then we would just move on. And now it's like, we can just read anything and talk about it. And it's so fun. And we can we can, we can love all these stories of how the birds used to talk and the animals used to talk and all you know this, God ate this other god and then spit out humans like it's so fun, like, and we can just enjoy it without having to be afraid of any of it or thinking of it's true. We can just and the boys of course, you know, they're going to like anything that says, you know, one God ate another god and then spit out?

Audrey  1:21:46  
Yes, I mean, absolutely. I can't wait like some of the things that I was sheltered from as a child. I cannot wait. Like one thing. This is kind of silly. But Harry Potter not allowing me. Yep, I so to this day, I'm almost embarrassed to say like, I have never watched a Harry Potter movie, maybe one. And I've never read a Harry Potter book. But the reason now I'm holding out because I want to like read them to my kids and experience that for the first time and like, let them love it. Because obviously, it's a great series from everyone and their mother. But he's like that. And even this is, again, another thing that I'm embarrassed about. But I've learned evolution for the first

Arline  1:22:31  
time. I did to I'm a decade older than you Yes, I

Audrey  1:22:35  
understand. That is how sheltered my education was in I was that made me angry. Because how can you choose what you want to believe in if you're not even taught the other part? So that's huge for me is like I am definitely my kids education is going to be well rounded. It's going to be from a Christian perspective, because I think that'd be some damage. So that is another thing that I'm just like, Okay, I went to the museum. I think it's like the Natural History Museum in Georgia. I can't remember it's in Atlanta, but they have like, a fun Fernbank yes, they had this event called Night at the Fernbank. And it was so fun because it's like, they shut down and they serve alcohol. And so it's like you go and you can walk through the museum and just get a drink at each station. I went with our group of friends but I was there like reading everything like guys, this is amazing. And they're all like yeah, pretty cool stuff. We learned it back and didn't know about this faultline in Georgia. How I know that that is someone who's probably listening to this thinking this girl is completely sheltered. But it's true. Like I I didn't have the opportunity. And nor nor did I have the confidence in myself to go and seek out the other people's perspectives. It was I only knew one way and I was too afraid to veer from the one way that I knew. So yeah, all that to say, teach your kids evolution, folks.

Arline  1:24:24  
Audrey, this has been so lovely. I have enjoyed this so much. Thank you. Thank you for telling us your story. This has been wonderful.

Audrey  1:24:33  
Thank you for letting me I hope that this might be helpful to maybe one soul out there. So I I do appreciate thanks for dealing with my ramblings.

Arline  1:24:44  
There will be lots of people who can relate to to a lot of your story. It's it's wonderful. It's always amazing to me. Everybody's story is unique and so many things overlap. So many things. So, thank you again for being on. Thanks for having In

my final thoughts on the episode, Audrey was an absolute delight to speak with. I know her story is going to resonate with lots of people who she's becoming now, realizing that the person she is now is the person she always was. But she was unable to be that woman able to be that little girl. She had to cover up in layers, like an onion, like an artichoke, but like it's being peeled back. And she's realizing who she is. And the confidence she's gaining, exerting her presence, no longer apologizing for just existing, but being able to be her whole self, her true self like, this is an absolutely beautiful thing. And I know that there are so many men and women, women, especially, but also men, who know what it's like to spend decades of your life being somebody else, because that's what God's will is for your life, or that's what your church says is best for you. That's what someone else has put on you. And being able to have the freedom to change and to I guess, unlearn so many things to reveal your true self. That's a good thing. It's a beautiful thing. And the world needs more of those people. And so, again, Audrey, thank you so much for telling your story and letting me be a part of hearing it.

David Ames  1:26:45  
The secular great start of the week is about radical acceptance. I've been thinking about this from last week's guests, Taylor Yoder, this week's guest Audrey and my discussion on the beyond atheism podcast with Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares. A lot of the conception of secular grace comes from some of my experience with 12 steps when I was very young, and my mom was in early recovery. And it was about watching someone tell their story. Sometimes horrifying stories, sometimes stories that talked about really, truly hurting people. And then washing that group of people love and accept that person. And what I'm not saying is that they condone it, they weren't saying it was okay. They weren't saying it was right. They were saying that they loved that person. And they were gonna love them through their recovery process in that context. I'd been pulling that out into secular grace, in the recognition that we as human beings need to feel accepted, to feel loved. And a couple of things that Audrey and Taylor said, Taylor last week said, after she d converted, she realized that, you know, there was no one following her around judging her. And Audrey talked about just the guilt that she felt that constant guilt. And it is letting go of the Christian conception of sin and the guilt and the sense of being judged constantly, not just by God up above, but from the community of faith that you belong to. The experience of coming out of that and being authentically yourself. And this doesn't mean that you don't make mistakes, To err is human. To forgive is also human. It is the human experience that we are not perfect, and that's okay, and we can embrace ourselves and our humanity. Everything about this podcast has been about embracing our own humanity and bracing the humanity of others. Once we have come to a wholeness for ourselves, we can give that away we can be the person who hears the story from someone else and loves them through it. We have some great episodes coming up. We've got community members, and as well as Stacey who goes by apostasy, which I just absolutely love. And then in early March, we have Jennifer Michael Hecht, and we're going to have our four year anniversary podcast where we're going to talk about movies we like that talk about secular grace and deconversion. In fact, if you're out there, send us your recommendations on movies and TV shows that have a element about secular grace or deconversion. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats Do you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show? Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheist United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Taylor Yoder: In the Trenches of Deconstruction and Deconversion

Atheism, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Taylor. Taylor grew up in a small church in a small town, surrounded by Christianity. She had family devotions at home and a private-Christian-academy curricula at school.

By twenty-one, however, she moved out and stopped attending church completely. Her “personal relationship with Jesus” was more important than church-going. 

While watching a loved one live with cancer and then face death, Taylor’s faith gave her hope and meaning, until it didn’t. Depressive episodes came for a while and Taylor knew she needed to get mentally healthy. 

Once her head was “out of the fog,” and she began reading the Bible again, she was shocked at what she read. It had been there all along, but now she could see. “[People said,] ‘Well you just need to dig deeper in the Bible.’ It had the complete opposite effect.”

Now Taylor has let go of many childhood beliefs. She doesn’t have all the answers. but she has peace—a peace that hasn’t come from supernatural help but from doing her own inner work. She is her own savior, no one else. 




Watching online debates

Encouraging myself rather than praying

You are Your Own by Jamie Lee Finch

Genetically Modified Skeptic

Religion for Breakfast



“I feel I am currently in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion.”

“While digging deep to heal my trauma, it got really hard and it is strange to say, the happier and more at peace I became with my healing the more I doubted my faith.”

“This is such a hard time for me but I have found that talking about this out loud is very helpful to me,
as I can not do that often since every single family member I have is a serious Christian.”

“It felt like I really didn’t have to deal with [death and grieving] because I was given this idea that life is just very temporary and the big part of life is going to be after we die…”

“The second I started healing and unpacking stuff, I had the motivation to really look into my faith and my religion and start asking questions…I was like, Wait. I did this on my own. I helped myself, and that’s the only reason I got better.”

“[People said,] ‘Well you just need to dig deeper in the Bible.’ It had the complete opposite effect.”

“Well, that makes sense why [Christians need apologetics] because some of the stuff is awful.”

“I started looking at my earthly father versus my heavenly father, and I was like, The stuff that God is doing and threatening to do, my dad would never do to me.”

“[Not having to have all the answers] gives me the opportunity to keep learning about stuff and also learn from my experiences.”

“Taking all my morals and thoughts from the Bible stopped me from growing as a person.”

“I wasn’t willing to give up my true morals and values just to stay part of that community.”

“Religion really pushed me to be critical of myself…and I was doing that to others.”

“I can mess up as a human without it being this inherently evil thing. I can just mess up and make mistakes and that’s okay.”

“For me, if the Bible wasn’t correct, everything else was just done for me. Whether there was a god or not didn’t really matter…”


Heather Wells interview mentioned in Taylor’s interview:

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 United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my patrons on And thank you to my newest patrons Sharon, Ruby, John and Joseph. If you too would like an ad free experience of the podcast, please become a patron at any level at atheist. The deconversion anonymous Facebook group continues to thrive. We are trying to be a safe place to land to doubt question deconstruct and even reconvert the Tuesday night podcast discussions are now happening on Zoom. So please come and be a part of the community and part of the Hangouts. You can find that at Friend of the podcast Matthew Taylor, who is the co host of still unbelievable was recently on the premiere Christianity podcast unbelievable with Justin Brierley. And he did an amazing job talking about Mike De Virgilio those uninvented. Matthew is stellar in that discussion. I just wanted to shout him out and have you all listen to that episode. I'm going to be featured on the beyond atheism podcast in the next week or two. They were on this podcast in November and they have returned the favor so look out for that episode as well. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Taylor Yoder. Taylor describes herself as being in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. Taylor grew up as a person of faith she had a personal sense of her relationship with Jesus. But watching her father die of cancer, she began to ask more questions. She looks out to apologetics to find those answers, but the answers she found were very weak. And then Trump and ultimately the pandemic took place and Taylor found herself in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. You can find Taylor on Instagram at skeptical underscore heretic. The link will be in the show notes. Here is Taylor Yoder to tell her story.

Taylor Yoder, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Taylor Yoder  2:45  
Thanks for having me, David.

David Ames  2:46  
Taylor, I loved your email to me, you said that you were currently in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. And that's kind of the sweet spot for the podcast. So I'm excited to hear your story. We always begin with what was your faith tradition growing up? And what was that like?

Taylor Yoder  3:05  
So growing up as a child, I went to a church called Maranatha brother in church. And during that time period, I would say like during elementary school years, I was also going to private Christian school. And then my dad was very adamant about, you know, bringing devotionals to like the home and stuff. So every night after dinner, we would have a routine of doing devotions after after dinner, and that that's a constant my life until I moved out. And then when I got a little older, my around middle school, my parents one do switch to public school and they switched to a non denominational church. I think they thought we I think the non denominational church they did because I think they saw at least me I don't know about my brother struggling a little bit. And the first church we're in. So we went to non denominational church. I was good for a while I was excited because I could wear jeans. That was like my first real excitement. I didn't have to dress up anymore. And so that was good at first. Then a little bit into it, it got pretty rough in the way that I had. ended up liking one of the I mean, as much as you can like someone at 13 years old. boy who was the son of the two youth leaders at that church and something I don't really remember it was so long ago when I was so young. I just remember something had happened where like, I guess I didn't really like him anymore and things kind of went awry after that.

David Ames  4:57  
Oh no, you have the audacity to break up with the youth,

Taylor Yoder  5:02  
I didn't know what I was getting myself into that young. But yeah, that was actually the first time the the whole purity culture thing kind of hit me in the face because I got called like a horror and youth group and I didn't know what that meant. Like, I had never, I had never, I never, like, I never knew what that word meant I had, I was like, I don't know, I barely knew boys at that point. But it got bad after that point, because his parents didn't like me, then the whole youth group, he was so involved with the youth group that, you know, they kind of followed his lead type thing. So then eventually, I was old enough to leave the youth group, thank God because I didn't want to be there anymore. And my youngest brother joined the youth group at that point. And I remember he came home and told me like, they told me that I shouldn't grow up to be like you and hopefully I don't grow up to be like you. And I was like, Oh, that's

David Ames  6:05  
nice. Wow, wow, that is so terrible.

Taylor Yoder  6:09  
That was like my first I guess, bad experience with like, the Christian community. But then thankfully, after that, my dad allowed me to pick my own church. So I was able to pick a church, that so my friends went to, and I felt more comfortable. So that was good for me, because I felt like I could feel I felt way more of a connection when I got to pick for myself. Because my dad's role was like, you know, as long as you live in this house, you have to go to church. So I was like, okay, I'm okay. And then I moved out of my parents house around 20, like, 21 years old, I think. And after that, I kind of didn't go to church anymore. Church wasn't really important to me. And I think a reason for that is my dad always emphasize the, like, personal relationship with God. I don't even really know what that means anymore. But like, at the time, I felt like I knew what I meant. Um, so yeah, that's kind of all there was with that.

David Ames  7:10  
So I mean, that's a pretty god awful experience with purity culture, but did you? Like you say, who knows what it actually means a personal relationship. During that time? Did you have a sense of a connection to to God?

Taylor Yoder  7:24  
Um, yeah, I was thinking, Yeah, I think I really did, especially when, when I was moving out, my dad had, um, we found out he had stage four glioblastoma, and that, you know, it was terminal. And that, thanks. And he, and that was, that was hard. But I think at the time, it actually made my faith stronger, because I really clung on to the idea of, you know, seeing him again, and that he was gonna go to like, a good place. And I feel like, in a way, it really put a bandaid on grieving, even like after he passed, it was a big, like, it felt like I didn't really have to deal with it, because I was given this idea that life is just very temporary. And the big part of life is going to be after we die. So I, I feel like what I know now, I would have cherished a lot more moments. Back then, like, while he was sick and stuff, but um, yeah, during that time was hard. And then my mother during that time also had a very bad drug addiction. And during, when my dad was got sick, it was kind of like, this time where we're like, okay, she's either gonna, you know, change and get better for the sake of my father or it's going to explode and it definitely exploded.

David Ames  8:50  
Taylor I, by the way, I can, I can relate. I've got many stories. My mother as well. So very similar.

Taylor Yoder  8:58  
Yeah. I never really had a good relationship with her. It was kind of weird. I lived in the same house with her my whole life, but I, she like, was a mess in her room all the time. But I didn't realize what was going on and tell us about like 1718 Even though I saw her go to rehabs, but I didn't know what they were. I know that sounds strange. But I just, I wasn't aware. I knew something was going on. But I was never really told. But so during that time, when my dad was sick, things got so bad with her that we actually like, I got a townhouse for my dad to live in to kind of hide him from my mother because he had he had gone so long without having any peace in his life because my mom that like, we just wanted to give him the gift of like dying and peace essentially. Okay, so she was like, actively trying to find him and it felt it felt really intense. Like some days it felt cruel, and in other ways were like, you know, he's put up with so much he's done so much in his life that he deserves this type of piece at the end. So that's what we decided. And then after he passed away, I just ended up not like speaking to her anymore at all, I think the last conversation with her was she said, You have to forgive me and you have to keep me in your life or you're not like a true Christian. And that was kind of like the last like straw with it, because I felt like it was another form of manipulation, like attacking my face

so the past like five or six years, that's when it happened. Like about six years ago. I feel like I was just kind of in this weird period where I was super depressed, but I just, that's just kind of how I lived because I was used to it at a certain point, it was just like, my, the standard for me. And then the past, like, couple of years, it got really bad to the point where I was like, Okay, I need to be in therapy, I need to maybe be in medicine or get on medicine. And so I did that. And it was very strange. Because the second I like started healing and like unpacking stuff. I miss had the motivation to look like really look into my faith and my religion. And start asking questions. As in before, when I was really depressed, I felt like I needed that religion, like I needed it to make me feel better. And like now that I was feeling better, I was like, wait, I did this on my own, like I helped myself. And that's the only reason I got better.

David Ames  11:47  
Yeah, and that can be both really empowering and a little bit terrifying. Yeah.

Taylor Yoder  11:52  
Yeah, yeah, it was definitely terrifying. But those past like four or five or six years, I had struggled with it, because I'm, while I'm going to school, I'm also working at Starbucks. So I came from like a really small town. And Starbucks is obviously like really liberal. And I got to work with all sorts of people, all different genders and sexualities, and just everything you could think of. And I felt so strange feeling like I couldn't fully accept the people I was working with, like eight hours a day, every day. And I it didn't feel right to me. So stuff started changing for me in the way that I was like, I was told, like on paper, these are my morals, or these are my values, but I didn't feel that way. And I was like cherry picking to the point where there was like, hardly anything left. And then I realized towards the end, I was like, ashamed to call myself a Christian. I was embarrassed. I can relate. Yeah. I was like, Do I really belong to a community? If I'm embarrassed to say that I'm part of that community? is what I was asking myself. So yeah, that it got to that point. And then so like I said, when I started actually being in a good headspace to investigate about how I really felt because I actually had the energy. I just like, couldn't believe what I was finding, like, I was honestly just researching in the Bible. And people my family had told me that I told them, I felt kind of weird about things. And I didn't really know what was going on there. Like you just have to dig deeper in the Bible. And I was like, Well, okay, but it had the complete opposite of So, yeah, and I just, I felt so I don't know, I felt so shocked. Like, there were so many things I was reading and finding out that I felt so like, I felt like I was crazy. I was like, Why didn't anybody say anything about all of these things that are awful?

David Ames  13:54  
Yeah, you know, I think for a long time, I was aware of, you know, some of the things that were in the Bible that were awful. And I always thought, well, somebody smarter than me, someone else knows how to explain this or like, you know, understands this. And I had very similar experience to you in that when when I went, I finally on my own went to go look for okay, what are these answers? It was just, it was amazing. It was turtles all the way down. You know, there was no substance to it. And like, it was just shocking to discover that.

Taylor Yoder  14:27  
Yeah. And I didn't even know like, I was researching a lot. But I didn't even know what apologetics was like that was I never knew what that was. And I was like, Well, that makes sense why they need that because some of this stuff is like awful. And not only that, but I got really specific into like translations and stuff. And when I started doing that, the whole idea of hell like really fell apart for me because I also was hanging out with my friends when I am one of the one of them it was June one them is Jewish. And I was asking the questions I was like, so why don't if you believe in the Old Testament, why do you why don't you believe in hell? Because hell is in the Old Testament. And he was like, No, it's not. I was like, What do you mean? And he was like, yeah, it's not that was added later. And I just, it's like, it just, that was like the straw that broke the camel's back. I was like, Okay, wow. And then I also thought about, like, how many times I had heard that, like, the Jewish people were God's chosen people. And I was like, if they don't believe this, then how am I believing this kind of thing?

David Ames  15:36  
Yeah. Yeah, that is definitely with hindsight, again, you know, to think about how often Christians oppose Jewish theology. And yet they're simultaneously saying, These are the chosen people. And I, that is just a bizarre, a bizarre way of thinking,

Taylor Yoder  15:54  
right? It's very bizarre. Yeah, so like, when I was researching that, and like, the origins of like, hell, and just different ideas in the Bible, I was like, wow, I was seeing how a lot of it was taken from like, Greek mythology and things like in the New Testament, and that just felt like a kind of, like, people taking ideas from other, like religions or stories, and it, it just, it felt so off, but at the same time going through this thing, and I'm sure a lot of people described this, it was honestly really scary. It was a lot of emotions at once. But the reason I was holding on to faith for I feel like a long time was because of my dad. And my dad was just such a good guy and important person in my life, that the idea that I wasn't sure if I would see him again, or where he was, or what he was doing was really intense for me. And I was talking to a friend about that, actually. And he, he looked at me and was like, Taylor, you're gonna have to grieve your data all over again. And I just like, it came, I came to that realization, I was like, wow, like, you're right. And I really don't want to do that. But like, I feel like I have to. And, but then in that process, also, I felt like I didn't really grieve him the first time because of what I said about, I feel like sometimes Christianity puts the bandaid on grief, where it's just kind of like, this is temporary. Yeah.

David Ames  17:24  
This is a common theme that, yeah, you aren't allowed to grieve the loss, because you have to say all the right things that you know, they're in a better place, and what have you and, and just like you say, then, at some point in time, you experience grief on another level, when you let go of the idea of heaven.

Taylor Yoder  17:45  
Yeah. And that level felt real, because to me before, it was kind of like numbness and some sadness, but the second time felt very real, very deep, intense feelings. But it also felt good to finally feel those feelings, because I think they were there the whole time. But it was hard to feel them with that kind of ideology, I guess.

David Ames  18:07  
I do think that's the point is that, as human beings, we have to grieve, we have to feel the feeling of loss, and experience that and go through it. And when we're masking that when we're pretending, like that's invalid in some way, it doesn't make it go away, it just postpones when that's going to hit you.

Taylor Yoder  18:27  
Right? And like when I feel like when you see other Christians around you being like, it's okay, this is temporary, you're just like, okay, and it's just kind of a like, convincing yourself type thing.

Like along with that, when I was because I had been thinking about my dad a lot during this process, I thought about, you know, what a good dad he was, what a good relationship we had. And then I started looking at my earthly father versus my heavenly Father. And I was like, yes, stuff that God is doing, or the stuff that God had done and is threatening to do, my father would never do to me, I feel like my, my father was like, I felt true unconditional love from him. So I knew what it was like to have a good relationship with my father. So the relationship with God felt like abusive, because it it didn't feel the same. And I also couldn't. I couldn't grasp the understanding of having to fear someone you love like saying that you should fear God and also love him that felt weird and not right to me because I couldn't think of one example in my life where I was afraid of someone and also just love them so deeply. And so like that, that was a big idea. That was like that was a big thought for me growing up was everyone seemed okay with the concept of being afraid of someone and but then Somehow, out of the goodness of their heart, just choosing to love them. And I'm like, but I feel like we just love him because we told him to get out. So it felt Yeah, not genuine.

David Ames  20:10  
Well, and you're being you were being honest with yourself, right? Yeah, I think it's easy to not be honest with yourself and just follow along with what what you're told,

Taylor Yoder  20:19  
right? The whole deconstruction thing was also scary for me, because every single person in my family is a very strong, devout Christian, even like, all of distant relatives, like every single relative that I have. So I was like thinking to myself, Do I really want to go down this path and be the first person in my family to be this kind of giant like, elephant in the room every time we get together, like, I'm the one who doesn't believe. And this was all around the same time. It's like the Christmas and Thanksgiving that just came up. And all of a sudden, us all praying in the same room together felt so strange. I was like, I've done this my whole life. And now it was like, so weird.

David Ames  21:05  
Can I ask, who knows? Have you talked to people? Is that something that you've been public about? Or

Taylor Yoder  21:10  
I'm not really but like, at this point, I'm okay with like, I'm starting to be like, I will only kind of talk about it with people who ask. But um, I talked to it about some with my sister, who's a very devout Christian. And she tried to answer some questions for me, but she was also truthful in the way that she's like, I don't have all the answers for this, which like, I appreciated that. And I did end up getting a debate on Christmas super fun, and with some of my aunts, and my brother, and I did I know my aunt is very devout Christian. So I wanted to know, like, I was curious, it wasn't kind of It wasn't to, you know, say this isn't true. I just wanted to know, you know, her answers for things, but kind of what I feel like I got was a circle of, you know, God is God, I will never understand him. And then I said, well, then can I not question him? They're like, Oh, no, well, you can I'm like, But how, how can I if I will just never understand and write, I just, the questions didn't satisfy anything, it kind of felt like it was just blind faith, which I knew, like growing up, and for some reason, all of a sudden, it was like a shock to me, but it's because I wasn't really like looking into it.

David Ames  22:28  
There's a term for that the discussion ending phrases, like, God is above our ways, you know, like, it just stops the conversation, and it protects the believer from actually having to dig any deeper, right? You can Google this kind of thing, but like there's, you know, lists of those, and you start to recognize them when you're in a conversation with someone. And, you know, it's debatable whether or not you're going to, you know, move that person. But you can recognize it for yourself, ah, this conversation has been shut down, you know, not not take it personally, that it's, you know, it's not about you. It's right there on faith.

Taylor Yoder  23:05  
Yeah, exactly. There are a couple of things that now that I'm starting to realize that there are a couple of things that Christians will say that, that you're right, they're like conversation, Enders, I'm like, Yeah, well, there's nothing else I can say past that, because they don't really want to engage in that type of conversation. And I understand because it's hard, and it's difficult. And I think one thing they struggle with is that I'm okay with not knowing things like they think because I don't believe in God, I'm gonna have an answer for the other things, but I don't, but I, I'm growing a lot more comfortable with that rather than believing in God. Because I feel like either way, I don't know. Anyway, so

David Ames  23:46  
that is incredibly wise. The thing that is so important to understand for the people who are listening that are in the middle of, as Taylor says, the trenches of deconstruction is that the believers will ask you to have a fully formed philosophical argument for non belief or, or what have you. And you don't have to have that you don't have to know you just you can acknowledge that you no longer believe what you've been told, without having a full set of answers that are complete and perfect. And you can then go on to discover what it is that you believe and why and you have time in other words, but the believers in our lives want to say, No, you've got to have you have to have an answer for this. And not knowing is yeah, like that's actually humble and, and realistic.

Taylor Yoder  24:33  
Yeah. And I feel like it gives me the opportunity to always be, like learning about stuff and also learning from my experiences, because I felt like taking all of my morals and values and thoughts from the Bible kind of stopped me from growing as a person because I felt like my thoughts and values and morals were almost kind of always morphing with how much I knew and how much I listened to other people. little interest. And I didn't want that growth to stop. And I felt like if I kept believing in the Bible, it would stop that. And I wasn't really interested in that. And on top of that, my family was very, and I know you hear this a lot in your podcast, but I'm, the Donald Trump thing did change a lot. For me. It was, it was very strange. But it made me realize that was like a realization I had where I wasn't conservative anymore. And I was like, I can't be a part of this. But there's such a strong people act as if there's a really strong relationship between being a Republican and being Christian. So I felt like a fraud at that point, because I'm like, here I am saying, you know, gay marriage is good, and abortions are fine. But I'm also being told I can't really be a true Christian and believe those things. So that was part of it too. And I'm not willing to give up, I guess, I wasn't really willing to give up my true morals and values, just to stay a part of like that community. And that faith.

David Ames  26:09  
Again, the two things over the last six years or so that come up as themes constantly is the acceptance of Donald Trump by the evangelical community. And then the pandemic being away from church and the combination, that one two punch of things has really affected kind of an entire generation of people. And that theme comes up on the podcast over and over again.

Taylor Yoder  26:34  
Yeah, and like, I felt like the one part I did like about Christianity was, was about being good to people and helping people. And it felt like with that type of change with the Donald Trump thing, and some other political things, it felt like there was no room for that anymore. It felt like it was like a us again, or me against the world type of thing. And that's not how I felt. And I was realizing, with discussions with people I was surrounded by that my empathy or wanting to accept people was looked at as such a like weakness. And I felt the opposite about it. So that was definitely really frustrating. But I just, that was difficult. Because I had also, at the same time, I was also volunteering at the rescue mission. And what I saw an experience there was like, the closest I'd ever felt to a type of God was like, actually being able to help and interact with these people and like a sense of community. And that was like, that was huge for me. But it also changed my mind about a lot of things because I'm like this. This is the type of person I want to be, and not what the Christians in my life are telling me that I need to be instead.

David Ames  28:03  
The major theme of the podcast is what I call secular grace. And you've just eloquently described it, that when you were participating, helping other people and you feeling that connection, feeling a part of something bigger than yourself feeling like you were giving that secular grace, right. And then there's nothing spiritual or you know, Transcendence about that. That's just humans being good to other humans. And we get to keep that is the thing I want to say right? After deconstruction, you're a human being, you experience all you experience connection with other people, you experience community, and all of those things are the best parts of what church were, and you get to keep all that.

Taylor Yoder  28:44  
Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, that's, that's also something I struggled with was, you know, being told, as I grew up, and I'm sure a lot of Christians experienced this was like, you know, atheists don't know where to get, or they can't really have good morals, or they can't really pull from anything, because they're not being told to. And that also didn't sit right with me, because I'm like, why do we have to be told to be a good person, like, just so that we don't like, suffer the consequences instead of like, just wanting to. So then my view changed of like, I almost felt like the atheist doing it from the good of their heart were better in a way because they weren't doing it for really any kind of gain. And that's why I felt as well. So that was big for me.

David Ames  29:34  
Again, back to the apologetics. I think another thing that we say on the podcast is, you know, if you want to be good to people, you want to be kind to people and do good in the world. And your justification is Christianity, more power to you go do that. My justification is that human beings have value. So let me go do that right instead of arguing with each other's justifications and in regards to morals, specifically the apologists will say that non believers don't have justification or grounding for their morality. And my point is that neither do they. Right I like I can, I can have the conversation with with that person and point out that they are just as subjective as they're claiming that I am. So like, That conversation is just a waste of time, right? We're all human beings. We're all winging it. We're all we're all figuring it out as we go.

Taylor Yoder  30:27  
Right? Exactly. Yeah, I, I was just a lot more interested in that when it came to the religion. But like I said, the more I was reading the Bible, I saw like less of that it felt like, or, you know, any sort of contradictions to it? Or, you know, and like I said, the the biggest part for me was I'm like studying to go into mental health. And I thought to myself, I'm like, How can I truly be a good therapist, if I have all these biases, and I, and I, I mean, I know everyone has biases. But if I kind of have this judgmental thought process, because I felt like, religion really pushed me to be overly critical of myself, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with like depression and stuff like that, because I was constantly just nitpicking at everything I did. Because I think those kinds of teachings that lead you to think you're inherently bad is going to do that. And then, once I was doing that to myself, I was doing that to others. And I'm like, Can I really accept people and love people and help people with their mental health have this is how I'm thinking of them? And I just felt like the answer was no. I felt like I couldn't be a Christian and also be a good therapist one day, if that's what I end up doing.

David Ames  31:42  
And that's surprising, right? Like, the the expectation is, or what we're told in the bubble, is that you can't love people without Jesus. And so I think part of why this is this process is so difficult is you are discovering that you are able to love and care for people better outside of the bubble without Jesus as it were. Right. And that's surprising.

Taylor Yoder  32:09  
Yeah, it definitely was surprising for me. But then, with all of that, I felt a extreme sense of freedom and like a weight off my back. And the way that I didn't have like an invisible ghost following me around being like, Oh, you did that wrong, you did write that wrong. And I'm like, Oh, my God, no one's following me around anymore. This is great. Like, I can just, I can mess up as a human without it being this like, inherently evil thing. Like I can just mess up and make mistakes. And that's okay. Because I felt like I always was trying my best. But when I did make any kind of mistake, or mess up, it was like this huge thing that I was taught that I was just inherently wicked, and it was sinful, instead of it just being part of being human. And that really took some weight off my shoulders for sure.

David Ames  32:59  
Yeah, absolutely. I don't think Christians appreciate how damaging the concept of sin is. And for anyone who is self critical, or even self aware, that feedback loop can be really, really dangerous. And the dark side of the concept of grace within Christianity is that you have to really lean into I'm a sinner, and that does deep damage to people. And again, one of the difficult parts of deconstruction is letting go of that and accepting yourself as just being human. Right? Right, the extension of that as accepting other people in their humanity flaws, and all

Taylor Yoder  33:37  
right. Another part that it was kind of relieving to me is I never really, I felt as if I never really fit the Christian woman expectation and the way that I never, I was never really big into getting married, I was really never big into getting kids not to say that stuff will never happen. But I think that it'll probably happen later in life for me, and it's not my, like, main goal in life. And then also, I'm pretty stubborn. I'm not a submissive person at all. So I always feel kind of weird, because a lot of women in my life, you know, that was a role like they, I mean, they, they had careers and stuff, but they, you know, the husband was the leader, and you know, having kids was like the greatest gift and stuff and, and it is a great gift. It just, I felt like I was being kind of the odd man out by just like not really caring about those things right now. Because another thing with I feel like that happens with purity culture is people getting married pretty young. And I'm like, Yeah, and I'm like 28 now and I feel like some people in my family are looking at me like, What are you doing? Like? Yeah, and it's hard. It's kind of hard to tell them that I'm not even really trying to do that because it seems like it's It's not right with how I grew up. But so that's kind of difficult.

David Ames  35:04  
Yeah, and again, a very, very common theme of purity culture, damaging people. And two things. One, the immense pressure to get married, especially if you're in a relationship with someone because of sex and the guilt and shame that's put on on you. And a sense of like, you need to be breeding for Jesus kind of thing, you know, is is definitely in that message. That's inescapable as well.

Don't know if you heard a few months ago, my conversation with Heather wells, she wrote a book called trustworthy. And it's her memoir of getting married young and having kids young. And she's kind of describing the flip side of the coin, of your experience of actually doing the thing that she was supposed to do, but also being a very strong woman also wanting to needing to, to lead and felt felt like she was held back and trying to live up to that impossible standard. Yeah, so it hurts everybody, regardless of what you choose, right?

Taylor Yoder  36:11  
Yes, yeah, I've definitely heard a lot of stories like that. And I am glad that I wasn't pressured to the point where I felt like I needed to do that, like right away. Because I feel like my family, they don't really outright say it. It's just kind of like a, you know, reoccurring theme. But then I also started thinking about, you know, if I were to have my own children, how would I want to raise them and stuff like that, and the idea of telling them about hell at such a young age, because I was, I was also thinking about how I was like, wow, in the Christian community, there's no kind of age for you to finally learn about how it's like, as, at least how I grew up is just like, as soon as they can, as soon as they can form a thought you can tell them about it. And I'm like, wow, that's really intense, because they're shielded from Ms. Everything else, at least how I grew up, and then but this like, really massive, terrible thing is like, told to them so early, and I'm like, yeah, that feels wrong. And it feels like something I couldn't bring myself to do. And I also was thinking about, like, if any of my kids you know, ended up being gay or transgender, I'm like, I wouldn't be mad about it. So if I was a Christian, I would have to pretend to care. And I'm not going to pretend to care about it, like, in a negative way.

David Ames  37:32  
In just like you described your relationship with your dad and how much he loved you and was showing you unconditional love. If you choose to have children, someday, you will feel that that just is a thing that happens to us when we have kids. And yeah, it is unimaginable to you know, threaten them with hell or, or make them fearful that just it it doesn't compute. I don't understand how that is a thing, right? But it is it is damaged many, many young people who have grown up with that because kids take it as literal and the adults can have some separation from it. But our five year old can't write five year old that is a real thing. That is a threat waiting over their head.

Taylor Yoder  38:13  
Right. And I also didn't want to be if I had a daughter I also didn't want to teach her that her value as a person is like tied to her purity because it feels it feels so wrong and like I'm already objectifying her at that point. And it I don't know I just I can't imagine doing that. So that's where I'm like if I'm not willing to also raise my children and the like Christian way then I don't really have any business and like staying with something like that. So yeah, along with that was the was the idea given to me that like you know, the unequally yoked thing and not you know, marrying someone who's an atheist and that was always really hard for me because of like, what I said how my values and morals changed I was way more likely to end up with an atheist so the thought of like having to date a Christian man or you know end up with a Christian man was like really stressing me out at that point, because I was like, we're not gonna have anything in common at least. Yes, yeah. Normal Christian man. I

David Ames  39:23  
feel like Yeah, and you know, back to the pressure to be married, often the pool of available partners is very small. Some people you know, they grow up in one church and they never they never leave that church and in they feel obligated to select from that very small candidate pool of people and there's a big wide world out there. Right. You know, like, you know, recognizing what you do and do not like in a partner is a huge part of growing up and becoming an adult and if outside pressure, is is trying to tell you tell you What you like that is doomed to failure?

Taylor Yoder  40:02  
Right? And like, yeah, I, I have definitely seen people like get married because they feel like it's the right thing to do. And they really struggle. And I'm not saying you're not going to struggle, either way, but it's just definitely not a place I wanted to be at. But also I thought I thought about, it seems so normal to me growing up. But I thought about the idea that it's almost like Christians feel like getting married is less of a commitment than having sex or living together. And I was like, this feels all backwards. This feels like you should be doing some of those things before you commit to somebody because that's less of a commitment than marriage. Right? I feel like marriage is like one of the biggest commitments but they want us to do they want us to get married before any of those things. And that terrified me, because I'm like, I don't want to know. I don't want to not know what it's like to live with someone before I get married to them. That sounds awful. It sounds scary. Yeah, it feels like a gamble.

David Ames  41:04  
Again, back to Heather wells, and sexuality, like, you know, you don't know if you, you and that partner or get together well, sexually or not. And that's a big deal. That's a major part of a partnership. And so yeah,

Taylor Yoder  41:17  
yeah, it's funny to me that I feel like, they act like some sexual compatibility is just like a fake made up thing, or they just like, don't even think of it. Like, I've never heard of that. But I'm like, No, it's definitely a very real thing. And I feel like, you know, the struggle, like those struggles can happen, you know, if you get married in the, like, the, the traditional Christian way. And also, one thing I had, I learned about while researching and listening to different stories is like, how hard it can be for couples who you know, stay abstinent stay, like, completely away from sex or sexual thoughts. And they get married later on down the road. And it's like they, they have trouble doing it, or they have trouble getting to a point or being intimate with somebody. And that made a lot of sense to me, because I'm like, you, you tell your body and your brain to completely shut down from those things. And then one day, you're like, Okay, turn back on. You're good. Like, I feel like it doesn't doesn't work that way. So it made a lot of sense to me. Exactly. Yeah, that changed my mind a lot about about a lot of things too.

David Ames  42:29  
I guess I want to ask a couple questions, clarifying Was there a particular moment or not moment, but like a realization that you no longer believe? Did you say to yourself, at some point, I think I'm gonna I'm gonna leave Christianity.

Taylor Yoder  42:44  
Um, so like, like I said, before with my job and stuff, I feel like part of that was a really slow burn in the way that I was. Picking things that I wanted, and like throwing away things that I didn't. Yeah, but when I really did start doing the research is the translations were like a huge thing for me. I don't know why. But like, I was very concerned about if the Bible was translated correctly, and if we were getting the right information, and because for me, if the Bible wasn't correct, everything else was just, it was done for me. Like whether there is a God or not, it doesn't, it didn't really matter, because we didn't know the exact way of how to do things or what he would do or what he was like. So when I started to get into translations and research about it, and then, like I said, with the translation of hell, that's kind of when it was done for me, because I felt like that was the one thing kind of clinging me to it was the idea that I could go to hell. And if you believe in hell, it's an absolutely terrifying place. And even the thought of it, I feel like would keep you in your religion or your face. And if that was kind of falling apart for me, I'm like, Well, I don't, I don't even have to do this. Like, I don't have to do anything I can, I can choose what I'm doing. And that was huge for me. Like I was very happy to learn about the health stuff. So that really helps me out.

David Ames  44:15  
And then it I'm sorry to even go here. But you can say no, this is too deep, but like, how are you feeling about the acceptance of the loss of your dad is the loss of the idea of having more painful, less painful,

Taylor Yoder  44:29  
um, I feel like it was really painful at first and I definitely did have a lot of like hard days and hard nights and I definitely have been like, thinking about him more than ever, but I am not wanting to completely discredit the idea that we'll see each other again, like I have no idea. Okay. So the idea that we might see each other again is there for me and honestly, and then on the other side of the spectrum, if it's just like absolutely nothing. I'm becoming more okay with that because I You know, everybody dies, the end comes for everything. It is hard some days, but in other times I'm like, I don't know, it kind of feels good not to have the pressure because I'm like, what if I go to hell, and he's in heaven and whatever, like, because I feel like Christians like to believe they they know for sure which one they're going to. But even if you believe in it, I feel like most people aren't completely sure, or else that health anxiety and stuff would not be there. So it feels better for it to be unknown, honestly.

David Ames  45:30  
Yeah, it might Yeah.

Taylor Yoder  45:33  
It is strange thinking about, because my dad definitely lived out his life. Like, that was his entire life. So thinking about that can make me upset in the way that he did. Like, everything he thought he should all the time. And that's how I ended up like it ended up for him, which was it was pretty rough at the end. So that kind of makes me angry thinking about it. But you know, that's just part of it.

David Ames  46:02  
And again, Taylor, I'm very sorry for your loss. I know how difficult that must be. Thank you.

I want to hear a little bit about the other side of I know, you're you say you're kind of still in the middle of things, with a bit of acceptance of this deconstruction for you. What is giving you meaning, what is what is been helpful for you on this side of that?

Taylor Yoder  46:32  
Yeah, so like, research for me really helps. I like to, a lot of times, I'd like to hear unbiased things I know nothing is completely unbiased. But I do like to hear from both sides. Like I listened to a lot of debates, that helps me. And I notice a lot of times I will, this is funny, but I will start praying. And I don't even realize I started doing it. Because it was such a habit for me, like, at the end of the night, or like, whatever, I would just start praying. And sometimes when I go to sleep, I automatically start it. And then I kind of stop and I'm like, what are things that I could say to myself that like, encouraged me or make me feel good about where I'm at. And that, I guess it's like a form of meditation. I've never really done meditation, but it kind of feels that way. Just kind of talking myself through things. And that kind of helps, because I feel like I was kind of talking to myself the entire time but, but wasn't really utilizing it. And it's, I feel like it's good to check in with yourself. And now I'm like, actually using it to check in with myself. And I feel like it's extremely beneficial. I also read, I know it's a pretty popular book. Do you are your own by Jamie Lee Finch was pretty good for me. Yeah, just kind of like wrecking, like even just the title got me excited. I was like, wow, I didn't really I always thought of it like, we weren't our own. I even thought about that with my dad. I'm like, well, he wasn't really mine. I can't be upset that, you know, God took him back type thing. But even the title, and the entire book was pretty empowering. Because I'm like, I can, like take things back for myself and choose. Like for myself, which was a pretty big deal for me. And I was pretty excited about that. Very cool.

David Ames  48:23  
Taylor, thank you for telling your story. This is this has been amazing. I think, as I said at the beginning, this really is this kind of the sweet spot of the podcast, I think a many, many people are going to relate to your story. Do you have any recommendations you have for us?

Taylor Yoder  48:40  
Yeah, I am. Like I said, I kind of like listening to like factual things. So there are two YouTube channels I really liked the one is genetically modified skeptic and the other one is religion for breakfast. Sometimes they're not all about Christianity, but they're very good if you're like wanting to do so stuff on the research side of things. So I found that really helpful. And then but besides that the born again, again, podcast, I know that they're like, done with that now, but just read or listening through that really did help me because they were also like a younger couple. So that helped me too. And then like, just being very honest and transparent was pretty helpful.

David Ames  49:19  
Those are great recommendations. Taylor, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Yeah, thank

Taylor Yoder  49:24  
you so much for having me.

David Ames  49:30  
Final thoughts on the episode. I really appreciate Taylor's story. I think the loss of a loved one the loss of a parent is incredibly impacting and she had the added worries of mental health and drug issues with her mother and trying to protect her father from that in his last days. My heart really goes out to her how difficult the time that must have been. I'm struck As always at how the most faithful look to apologetics to find answers and how unsatisfying, apologetic arguments are. That is that doubling down impetus to Jesus harder and make it work to keep the plates of faith spinning. For many people, it is inevitably leading towards deconstruction. deconversion Taylor story also includes the impact of purity culture, both on herself and people that she knew the role of women was a ridiculous restraint for her. We continue to hear from people who have been devastated by purity culture. Her story of participating in feeding the homeless, and experiencing community and awe was a perfect demonstration of secular grace. That is exactly what secular grace is, it is loving and caring for people and feeling that sense of belonging within a community. And Taylor exemplifies that quite well. My favorite part about this interview is Taylor describing the huge weight lifted off her back and the freedom that she felt, she says, I didn't have an invisible ghost following me around telling me how I had done things wrong. She said, No one is following me around anymore, I can mess up as a human without it being this inherently evil thing, I can just mess up and make mistakes. And that's okay. Reminder that Taylor has an Instagram called skeptical underscore hair tech find her there, the link will be in the show notes. I want to thank Taylor for being on the podcast for telling her story, and sharing with us being in the trenches of deconstruction and deconversion. And surviving. Thank you, Taylor. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is the surprising nature of the human ability to love. In the conversation with Taylor, that topic came up. It is only surprising because Christianity tells you that you cannot love people without Jesus. And yet Taylor's description of recognizing that she couldn't be the therapist or the type of therapist that she wanted to be, and be a Christian because she would be judging the people instead of actually caring for them. It is that recognition on this side of deconversion that we can embrace our humanity for ourselves, we can embrace the humanity of everyone around us, and in all of its beautiful diversity, without having to feel like we are obligated to judge. And as I pointed out in the conversation, that is surprising if you grew up in the bubble of evangelical Christianity or some other traditional faith tradition. And the main thing I want to get across here is that religion doesn't own grace. Religion does not own gratitude. Religion does not own all, religion doesn't own community. And if you really want your mind blown, Christianity doesn't own Jesus. By looking critically at the words of Jesus in the New Testament. We can take what we want, and leave the rest. Coming up, we have a number of community members. In early March I'll have the episode with Jennifer Michael hacked about her book, The Wonder paradox, as well as our four year anniversary, which is officially March 14, but we will release an episode on March 12. Just celebrating the four years of the podcast. And after that we have our Lean interviewing David Hayward, the naked pastor, really looking forward to that. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Three Yous

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Grace, Thought Experiments

Imagine a genie walks (floats? sidles?) up to you and says, “See that guy over there? Yeah, the 80-year-old that looks like he’s having a great time. If you say yes, I’ll make him sad and lonely, riddled with guilt, obsessing over the past. So, shall we?” How would you react?

Assuming you react with disgust or shock, why is that? Seems obvious: It would be awful to do that to someone.

Or try this: someone walks up to you on a playground and says, “See that mom over there? She used to yell at her kids, like super angry stuff. You should go over there and tell her to undo it.”

That’s also inhumane, but why? Again, seems obvious: she can’t do anthing about it. Plus, she’s doing better now. It’ll do a lot of harm, and what good would it do?

Now imagine the 80-year-old guy is your future self, or the mom is your past self. We do those things to ourselves all the time. We beat ourselves up over the past, even though we’re doing better. We shortchange ourselves now, laying the foundation for sadness and loneliness in the future.

For that reason, I like to think of myself as three different people: past Jimmy, Jimmy, and future Jimmy.

With past Jimmy, I try to be kind. An arm-over-the-shoulder, kindly uncle to my past self. Sure, past Jimmy screwed up, but he knows it, and he’s working to do better. Plus, you see how much progress he’s made? Cut him some slack, present Jimmy!

With future Jimmy, I try to be kind. I invest in friendships, knowing that friendship is key to human flourishing. I try to do healthy things, knowing that future Jimmy is the one who’s going to pay for today.

In the end, all we have is right now. The past is unchangeable and the future is unknowable.

I like how James Clear put it, though he’s coming from a self-help perspective:

Be forgiving with your past self.
Be strict with your present self.
Be flexible with your future self.

Being forgiving with your past self sounds pretty healthy to me.

– Jimmy

PS – I literally speak in the third person about past and future Jimmys. (Jimmies?) Try it! it’s weirdly helpful.

You Can’t Change the Past

Blog Posts, Deconversion, Philosophy, Purity Culture

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

Meditations 3.10 (Hays)

One of the hardest things about deconverting is coming to terms with the fact that there’s so much time already spent: time spent doing what now seems like a complete waste; time spent not doing the things that seem to actually make up a life. So frustrating. Such a waste. Why did purity culture have to happen when I had youth and energy? Why did I spend that youth and energy building up hangups and trauma around sex? Why don’t I know how to have friends?

It’s like Plato’s allegory of the cave was somehow tangled up with that urban legend about waking up after a party, missing a kidney. Or does that metaphor only work for me?

And it’s harder the later in life you deconvert.

One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to accept that the past is gone. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I can do to get it back.

Easier said than done.

First, why is it helpful? If I know I can’t do anything about the past, I can shift my focus on the present moment. The present moment is something I can do something about. Sure, I can learn from the past, but when it comes to making choices, what matters is the here and now.

Even better, if I accept the past as unchangeable, I can be kind to myself, cutting myself some slack for the road ahead.

A thought experiment to take away: What if you were dropped into your current situation? What if you were unceremoniously plopped into the body, memories, life, history, and family of someone else in this situation? What if you knew it wasn’t your life? What would you do? Would you do anything differently? Would you feel differently about the past? How?

– Jimmy

PS – I asked one of these new AI programs for a suggested title for this post. My favorite: “From Kidney Theft to Puritan Lessons: Surviving Unappreciated Time.” …success?

Rachel Hunt: Recovering From Religion

Deconstruction, Deconversion, doubt, Podcast, Secular Therapy, Volunteerism
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Rachel Hunt. Rachel is both the Support Group Director and an Ambassador for Recovering From Religion.

From her RFR bio, “Rachel is a motorcycle-riding ballroom dance teacher from rural Texas. Married with two adult children, Rachel has a strong interest in psychology, philosophy, and communication, in addition to the creative arts and home improvement. She was raised in Christian Science but drifted off as a teenager. She explored Scientology, Law of Attraction, and a variety of Protestant churches before settling comfortably into atheism.”

Rachel shares her personal story and how Recovering from Religion is serving people all over the world.


24/7 RfR hotline: 84-I-Doubt-It (844-368-2848 )

Recovering From Relgion

Secular Therapy Project


“It is because people in religious communities are taught to suppress them [doubts] or hide them.
Everybody around you could be doubting but you will never know it because they are afraid to show it to you.”

“What I find, the more I do this, is that people just need someone to listen and not judge and not tell them they’re wrong.”

“The more I learned about science and evidence and developed my critical thinking skills, the more I realized: This just doesn’t make sense.”

“[Religious people] will sell you the snake oil to what ails you. They know what people want and need, and they’ll just promise it. They have absolutely no evidence that they can provide it, but that doesn’t stop them from promising whatever you want.”

“A church shouldn’t be the only place you can go where people are nice to you.”

“Critical thinking is a just thing that people lack, even in general society. But religious organizations…[they] really consider faith and childlike gullibility to be virtues…”

“[At Recovering from Religion,] our job is to meet you where you are and to help you get to where you want to go…”

“Changing the way you think doesn’t automatically change the way you feel.” 

“Refusing to have boundaries and refusing to respect that your body needs…autonomy. It’s almost like taking the doors off of your house and telling yourself that it’s your responsibility to let anybody who wants to, to walk through and take whatever they want. It’s damaging.”

“As bad as all these issues are, just having someone to talk to—who understands and may have experienced something similar—is so healing. So soothing.”

“You can self-gaslight.”

“The reasons to believe are so ephemeral. They’re all social and behavioral.” 


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 United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Thank you to all my patrons on If you too would like to have an ad free version of the podcast become a patron at any level at atheist. Please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group where we are trying to provide a safe place to land to doubt to question and be supported. You can find that at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Rachel is both the support group director and an ambassador for recovering from religion. Rachel's bio says she's a motorcycle riding ballroom dance teacher from rural Texas. Married with two adult children Rachel has a strong interest in psychology, philosophy and communication. In addition to her creative arts and home improvement, she was raised in Christian Science but drifted off as a teenager, she explored Scientology law of attraction and a variety of Protestant churches before settling comfortably into atheism. We get to hear Rachel's personal story, we get to hear about the beginnings of recovering from religion, the beginnings of the secular therapy project. And I will note here that recovering from religion provides a 24 hour hotline you can call eight four, I doubt it. That is 844368 to 848. Or you can make a web call on their website at recovering from If you're in the middle of a crisis of deconstruction, doubt deconversion give them a call reach out they can support you. Here is Rachel hunts to tell her story. Rachel hunts Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Rachel Hunt  2:13  
Thank you so much. It's great to be here.

David Ames  2:15  
Yeah, thank you for reaching out. You are the Support Group Director for recovering from religion. And I think that you all are doing just amazing work. I'd like you to just introduce us briefly about what recovering from religion is and a little bit about yourself. And then we're gonna jump into your personal story thereafter.

Rachel Hunt  2:34  
Absolutely. Recovering from religion is a nonprofit organization that our mission statement is really simple. We're here to provide hope, healing and support to individuals struggling from issues of doubt and non belief or from religious harm. So we basically have a range of programs that are designed to just give people someone to turn to when they don't know what to do. Man,

David Ames  3:00  
I know, I've talked to so many people who talk about how lonely this is. And it really can be. Yeah, it's great that you all are there. We'll dig into lots more in more depth here in a bit about what you all are doing. But I want to hear just briefly about your story like, like, did you have a religious background? And did you go through a deconstruction or deconversion process?

Rachel Hunt  3:23  
I did for me, it was kind of slow. I remember having doubts when I was very little. In fact, one of my earliest memories about religion was being in Sunday school when I was maybe seven or eight. And I just kind of piped up and said, Hey, this idea just popped into my head. Why? How do we know there's a God? The the look that I got from the Sunday School teacher told me all I needed to know that that is not the place that you find those answers. You're not supposed to ask that kind of stuff in church. And, you know, from then on, I would I would kind of be, you know, I tried to do what they told me to do. And I tried to understand and the older I got, and the more I learned, the more I realized it just didn't make any sense. My background is a little bit different from some of the others that you hear because I was raised in Christian Science, okay, which isn't unusual religion. Most people if they've heard of Christian Science at all, they have heard of some of the more extreme stories where maybe people, you know, had severe health issues and their community or their family did not take them to the appropriate resources. And they, you know, had some sort of very dramatics into that story. And I never witnessed anything like that. In my church, most family, most families had at least one or two family members that were not members of Christian Science, and they would just sort of insist that, you know, if you have a broken bone, you go to the hospital, the only things that really made us different from my peers were that we did not get vaccinated at a time when almost everybody else did and evacs was not a thing. This was in the 70s and So, you know, it was really it wasn't a big deal because there was herd immunity. So we never got sick because everyone around us was vaccinated that didn't cause this problem. And then also, my mom gave me a religious exemption to biology class in high school. Okay? You even now, to this day, sometimes I'm like, why don't I know the difference between a phylum and a family? And I go, Oh, yeah, cuz I didn't take biology.

David Ames  5:28  
Interesting. Very, very interesting. Yeah.

Rachel Hunt  5:31  
The weird thing about Christian Science is that it was it was founded by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy. And she was she fancied yourself an intellectual. She was part of the new thought movement of the turn of the century around the end of the 18th century. 1800s, beginning of 1900s. And, you know, people like Norman Vincent Peale, and Wallace Wattles, she was she was part of that group where they all decided that you can just control the universe with your brain, right? And she derived her, you know, inspiration from the Bible. She wrote another book called Science and Health with key to the Scriptures. And it's all about healing, basically, right? But it wasn't like that charismatic healing that you see, like with Evangelicals today, it was more like, oh, just pray and read your Bible and hear these passages from science and health and read those and you'll feel better, you just have to change your thinking so that you can see the world the way God sees it. And while pain and suffering will disappear, no. And of course, it works a little for minors,

David Ames  6:34  
right? Yeah. Yeah, the placebo effect is a thing. Yeah.

Rachel Hunt  6:38  
Yeah, it does. So you know, but the more I learned about science, and just, you know, evidence and develop my critical thinking skills, the more I realized, this just doesn't make sense. So I stopped going to church, as soon as my mom, let me, but that didn't solve all my problems. Life is still hard. And there are still many, many people that will tell you with great confidence that they have the answers and that they don't have any stress and worry, because they have God in their life, including many people that I admire greatly. Yeah. So you know, my mother is still very religious. And she's just one of the most serene people I've ever met. But I just couldn't buy into it. So I kept looking for other things. Like New. You know, what people do that. I tried other churches, I tried Scientology. That was an adventure. Again, I did not encounter any the really extreme stuff, but it's, you know, it's different. It's kind of, they present themselves as kind of an alternative to psychology. And so I looked into it, I'm like, well, maybe this will help me feel better. You know, I'll try that. Moc just didn't work. So, you know, I moved on, I tried law of attraction. I did. I was really all into that for a while till I realized it was clearly confirmation bias. Yes, yeah. It took me a while to figure that out. Yeah. Yeah. You know, and, and after a while, I discovered the atheist community, and I go, Oh, that's me.

David Ames  8:06  
interested? Yeah. You know, I think you've tapped into something there of just the, you know, as human beings, we, I mean, you know, the existentialist that's all they were writing about us, you know, we have this Melis that we can't identify, you know, and, and there are various religious organizations that are just ready to weave out the answer for that. And you know, you don't feel quite comfortable, we know why I'm here. Oh,

Rachel Hunt  8:29  
absolutely, they will, they will sell you the snake oil to what ails you, you know, they know what people want and need, and they'll just promise it, you know, they have absolutely no evidence that they can provide it that doesn't, you know, that didn't stop them from just promising whatever you want to do that, you know, draws a lot of people in,

David Ames  8:48  
for sure. And then just the love bombing concept of, you know, people who are lonely and then all of a sudden, here's, you know, 20 people who are saying that they love you, and they, they bring you up a potluck mate. And for some people that may be the first time they've experienced that, and it's manipulative in a way it is.

Rachel Hunt  9:05  
And it's, it's really fun in our society, that people have to go to a church to get something like that. Church shouldn't be the only place you can go where people are nice to you. And unfortunately, it's short lived, right? I've never walked into a church where people weren't super nice and welcoming. But then, you know, after a while, it starts to become apparent that that love is conditional. You eventually have to profess that you believe what they believe. And you have to behave the way they want you behave and dress the way they want you to dress and do all the things they asked you to do, otherwise, you are no longer part of their organization. And it's it's really sad when people discover that after they've invested a lot of emotion into it,

David Ames  9:46  
you know, something that I've been trying to articulate recently is is that there's such a community or or social aspect and you know, that beliefs kind of are tied to the social group, and even your description of being in Sunday school and having a Yeah, you know, an unorthodox thought, as a child, you would recognize, oh, that's out of bounds. You know, I'm not allowed to say that. And so those kinds of things are socially enforced. So even if you're new to the, the spiritual religious community, you learn very quickly what you can and cannot say what's allowed. What's not?

Rachel Hunt  10:16  
Oh, absolutely. They don't even have to say it out loud. Just the look on someone's face, or even just a silence and the fact that no one agrees with you. I mean, that's really very powerful. And, you know, I was a young child, and I picked up on that. And, you know, it's not subtle, you know?

David Ames  10:39  
One last personal question. Did I see in your bio, that you focus on philosophy a bit,

Rachel Hunt  10:44  
I enjoy philosophy, I have a few philosophy classes in college, I didn't finish college, so I didn't, you know, major in philosophy or anything that I like it. And I did, I remember having a class, my first philosophy class 101, I was 18 years old. And it's so funny how, to me it was so obvious. We're there to study ideas, were there to study what people thought and why they thought it and what we think of it now and, and people just could not wrap their brains around it people raising their hands going. But Aristotle can't be right, because that's not what it says in the Bible. Yeah, it was so strange to me that people were absolutely incapable of understanding that we were just exploring ideas, and there can be more than one thought about the same subject and was insane. To me.

David Ames  11:31  
It's interesting, we might circle back to this, one of the things that I think is an issue that as a secular, a more pluralistic society that we need to, to worry about, and I think this is not new, right? This is all a philosophy kind of deals with this is that as we become more secular people can be susceptible to variations on on, you know, these, as you said, snake oil kinds of things. And I think a philosophy of religion, as a kind of a base part of education would be very important that we recognize, we learn what other people have thought in the past what other people have said in the past, as almost an inoculation against what someone might say in the future, that kind of thing. You're

Rachel Hunt  12:11  
absolutely right. I've noticed that. You know, on the Helpline at recovering from religion, we get a lot of people calling for a lot of reasons. But one of the things that is I've noticed lately that really bothers me is young people, maybe 1314 years old, they go online, they find some Christians screaming about how the world is about to come to the end, and you must get Jesus or you're gonna burn in hell forever. And these kids, maybe were never religious, they weren't raised with these ideas. But they are terrified. And they're contacting us going, is it true? Is it real? What Why are they saying this? And they get, you know, they get just as traumatized as anybody that was, you know, suffered from some sort of abuse because they're so scared, and they have no defense against it. It doesn't even occur to them that someone maybe just made it up. Yeah, no.

David Ames  12:57  
And I realize we're a bit far afield here. But also, I just think it's relevant for our moment in history with the disinformation misinformation, even non religious aspects of that.

Rachel Hunt  13:08  
Critical thinking is a big thing that people lack, just in general in society, but But religion, a lot of religious organizations, particularly the high control ones, really de emphasize education. They almost villainize it, they consider faith and childlike gullibility to be a virtue, you know, obedience. These are all things that you want from someone they want to control. And when you teach people that it is wrong to lean on your own understanding, it is wrong to seek out external sources of validation, then people just absolutely do not develop their critical thinking skills. So many of our clients who, you know, come to us, you know, just trying to figure out how to live their lives without religion. They'll ask us for resources on developing a critical thinking because they just don't know how to decide what's true. They have never done it before.

David Ames  14:01  
And then I'm sure that you've seen in your support groups, something that I've seen, it's the, that people come out of this and they they doubt themselves, that takes a long time for them to trust their own kind of internal communication. And, you know, they've been taught all their lives that you're wrong, you know, you're Yeah,

Rachel Hunt  14:19  
yeah. Yes, yes, that you're sinful and broken and that you are nothing without God, you're nothing without this community. You can't possibly accomplish anything on your own. You're, you're not capable of understanding things by yourself, we hit you have to be told what to believe. These are, it gets even more than that. It's not just that you're not capable of doing things but that you are fundamentally unworthy of love. You have to earn your place in the world. And that's incredibly damaging. You know, religion isn't the only place people absorb that message. Obviously, capitalism tends to do the same thing. You know, you're not worth anything unless you can contribute to it. You know, some somebody's pocketbook or, you know, you know any, anybody that's been the victim of any sort of abuse gets that same message that they're unworthy and unlovable and it's a horrible way to have to live. It's just a horrible feeling.

David Ames  15:15  
I don't know how much you know about the podcast, but I started it with a few ideas. And you know, almost immediately, what I found was it was just kind of a landing place for people to talk about the trauma they have experienced, which wasn't my personal experience, it surprised me. It's something that I learned in the process.

My understanding that is that recovering from religion started with Dr. Darrel Ray, because he was seeing these kinds of trauma responses from people, and that that just barely existed as a thing. I want to talk just a little bit about what recovering from religion does, how people can access it, and then really want to get to the specifics of what you're doing with your support groups.

Rachel Hunt  16:01  
Okay, great. Yeah. It's a great story, how recovering from religion developed, Dr. Darrel Ray was an organizational psychologist, he'd written a couple of books about teamwork, and I actually have him on my shelf here. And then he wrote a book called Sex and God. And he wrote another book called The God virus actually can't remember what order he wrote those and but, but he got a lot of emails from people who had suffered religious harm and wanted to talk to him about it. And so he said, I think there's a need for people to, you know, receive some sort of, you know, support for this. So he, he, I believe it was about 13 years ago, he just created an event for people to come and talk to him and an IOP, he say, just invited some people and said, Hey, you want to come talk about religious trauma. And he got 11 People at the first meeting, this is in I think it was in Kansas City. And so from then on, that's how the support groups got started. It's actually the oldest program of recovering from religion is the support group program. Yeah, so from then on, I mean, then he created this nonprofit and and now we've got the helpline, and we've got an online community, and we've got a podcast, and we've got a YouTube channel and a blog. And, you know, it's a huge, pretty big organization, and now we're worldwide, you know, but it's, it's funny how you don't even realize how much you need something like that until it exists. And then you go, Oh, my gosh, where's this? Ben? Yeah, exactly. So many people that we've spoken to who deconversion, before recovering from religion existed, you know, really say that they wish it had been around for them, because it's can be very lonely trying to do this by yourself.

David Ames  17:46  
Exactly. And I do want to just mention really quick, you mentioned the hotline, I don't remember the number off the top of my head, I'm sure you do. Maybe give that out to people. Yeah. So you know, listener, you know, if you find yourself in in need, you need somebody to talk to in the immediate, there are someone on the other end of that phone line, who can talk to you. And I think that's super valuable work that you guys are doing there?

Rachel Hunt  18:06  
Absolutely. We do try to man that helpline, 24/7 obviously, that we're all staffed by volunteers, that 100% volunteer organization. So sometimes you may try to call and no one answers, but please just keep trying, because we do have a lot of people that want to help you.

David Ames  18:24  
So the support groups begin with Dr. Ray, just having a few people at an IHOP Oh, that sounds amazing. I constantly I said that all the time of like, you know, if people want to do something in this space, you know, just set something up on And people will show up. I think that's really that's really interesting. Yeah, talk to me about how that has developed and what the support groups look like these days.

Rachel Hunt  18:45  
Well, I haven't been around for the whole thing. So I can't tell you all the details of how we got from point A to point B. But I can tell you that during COVID, the support demand for support groups and a willingness to or an ability to volunteer really exploded. So we had, we have each of our support groups this numbered. So we have 6870 support groups. Now I should have looked that up before I talk to you, I think we have 70. But many of those have gone inactive because the people who were volunteering during the pandemic had to go back to work. And so some of those have gone inactive. But we do still pay for all of those meetup groups. So if there is a meetup in your town, you will find it by going to And even if we the group itself is inactive, there will be links to a lot of our virtual support groups.

So when I took over the support group program in March of 2021, yeah, I guess that's what I want. No, it was March of this year, March of 2022. Sorry. There were a lot of inactive support groups, and there was demand for some specialty support groups. I guess I should mention that, you know, most of those support groups did go online, they were all originally in person, they all went online during the pandemic, and now, we only have five that have gone back to in person, okay, so there might be an in person group near you, there might not be. But more and more of our support group leaders are considering going back to in person. So that is not out of the range of possibility, you know, that will happen. And of course, you know, we can provide more support groups, if we have more volunteers, that's the bottleneck. So, if you are interested in volunteering, go to recovering from And there's a thing on there that tells you what it's all about. And we go through an interview process and a training process, and there's lots of support, and we definitely need you if you are willing and able to do that.

David Ames  20:54  
Yeah, for sure. We will, we will make a big deal about this. I constantly have people asking, you know, how can they, again, do something without never really knowing what answer this definitely sounds like a practical aspect that that they could they could do?

Rachel Hunt  21:08  
It is and we we have a nice community within our volunteer group too. And, you know, that can be really powerful. I remember, you know, I've tried volunteering for a few different types of organizations, you know, and I even did local politics, and oh, my gosh, that is so frustrating. I can't. With politics, you just can't even imagine. Politics and politics, it's just me and personal. And just like nothing ever gets done so bad. So, you know, I just bounced around looking for things. And when I discovered recovering from religion, and I looked into the volunteer training, the community is just so I mean, you know, we talked about love bombing, it's not love bombing, they're just nice. And they're just fun and funny, and they really need you and appreciate you. And there's a there's so much flexibility in how you can volunteer, there are lots of different ways you can do it. And you can kind of create your own schedule and do what's comfortable for you. And if something comes up and you can't do it anymore, it's no big deal. And, you know, it just gives you people to talk to you about things that you care about that care about the same things. And anyway, I just really enjoy it. I stopped going on Facebook, and now I'm just I talk to my volunteers all the time.

David Ames  22:30  
Yeah. I hear you definitely we, we've started a community as well. And like that has provided a lot of what I was missing personally. Yeah.

What are some of the things that people come to recovering from religion with and or discuss in the in the support groups? Like, what are the kinds of ways this presents itself to people?

Rachel Hunt  23:01  
That's a great question. A lot of times when people first come to us, either in a support group or on the helpline, they're just, they're just lost and upset. And they're almost to the point of not even being coherent. You know, they're just like, I don't know what to do. I be so confused. There's pressure on all sides. I don't you know, I don't know if I should tell people if I should not tell people, I don't know what I believe, I don't know what to call myself. I don't know, you know, how to live my life. It can be really disorienting. But, you know, once we start talking to them, we're normally able to break down their issues into some some fairly clear and common challenges. You know, one of the challenges is, if you're beginning to doubt, do you tell the people around you who seem to so strongly believed you tell them that you're doubting? You know, sometimes it's as easy as, hey, I'm not sure how I feel about that. And you can have a discussion with someone because they're open minded. Sometimes it's absolutely unacceptable to question at all and you know, that, just as we were saying, you know, if that were your community, or family or churches, you know, that and you have to sort of do your study and secret because you can't, you're not allowed to tell anybody that you're even considering doubting. So there's, you know, what to do about your relationships is a big deal. There's How do I figure out what to call myself? Am I an agnostic and my spiritual but not religious? And like Christian, but not evangelical? Am I, you know, am I an atheist? Those labels, we don't think they matter that much. We want you to, you know, whatever you believe is what matters. And we want to help you figure out, you know, help you sort through your mind and your thoughts so that you can figure out what you believe we're not here to tell you what to think. But we can offer you some definitions like you know, what do people usually mean when they say they're agnostic? What do people usually mean when they're say say they're atheists, but really, the labels are not that important. The secular community is pretty open

David Ames  24:59  
on that. notes, I know that you all are going to try to make it very clear that you are not in the business of D converting people that, you know, if you're a believer and you're questioning, you can still come to recovering from religion, express those doubts, and nobody is going to try to convince you to change your mind. Right?

Rachel Hunt  25:15  
Absolutely, thank you for saying that it is true that most of the volunteers are formerly religious, no longer religious, a lot of us are atheists, but, but we are training is very clear on that. On that point, our job is to meet you where you are, and to help you get where you want to go. And sometimes what people want is just to feel better about the fact that they doubt a little bit, but they don't want to leave their community, they don't want to leave their church, they're not really changing their beliefs, they just want to, they just want someone to tell them that they're not crazy for having questions. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, sometimes people come out of a very extreme religious group, and they still want to be religious, they just need a church that's going to be more welcoming for them and not so controlling, we can help with that, you know, we can send you someplace, that's not going to be so difficult, you know, occasionally we get people that, you know, are offended that we exist at all, you know, don't like the idea that somebody might possibly need to recover from religion, and, you know, but, but most most of those people don't Don't cause a problem. Another really big issue that people have is mental health issues. A lot of times, religious organizations try to fix you through prayer, they, they, they try to, you know, they like to believe that God can cure anything, and that if you are not cured, yet, it's because you didn't have enough faith, or they want to send you to a religious counselor who's going to tell you to pray, and you need more Jesus in your life. And that's why you're bipolar, you know, they, you know, they don't diagnose you, and they don't really treat you. And that can be a problem. And another big thing that can last for years, sometimes if it's not properly addressed is fear of hell, or, or Armageddon or fear of dying. These are things that people are taught in religion, this is real, and then it's going to happen and, and when your brain has grown around those fears, it's very, it doesn't just go away, because you change your beliefs, you know, changing the way you think doesn't automatically change the way you feel.

David Ames  27:21  
I throw rapture and anxiety in there as well. People have legitimate anxiety about that. Yeah,

Rachel Hunt  27:27  
absolutely. Rapture is another thing that we get sometimes people that were not even religious before, you know, seeing something online and getting scared, you know, was the rapture happening? Well, you know, it hasn't. Yeah, we know, they've been wrong every time so far. So what do you get? That? Yeah, yeah, those are really common, we get a lot of issues with people who are in the LGBTQ plus community. And, you know, they really wanted to be, you know, good Christians, or, you know, good Muslims, or, you know, whatever religion they were raised, and they, they want to comply with what their community wants from them, but they're just simply not capable. And it was so harmful to them, when they are constantly told that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. And that the only way that they can be accepted is to just change who they are. And they, you know, that's really difficult and harmful. And a lot of times that'll be the pathway out of religion for people's well.

David Ames  28:27  
I imagine beyond just LGBTQ is just purity culture in general that we've got. Oh, yeah. I think this is the thing that I was surprised. You know, I'm Gen X. And I've just got a ton of millennials who are just suffering from that 90s era, kiss dating goodbye purity culture. And it just really hurt people.

Rachel Hunt  28:46  
Yeah, it's so bad. It's so bad. I mean, there are people who, you know, did everything they were supposed to do, they did everything they were told, and then they get into a marriage that is, you know, they love their spouse, but they just cannot figure out the sex thing. They just it's so consumed with shame. And they just don't know how to make it work. And it's terrifying for them. And if you happen to discover that you need something different sexually than what your partner needs, nobody wants to help you, you know, and especially if you're, I mean, I don't know, maybe it's, it looks different from the male perspective. But what we hear a lot, particularly in our women's group is that is that women are just taught to please the man, it's just your job. And your pleasure is secondary, if at all. Sometimes the idea of women enjoying sex is, you know, bad, like if you enjoyed it's bad. You know, you're only supposed to do it to please your partner and and you are required and expected to do whatever he wants. Whether you like it or not. That's just your job.

David Ames  29:47  
Yeah, that's so ripe for abuse there. Yeah,

Rachel Hunt  29:51  
absolutely. Absolutely. And even if your partner isn't abusive, it's you're almost abusing yourself by refusing to advocate for yourself You know, refusing to have boundaries and refusing to respect that your body needs some sort of autonomy. You know, it's just incredible. It's almost like, it's almost like just taking the doors off of your house and telling yourself that it's your responsibility to let anybody who wants to just walk through and take whatever they want. You know, it's, it's just damaging.

David Ames  30:22  
Yeah, that's a painfully accurate analogy.

Rachel Hunt  30:24  
Yeah, it's, it's really, it's bad. The good news is that as bad as all these issues are just having someone to talk to who understands who may have experienced something similar, is so healing, and so soothing, and, and so helpful for people.

David Ames  30:43  
Yes, absolutely. Yeah. It's so it's such a lonely experience, you think you're the only one and no one else could possibly have had these kinds of doubts before.

Rachel Hunt  30:53  
It's true. And it's because the people, because people in religious communities are taught to suppress them or hide them. And so everybody around you could be doubting, but you'll never know, because they're afraid to show it to you, you know. But I was, what I started to say is that I remember as a new volunteer was really nervous that I wasn't going to be good enough for what people needed, that I wasn't going to be able to, you know, answer their questions or find resources for them, or I just wasn't going to be what they needed. But what I find the more I do this is what people need is to someone to listen, and not judge not tell them, they're wrong. And a lot of times, it's even, it's even better if you don't try to fix it, you know, because jumping to solutions too quickly, doesn't give people time to express themselves. And sometimes when people join our organization, as volunteers, they are a little overwhelmed, because there is kind of a lot of training. And it can seem like a lot to learn. And sometimes people feel like maybe they're not adequate to the task. But all the training is really just there to teach you to set aside, all your need to help and your need to be something and you're need to have all the answers. And just let people tell you their story.

David Ames  32:07  
You're telling my story. So like, I started the podcast, because I needed to tell my story. And I was on steep hill occurs, voices of deconversion early on. And it was such a cathartic experience. I was like, I want to provide that for other people. And like, just being able to talk through even verbalize, maybe for the first time to another human being is just super cathartic. That's what you guys are providing, it helps

Rachel Hunt  32:35  
so much just to get it out of your head and out into the world. You know, yeah. And of course, some of the other things that we're trying to do as volunteers is to ask specific kinds of questions, just to help people sort through what they're thinking and what they're feeling. And it just helps you sort of get your get all the chaos that's going on in your head sort of more organized so that you can kind of break it down and go, Okay, you know, these are the things that are bothering me, these things are more important or more urgent, and those are the things that I can attack first. And, you know, these are my options, and I can, you know, figure out what's best for me, you know, again, we don't, we don't have to tell you what to do. Because you know what to do, really, usually, we just have to, you know, help you get it all organized so that you can look at it, and think clearly and calmly and you know, then you can make your own choices

David Ames  33:36  
I think you said earlier just the you know that you're not crazy that you're not, you know, alone in this. It's all that cognitive dissonance that you're experiencing while you're trying to keep these competing ideas, your own doubt and the orthodoxy of your faith tradition together. And you know, it's falling apart, you can feel that it's falling apart. And just have someone come alongside and say, Yeah, that's that's normal. Is that really a powerful thing?

Rachel Hunt  34:01  
It really is, you know, gaslighting is a thing. And you can self gaslight too, you know, you know, when people when you're taught that, you know, there's only one way to believe there's only one way to think there's only one way to feel there's only one way to look, there's only one way to behave. And you start to feel like you don't fit in that box anymore. You can really, you know, this is why people feel like they're going crazy, because they think but I've always been taught that this thing that I feel doesn't exist, or I've always been taught that if I do A, B, C and D, that x will disappear and it's not working, you know, and we we delude ourselves into thinking that what we were taught is real and what we believe and think and our own experiences are not real. You know, it really can drive you crazy. It's bad.

David Ames  34:51  
And I definitely have come to the to the point of view that that doubt in in most circumstances is a pretty good thing. It's kind of your brain telling you to do And the truth, right? Like, you know, there is risk. But questioning, ultimately is a good thing. You know, either you're going to be more convinced of your faith, or you're going to learn something new in either of those is good in the long run.

Rachel Hunt  35:13  
Yeah, yeah. Well, lots of people have changed their beliefs, or sometimes deepen their beliefs by looking critically at what they were taught. And, you know, there's an old joke that if you want to make an atheist just gets give somebody the Bible to read? Yes. No, it doesn't have an effect on everyone. Obviously, there were plenty of people that are very well educated in the Bible that are still very strong Christians. But there are a lot of people that I've spoken to who started reading the Bible and started studying, you know, whatever religion that is really deeply because they wanted to get closer to God, they wanted to be better, you know, they wanted to understand better, and they were very committed to their faith. And the more they studied them more, they realized that there's just not much there that the reasons to believe are so ephemeral. They're all social and behavioral. Really. Yeah, I don't know if you saw this recent video essay by Drew of genetically modified, modified skeptic, he was talking about belief, behavior and belonging, and how the belief meaning the intellectual part is the smallest part, that's what kind of gets tacked on the top of it. But the belonging the behavior, the things that really are what faith is,

David Ames  36:35  
yeah, yeah, no, I totally agree. Yeah, it's another statement of the community aspect of belief that, that social aspect of it, yeah, absolutely.

Rachel Hunt  36:43  
And that's not even counting some of the really coercive, shunning and, you know, strong behavioral requirements that some of the very high control groups have, even if you're in a, you know, relatively benign religion, that community aspect, and that sort of peer pressure is pretty strong.

David Ames  37:10  
I wanted to point out that not only does recovering from religion, have the immediate needs settled with the hotline and the support groups, but you also are like kind of the source of the secular therapy project, which is something that we mentioned on this podcast probably every other week, that, you know, if somebody needs a therapist, and as we've already stated, not someone who's going to just tell you to pray more that they can find a therapist through the secular therapy project.

Rachel Hunt  37:36  
Absolutely. Yeah, secular It is a database. This is another organization, we call it a sibling organization to recovering from religion. It was also started by Dr. Darrel Ray, and we've worked pretty closely with them. But it's just a database of vetted, licensed trained, secular therapists who are committed to not using any non evidence based treatment methods. So they're not going to hand you a crystal, they're not going to talk to you about your chakras, they're not going to tell you to go home and read your Bible. You know, they're, they're going to use actual treatments that will help you with whatever your mental health challenge is. And quite a few of them, they're not required to know about religious trauma syndrome, but quite a lot of them are familiar. So if you have religious trauma, looking for a therapist through the secular therapy program, Project is a pretty good idea. And that the service is free, you know, putting the client together with the therapist, that service is free. Everything that recovering from religion, and the secular therapy Project does is free to the client. We don't charge for any of our services. But of course, the therapists themselves have to make a living and they have private practices, and they charge whatever they charge. One of the most common questions we get with regards to the secular therapy project was how much do they charge? And do they take insurance? Well, it depends on the specific therapist, and we can't we don't have control over that. You just have to contact them and and see what we can do it. I mean, I wish we could just offer free therapy to everybody. Everybody needs it. And yeah. When it snows, and you know, especially in the United States, most people do not have access to get therapy, if at all, and it's a big problem. But, but we do our best with peer support. And this might be a good time to talk a little bit about peer support. Yes. You know, the, the support groups that we do and the helpline, you know, these could be considered mental health services, but we're not trained. None of we're all just volunteers we have training but it's in pure support reflective listening and, and things like that. We're obviously not qualified to diagnose or treat mental illness in any way. But we can do a few things that you just wish your best friend would do. You know, or you know, when you sit down with your spouse and you want to talk about your day and then they jump in and want to solve that for you. Like, we don't do that we will listen, we'll ask you questions that will help you sort through it yourself will, you know, and we can also point you to resources. We have a vast database of all kinds of articles and videos and books and podcasts like yours, that that can answer questions and just give people a sense of what's out there other than what they've been exposed to. And these are very carefully curated. So they're, they're not going to be triggering. For the most part, I mean, obviously, depends on what triggers you, but it's not gonna, it's not going to be a critical thinking book that you pick up and go, Oh, look, a critical thinking book for kids. And halfway through, you realize this is a Christian book, they're telling you to think critically, unless it conflicts with the Bible. So those resources, don't make it into our database, you won't get it. Yeah. Anyway, so yeah, we we, we just keep adding things so that we can help people more and more, we have an online community, which is so private as to be almost secret, okay, you cannot, you can't reach it through our website, there's no link that you can follow. The only way that you can join this community is to talk to a volunteer like myself, or go to the helpline, and ask to be added in, they will ask for your email address, and then they will send you an invitation and you can't invite your friends, they have to go through us as well. And that just helps us keep it safe. For our clients that are at their most fragile, they need to have people to talk to and they need to know that some troll isn't going to pop in and start telling them they're gonna go to hell. And they need to know that they're not going to have some scammer, start asking them for their address, and you know, soliciting them for money and things like that. This is a very, very safe, supportive environment, we use the platform Slack. So it's like a social media, we have channels for different different topics and things like that. But it's a really good place to go if you need to have people to talk to you on an ongoing basis. Okay.

David Ames  42:05  
Very cool. Rachel, are there any other topic that I haven't asked about that? You would definitely wanted to get across?

Rachel Hunt  42:12  
Cali, we have so much. We talk too much about support groups. I don't know if you want to talk about that in more detail. Sometimes people want to know exactly what happens when they join a support group. Sure, let's do that. Yeah, so the way that works is you can go to And look for recovering from religion support groups in your area. And there'll be links to lots of different things in there. Most since most of the support groups are virtual, you can join any support group that suits your schedule, it doesn't have to be near you. And we have some that are specifically online that aren't even on meetup. I mean, they are on meetup, but there's not a meetup page because they're not centered in in a place like our women's group and like our LGBTQIA plus group. So we have so many that they really, there's one almost every day, if you look at the calendar, there's a support group somewhere in the world almost every day, most of them are centered in the United States, we do have one in Europe. And oh, this is something I wanted to say we're trying really hard to reactivate an inactive group in the UK. And we're having trouble finding a volunteer who's able to take over that group. So if you live there, or know someone who lives there, and is interested in training and support group, we would really love to have somebody from the UK, so we can reactivate that group. And we have several in Oceania. So we've got two in Australia and one in New Zealand. And we have one and Mexico, Mexico City as well. So we're national and one in Canada. So we're International, but you know, we're kind of growing out from the United States. We're working on it. But what happens when you join is you it's you'll go into a Zoom meeting, and you do not have to have your camera on if you want to, you do not have to give your real name. We'd like you to give some sort of a name. But it doesn't have to be your real name. You don't have to speak but you will be invited to usually we just do a few brief announcements about what the rules are, which is basically no proselytizing, no disrespect. And then each person is invited to briefly tell their story kind of like what I did at the beginning of this podcast about your religious background and what brings you to the group. And then we have open discussion about just whatever what people want to talk about. And it gets very emotional sometimes there. There are usually at least a couple of people that have had some very, very dramatic and traumatic experiences and it can be kind of gut wrenching, but it is so healing for people to realize that they're not alone. The other thing that's really funny is that a lot of times people feel like no one can understand them unless they came from that exact religious brat background. You know, like, Oh, but I come from this very specific small family culture. Oh, they come From this very obscure, you know, off shoot of Hinduism or something. And it's true that there's going to be some things about your specific group that are different from everybody else's. But those core feelings of needing to be heard. And having been taught that there's something wrong with you and feeling like you're not allowed to be honest with the people around you. And feeling like every your every thought and move is controlled. Those things are pretty universal, that can happen in any high control group has that. And even if the person you're talking to doesn't know anything at all about your religion, they can understand your feelings.

David Ames  45:38  
For sure. I think that is a commonality that people hear their stories in a diverse range of experiences that include different faith traditions that include somebody from different gender from a different race, you know, what have you like, just hearing the human experience of this is super, super valuable?

Rachel Hunt  45:55  
Absolutely. I mean, Orthodox Judaism, and you know, Amish and Muslim and Orthodox Catholic and evangelical like these, they all have the same core experience of being told who they're supposed to be. And that's really tough thing to get out of, it's hard.

David Ames  46:25  
Well, I think you guys are doing amazing work, Rachel, hunch, the Support Group Director for recovering from religion. I want to give you just one more opportunity to tell people how they can reach your support groups and and the site itself?

Rachel Hunt  46:38  
Absolutely, yes, the easiest way is to go to recovering from Our main webpage has links to everything we talked about today. And if you're interested in joining support group, that main webpage does have a link to the map, the meetup map where you can kind of see what's near you. And it also has a link to the calendar where you can just see which groups are meeting at a time that's convenient for you. It also has the all the phone numbers that you can reach from anywhere in the world. And it has the chat line. So if you just want to chat into someone, it kind of looks like it's sort of a Tech Support Chat. But it's our helpline and you just chat in and there'll be someone that can talk to you about whatever's on your mind.

David Ames  47:22  
That is awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Rachel Hunt  47:24  
Thank you. Oh, it was a blast. Thank you so much.

David Ames  47:33  
Final thoughts on the episode. If you are having the dark night of the soul, if you are having a crisis of faith, and you need someone to talk to immediately, please reach out to recovering from religion, they have a phone number 84 I doubt it that is in the United States 844-368-2848. Or you can go to their website recovering from and have a web call with them. There are other numbers for other countries as well. And the main thing I want to point out here is that they are not going to try to D convert you. They are there just to listen. So if you need someone to talk to and someone to listen, reach out immediately. I love this conversation with Rachel, she is absolutely amazing, you can tell that she's in the right spot, helping to direct the support groups at recovering from religion. Rachel's personal story is really interesting, going from Christian Science to dabbling in Scientology, the law of attraction, various other things that I would put in the category of Woo, and eventually landing and realizing she was an atheist and that these were her people. I also really appreciate the volunteerism of recovering from religion and what Rachel specifically is doing gathering people who, like us, like you listener have been through this process. You can volunteer for recovering from religion and be on that crisis hotline. And my favorite quote of the conversation is Rachel saying it is often because the people in religious communities are taught to suppress their doubts or hide them. Everybody around you could be doubting, but you will still never know because they are afraid to show it to you. And then she said, what I find the more I do this is that what people need is just someone to listen and not judge and not tell them that they are wrong. That's all it takes to be a listening ear to help out. Please consider volunteering, as well as the recovering from site you can check out secular Secular therapy has the list of secular therapists that you can go to if you're having these kinds of doubts and you need professional care. I want to thank Rachel for being on the podcast for telling her personal story with honesty and integrity and inspiring us to do something to volunteer to be a part of helping people recover from religion. Thank you, Rachel. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about volunteering. I get asked often, what can I do in the secular community and I often give you ideas about how you can support the podcast. But Rachel has given us an even better idea. You can volunteer and be a part of recovering from religion. You can be the receiver of people's stories, you can be the person who listens and does not judge and does not tell them that they are wrong. As Rachel pointed out, recovering from religion is not about D converting people, it's not about convincing them that their religion is wrong. It is about just hearing the person story and what is working and what is not working for them. Rachael pointed out that she needs a volunteer in the UK to lead some groups. I know we have a number of UK listeners, if you are interested at all, you can reach out directly to Rachel or you can reach out to me and I will get you in touch with her. And more than that, I think the idea of just doing what Darrel Ray did start something, put it on and see who shows up and just listen to people. I think this is acting out secular Grace if we can actually provide that safe place to land for people, a safe place for people to express their doubts to express their worries to not be judged. That is making an impact on the world. This is secular grace. Next week, we have our Lean interviewing Brian, the week after that we have community member Taylor Yoder after that, Stephanie b and so on. I will be conducting my interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht coming up here pretty quick and that episode will be out in early March. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

It takes time

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Hell Anxiety, Religious Trauma

Say you’ve realized you no longer believe, gone through some of the typical stages of deconversion, and are ready to move on with your life, when, Whammo! You’re blindsided by some old feeling from your previous life.

“Why do I still fear Hell?” “Why am I still afraid of being Left Behind?” “Why do I still feel guilty when I stay home from church?” “Why do I still feel guilt around sex? I’m a grown-up, for crying out loud.”

This is one of the hardest things I’ve found day-to-day about being deconverted. I don’t believe any more, but my body doesn’t seem to have got the message.

There’s a lot I can say on this topic, but number one is this:

It takes time.

It takes time to deprogram what took decades to program in the first place. It takes time to get used to who you are today and who you are becoming. It takes time to figure out how to navigate a world where you don’t have a book (or a publishing industry, church, etc.) telling you how to think. It takes time to find new art, new music, new friends, new habits, and new…everything.

I don’t say these things to be overwhelming, though I know from experience it can be. For now, I hope you can be patient with yourself. Be kind. You’ve been through a lot, and it’ll take time.

It’s been several years since I realized I no longer believed, and I can tell you: it gets better. There’s a wide, wonderful world of truly incredible people, experiences, places, ideas. This whole world is now open to you.

– Jimmy

Troy and Brian: I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist

Atheism, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Podcast, Podcasters
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guests are Brian and Troy of the podcast, I was a Teenage Fundamentalist. They interviewed David at the end of 2022, and now it’s our turn to hear from them.

Brian and Troy “used to be loyal Christians megachurch leaders. They’re not anymore.” Their parallel stories are fascinating, as we are given a glimpse into their past lives and the Pentecostal movement in Australia.

Today, Brian and Troy’s “honest and often hilarious podcast peeks behind the curtain at the weird, the worrying and the sometimes traumatic world of Evangelicals and Pentecostals.” This is a great episode that you won’t want to miss! 



I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist podcast



Facebook Group

Link Tree


IWATF interviews David from the Graceful Atheist Podcast


“I say, ‘I started to deconvert,’ but I think I had started to deconvert the day I joined…because as you’re studying, as you’re looking into it all, you come across these issues, these contradictions…”


“I would say I felt accepted [in the church]. I would say it was absolutely conditional…on me behaving and conforming. But I was happy to do that at the time as long as that meant connection.”


“Bit by bit, I just started to think, This just isn’t actually true. But I didn’t want to come out and say it.”


“When you’ve been in Christianity for so long. When you’ve operated in such a confined environment…[and then] you open the floodgates and start to use some of your brainpower, sometimes it can become a scary place for people.”


“Anyone can tell their story. There’s such a power in human connection. There’s such a power in sense-making and story-making in our lives.”


“Pentecostalism is a very small slice in Australia, but it’s a very influential slice of Christianity.”


“I would bet there are more ex-Pentecostals than there are Pentecostals.”


“[In] most of the progressive groups, most of these progressive denotations, there are very few converts. It’s mostly refugees from conservative theology who…end up there.”



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. It's part of the atheist United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest patron Ruby, thank you so much for supporting the podcast. You too can have an ad free experience of the podcast by becoming a patron at any level at atheist. You don't have to go through the deconstruction and deconversion process alone, please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, which includes various Hangouts, book clubs, discussion groups, you can find that at A quick shout out to my sibling podcasts on the atheist United studios Podcast Network, amusing Jews beyond atheism, and the humanist experience. Please check out those podcasts you can find them on the atheist United website at atheist Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. My guests today are Troy and Brian of the I was a teenage fundamentalist podcast. Troy and Brian have done some amazing work, you can hear the experience of having had faith and having experienced the downside and coming through on the other side. They both deconstructed at different times. But they've remained friends. And after they found each other after deconversion they decided to make a podcast and talk about it. They are from Australia as you will immediately recognize and the Assemblies of God was the faith tradition that they were both a part of at one time or another. Try and Brian have created a community much like our own the deconversion anonymous group for this podcast. They have the I was a teenage fundamentalist group on Facebook as well. Please check out their podcast, I was a teenage fundamentalist. There will be links in the show notes. Here are Troy and Brian to tell their stories. Brian, Troy, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Brian  2:31  
Thank you. It's awesome to awesome to be here with her chat that we have with you late last year. So it's great to reciprocate and come on your podcast. So thank you.

Troy  2:41  
Yeah, it's fun.

David Ames  2:43  
Yeah, you guys are part of a really popular podcast called I was a teenage fundamentalist. And I think you're very authentic, the the fundamentalist experience that you guys had, I think really comes through, then your experience. On the other side. We're kind of a sister cousin podcast to one another. And I think this is a really great crossover.

Troy  3:03  
We've watched your podcast for a little while. And when I say watch, I mean watching what you've been doing, but also, you know, listening and stuff. So yeah, it's really cool to be to be connecting with you because I just feel there's such a synergy. And what you're trying to achieve is very much with what in line with what we're trying to achieve to so thanks for having us on, David.

David Ames  3:21  
Yeah, absolutely. And I love to give the opportunity to, you know, cross pollinate our communities, because I think our communities can benefit from listening to each other's podcasts. Yeah, absolutely.

Brian  3:32  
Well, quite often cities have like sister cities don't those. So that's right, let's let's have a sister podcast. There you go. Graceful? Yeah, here we go. With forging new ground, this is what we do.

David Ames  3:43  
That's right. What is very typical on my podcast is to begin with people's stories of their faith experience. So if we can, we're going to do like 10 or 15 minutes each on your personal stories of what your religious faith is like, and maybe a bit about your deconversion story. And just because of the ordering that's on my screen, I'm gonna have Troy go first.

Troy  4:04  
Yeah, cool. Well, I was converted to Christianity through school. I was brought up in a family where we were told that we were Christians, but we didn't even go to church on you know, Easter and Christmas. And that kind of thing. I know that my mother had bought us all a Children's Bible. But Australia is very, it's a very secular nation and a lot of ways or at least post Christian in a lot of ways. And so whilst we wore the label, it didn't really matter. Even at Christmas time, Christmas was more about Santa than it was about anything else. But my mother had a friend that had been involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. And I used to listen to my mother and her friend tell stories about being involved in this and not so much my mother's stories but her reaction to her friend being involved in this so I'd heard about speaking in tongues and healing and these kinds into things. And so I was quite open to the idea of this. And when a Christian band came through my school telling us all about Jesus made a bit of a kerfuffle in, do you say that in the US kerfuffle? Is that a word that you use? Do you? Okay, cool. So yeah, made a bit of a kerfuffle in my school and some kids got converted. And then through a Fallout, I also, you know, ended up giving my life to Christ, as we say, and then I joined a Pentecostal group, which turned out to be quite an extreme cult, very similar to what's called the United Pentecostal church in the US. So we had to speak in tongues to be saved, we didn't fellowship with any other churches. And I was involved with them quite heavily, till about 17. And at that age, I'd started to realize that this was not how I wanted to live, because my family had never joined. And so I still had this, this measuring stick at home that I could say, This is what acceptance looks like, this is what love looks like. And so I ended up having myself kicked out and please go back and have a listen to my, my podcast stories about that. I don't want to bore you too much. But I had myself kicked out, I worked out how to how to do that. And then, as I was leaving, they were like, Oh, by the way, you probably damned to hell. And I was like, ah, and that didn't quite sit so well with me. So I went started doing, you know, clubbing and partying and all the things that you would do at sort of 17 until I came to a point in my life where I didn't like where I was, where I'd landed, I didn't like where this lifestyle had sort of taken me even though I was still quite young. And I had a friend of mine who had by this stage joined in Assemblies of God church, which is where this original group that I was a part of, had had come from. And so I went along with him and, you know, got a good dose of guilt and also saw the idea of, you know, the things that I've done over the last few years could be forgiven. And as I said, I wasn't really happy with the way I'd sort of journeyed and the way I sort of become. And so I recommended my life to Christ and, you know, join the ARG basically. And long story short, ended up Bible college, finishing Bible college, involved in church plants, involved in a series of different churches left the EOG became involved in in Baptist, the Australian Baptist union, later in the Australian Churches of Christ. And then my, my marriage really hit the rocks. And I started to D convert. It's funny, because it's even saying that now I say, I started to D convert. No, I think I started to do convert the day I joined. Really, yeah. And because as you're studying, as you're looking into it all, you come across these, these issues, you come across these contradictions. But the other thing was what Josie MC skimming, who was one of the guests on our podcast, I don't know if you've heard from her yet, but she She's wonderful. She's a clinical clinical social worker who specializes in religious trauma. And she said to us, there's these sites of injury. You know, there's these incidents that happen that just build up over time. And I think that's what happened to me, David, I think the sites of injury built up the inconsistencies of the religion. My study was probably the worst thing I could have done for my for my faith, because I took it seriously and studied the Bible and studied theology and looked at the contradictions and yeah, long story short, I d converted in about 2004 Stop church in about 1999 D converted in about 2004. Back in the day, where it was, there was no such thing as deconstruction. I mean, that was, you know, that was Jacques Derrida talking about art and things, you know, let alone religion. But yeah, then found my way into the hole. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, that that kind of stuff and the infidels website and there was a back in the day, there was a bulletin board online called walk away, which was for ex fundamentalist. I don't know if it still exists anymore. But it was a very isolating experience. And I'd headed overseas just to sort of leave everything behind. And yeah, you know, here I am. Now, I, as I said, I really came to a point of deconversion 2004. So we're nearly coming up on 20 years, but I'm still unpacking it. David, still, to this day, I'm unpacking things and, you know, stepping into in and out of therapy at times to talk about some of this stuff. But yeah, that's my story.

David Ames  9:40  
I really liked that idea of sites of injury, that that's really evocative. We say sometimes that it's, it's not one thing, it's 1000 things so that's an interesting way to express that. Yeah. So I mean, I relate to so much of that and I will recommend to my listeners when Troy says go listen to his his story. He literally did get him stuff kicked out intentionally. So you gotta go listen to that story. It's really good

all right, Brian, let's hear it. Let's hear about your story.

Brian  10:16  
Well, my story was I grew up in a home where spirituality was there, but certainly not church, certainly not Jesus or God. And I tell this in my story on the podcast as well around. We grew up having seances as a family that yeah, that would that was, we'd like to we'd like to connect with the dead cousins. So that was, I guess, my experience spirituality in it would also we'd speak about the afterlife would speak about reincarnation, I was always fascinated by those sorts of things growing up, and I had this book called unexplained mysteries, and it was all of those sort of things about, you know, portals and, or it was rubbish. But it was it was fascinating. And that was probably the thing that primed me for my Christian experience, which didn't start till I was 17. I hadn't really been involved in a church at all, or well, not really, I haven't hadn't at all, most of my siblings, I've got a, I've got seven siblings, and most of them grew up with some sort of, you know, nominal Catholics sort of connection to the church, they'd be pulled along on the occasional Sunday. But the next sister, my next sister up in me in the level, she was never exposed to it either. And neither was I. But when I was probably, I reckon 14 or 15, one of my brothers became a Christian. And it was one of those conversion stories, you know, he was a, he was a fan of drugs. And, you know, everyone saw him convert, and the drug use stopped, and very much like you spoke to us about your mom's conversion story. It was a very similar thing so bad. He used to evangelize the hell out of us. And he lived in another state in Australia, and he would ring and we would have to hang up on him. Like he was just so fearful. We're all going to die and go to hell. Yeah. So I just I thought it was bullshit. I thought that there's, you know, it's all rubbish. But anyway, when I was 17, I decided to go and visit him he lived in, in Queensland in Australia, and he was a surfer. So it didn't serve community. It's the sort of place you you'd go for a holiday. So I went up there and I got converted to this bullshit. I went up actually, with all these providers that if I stayed with them, they weren't allowed to speak about God or Jesus. They weren't allowed to have a Bible around. And if they had a Bible, it could be in their bedroom only. I was just a prat. But they stuck to that, you know, to their own credit. And it was me through seeing the contrast on of how that brother had been. And by this time, another brother had become a Christian and another sister had become a Christian. It was just like, it was spreading this revival in our family brother. So I gave it a shot, I became a Christian, and I was 17, you know, did the thing. Then I came back to to Melbourne, where I live in Australia. And back back then. I didn't have any connection with church. So I had to seek something out. It was pre internet. This is 1991. I was having no wasn't it was 1989, actually. And so I was just basically going around and seeing where these churches were. It was a church called Christian city, which was a large Pentecostal church. I found one connected with it just kept dropping in and out till I was about 19 and then connected with Pentecostalism through an independent church, and really felt part of it. I think it was, it was the connection that was the community. It was the ability to be able to, I would say I felt accepted, it was absolutely conditional. There was no doubt. It was conditional on me. Behaving and conforming a bit. I was happy to do that at the time, as long as that meant connection. But then I ended up at nao G church where Troy and I met and when I was I don't know, I was maybe 19 By that time, and that was my Pentecostal experience was very, very short really it was three and a half four years. I had a devolution very similar to Troy's be then left that that experience. You know I was the same I went to Bible college was on that trajectory to become a pastor. saw that as a career path, you can be a career Christian, why not? Why not get paid for it? So I tried all that. But then I ended up halfway through Bible college thinking, I just can't survive on this money, like, I'd become engaged around that time. And I thought, I'm just gonna go back to work. I'll come back to Bible college later. But I've just got to go work a while, and I never went back to Bible college. But I did stay connected with the church. The Toronto Blessing started to happen around that time. And for me, I just that repulsed me, I just I call bullshit on it. So that actually caused me to have a bit of a fallout with at that time, I was in leadership in youth leadership in the ARG church. And the pastor there, I just said to him, I can't stay, I think it's rubbish. And I left went to a Baptist church, so a bit more moderate. You know, obviously, they weren't Christians, because there was no Toronto Blessing happening there. So I felt I felt again, connected, but drifted and then ended up at a church of Christ. So Troy and I, even though at this time, we were hanging out a little bit, we it was just the same journey out. And it was more moderate, more moderate, more moderate. I was involved in churches of Christ, I lived into state for about 11 years. And that's where I ended up connecting with church of Christ, and then came back to Melbourne, where I then went to the church of Christ here. And really, it was quite progressive. And there was a lot of experimenting with church, there was a lot of there was meditation sessions. There was, hey, let's not have any preaching this week, let's all just hang out in groups and talk about shit that happened this week. And you know, how we can connect as community.

Troy  17:10  
No wonder you fell away. They stopped what was what worked? Brother?

Brian  17:17  
That's, that's exactly right. And, you know, and my, my university training as a social worker. So, you know, social justice is incredibly important to me. And so at this time, you know, it's it was really connecting with the Social Justice Mission of the churches of Christ, I was involved in a few different offshoots of social justice groups. And I think it was just bit by bit, things started to fall away in literal resurrection. Look, seriously, that she didn't happen, you know, personal relationship with God, really? How does he have a personal relationship with 7 billion people if everyone converted? That doesn't work. I'm just putting, when I'm praying, it's just going out in the ether. So bit by bit, I just started to think, I don't think that this is actually true, but I didn't want to come out and say it, there's a lot of fear sitting behind it. So I was married. At that time, I'd met my now ex wife, in church in the Pentecostal church. So but we'd both sort of journeyed out and probably started to Deacon for to some degree, we'd had children. The kids were involved in church, but probably not at the degree where others thought that they should be. So things were falling away, but then, probably 12, B 12, ish, maybe even 13 years ago, my marriage broke down. And it was at the point where my marriage broke down, that I walked away, because it gave me an out. There was your habit, we were habitually going to church. I hadn't had really, I don't think any real belief for quite a while. And so it gave me the ability to cut that but I was still very afraid at the time to go. I actually don't think I believe the Jesus story. I don't I really don't think that there's a literal heaven or hell, I don't and that took me a while on it's probably even a 10 year deconversion journey. Post that 13 years of completely leaving the church and and I'm still deconstructing and still trying to work it out. And so you know, what do you do when you do that, will you and and when you're close mates, you start a podcast. That's right.

David Ames  20:01  
So I think it's fascinating that both of you, it seems like an inflection point was the end of a relationship. And, you know, kind of a theory that I kick around a lot is the the idea that faith is very much a community sustained thing. And that, for example, during 2020, when we were doing lock downs, I theorized that, you know, I bet a lot of people are going to deconstruct during this time, because they're out of the context of church. So Brian, you said you, you were habitually going to church. And so the second, you're not doing that, that that kind of sustaining force of that faith goes away? And I think for many people, that gives them a little bit of space to then think, you know, is this something I really believe or not? And without someone right over their shoulder saying, of course you believe, of course you do.

Brian  20:50  
Yeah, absolutely. And particularly in Australia, we're not a Christian nation. You know, we weren't found, it's not like the states where, you know, God is everywhere. So he there, you don't walk out the front door and bump into something or someone else that's going to keep you in that bubble. And I definitely the bubble sustained me for a long time. And it was just the fact that my social connections, my community connections, were all within that church bubble. And you're right, as soon as I left that, I didn't, I didn't fear not believing necessarily, anymore, I might not have come out and said it. But I didn't have that fear. Whereas a lot of even though I was at a very progressive Churches of Christ, it was still fear based. It was still if you stopped believing if you had that formula that was there was there for a reason. And that kept you within the salvation bubble. And if you leave it, well, you know, your risky, so

David Ames  21:49  
yeah, and it also sounds like that having a brother who really believed it, who if you take health seriously, that's actually the correct response. Right? If this is real, you had better be on everybody's cased, to convert, because they're going to hell. And so I think I sometimes say that it's not that Christians take things too seriously. It's that they don't take them seriously enough, like, what it actually says what the actual core of Christianity is, is deadly. And, you know, if you take that seriously, there's a certain reaction that would be appropriate to that.

Brian  22:24  
So it was a strange time to live. And we, we often talk about this on the podcast, Troy and I have very different responses to our Christian and Christianity. I wasn't into evangelizing, I wasn't even into sharing my faith with people. And in hindsight, I'm not quite sure that I had a depth of belief. Even back then, I was just going through the steps, I was connecting with community, I was feeling like I belonged, that I was accepted. So I kept, I kept taking that stuff along. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was very sincere, in my belief, but I'm not sure about the depth of it. And I think that's why it was probably easy for me to walk away in the end, because I don't think I'd ever truly, because I always struggled with this, you know, that attitude of the other. You know, that other person out there, they're not saved, or someone so you know, we should treat them differently, because they're not a Christian, that they haven't said these 15 words that make them a Christian, you know, it, I just always struggled with that I struggled with that sense of the other and that you had to rescue them because I didn't necessarily see what they were involved with, is dangerous, or need rescuing from so I was bad Christian, really trying to say,

David Ames  23:47  
when you see the humanity of out atheists, or out LGBTQ people, and you just realize actually, they're really good parents. They're really good people. Like, you know, I'd kind of like to be like, it's hard to hate that that person.

Troy, what I want to hear is, you guys were friends at one point in time, and you've kind of gone on your journeys in parallel tracks, how aware of each other were you as you were going through this moderation and deconstruction process?

Troy  24:23  
Well, when we were in the Assemblies of God, towards the end of my time, Brian had sort of grown up in the ranks or grown up into the ranks of the youth group and I had gone away to be a youth pastor of another church. So when I came back, because that didn't quite work out when I came back, you know, talk about this, you know, away from the, from the supporting community. When I came back, I felt like they had changed. The whole church had changed, but actually it was probably more me that you know, that my experience had changed me and I disconnected from from that community. median, and that communities norms. And so I started to challenge what was going on in that church, but from a Christian perspective, and that didn't land that didn't land at all. And so I, you know, ended up out of my ass, as we say, in Australia and really looking for, you know, a better version of Christianity, and Brian was was still quite embedded in that still quite enmeshed in that. And then, uh, only a few months later, I think he started to sort of go, you know, which we heard in his story started to say, Oh, this doesn't quite add up for me. And so we connected again, quite quickly, because we had grown up in a similar part of town, we had very similar socio economic backgrounds, we enjoyed the same music, you know, this is before church. And then I think we we connected on that, because we hadn't been raised in the church, we had a genuine friendship, I think is a good way to put it. And so when I, when I had journeyed away, when as often happens, as you know, with people that leave, you know, the religion, they reconnect with people who have also left and you know, reforge relationships, and that's when you find out who your real friends were, and who were just who were just church acquaintances. So yeah, I think as soon as that happened, we reconnected in the, what we call the Baptist hostel space, because it was still Pentecostal ish, but it was also not. And but but then I think when I finally walked away from religion, Brian was still in it. And I think we, we stayed in touch, we sent emails to each other, I was living overseas. But then when I eventually came back from overseas, which was about 12 years later, by that stage, Brian's marriage had broken down, and we were in a place where we could reconnect his friends and his religion. I don't think you quite walked away yet, Brian, I think you were still holding on to it in name only. But I was happy that he's saying I'm an atheist, I think this is all bullshit. And that wasn't an issue. And so we, you know, continued on as friends and then we, we maintained our friendship, as unchurched as non believers, we both, you know, re partnered with non-believing women and had kids and all the things that you do. And during the COVID, lockdown, because Melbourne, where we live is one of the most lockdown cities in the world, least one of the most, one of the biggest cities. Although now with what's going on with China, that may not be true, but at least up to that point, it was. And I was listening to a lot of deconstruction podcasts and listening to a lot of these and I say, young people, because compared to me, they were and they were beginning this journey. And they were sort of moving into sort of this progressive space and, and I realized that some of the fear was still there. So I reached out to Brian, I said, Hey, I want to join this conversation, and no one's going to have me on the liturgist podcast or any other kind of things. So let's do our own with it with a uniquely Australian voice. And so and so we did, and you know, here we are, as you as you heard, in our in our episode, nearly two years later. And and we're still going and like you were never going to run out of content, I think the only time will probably stop this is when we've had enough because exactly where he is going to continue to be told and and as you said to us in the episode, when you came on our podcast was this is not new. And people have walked this road hold denominations have walked this road, you know, where they have become liberal and, and then become, you know, secular humanists. And we look at them and go, how could we ever become like that? And yet, here we are, in that exact space, you know, so yeah, so that was our journey.

David Ames  28:39  
And then we also talked a bit off, I think Off mic about how doing this work benefits us as well, that there's a, you know, an aspect of this is our outlet, that kind of thing.

So Brian, I want to hear what the focus of the podcast was like what you Troy mentioned, uniquely Australian voice, what were you guys trying to accomplish? And what is the background to the podcast?

Brian  29:12  
I think we set out to tell our stories and tell you know, you know, our podcast starts with and we sort of cringe when we look back at our first couple of episodes, just to you know, obviously your craft you grow into it. But we start out telling our stories and how we actually became involved. So it's a bit of a deeper dive into that than the the blurb that we just gave at the start here. But you get the sense of who we are, where we came from. But then we started talking about our experience and some of calling out some of the absurdities, calling out most definitely our experience of cognitive dissonance, you know, there's a lot of things that we toed the line I knew that, you know, it just didn't make sense. But you did it because you did it for Jesus. So it notes that sort of rubbish, but we just started to dive into, you know, talking a lot about our experiences. But then, very, very quickly, I think like you You described in the episode with us, you start to think about, well, this could be others, who do we start to have a conversation with about their experience? So we'd bring people in, and we'd start to talk about, hey, what was your experience? How did you go through this, this space? How did you navigate it. And then people started connecting, we started an online community, where people come together to process and to talk about the stuff that is happening for them in their lives. And quite often, it's pegged to an episode. So we'll drop an episode and, and people will go Oh, when, you know, so and so said that, you know, I really connected with it, but I just don't know how to work through this. And you'll have a bunch of people who will jump in, really help each other, try and navigate what they're going through, try and make sense of it. As you know, when you've been in Christianity for so long, you've operated within such a confined environment, that where you can process things that when the floodgates are open, and you can actually start to use some of your your brain power. Sometimes it can become a scary place for people. So we've we've done that with the podcast, it's been storytelling, it's been a lot of our storytelling of our experiences, it's been guests coming in. Sometimes it's been a therapeutic bent, where we bring someone in who's an expert in a particular area, but Josie mix gaming that we spoke about. And, you know, that religious trauma, we're recovering from religion. With Darrel Ray, you know, we've we've had all of those sorts of people come in as well to talk about their experience. But I think the story connection is a big thing. The stents making is a big thing for people being able to know that they're, they're not alone. And we want to continue that. And it's become far more popular than we thought it would become. A lot more people have connected with it than we ever thought. And I think it's it's the beauty of the current environment where you can anyone can have a voice, and it's something in the church where unless you're actually anointed to have a voice, then you don't get one. But yeah, yeah. So now anyone can tell this story. And I think there's such a power in human connection as a power and sense making and, and story making of our lives. And that's, I think that's where we are.

David Ames  32:57  
It definitely that what comes across is the honesty and the vulnerability. And, you know, as we've said a few times, you know, I think that is really a powerful thing, people come along, and they can say, I'm not alone, these people have experienced this as well. And it comes from that willingness to kind of, for lack of a better term, bear your soul a bit. And I think that's that human connection. That's super powerful.

I want to ask a question, and I want to give you the opportunity to tell me to eff off if this is too personal, but I noticed that you guys began with a level of anonymity of just your first initials. And at some point, you began to use your first names. Talk me through that, what were you trying to accomplish there? And why are you a little more open these days?

Troy  33:47  
Yeah, when we first started, I was afraid because we were going to be bagging out Hillsong and bagging out Australian Assemblies of God now called the Australian Christian churches. I was a bit worried about us getting sued. years before I was involved in a group called the revival centers and years before in the 90s. When I was what we called, you know, deprogramming isn't it funny the way it's gone from deprogramming to deconversion to deconstruct Yeah. But I was involved in, in, I guess, bringing down this revival centers movement, and we were threatened with legal action a number of times. So I wasn't sure how far this was going to go. I didn't think we were going to go quite as as blatant as I did in the sort of counter revival center days. But nevertheless, let's set up for that. The other thing too, is we both have professional lives, and we didn't know how this was going to be received in that space as well. And both of those have proven to be not true. Both of them have proven to be positive. So we have just recently started well, not just recently at the end of last year, we started using our first names, and then recently when we have been promoted We've even used our last names in some of the things that we've done as well. So it was it was sort of an opening up, it was a testing of the waters and to see what's going to happen, because you know, Hillsong, for example, is quite litigious. And they do try and shut people down. But we've sort of made the decision as well that we won't come out with any sort of accusations, etc, that aren't firsthand, or that aren't already on the public record. And in that sense, I don't think we're going to be sued anytime soon. But yeah, that that was where we were coming from, and that has come at a cost. Like I've had my ex wife contact me and being very concerned about what I've got to say, podcasts, things like that. So you know, that does come at a cost. But I think we've pretty much weathered that storm, I don't think anything's going to happen anytime soon.

David Ames  35:50  
I definitely went through a similar process, I wanted to protect my family, you know, you're doing this on the internet, then, you know, who knows, and growing a bit more comfortable, maybe even naively. So we'll see. We'll see if that ever turns out to have been a bad decision. But I understand that impetus delight. I want to have my voice out there, but I'm not quite ready to be fully known.

The next topic I want to get to is, you know, we clearly have similar backgrounds, both in kind of Pentecostalism, charismatic, and the general and specifically Assemblies of God. What I don't know as as clear to us listeners is how big a deal Hillsong is in Australia. So I'd like to talk about the experience of you guys call it the great big A OG for samples of God, but Pentecostalism in general, and Hillsong, specifically within Australia.

Brian  36:49  
Yeah, look, I think Pentecostalism within Australia is quite a small thing. Like it's a Yeah, it's a fairly small slice. However, it's a very influential slice of Christianity. And some of that has been through Hillsong. And its success, particularly with its music, you know, hit the the Australian area, the area charts, it's hit billboard, over in the stage, you know, I mean, it's been hugely, hugely successful. So I think that has been part of his exposure and influence here. But we also recently, until about a year ago, had a Pentecostal Prime Minister, who was part of the Australian Christian churches, and he very much bought his his beliefs into the way that he governed Australia, he connected and you know, he had been to Hillsong. He denied he'd been to Hillsong. But someone shared photos of him with Brian Houston, the then senior global pastor at Hillsong. That was a very strange denial. He, you know, he tried to get Brian Houston into a meeting with Trump when Trump was your president. So you know, he definitely tried to leverage it. So I think Pentecostalism got an exposure through that. But Hillsong it's been a huge thing. I mean, we had a Royal Commission into Institutional sexual abuse. So it looked at a different institution such as churches, homes, you know, the the environment that people had been in, in foster environments or whatever. And Hillsong came to the fore through that as well because Brian Houston, the the global senior pastor, as he likes to call himself of Hillsong, his father had sexually abused children in New Zealand, which is the country that Houstons came from, and that had been covered up covered up by Brian Houston. Of so it was, he's actually been charged with covering that up is looking at a prison term. And he also has been thrown out as pastor of appeal sung in Hillsong, I know has gone crazy over in the states to in New York, and, and also LA and, you know, it's been the Church of the stars with Justin Bieber and, and many other artists becoming involved with them. And with the practice involved as well. Christopher proud of something like that. And there's quite a few Hollywood stars involved. And

David Ames  39:35  
the music too, I think, I mean, I think non Pentecostal churches that are evangelical like will do lots of Hillsong music as well. So it's been it's had a huge, huge influence from that perspective.

Brian  39:45  
Yeah, it has. It's been massive. And I think that was the watershed moment when they first started hitting the charts here. And you know, it's a massive church. I mean, it meets in a stadium. It's your typical type of mega church, and it's in the media Like we actually have journalists here who their focus is Hillsong. So, someone in Hillsong farts and they report on it, you know, it's quite nuts. But I don't know what you'd say Troy about any further about that. I mean, we weren't necessarily connected with Hillsong it's it hills, some came out of the Australian Christian churches or that ARG. And we were, I guess the church were involved with at the time was definitely fit the bill of a mega church, it was probably bigger than Hillsong at the time, before Hillsong really broke. But Hillsong was sort of an offshoot, it was something to solve we've been involved with. Okay.

Troy  40:41  
I think I think the thing to note, though, is that there's a, there's a revolving door with Australian Pentecostal churches, even though they may be small numbers, there's a lot of people go through them. And come out the other side, I would dare say that there's more X Pentecostals than there are Pentecostal. So our story is not unique. So in that sense, I think there is also an influence. Most people in Australia would know someone who's been involved in a in a mega church or in a Pentecostal church, even though they don't have the numbers they don't have the political clout that you see in the US.

David Ames  41:17  
Yeah, I think in the US, probably someone will correct me the minute I say this, but I would say the Southern Baptist Convention has kind of as a single entity has the kind of the biggest influence in the US. But you know, Assemblies of God is still widespread throughout the US as well. I've had people ask me this question, I'm gonna ask you guys this question. Had you been a part of a more progressive tradition a more? And actually, I want to get to this concept of the difference between liberalism and progressive, but I just mean, less theologically conservative, do you think you would have had the same deconstruction experience?

Troy  41:52  
I think the answer to that, for me is, the question is really moved to because I was recruited via a Pentecostal cult, I had no experience of, of Christianity in any sort of meaningful way. I journeyed out of Pentecostalism into more moderate eventually to becoming a sort of progressive, but it was always a journey out. So I think the the attraction of community, the attraction of forgiveness, the attraction of it, a meaning and a purpose. I remember in Bible college once a pastor said to us, he said that the problem with liberal churches is he said, they don't convert anyone that don't bring anybody in. And he said, as a matter of fact, they are what did he call them a a parasite on the true church. And and I think there's some truth to that without the vitriol. I think there's some truth to that, that most of these progressive groups, most of these progressive denominations, there's very few converts. It's mostly refugees from conservative theology that sort of ended up there. So, so no, I don't think I don't think that I would have even possibly been recruited into that sort of church. But ultimately, when I did journey out of Pentecostalism, or out of fundamentalism out of evangelicalism into something more progressive, I made a conscious decision. It's like, well, what, what's here, nothing. There's nothing here that I need, I can be a good person I can be, you know, a humanist, I can be a giver of my time and energy and effort and money to charities, etc. If I want to do good, I don't need fairytales. I don't need, you know, mythology. So, so I don't think I would have ever been drawn into that kind of church in the first place. David,

David Ames  43:42  
that would probably be similar to my answer. But I still want to hear Brian's as well.

Brian  43:46  
Now very similar. I came into the bright lights and the band of a Pentecostal church and, you know, the really cool acceptance and, you know, I got a, I became a Christian in a surf community. So it was very cool. You know, it's a bunch of very cool people, their ex hippies, you know, I think that connected me into it, there was a bit of a reality in what they were doing. End up, it was a performance. And I connected to that performance, I journeyed out, as we heard before the same route as Troy through the Baptist hostel through the more progressive Churches of Christ. So even when I tried to make sense of what I will try to make sense of what I believed, it still didn't work, like I was always going, I was on a trajectory to journey out and the day that I do need in,

David Ames  44:36  
you've said that a couple of times, it reminds me of a quote from BART Campolo that somebody asked him, you know, when did you start to doubt? And he said, about 15 minutes after I started to believe, and, and I think there's some deep honesty there, right. Like lots of people would jump on that and say, See, you didn't really have any faith, but I think there's just honesty in that statement and the way that you're expressing it as well.

Troy  44:56  
David, can I just footnote I think that's exactly where I got that. Comment from I think it came from BART Campolo that the day I joined was the day I started to leave. So yeah, footnote there.

David Ames  45:06  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Trash I heard you working through and we're gonna get to the source of this, but in a minute but a difference between liberal versus progressive Christian, I wonder if you would expound on that. And what you were trying to capture in describing that difference?

Troy  45:33  
Yeah, I look, it could just be semantics, it could just be a matter of terminology. But back in the day, to be a liberal Christian was worse than being a non Christian. You know, because you didn't believe in the basic tenants of the Christian faith. You didn't believe in the basic Creed's? Why are you even calling yourself a Christian? You know, it's a wolf in sheep's clothing would have been the way that we would have used it. And I think that term became for most conservatives. For most evangelicals. It was a term that you never wanted to wear. And you never wanted to believe that you were ever going to become a liberal, or a liberal Christian. And so I think what happened is that as that term became more and more pejorative, people just came up with new terms, you know, and we see that all the time, we see that in political correctness, we see that in the even we talked about it before from deprogram to deconversion. to deconstruct, it all seems to become a little less offensive, and then it'll come full circle, and people will start using it again, I think it's the same kind of thing with that term. So people adopted this word progressive. And I think, you know, you know, John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, all these poster boys for liberalism would be quite happy to wear the modern label of progressives. And I think a lot of progressive Christians would be wearing that label. It's very happy to read those books, if they really got in and had a look at what those people were saying, because as you said before, Nothing is new. Right? This is this is all the same. And so the journey into liberalism, the journey into progressivism, it's the same thing. So ultimately, that was the long way of saying I think it's basically the same, but there are cultural reasons why we've abandoned that term.

David Ames  47:15  
And then I think what led to that discussion is you had a couple of people on and we're going to talk about one of them in depth here. But yeah, Brian McLaren on and Philip Yancey. Brian McLaren, I think would give himself the moniker of progressive Christian. Yancey might not, Yancey might still think of himself as a evangelical. The reason I bring up Philip Yancey in particular is that he had a profound impact on me during my Christianity that Jesus I never knew hit me right at that time, when I was a youth pastor, feeling very isolated and alone. It expanded Christianity for me in a way that probably made it drag on a little bit longer for me. But he was kind of the intellectual outlet for a Christian who is a bit of a skeptic, a little bit of doubts, that kind of thing. And so I have a soft spot in my heart for him. Well, you guys got the opportunity to interview him on this side of deconstruction. deconversion. And it was quite an experience for you. So I'd like you to talk about why you had him on what what it was like having him on. And then you guys had to process it after it was done as well.

Brian  48:18  
Yeah. I think it was the same for us. And Troy even spoke to Philip in the episode, and saying the the profound influence that he had on him was to a point where he actually got a tattoo of the word grace in Chinese. So it was, you know, I think that what's so amazing about grace, that book that he wrote, for me, was one of the most impactful books that I ever read as a Christian. And I think it was because I read at that time, where I was just going, I was bought in through this whole forgiveness and grace story. I'm not feeling it. Like I'm actually feeling judgment. And I'm feeling an incredibly constrained environment. So I was questioning that. The book was, yeah, it was powerful. And but he also dropped another book, which is his memoirs where the light fell. And it was reading, reading that, that I actually felt a deeper connection to him because he was incredibly vulnerable in that book. He told the stories of growing up he tall, he told the warts and all of the church. So having him on was, we were fanboying. Both of us were absolutely fanboying. And the conversation was, it was great. It was deep. It was authentic. But he very much still does identify as an evangelical. He's disappointed with where evangelicalism has gone in the States. And you know, he's vocal about that. But he's still deeply evangelical and believes in the roots of it, and he's still very much a Christian. He still believes in The tenants of Christianity we were really clear before we got him on. And we were having conversations with him saying, we are not Christians, we do not believe anymore. And he said, Great. These are the sorts of people I want to connect with you guys. These are the you know, I would his words he said to us with I would hope that the Expand Jellicle community would connect with my new book. That's that's who I want to reach there to I want to read my story. So it was a it was an interesting episode because you can't dislike Philip Yancey, he's the one he might be touting beliefs that we don't any longer believe but He's genuinely doing that and genuinely engaging. However, cognitive dissonance all the way through the conversation. But you couldn't not like him. But then when we dropped that episode, it was a real polarization I think with with our listener community, which is their Facebook community of people going oh my god, I loved Philip, what a great conversation and others going What the fuck? Why did you talk to him? You know, he's still deeply in it. And and people really wrestled with the content there because we we also you know, we did connect with him I think during the interview and for us that was a real unsettling after it like we spoke after him when our goal wasn't that amazing. And then listen back to the episode and went, What the fuck? What what happened there? We're, we're under a spell. But we had to so we dropped that episode. And then next week, the next week, we dropped a debriefing episode and a deconstruction of that episode and what was happening for us. It was full on but like, if you haven't listened to the episodes, which it sounds like you have like, we really tried to process it and we're going what went on here. Troy, what are your thoughts around it?

Troy  51:55  
Well, yeah, it's, it's, it's even hard. Now thinking about it and thinking how much we did fanboy him. We were just all over him. You know, we just it was like, Oh, we got Philip Yancey. Because there was a part of us that was you know, all of a sudden we were 20 something again, and we were interviewing Philip Yancey. For God's sake. It was it was really, really cool. But that said I was afraid he was going to see us as a mission field. I'm sure he did on some level, but I was afraid he was gonna come on and, and you know, high and mighty but he didn't and his book is really, really good. I mean, his book, you could read that as a as a non believer and just think this is, this is amazing. As I've said before, it's a combination of To Kill a Mockingbird, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It's, it's just wonderful. It's a really, really good book. I think he it still comes through that at the end. There is crazy religious mother, there's crazy atheist brother and there's middle road Evangelical, Philip Yancey kind of thing. And I think that that implicit that this is the right path. And I don't know necessarily that that's that's the case, even for his own family. But yeah, it it challenged us to say what do you do with evangelicals who aren't Trump supporters who aren't politically motivated to, you know, tear democracy down, and yet are good people and are doing good things and, you know, intellectually addressing the inconsistencies of their faith. And that's when I thought, I think it comes down to labels again, and this is what I said. I think he's a liberal. I think he's a progressive, maybe not theologically, but socially. And even politically, he's quite progressive. And I think that's where the rubber hits the road. It's what people are doing, not what they, you know, sort of believe in, in their own private world.

Brian  53:56  
I think that I think that's the cognitive dissonance bit like he's, he's definitely is talking the words of Christianity and evangelicalism, but he seems to be living the life of the progressive. And I can't remember in the episode if we put it to him, of where he he sees himself out. I can't remember any of that. But we'll have to go back and have a listen to

Troy  54:22  
you. I think he did. Because we asked him, you know, what about the term evangelical? And he said, Well, maybe one day I'll have to stop using that term if it continues to go the way that it's going. So you know, he's aware, but but it is its labels, its its badges.

David Ames  54:39  
If I could be so bold as to talk about a way to process that. There's a leader whose name is escaping me other than his first name James of the St. Louis Ethical Society. He made a statement once on on Twitter that he probably has already forgotten but it's stuck with me. Basically, that everything is secular. Everything is a human endeavor, and And that religion is included in that. And so what we do when we're religious is still secular still humans trying to figure out the world to connect with each other. And, you know, I think Yancey is well within within that in the sense that, you know, he has a religious humanist and he cares about people and he's expressing that. And so just the same way that you know, meeting atheists or or LGBTQ people, when we were within our faith shook that you meet Nancy and it's kind of the opposite of it. It's just because it's, this is a good human being you're talking to and so that's what you're connecting with is it would be my interpretation of the of the experience.

Troy  55:38  
I think so. And I think also, you know, hearing what you were saying about your experience of Philip Yancey and also our experience of Philip Yancey is he's doing a good thing. He's actually helping fundamentalists be less fundamentalist. And as I said, if we hadn't gotten his book from the Christian bookshop, we probably would have said, This is too liberal, but they did a bait and switch. You know, we went into the fundamentalist bookshop bought a fundamentalist book, and we're impacted with humanist ideas. Oh, my God. And and it did push. both Brian and I, and from what I'm hearing from you as well, it did push us in the in a good direction. So. So kudos to him, you know, kudos to him. Yeah.

David Ames  56:21  
And I think you guys said that he probably wouldn't like to hear that, but that he was a part of your deconstruction. Quick, I don't want this to turn into a fanboy session about Philip Yancey. But quick sidenote, when I went to buy the Jesus, I never knew, very, very conservative Christian bookstore, and I got just glaring looks. As I was buying the book from the bookseller, it was understood that, you know, he was definitely more liberal. And there's something different about him, even at the time.

Troy  56:54  
One of the things that I wanted to ask him, which I didn't get to ask him was that Marcus Borg wrote a book called meeting Jesus again for the first time, which sounds a lot like the Jesus I never knew. And I wondered if Philip Yancey hadn't read that book, and thought, I want to bring an evangelical version, because it comes back to the person of Jesus, you know, aside of, aside from all the religious stuff that we've gone through, and all the doctrines, etc, let's come back and look at this, this person of Jesus and and meet him again for the first time or the Jesus that I never knew. And and I would really like to know if Marcus Borg had actually impacted Philip Yancey, or if he would even admit that because Marcus Boggs book was first, I haven't actually

David Ames  57:37  
read that. So you know, maybe someday, if I'm interested. I'll do that.

As we wrap up, guys, I want to focus back on your podcast and the community that you're building, how can people find the community and maybe just talk a little bit about what is going on in the community that you guys are building?

Troy  58:02  
Sure, well, the podcast is available on all the good platforms. And as Brian likes to say, some of the bad ones too. Yes. We have, obviously where, you know, we're on social media, we're on Instagram, we had to be pushed onto Instagram, because we're both in our 50s. We didn't, didn't know about the Instagram. We are now on Instagram, we're on Twitter, we'll see how long that lasts. We're on Facebook as well, we have that Facebook community. You know, and look, we have communities of people that are you know, volunteering behind the scenes to help us out. People can connect with us in the in the different social media platforms, because we do tend to respond, we read pretty much everything. Matter of fact, there's time to have to say I've got to I've got to put this down for a while it could become an obsession. But we try to make it meaningful, and we try to make ourselves available to people. I think the fact that we have this uniquely Australian voice makes us different. And I think some of our American audience, sometimes grab their pearls, you know what I mean by that they're like, they just say that. And that's that's very Australian. And I think that's unique. And some people have actually said to us from from foreign audiences, it's nice to hear you guys saying stuff that we would never dare dare say in our own accent. And that makes it kind of distant yet the same in the same moment. So, you know, we welcome people from around the world, but it's uniquely Australian in our experiences. But as you've said, David, and we've said to you, it's still the same shit different bucket. Yeah.

Brian  59:37  
And I think it's the great thing about living in a nation that was founded for convicts is that we were just a reverent, it's in our DNA. We, we definitely dwell in that irreverent place. But I look, I think that the Facebook community is definitely a place where people connect most. As I think I said before, it's about 800 people within that community as we speak, the podcast has gone mental, in compared to our expectations, you know, nominated for an Australian best podcast award for current affairs. By the time this goes to air, we'll know whether we got the gong. But it's, you know, it's just amazing to, to actually think that people are connecting with two ordinary blokes living in Australia.

Troy  1:00:27  
And if we do when I think we need to stand up the front and say, we just want to thank God for his podcast, because if it wasn't for God, the podcast wouldn't exist.

Brian  1:00:40  
If it wasn't for a God that doesn't exist, wouldn't exist.

David Ames  1:00:45  
I think that is the ultimate Mic drop. And Troy and Brian, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thanks. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode. You might notice I'm a little subdued, my voice is a bit subdued. I have not been feeling very well. I'm feeling a little better now. But if my voice is different than that is why I really love what Troy and Brian are doing with our podcast and particularly with their community. It is so much like this podcast, it's a it's amazing. You can hear in the interview, the realness that comes through in their stories. They both had experience in the Assemblies of God, and we're around the influence of Hillsong, if not directly at Hillsong. And then I thought it was interesting that during their deconstruction they called themselves Baptist hostels that they were going to a theologically Baptist church, but that had charismatic leanings. Troy's story of getting himself kicked out so that he can have sex is well worth it. You've gotta go listen to that episode, for sure. I've really appreciated Brian's discussion in this interview about the influence of his brother, his brother becoming a evangelical Christian and him going to visit assuring them that he was not going to be converted, and he got converted. So there is the acknowledgement of the power of religion and the message and love bombing and all of those things. I really appreciated Troy and Brian's humor, they're Australian humor. They're distinctly Australian voices, they say. I think that humor is a fantastic way to overcome what can be seen as tragedy. And they are doing that. Well. I've obviously related to both Troy and Brian, because of reading many of Philippians C's books, it was really interesting to dive in and talk about their experience interviewing him and the misgivings that they had after interviewing Philippians. See, that is a fine line that I walk constantly of who should be on the podcast, who should we platform, it is not always obvious what is going to work and what isn't. You can find I was a teenage fundamentalist on all the podcast platforms. They also have a YouTube channel called I was a teenage fundamentalist. They also have a Facebook group that is associated with their Facebook page. So check that out. I will have links in the show notes, I will also have their link tree that has links to all kinds of their content. I want to thank Troy and Brian for being on the podcast for being so honest. As we said, This really feels like a sister podcast, so many similarities. Definitely check them out. Thank you for sharing your stories. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about acceptance, accepting yourself accepting others. I keep finding people in my life who when they finally realize that I accept them for who they are entirely without reservations without misgivings completely open up and and I get to see that person for who they really are and they stop hiding. Then that lesson is definitely true for myself, when I have had the opportunity to really tell my story to someone to really tell where I'm at where my heart aches are. That has been a profound and cathartic experience. And actually mean this in many areas beyond just religion. But what we're doing here on the podcast is giving a platform for people to tell their story. And telling your story is profound is cathartic. And becoming a part of a community where people express their acceptance of you is life changing. I want to encourage you all to do three things. One and to accept yourself for who you are. And not to beat yourself up and brace your humanity. You don't need to be something else or someone else you can be yourself. And that is not only enough, that is fantastic to try to show secular grace for other people that they need that much acceptance as well, and be the person who is safe for others to come to and tell their story and be vulnerable. And three, if you haven't yet told your story on this podcast and you have had a faith transition of one kind or another, I'd love to have you on. And I'd also love you to become a part of the deconversion anonymous Facebook community to experience that acceptance in the group reached out to me at graceful the Facebook group is at Next week, I have Rachel hunt from recovering from religion. That was an amazing conversation. I can't wait to share that with you. I've got a number of community members lined up and a couple of interviews done. I still have Jennifer Michael help coming up. The interview will be later this month, and that episode will come out in early March. Her new book is The Wonder paradox and it is fantastic. Go check that out. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beads. If you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show. Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast be part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network

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