This week’s guest is Evan Clark. Evan is the Executive Director of Atheists United. Evan grew up in a partially religious home, but at six years old, the idea of a god didn’t make sense to him.
He attended a Christian liberal arts college and was able to start its first atheist group. Since then, he’s gone on to create many humanist communities.
In this episode, Evan explains why atheist spaces in the US differ from spaces in other more progressive countries, why community is not the only thing people need, and he shares some of Atheists United’s upcoming projects.
“‘Why do you need an atheist community?’ It’s not about atheism; it’s about atheists. Atheists are people, and people need community.”
“In the US, we don’t fix homelessness with our government. We don’t fix hunger with our government. We don’t provide healthcare to all of our citizens, and so what is the most powerful, most well-funded institution, outside of government, that then steps up?…religion.”
“There’s something unique about the humanist perspective that we can offer the world.”
“To be a ‘Philosophy Bro’ is abnormal. To sit and ponder literally everything while things burn around me? That is a privilege upon a privilege.”
“There’s so much more value from what I can do…getting atheists together and doing good work and providing transformational spaces for them; rather than being the one who fixes bad ideas of other people.”
“You stay in an organization, and you become active in an organization…when it transforms you, when it’s something that helps you grow as a human being.”
“Humanism starts from the idea that magic isn’t real. It’s a naturalist world…God and gods aren’t things that matter to our universe. We are these small little homo sapiens on a small planet, in a small galaxy, in an unbelievably massive universe.”
“The story of the universe and the idea that you can solve problems…and understand your place in [your community] and figure out moral and ethical problems. I think that’s more beautiful [than religion] because it’ll always improve based on new evidence and experience.”
Arline guest hosts to ask David anything. David tells his deconversion story. He talks about the beginning of the Deconversion Anonymous FB group. David goes deep on what Secular Grace is and what it means to him.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (deciphr.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
0:00:11 David Ames: This is the Graceful Atheist podcast. Welcome. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist Podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. I want to thank all the patrons, many of whom have moved over from the Anchor and stripe support which is now shut down onto Patreon. Thank you to Joel, Lars, Ray, Rob, Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Thank you so much for being patrons. You all will have access to Ad Free for the podcast forever.
0:00:47 David Ames: As we move into 2023 and become a part of the Atheist United Podcast Network. There will be ads if you too would like to have an ad free experience, you can become a patron for any amount. There aren't any tiers, any amount and you'll have access to that RSS feed. As a part of the move to Atheist United, we are moving the podcast from Anchor to Spreaker. The podcast will be on hiatus for the Christmas and New Year holidays anyway.
0:01:14 David Ames: From the 18 December to the 8 January we are off. You may notice that the podcast may show up in a different way in the podcast application that you use to listen to this. So definitely by January 8 be checking to make sure that you have up to date episodes as of January 8, 2023. I'll try to minimize all the technical hiccups, but there might be one or two. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any problems.
0:01:44 David Ames: This hiatus will be right during the holidays, which I know can be a difficult time when you are in the middle of deconstruction and family can be challenging. First of all, my apologies, but I want to give all of our volunteers a break in this episode. I do a number of recommendations for this episode and really all episodes. If in the show notes you'll see a link that will say for quotes, recommendations and more, follow this.
0:02:12 David Ames: It goes to my blog. Truly, there are a number of book recommendations, podcasts, blog posts, all kinds of information that can hopefully get you through this holiday season. Please hang on to the Final Thoughts section as I want to thank a number of people. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arline guests, hosts and asks me anything. You all gave us some questions you wanted me asked in the Facebook group and Arline is here to ask the questions and I am here to give you some answers.
0:02:55 David Ames: As I say upfront. For those of you who have been listening to the podcast from the beginning, some of this will be a bit repetitive. For those of you who've just joined in the last year or year and a half, it might be new information, so I hope you enjoy this. Here is Arline asking me anything.
0:03:16 Arline: David. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist podcast.
0:03:19 David Ames: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you.
0:03:21 Arline: Yes, I'm excited to get to interview you we've had a lot of people in the Deconversion anonymous Facebook group ask them questions, and listeners ask them questions. And so today we get to hear all about the host. David, this is great.
0:03:37 David Ames: Very cool. Yeah. You and I were talking earlier that I'm sometimes concerned that I repeat the same stories, but we have such a brand new set of people that for the die hard people sorry, you're going to hear the same thing again.
0:03:51 Arline: That's okay. We love it. It's good for us. One thing that I do want you to start with is, can you tell us a shortened version of your Deconversion story? And then we have tons of questions after that.
0:04:03 David Ames: Yeah, so the quick version is that my family is very much a soap opera, so it's hard to tell my story without talking about my mom. So I'll just lay down on the couch here and tell you lots of drug and alcohol abuse on and off. Again, being, you know, an adult and then not. And when I was about 17 years old and again, this is after years already of back and forth, she came to me and said, Jesus spoke to me, and it was life or death, you choose.
0:04:45 David Ames: And I'm going to try to choose life. And I was like, yeah, sure, whatever.
0:04:50 Arline: I understand.
0:04:51 David Ames: Again, I'd heard I'll be sober tomorrow stories a thousand times. The next day she was sober, and the day after that and the day after that. And she was great, right? Like, she handed me a Bible and said, if you care, if you want, take a look at this. And, you know, I was an inquisitive kid, so I did something that was very weird. I really, you know, our family was really kind of nominally Christian, so I really hadn't I'd been to a friend's churches here and there. I really didn't have any church exposure, so I read through the entire Bible on my own before I really went to church, right, to have the experience of church.
0:05:30 David Ames: So I fell in love with Jesus, man, this guy. I came for the sick and not the well. And you cleaned the outside of the cup, but the inside is filthy. It's like that stuff spoke to me, and I was just all in. And it's hard to overstate as well the apparent miracle of my mom getting clean and sober. She went for yet another round of impatience for a few weeks and came out but clean and sober. She got a job.
0:06:04 David Ames: Things really did change. Really did, in fact, change, but I really took this on for myself. That was definitely the impetus. But my reading of particularly the New Testament, I thought this Jesus person was amazing. Like, I loved everything about it. It it spoke to the modern hypocrisy of of Christianity in a way that I was already critical of. And so I was convinced by this concept of grace before I even really had the theological underpinnings to explain it.
0:06:43 David Ames: I'll try to speed up the story here. We were also in poverty. I had grandparents that saved me from the most dire consequences of poverty. But I had very little hopes. I was dropping out of high school, no particular prospects of what I was going to do with my life.
0:07:00 Arline: Oh, wow.
0:07:01 David Ames: Then we did get to church. Had a youth pastor. At that time, I was probably late 18, almost 19. They really didn't know what to do with me. They threw me in the youth group as a leader. That kind of moving people up to leadership way too fast. I was good at it. Youth pastor basically said, you could do this, you should go to Bible college. And I will definitely credit him for that's. What I needed to hear, I needed to have someone other than my family say, you could go to college, you could do something with your life.
0:07:36 David Ames: And in that, with hindsight, I now see it was just somebody believing in me. That was like the huge power of all this. And of course, I saw it in spiritual terms that God was the father of the Fatherless because my dad had passed away when I was very young, and I saw this as divine intervention and so on and so forth. Still, to speed up the story, it went through Bible college. I absolutely adored it.
0:08:04 David Ames: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. There was an element of infantilizing students who are 18, 1920 years old. But at the same time, I had incredibly good professors who were critical thinkers. They taught critical thinking, they taught real biblical research, and the technical term is exegesis and herbaneutics. And I ate it up, man. And then I learned the theology of grace, and I was off to the races.
0:08:35 David Ames: And it was like, what the church is missing is grace. They just don't understand this. And I literally felt like God called me to do this thing. Speeding up the story again. I did ministry for a while. I burnt out. I left on bad terms. I had a relationship with it was fully consenting. It had a relationship with a woman. That was frowned upon. As you can imagine, that did not end things. I went on to marry my college sweetheart, who I'm still married to and adore.
0:09:10 David Ames: She is also still a believer, which I'm sure we may get into, but 20 years really like 20 some odd years after that, I remained a Christian and taught Bible studies, but didn't jump into ministry ever again. I went off on my tech career, and that has done really well, and so on and so forth. Having children was a big deal. Trying to convey this to children was kind of putting the mirror in front of me of what like, what am I saying?
0:09:51 David Ames: And in particular, what's something that stands out is when they were old enough to be baptized and really they weren't old enough to be baptized, right? The expectation was they were old enough, but really it just hit me like they don't understand the decision this means, what this means. And I started to feel really uncomfortable with it. That's about the time that I really started to be deeply uncomfortable praying, especially out loud, and expectations in a Christian family to pray for your children and that kind of thing.
0:10:24 David Ames: And I just got more and more uncomfortable and did it less and less. And near the end I had like a year or so, a year and a half before the end. I did a read through the Bible for a year, which is probably my 4th, 5th time through something like that. I wasn't like an exceptionally good biblical reader, but I read through it several times and my wife pointed out to me that I was angry, I was expressing anger and I thought, why is that?
0:10:59 David Ames: And I think it was the first time that I was reading it without kind of a grace rose colored glasses filter. I was kind of reading it for what it says and the judgment and the capriciousness of God was leaping off the page for me at that point in time. And that was, I think, a major milestone for me as I started to I was always a kind of pop science nerd and again, grace focus. So I wouldn't necessarily have called myself a liberal Christian, but on the liberal side of evangelicalism of trying to be open minded for people.
0:11:44 David Ames: And in the very last stretch, I didn't know it at the time, but I was deconstructing without knowing what the term was. I was doing it alone without any outside input. I think what Christians often believe is that, oh, we read atheists and then we deconstruct. But I did all of this on my own. But it was a much more liberal interpretation of the Bible, really understanding. And the thing that I was hanging on to, the last pearl of great prides, to use the term, was the resurrection.
0:12:18 David Ames: For me, if the resurrection happened literally, as it states on the Ten, I was a Christian. And if that wasn't the case, it was super binary for me, then I am out in the bitter end. Like I was just hanging on to my sense of God's presence alone and nothing else. And I found myself being exposed to secular and atheist writers just by accident, right, just in the Twitter feed, you know, and just like not being afraid of it and oh, let me see what this says.
0:12:52 David Ames: And in particular a blog by Greta Christina about why are atheists so angry was probably a list of like 20 things. And I realized I agreed with all 20 of the things. There was like no notes, right? It was just like, she's right. And I think in that moment. And I love the way friend of the podcast been on the podcast. Matthew Taylor says this, I suddenly realized I no longer believed, but the suddenly refers to my awareness, not the process.
0:13:26 David Ames: So that process was those years in the making, but it was this sudden moment of, I don't believe this anymore. And immediately part of it was the idea of a soul. Like, I really viscerally got. I am my body and my body is me. My mind is a part of my body and there is no soul. And then immediately afterwards was, there is no resurrection, and I'm out. I tried to make it quick. That's the quick version.
0:13:57 David Ames: And we'll get into what happens next, I'm sure, in more questions.
0:14:02 Arline: I can empathize with the doing it alone. My husband had deconverted, but it just looked very different for both of us. And so when I was going through what at the time called deconstruction, I didn't know any of these terms either. It's so lonely.
0:14:18 David Ames: It is. Yeah, I know. This is going to air later. I do an episode with the guys from beyond Atheism, and we talk about the juxtaposition of deconstruction, deconversion versus conversion. When you convert, you do it as a part of a community. In my case, it was my mom, right? You do it with people. Deconstruction deconstruction tends to be really isolating and alone. And I thought that was a really insightful thing we kind of came together and described.
0:14:51 David Ames: And so I think that's super common.
0:14:53 Arline: Yeah, I look forward to listening to that episode. And yes, that's very true. Like I said, I had my husband, but in real life, I had nobody from real life.
0:15:02 David Ames: Yeah, he doesn't tell. Johnny's amazing, by the way, listeners.
0:15:08 Arline: He's fantastic. One day, we're going to get him on here.
0:15:11 David Ames: One day.
0:15:12 Arline: But I didn't know podcasts existed. I knew the Four Horsemen, I knew some authors, but that was about it. And so that's one reason. And multiple listeners have said this. Like, when they found your podcast, when they found the Graceful Atheist podcast, it became a staple. It was like, I get to hear other people's stories. I'm not alone, and yet getting to hear the similarities and the differences.
0:15:37 Arline: And now with the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group, we're finding community. We're finding community.
0:15:43 David Ames: Yeah, definitely.
0:15:52 Arline: The first thing I do want to ask you is how would you define graceful atheist? You as a graceful atheist, how would you define that?
0:16:00 David Ames: So again, I'll circle back to mom. My my real first kind of spiritual introduction was the Twelve Steps, going to therapy and a couple of different aspects, going to the inpatient thing that I mentioned. And what attracted to me there and what attracted me to Jesus in the New Testament was brutal honesty, brutal self honesty and honesty with each other. And there was something incredibly intimate in the AANA context when somebody would get up and say, Hi, I'm so and so, and I'm alcoholic, or I'm a drug addict, and go on to describe horrific things and have a group of people love them, embrace them, and care for them.
0:17:01 David Ames: So that's really what I think my concept of grace comes from is like kind of the worst possible circumstances, real, quote unquote sin, right? These people really hurt people and finding that acceptance. And then as I became a Christian, I then had this theological foundation to describe this in this vertical way that God loves people, theoretically unconditionally, of course there's more to the story there, but I realized that that's kind of what I had been looking for.
0:17:38 David Ames: I was not a terrible sinner. Like, I had slept with my girlfriend and things like that, but it wasn't sex, drugs, and rock and roll for me. And in fact, in many ways, I was rebelling against my family by being a pretty good kid, right? But I had this visceral sense of the concept of sin, this visceral sense of, yeah, I could do better, you know, I'm not perfect the honesty. That honesty was a part of it. So over the time of being a Christian, that it changed for me between God accepting me or God accepting the people and then actually witnessing it in other people watching person to person.
0:18:21 David Ames: That that acceptance. That love. And one way I try to describe this is the first time you tell, like, your best friend about your first crush, right, and they don't run away screaming. Or to use a more purity culture example, the first time you tell somebody that you masturbate and they don't run away screaming, right. They're exhibiting grace, or what I would call secular grace, right? And what I've come to learn and what I think is just true about humans is that we need acceptance and love wherever we're at, right?
0:19:07 David Ames: We may have made mistakes, we may have actually hurt people, and yet we still need people to love us and accept us. And so there's some extreme examples like that, but then the regular average person hasn't gone around with a trail of tears behind them. They also need to experience love and acceptance. And for our LGBTQ friends who have been isolated from society in one way or another or felt different than they need love and acceptance, right? And so it just drove home for me over time how much we need this as human beings. And so what I'm trying to express is that there need not be a spiritual or.
0:19:52 David Ames: And here, I mean, like nonnatural I struggle for words, non transcendent aspect to grace. It can just be people loving people.
0:20:02 Arline: I love that. Yes, I am thankful for the atmosphere of this podcast because the Deconversion Anonymous group, like, the audience that we have attracted, want to be those kinds of people, people loving people, and compassion and empathy and grace. What are some things that you have learned through doing the podcast, or how have you changed over the years having done this?
0:20:34 David Ames: I want to tackle the first part of that question first. The number one thing that leaps out to me when I think about what did I learn, is that I had it super easy for a couple of reasons. One, I came to this, as I mentioned, in my late teens, and I was mostly an adult already. I had a sense of identity. I did. I grew up in a nominally Christian house. We talked about God, we talked about Jesus, but there was no pressure at all.
0:21:02 David Ames: There was no purity culture. None of that existed. Right. I had sex before I became a Christian. I knew what that was like. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I felt like that was a part of the grace that the church was missing, was, hey, human beings like sex. That's a thing. So the number one thing that I learned, and just one other aspect that I think was true for me, is there were lots of emotional elements, but it was ultimately a relatively intellectual process for me of like, this cannot be true, and this cannot be true, and this cannot be true, and what else might not be true?
0:21:44 David Ames: And it really was kind of an intellectual exercise over time. It took a long time, but, like, at the end of it all, it was it was breaking down my own cognitive dissonance, my own non critical acceptance of what the church had fed me. Right? So the thing that I've learned is that that is not the case for many, many people. I I think our our main target audience is millennials who grew up during the 90s with I've kissed, dating to goodbye.
0:22:19 David Ames: Purity culture has done an anomaly on these people, hurt them deeply. Whether they're LGBTQ, whether they're CIS, het, it doesn't matter. Like, they were deeply, deeply affected by purity culture. And then on top of that, I never had the hell drilled into me again. Coming to Christianity as an adult and being grace focused, I always thought that hell was not the focus of Jesus's teaching, and that was overemphasized. So I was trying to be a corrective.
0:22:56 David Ames: So again, I never had the sense of existential dreads that our target audience has. So thing I've learned, man, Christianity can be much more damaging, and I would want to expand this to traditional religious teaching. On the fundamental side, I want to be expansive here. Not just christianity can be deeply, deeply damaging to human beings. And that is the biggest thing that I've learned. How have I changed?
0:23:34 David Ames: I think you helped me arlene to be more open. I don't know if we have time to get into it, but, like, when I started the podcast, it was because I saw the atheist environment, particularly the kind of YouTube environment, was very reactionary. Literally half of the YouTube channels were response channels to something some apologists said, and I just felt like, that's fine, and I wanted that for like, a week, but then I was done with it, and I thought, what is next?
0:24:08 David Ames: What's the next thing? That's why I started it. But I still was relatively narrow and that I was still focused on very secular. I struggle for a better word than atheist, but non believer, non theist, non supernaturalist. Right. And I think some of the people you've brought in to have the interviewed, some of the people you have interviewed has helped me to kind of expand, hey, we want to be open, an open space for people questioning in the middle of the process.
0:24:42 David Ames: And the only way to do that is to actually do what I'm saying, really be graceful and love people where they're currently at, which is going to include things that I don't necessarily agree with. Right. And and so I think that has changed me of just loving people spiritually is where they are spiritually, where they are in the deconstruction process and not having to try to define hard barriers for that.
0:25:11 Arline: Some of that was taught to us as Christians.
0:25:14 David Ames: Yeah.
0:25:14 Arline: There are certain goals that people should reach, and so we should help them reach that goal rather than just letting them be wherever it is that they are.
0:25:21 David Ames: Yeah.
0:25:30 Arline: Speaking of a past guest who you interviewed, and she and I met through Instagram, who was in a similar place, in a place of still maybe kind of believing, not really sure, was Marla Taviano, and her question jumped out at me. So I'll jump here. How do you say, Stay so damn graceful?
0:25:52 David Ames: That's exactly how she wrote it.
0:25:55 Arline: And yes, how do you do it?
0:25:57 David Ames: How do you do it, David?
0:25:59 Arline: How did she say become the annoyed atheist or the bitter atheist?
0:26:02 David Ames: Yeah. So one of the things I want to just step back for a second and put context here. One of the things I didn't like about Christian thought leaders, let's call them, but authors, speakers, what have you, is that they would often be very judgmental without the honesty that would be required to make that actually powerful or useful. And so I want to make it clear here that I actually think I'm a fairly judgmental person.
0:26:35 David Ames: I have pretty strong opinions, right. And I'm holding those back 95% of the time. And the part of the podcast is you're hearing restraint from me. Right. I'm not doing the response video the way that I saw my peers do. I'm choosing Volitionally not to do that. And it's a close thing. And if you follow me on Twitter, which I know is dying every once in a while, man, I'll get sucked in and I have to respond to an apologist. It just drives me crazy.
0:27:16 David Ames: So the first thing is the honesty to say that I don't think I'm a graceful person, the graceful atheist moniker is Aspirational. That's why I literally start every episode by saying I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I do not think I am good at this at all. It is hard to have your arms wide open and accept lots of people from different diverse backgrounds. That's a difficult thing to do. And I never, ever want to suggest that I am doing that well.
0:27:49 David Ames: So there can always be we can do this better. It's kind of my constant mantra, I can do this better. And then further honesty is to say, I do get angry, right? Like, I get angry at the Christian thought leaders of today. I get angry at the Christian nationalism, at the politics. I am angry. I don't think that putting more anger out into the world will be helpful. So let me give you a dumb example.
0:28:22 David Ames: Like I see constantly, especially on Twitter, but elsewhere as well, a conservative Christian says some stupid thing and then a bunch of people in my timeline retweet that and have some comment about it. And it's like if we have learned nothing from 2016 to 2020, it's that you cannot feed the trolls or the trolls win. And so, again, it's restraint. It's not that I don't have passionate feelings about these things.
0:28:55 David Ames: It's that I think my end goal of a more pluralistic, more secular, and I mean secular here in the freedom of religion and freedom from religion, not more atheists necessarily, is to not put more hate into the cycle, right into the feedback loop. And I hope that answers Marla's question. But I just fall back on I'm trying and I'm trying to do that every day.
0:29:31 Arline: I'm going to tuck that away. Don't feed the trolls or the trolls win. Because yes, tuck that away inside my mind because I do get pulled into the retweeting and the memes because it is so angry. Why do you think the podcast is so successful? Like, what do people love about it?
0:29:58 David Ames: Yeah, it's hard to separate my own cognitive biases here. So, again, if I take you back to ID converts, I'm looking around online, trying to find a place for me and not finding it. On the one hand, there's kind of a hyper rationality. It's all about debate, it's all about aggressive. Even the good guys. I follow a number of philosopher people who do a bit of counter apologetics and they do it well, right? They do it with kindness.
0:30:36 David Ames: But even them, right, it's still pure rationality. It doesn't acknowledge the human being. Right? And I was feeling all this emotional response. And one other thing I'll say is it was all men, too. It was just men, right? And I thought, there has got to be other people out there who this is hitting the whole person and they want to express that in some way. And I also was cognizant of not like the flip side of this, the other side of the equation is there are 1001 three X pastors and a beer podcast.
0:31:21 David Ames: So the flip side of the hard atheist is the really open minded progressive Christian, right? And I knew that wasn't what I wanted to say either. I think, and I may lose people here, that Christianity is not redeemable. I think we should take things from it and learn from that. I think grace is one of those things, but I think history has taught us that every attempt to redo Christianity, to go back to the basics.
0:31:57 David Ames: Again, I hate to lose people here, but reconstruct Christianity in some way is doomed to failure. So those are kind of the polls and I was trying to hit the middle of people who are asking legitimate questions, but also are experiencing this range of emotions as a human being does. And again, one of the things I learned is that there's real trauma, literal trauma that people are experiencing. And I didn't know that at the time when I was starting and providing a place for that.
0:32:29 David Ames: So I went in with my own cognitive bias that there must be at least some people like me out there. And I did so with the podcast knowing that I could double quadruple the audience by being an asshole, being the hard atheist, doing the response stuff, and I chose not to. Again, restraint, as much restraint as I could have, right? And it has been slow but steady growth and I could not be more grateful for that.
0:33:01 David Ames: Right. I did not need the overnight success. I feel like now we're reaping the benefits of doing it the right way. And I hope that, again, maybe my cognitive bias, but I hope that that's what people are responding to, that the core message is if you find that you can no longer believe, there is still hope, there's still awe, there's still wonder, there is still community, there's still grace. And that's the core message of the podcast.
0:33:33 Arline: Yeah, I think you're right. Those are themes that I see when I talk to different people about listening to the podcast. Those are things that I've heard. Speaking of community, how do you find community? Who do you have in your real life or online life?
0:33:50 David Ames: Yeah, this is a tough one. My best friend lives in the area, so we see each other on a pretty regular basis, so I don't feel like I'm hurting. He's a believer, but we are real honest with each other. I would say that he's in a place where I was five years before my vegan. Whether he will or not, who knows? I've also built some friendships. I'm not going to name drop here, but a couple of people we meet almost once a month and they are kind of a, for lack of a better term, spiritual outlet for me where I don't filter myself.
0:34:36 David Ames: I can just say what I'm feeling and I don't have to edit it. And make it sound pretty or graceful and I really appreciate them. I don't want to call it an accountability group, but it's kind of an accountability group. It's not, but you know what I mean, I get that from those people. And then the other thing, and I think this will be an answer to another question I'm anticipating you asking is that I'm an introverts and that might surprise people, but I build very strong, few very strong relationships and I feel pretty satisfied.
0:35:18 David Ames: I know 2020 was brutal on people and the lockdowns and things, but I thrive. My wife's very similar, we are homebodies, we literally enjoy each other's company and at times to be on our own and we provide a tremendous amount of what we need in other human beings for each other. And so it's kind of a boring answer, but I am not hurting for friendships and I have work colleagues online as well and I meet with a handful of people on a relative regular basis as well.
0:36:00 David Ames: I do want at some point in time to have some in person real world in the same room, breathing the same air experiences. Whether or not I've had time for that in reality is a question, and again, that may be a question that comes up here in a second.
0:36:14 Arline: Yeah, that was one of the questions is you are largely absent from the Deconversion Anonymous group and people were curious why you're not able to be part of it more.
0:36:25 David Ames: Yeah, that is a super honest question and I'm really glad that that got asked. So again, Arline, I'm so grateful that you are here that you've taken on the community management. The reality is that when I started the podcast, first of all, we started every other week. I was doing the editing, the interviews, I was doing all of it and I knew that there just wasn't much more that I could do. Mike came on and made a huge impact. So we went to once a week, he's doing all the editing and we could not do once a week without Mike.
0:37:09 David Ames: I had seen online communities explode just like overnight sensations and then implode and self destruct probably three or four times in the time of being kind of online after deconversion for me. And I did not want to repeat that. I knew that I didn't have the time to start a community and shepherd that for lack of a better term, but like be a leader there. And so I didn't, we didn't for a long time. We started the podcast in 2019 and particularly over the pandemic and the lockdown, I could viscerally feel the need for it and I put out the call like, is anybody interested?
0:38:01 David Ames: And you responded. And again, I'm incredibly grateful. And the point I want to make is that for listeners who are part of the Deconversion Anonymous community, it would not exist if not for Arline. Because I have two things that are competing for my time that is a very robust work demand and family with a partner who is a believer and does not understand what I'm trying to do here. So I have a very limited window of time to do the things that I do, and I try to make what I do in that limited time as high impact as I can.
0:38:39 David Ames: And so that is doing the interviews and trying to provide some high level leadership. And that's about all I can do.
0:38:48 Arline: And I am thankful for that because I can do the group stuff.
0:38:54 David Ames: And I've heard fantastic feedback, by the way. You are a National Treasurer.
0:39:01 Arline: Yes. And I've said this I know I said this whenever I was interviewed and said, again, the atmosphere of the podcast has brought in such wonderful people into the group.
0:39:12 David Ames: Yeah. Let's take a quick second to thank the moderators. So there's a team of people that are moderators and they take that very seriously to try to protect the atmosphere and the environment for people. So thank you to everyone who participates in that way. The last thing I just want to say to wrap this up is that I'll refer back to I'm also an introvert. I'm a part of I don't know how many deconstruction deconstruction Facebook groups. And I think I can count on one hand the number of times I posted.
0:39:51 David Ames: It just isn't my personality. Right? Yeah, I can do this. I do one on one really well. I am terrible in a group. If we ever do a big get together party, I will be the guy in the corner by myself. That is just my personality. I know that about myself and I'm fine with it.
0:40:14 Arline: No, that's good. In the church, extroverted personalities and evangelism and get out and do all the things. Those are very much valued. I read the book, I was still a Christian. Read the book Quiet by Susan Cain.
0:40:27 David Ames: Very good.
0:40:28 Arline: And I was like, I am valuable because yes, similarly, Donnie and I would stay home and be happy. The pandemic, we were like, sweet. We just will work out at home now. Our whole family was perfectly content being at home. And I do love the small groups that we have during the week for the deconversion group. But that fills me up and then I'm good. I don't want to socialize in real life.
0:40:52 David Ames: Yes.
0:40:53 Arline: You told us earlier about some of the things that make you angry. You were very honest about that. What are some things that give you hope?
0:41:01 David Ames: So I'm tempted to grab the Joss Whedon quote, and I know he's kind of not super popular these days, but it expresses what I want to say. I'm actually going to look at my concussion. Joss Whedon said, the enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate. It is fear. It is ignorance. It is the darker part of ban that is in every humanness, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight.
0:41:25 David Ames: Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity this is the point I'm quoting. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are true believers. I believe in people, and I know that sounds insane. We're recording this on the day of the election. We don't know what the outcome is going to be.
0:41:55 David Ames: It looks grim. I know it looks bad. But I believe in people coming together and connecting with each other and being honest with each other and yes, showing grace with each other. That that is something powerful. And again, I want to be super clear here. I don't mean in some supernatural sense. I mean in a literal physical sense. It is powerful. It changes people's lives. It makes an impact on society.
0:42:26 David Ames: I think that if we can get beyond the just christianity is bad and actually start to collectively come together and see ourselves as even a political voice, as a civic voice, as a good actor in society, as a group, that that will have a positive impact on the world. And I'm sorry if that sounds sappy sweet, but I honestly believe that that honestly gives me hope. And again, we witness it in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group.
0:43:04 David Ames: I'm amazed on a weekly basis. I may not post there, but I'd read a fair amount of it. Someone comes in and says, man, I'm having trouble. I got to talk to my mom, I got to talk to my partner, I got to talk to my son. And 20 people come along and go, wow, I had to do the same thing. This is what I learned and I it that gives me hope, right? Like that is super, super powerful.
0:43:40 Arline: One thing that has come up often in the group are unequally yoked marriages. People who have deconverted their spouse is still a Christian or religious in some way. We have some who in the group who are Christians and their spouses deconverted and they're trying to figure out what is happening. What advice do you have? You and your wife are making it work. What advice do you have, if any, for people living in that?
0:44:10 David Ames: Yeah, I definitely want to refer back to I think last year my conversation with Michelle that we recorded or two years ago. I can't remember now what it was, but I first have to say this would not have worked if we both were committed to the relationship. And I know there are times when maybe the relationship won't work and if only one partner is committed and the other isn't, it might be terribly sad, but it may also be necessary for that relationship to end. So I want to preface it with here that I don't want to burden anyone here with more guilt.
0:44:56 David Ames: Having said that, another reason for the podcast was I saw lots of deconverts go out in blaze of gory and burn the bridge on the way out and f you to everyone around them that was still a believer. And I thought, that can't be right either. And I love my wife and I want this to continue. The core advice is this find the mutual values. And that can be challenging when one partner is a believer and one partner is not.
0:45:32 David Ames: But in our case, we have a lot of values. What drew us together, our impetus toward ministry, was about caring about people, right? We shared that. And so when I could put it in secular and again here, I mean, just nonreligious terms, right? Not atheistic, but nonreligious terms. We share these values and how that doesn't change. I think that's step one and then step two is making it abundantly clear to the other partner that you love that person for who they are, including if they are believers for the rest of their lives.
0:46:15 David Ames: The truth is that we as the deconvert may need to be the bigger person. That sounds arrogant, but but there's some truth to that in my How To deconvert in Ten Easy Steps, which is a joke title, which I wish I wouldn't have done, but here we are. Is you have to realize that all that process that we talked about, that took years, and then the realization is sudden. Your partner has done none of that.
0:46:43 David Ames: They have none of that context. They've read none of the books, they've listened to none of the podcasts. And when you come to that person, it's going to hit them like a ton of bricks from out of left field with no context. And that is a brutal thing to do. So you have to be the graceful person in that scenario because you have all the information and they don't. Beyond that, again, I'll refer back to my wife.
0:47:13 David Ames: She has a psychology degree. She brilliantly brought up this idea of in a long term monogamous relationship. And I know there are people out there exploring other options, but if that's you, if you want to be in a long term monogamous relationship, people grow and they grow in different ways and they can grow apart. And you have to kind of reevaluate, do we want to remain a monogamous partnership?
0:47:40 David Ames: And if you do, then you have to accept that person where they're at. Michelle had this idea of a second marriage to the same person, right? Like recognizing, yes, you changed and maybe she changed too. But we were agreeing volitionally, we love each other, we want to remain partnered. I'm big on volition. Right. I think marriage in general or partnerships in general are about will and not warm fuzzies necessarily.
0:48:13 David Ames: And it was just a restatement to one another. We're committed to each other and really trying to listen, really trying to hear where the other person was coming from. It may surprise you that I never correct or try to counter apologetics Michelle, ever. I never do that. There are times when I will carefully bring up a subject and it's clear that it's not going to go, it's not going to fly. So I don't I stop because I respect the boundaries she's telling me she has.
0:48:52 David Ames: Right. And that is hard, man. That's hard. Not everybody is going to be able to do that. These are restraints I've put on myself. Again, by volition, by choice, you out there may not be willing to do that. And that's okay. That's fine. Bottom line is it takes two to tango. You need both partners to be committed and you can't fix that for someone else.
0:49:20 Arline: I saw a meme that said the only time you can change somebody is when they're in diapers.
0:49:25 David Ames: Yes. For real. With teenagers. I agree. Yes.
0:49:33 Arline: Someone did ask. Speaking of teenagers, someone did ask, how have you guys, you and Michelle navigated parenting being in different faith or beliefs?
0:49:43 David Ames: Yeah. Again, both about the marriage partnership and about parenting. I don't want to make this sound like this has been smooth sailing. Again, we have tensions flare up and when we have an argument, 25% of the time, I think it's related to we, we are we have different world views, we come from different perspectives and there's this underlying tension that just never goes away equally with our kids.
0:50:12 David Ames: Again, fortunately, unfortunately, depending on your perspective, they were into their early teens when I deconverted. They had that exposure, a graceful exposure, but they had that exposure to Christianity prior to that. Both of them are definitely not traditional Christians. I don't like to speak for them, but more, very much more on the agnostic side of things than anything, that's tension in the family, that hurts Michelle and I know it.
0:50:42 David Ames: And I've tried to spin the plates of making sure my kids feel free and unburdened by purity culture and are free to make their own choices about spirituality and at the same time to try to any of you who have teenagers, you know, it is them against the parents. And so I have to back up Michelle too. There are times there are times where I put a boundary not quite where I would have and vice versa. I push at times to move that boundary and it is a give and take and it's tension and it hurts.
0:51:16 David Ames: And I wish I had a silver bullet and I don't. And again, for me, it's all about making sure that my kids know I love them and accept them. And no matter if they wanted to be hardcore evangelical Christians, I would love them and accept them for that. If they are agnostic, I love them and accept them for that. And I try to communicate the same thing to Michelle.
0:51:45 Arline: Something I meant to ask earlier when you were talking about the podcast, where do you want the podcast to go? What do you see for the future of the podcast and the deconversion group?
0:51:54 David Ames: Do you have places or how you.
0:51:56 Arline: Want that to go?
0:51:57 David Ames: Yeah, let's do the group first. Again, I'm really interested in now that it seems as though the pandemic is winding down. There doesn't seem as much personal health threat out there. I'm sure there are some of you who have family members who might be ill and that's not true for you, and I acknowledge that and I think that's true. But eventually maybe we want to meet together. And again, I don't know that I'm going to be the best person for that, both from a time point of view and a personality point of view.
0:52:27 David Ames: So I'd be interested to hear people who are interested in making this happen. I know that some North Carolina people and you in the south, there like a few other places have met one another in real life, and I think that's super valuable. So I'd love to see us try to build the infrastructure such that people can do that organically and then maybe also do something a little more structured once in a great while.
0:52:55 David Ames: I'd like to see more people step up, and that's happening just today even. I think there's more push towards an unequally Yoked group thing happening, like for people who are willing to lead, you know, a get together to step up. I know how much this sounds like the small group thing in church, and that's because it is. We're human beings. That's just the way we work. And I'm sorry, but we need people who are willing to just be there, be present, say, I'm going to be here at Wednesday at 07:00 every week, right? Like that's, that's all it takes.
0:53:29 David Ames: And then people will follow, you know, so more more niche needs in the group. So secular parenting, we've already talked about unequally yoked. We've talked about you're doing the sex and sexuality. I think that's an amazing thing. Maybe we need an LGBTQ, maybe we need a black corner, a Hispanic corner, whatever the people need, let's do that and provide that space for people. So as for the podcast, I feel like we go through waves and I'll talk about I'm going to go back to the beginning again.
0:54:10 David Ames: The other thing I noticed about my peers is they would go after all the famous people, of which there is really a very small number of secular people out there, and they'd get four or five of them and they would peer out. And I knew from day one. First of all, again, my personality, I'm not going to go ask all those people, like day in and day out to let me interview them. And I also was interested in real life stories.
0:54:36 David Ames: What is this actually like? I don't want to hear, like, even I at this point, what you hear here is pretty packaged. Like, I've told this story a bunch of times. I know the points I need to hit, that kind of thing. I want to hear regular people, what are they going through? And I've been honest with you. I wanted that to be open to women in particular as well, and not just be a male dominated thing, not just be a white dominated thing.
0:55:02 David Ames: We've tried really hard to accomplish that. I'll let listeners and community members be the judge of it. So I knew I wanted to do just people telling their stories. And here's the beautiful thing. And you and I talked about this, how intimate it is to just be the receiver of someone's story. And I could feel the magic of it right while I was interviewing somebody. This is it. This is the thing that people will want to hear.
0:55:34 David Ames: And again, maybe my cognitive bias, but I believe that sincerely, that that was the thing that was not out there or rarely out there. Yeah. And then I have interviewed I've interviewed authors, some people that I adore. Jennifer Michael, hex jumps to mind. Alice gretchen recently. Tom Cristofiak I love that book. I really like author. We just had Heather Wells, just someone who takes the time to really lay out that story in detail and has much better eloquence than I do to put that down on paper. So I really enjoy that.
0:56:12 David Ames: So we have an opportunity to be and I'm not going to name drop yet because I don't know if it's going to happen. Part of a podcast network that is atheist focused but very humanist in its approach. Basically what we're doing here, and I'm fairly certain that's what we're going to do and we're going to cut this part if we don't. And that would open up the door to a few more famous people, right? So a few more authors, a few more speakers.
0:56:49 David Ames: So I want to lace that in. I do not want to lose the heart of what we're doing, which is the people. And so my promise to you is that will always be the core. That's going to be the core. But if you have a few more podcasters, a few more authors, a few more speakers, that's what's happening. And we're also getting noticed. So even apart from the network thing, I'm starting to get people reaching out to us back to the it's starting to pay dividends, doing it the right way from the beginning and not just taking the easy, quick way.
0:57:25 David Ames: I'm getting solicitations from slightly more, wellknown, people and things like that. So I think you're going to see a bit more of that on the podcast. And again, I want to keep our feet on the ground and it's still going to be about people. The core driving thing for me is about honesty and vulnerability. I think you get those two things, and you have an amazing conversation, and that's what people relate to, and so I'm not going to lose sight of that.
0:57:55 Arline: And that's exciting. That sounds exciting. The last couple of questions, some of your favorites. Do you have any favorite interviews that you've done, favorite blog posts that we can link in the show notes?
0:58:16 David Ames: Sure. Some of my original stuff was before the podcast. It was me just figuring this stuff out. If you read it, you hear me trying to work out what this has become. Right. I already mentioned how to deconvert into any steps. Again, I hate that title, but it has a bunch of Google SEO. I can't leave it. Yeah, trust me, this is not just an intellectual exercise. I was trying to get to what does it feel like to deconvert?
0:58:47 David Ames: What does it feel like? And I feel like I hope that I captured some of that. I've gotten some positive feedback from it. So I would say that my early doc on secular grace and humanism. So those two different blog posts are really kind of my pouring out my soul. I did my deconversion, but it was a bit intellectual. I've had feedback on that, that it was more counter apologetic than most people care about.
0:59:22 David Ames: But if you're into that thing, you'll enjoy that if you're into that counter apologetic things. I also have a set of what I call thought experiments for believers where it kind of addresses some underlying apologetic without just to let the reader come to their own conclusion. Right. I'm not trying to tell them what the answer is. Just like, what do you feel the answer is when you get to ask this question? So I love all of those blog posts for interviews. I've already mentioned Jennifer Michael hecht her book.
0:59:56 David Ames: And let's do recommendations, too, if you don't mind, here.
0:59:59 Arline: Yes, go for it.
1:00:00 David Ames: So her book, Doubt a History, one of the early books I read, actually not the earliest. So, again, I read all the people that atheists read. I read The Four Horsemen. I read a few humanists early on, and it was all very cold and philosophical, and I still was looking for if I was going to describe secular grace. It's humanism with boots on the ground, blood, sweat, and tears, loving people. Right.
1:00:28 David Ames: That's what was missing. And what I found in Jennifer's book was, yes, it was intellectual, but it connected me to history. Deconstruction is not new. Atheism is not new. These questions, I mean, the exact questions now, I'm not talking about just generalities here, but the exact questions you are likely to have gone through. There is a trail of historical references of people going through the same thing, feeling just as isolated, feeling just as societally, left out and apart from the mainstream.
1:01:09 David Ames: And her book connected me to that. It also was humbling. I say this every time I talk about the book, not only are my ideas not original for today, they are not original for 2500 years ago. This is not new. And there's something profoundly comforting about that for me. I love her spirit. She also comes from a secular Jewish perspective, which I adore. Christians who say that humanism is stealing from Christianity. I want to just laugh in their faces.
1:01:45 David Ames: It is all secular Judaism. Like, we owe everything to secular Judaism. That's best. So a follow along to that is Sasha Sagan, that interview with her in it. First of all, I think Carl Sagan is one. You know, I often say I'm a Sagan like atheist, not a Dawkins like atheist. And what I mean is there is still wonder and awe and joy and connection and people. I love people. And I feel like Carl captured that and Dawkins doesn't.
1:02:21 David Ames: Well, man his wife Annie and his daughter Sasa Sagan have extended that legacy, and I love everything they do. Her book, Small Creatures Such as we, captures the need for us as human beings to have ritual again. There need not be a spiritual, non physical, non natural element to the need to connect with each other and mark time, mark birthdays, mark weddings, mark mark deaths, and collectively grieve and celebrate.
1:03:01 David Ames: Right? So in that conversation with Sasha, we talked about, man, how can we capture this and put it in a bottle and give it away? If I could give away to you the feeling that I have the satisfaction and I'm not a nihilist at all, right? 95% of what they accuse atheists of, I feel like that just doesn't apply to me. Right. I have more than what I felt as a Christian because I feel freer. Right? And if I could give away this project is trying to give that away.
1:03:41 David Ames: And I feel like people like Sasha have that. Alice Gretchen, I think I already mentioned she wrote the book, wayward I'll mention it's, in the same tone. Heather Wells, who was just on both of them are memoirs. I think there's a deep place for that. You mentioned Marla taliano hers'book of poetry. The three of them speak in a way that I could never right. That's not my experience. They are expressing an experience that's deeply important in a way that I don't have access to.
1:04:17 David Ames: And so I love those three. Amy rath came on. She has a podcast about nuns. N-O-N-E-S. Love her work. I think she's on to something deep and meaningful and important there. Just in the recent past, ryan Mukowski, Robert Peoples gosh, there's so much. I feel like I leave people out by trying to acknowledge these people. But you can hear in my voice when I'm super excited, right. And it tends to be humanist, skepticism, loving people, right? That combination, some combination of that is going to fire me up and I'm going to be excited.
1:04:58 David Ames: Can I give you more recommendations? I don't know you have more questions. Okay. More recommendations really quick, because this question was asked of me. I think it was via you. And I was unprepared. I came prepared today. All right?
1:05:13 Arline: That's right.
1:05:13 David Ames: Yeah. Often people ask me, what podcasts do you listen to? And the truth is, I don't really listen to the conversion deconstruction podcasts. And the reason is, like, I know that people will age out, for lack of a better term, of the graceful atheist, right? People come to us at a time of need, either during the process or they need a booster shot, so to speak, after deconversion, and they need to feel like I'm not alone.
1:05:46 David Ames: And they probably get satisfied right. Within, let's say, a year or so, right? Like, okay, I have enough. I can move on. And they will age out. And that is a good thing, not a bad thing. I feel like that for me, too, just in the same way that I was just 15 minutes of rationalist atheist and I was done in the deconversion space. Like, you know, I've listened to the podcast. Of course. I still do. I do a ton of research, right? Like, just for the podcast, I do a ton of research.
1:06:15 David Ames: So I still am listening to it. But for myself, that's not what I listen to. So a couple of recommendations. One is. Sabina hasenfelder. Dr. Sabina hasenfelder. She is a science communicator, and she is a skeptics skeptic. I love this person. She has both a YouTube channel, she's written the book Lost in Math. Where she is critical of the Tlcr is the concept of the beauty of mathematics and physics.
1:06:51 David Ames: And she says that led us astray. We're too focused on this aesthetic value and not looking at the data. She is critical of the foundations of quantum field theory, which, as you know, can spill out into things like the multiverse concepts and things like that. She is a skeptics skeptic. I love her. Even if I disagree with her, I respect her beyond anything else. For that reason, she's willing to just stand.
1:07:25 David Ames: And I want to be really super clear here. There is a movement, the wrong word, an intellectual trajectory sometimes called the heterodox sphere. And that's actually my next recommendation I'll talk about in a second that I don't agree with. Okay? So this is the people who are heterodox just for the sake of being heterodox. These are the people who were pushing ivoryctum during the antivaccine, during the pandemic, which I think was it makes me angry.
1:08:07 David Ames: Misinformation, disinformation, makes me angry. That was to build a podcast audience, and it pisses me off. So I do not mean heterodox. I mean willing to stand for the truth based on the data we have, right? And stand in the unknown. We don't know. The other message of this podcast is that the Christian apologetics will say, you have to have this answer. You have to have an answer. And it's okay to just not know.
1:08:37 David Ames: And I would much rather not know something than to speculate and get entrenched into my speculative answer. And that is the description of all of apologetics, but also sometimes philosophy and sometimes even science in some science, anyway. Sabina the second one is a podcast similar in that it is of skepticism. It is decoding the gurus. Two guys, Chris Kavanaugh and Matt Brown, they are both academics, but they are looking at all the famous people that I have avoided talking about so far, people like Sam Harris and Brett and Eric Weinstein.
1:09:22 David Ames: And that heterodoxphere. They are looking at it from an academic point of view, and they are looking at how it feels. Whenever you use the term cult, it gets negative immediately. But how they are abusing their personality, their charismatic personalities for monetary gain. And so it is critical of the critics, right? And so I think it's a super valuable perspective. Another YouTube channel that I really like, that I just found literally within the last month is Matt Baker's Useful Charts.
1:10:01 David Ames: Matt is a theistic Jew. He came, from, what he calls his words a cult. The British Judaism. I don't probably not even calling it right. Anyway, long story short, he's a history buff. He is a religious studies. That's his actual degree, his education, and his business is building, drawing out these charts. So he does things like monarchic lines, successions and so forth. But he has applied that to his religious studies knowledge.
1:10:45 David Ames: And so he has a ton of really well documented, really well resourced researched biblical history from a critical point of view. So he'll be like, here's the Bible's timeline and here's the archeological timeline. It's super valuable, right? Like, was Moses a real person? He tackles that with real honesty, right? And he separates mythology, legends, and history. And there's a bright line there. And I've learned things from him, I think.
1:11:20 David Ames: Man where were you 20 years ago? So I love that one from that podcast is of the book by Neil Silberman, the Bible unearthed similar. This is actually I'm way late to the game here. This has been out for a while. I believe he's at least Israeli, if not Jewish. But again, looking at the actual archeological evidence, is there evidence of 700,000 to 202 million people going through this tiny little space in the Middle East? And spoiler alert, no, there is not.
1:11:56 David Ames: And it's just an honest look at what does the data actually say, right? And I'm just beginning that book, but I think it's great so far. Again, I'm late to the party. Christian Demez is Jesus and John Wayne. One thing I learned what did I learn? I learned that I have been super privileged and ignorant and I have had the privilege of nivete. Right. I was a white ish male in an evangelical patriarchal environment.
1:12:36 David Ames: And similar to Jennifer Michael Heck's book about deconstruction is Not New the Christian Nationalist Patriarchal Elements of the Christian Right and Is Not New And something I would talk about from the Watched it Happen from the 80s, but she's taking it all the way back before the 50s even and just tracing the line of we should not have been surprised by Trump. So the fact that I was surprised is a revelation of my own naivete and privilege. Right.
1:13:19 David Ames: I highly recommend that book. I know you have as well. In my interview of you we talked about Tyler Merit. The name of it is I take my coffee black. He references the school I went to. He is definitely a Christian. But the experience of being a Black Man in 2020. And not only that, a Christian Black Man and his Christian friends and family not understanding, not getting it. And the pain that he'll just what he's so good at is the visceral experience of being a Black Man in America during that time period. And prior to that, too. So I highly recommend his book.
1:14:10 David Ames: Just to rattle off more podcasts that I listen to. You don't have to. Ezra Klein on politics I think is amazing. Yes. Sean Carroll on all things science, particularly physics, particularly cosmology, but also the philosophical background. He kind of blends those two. His his is called Mindscape 538 on politics, political Gabfest on politics. You're seeing sensing a theme here, very bad wizards, philosophy and psychology kind of related to the gurus, but without that critical aspect.
1:14:48 David Ames: So those are the kinds of things that I listen to. And then last recommendation is I wouldn't have known these guys but my teenagers. But Lincoln Rhett are the famous guys from what is it? Mythical Morning. Mythical morning. Yeah. Now. Ear biscuits. They were youth for Christ. Minister they did all kinds of stuff. They didn't talk about that through Mythical Morning. They deconverted and they came out publicly.
1:15:19 David Ames: And the series of podcasts in ear biscuits, both on YouTube and on their podcasts are just amazing. Very, very good. They did like a year after retrospective. All of that is fantastic. Go listen to it. It is great.
1:15:37 Arline: Yes. And Good Mythical Morning is just hilarious and funny and it's just think of a family friend, their kid was like, can we watch Good Mythical, Mythical Morning? Like eating the hot cheetos stuff. I mean, just the most bizarre, random stuff and it was so much fun. And then somehow I found out that they had deconverted and listened their story and so similar to so many people's stories that we've heard.
1:15:59 David Ames: Totally. Yeah.
1:16:01 Arline: Any more recommendations?
1:16:03 David Ames: I'm done. I'm finally done. That was wonderful.
1:16:06 Arline: I wrote a lot down podcast, although I do not need to keep adding to my podcast.
1:16:11 David Ames: Yeah, I hear you. And I'll definitely send you these names. I had to write it down. I would not have remembered.
1:16:18 Arline: Is there anything I did not ask that you wanted to talk about?
1:16:22 David Ames: I talked briefly about kind of having this packaged, trying to have the elevator pitch. So I want to wrap with secular grace is I sometimes talk about this ABCs of a secular, quote unquote, spirituality that's all belonging in connection. So again, I appreciate that this is a little too three points in a sermon kind of thing, but to try to simplify it for people. Again, thing I learned is how much cultural context feeds into our interpretation of the experience of awe.
1:17:05 David Ames: We know that you can use high powered magnet over a person's brain and they will experience God. And if you're in the west, you're going to see Jesus, right? And if you're in Asia, you're going to see the Buddha maybe, or Shiva or Vishnu or what have you, right? And if you're in the Mideast, you might see Allah, right? Your cultural context gives you the interpretation of what awe means to you. And what I'm trying to say is awe is a human experience and we should embrace it.
1:17:39 David Ames: It is a wonderful thing. I experienced that for sure, in nature and in friendship and sometimes in these interviews, right. That literal physical feeling of man. This is amazing, right. I feel that and I no longer have to say that's a god, right? No, it's just two people connecting and that's a great thing.
1:18:00 Arline: Yes.
1:18:01 David Ames: The belonging is what we've been talking about with the deconversion anonymous group. It's to know that you are not alone. You are a part of a people. It's part of what I talked about with Jennifer Michael Heck, that we are in a historical line of doubters. We are not alone, not only for this time period, but for all of human history. As long as there has been belief, there have been doubters, and we are a part of that. And so having a sense of I'm a part of something, I'm a part of this group is a hardwired need.
1:18:36 David Ames: We are social creatures. It's okay to embrace that. It's also okay to be very critical about which groups you are willing to make yourself be a part of. We are not particularly joiners secular people and that's okay too, but it is kind of a human need. And then the connection is back to what I was talking about earlier, about that almost confessional level, one on one human talking to your best friend in the world, the human being who holds your secrets, whoever just came to your mind.
1:19:13 David Ames: That's what I mean by connection. It's about trusting that person with implicitly. You know they are going to hold your secrets. You know that you can tell them anything. You can be angry and you can be an asshole. You can be yourself unedited to that person, find that person, love them, hug them, be the same back for them. That connection is so valuable, so necessary, such a deep part of being a human being.
1:19:40 David Ames: And the whole thing I'm trying to say is if you find yourself no longer able to believe in spirituality of any kind, you get to keep all those things. Those things still come with being a human being. You do not lose them. You do not need to be a fatalist nihilist who succumbs to despair. That is not necessary. And that is the message of the podcast.
1:20:06 Arline: All right, mic drop.
1:20:07 David Ames: I don't have a microphone.
1:20:09 Arline: David, this was wonderful. This was so much fun. I learned a lot and I know our audience is going to really enjoy this episode. This is great.
1:20:16 David Ames: I appreciate it. Thank you so much for doing the interview. I think this is valuable.
1:20:20 Arline: Thanks for being on.
1:20:27 David Ames: Final thoughts on the episode.
1:20:31 Arline: My final thoughts on the interview I really enjoyed getting to interview David. I learned a little bit more about his story, where he's come from, and it reminded me again how much he has a heart for people, how much he has a heart for helping people who used to find community. In the church, but now know that's not something they can believe in or are journeying away from the church and can figure out ways to give them space to tell their stories, to find empathy and compassion from friends through whether it's the podcast or the Facebook group.
1:21:14 Arline: He is putting good things out into the world and it's wonderful and I love it. And it reminds me of how thankful I am that I get to be part of this. I get to be part of his vision, I get to be part of whatever comes in the future. And it makes me excited about the future of the podcast, to see where things are headed and to get to see what the future holds for David and the graceful atheist podcast.
1:21:46 Arline: I love it. It's wonderful and I'm so thankful to get to be a part of it.
1:21:51 David Ames: For the secular Grace Thought of the. Week, it's just my gratitude for everyone involved with the podcast. I'm terrified I'm going to leave some names out here. So please, if I forget you specifically, you are included in all of this gratitude. I obviously have to begin with Arline and all of the work that she's been doing as the community manager of the Deacon Version Anonymous Facebook Group, guest hosting, recruiting people to be on the show, copy editing, just a number of things.
1:22:22 David Ames: The podcast could not happen without her. Equally, Mike T doing the editing, we do about 48 50 shows a year. That is a lot of editing to do and I could not do it without Mike. He is an integral part of what you get to hear. Both Arline and Mike are in the deconversion anonymous Facebook group. So if you appreciate the podcast, please thank them. Let them know how much their work means to you. I also want to thank the moderators in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group.
1:22:53 David Ames: Thank you to Arline again, lars, Mike, T. Again, Stephanie, Ian and Vanessa, thank. You so much for the work that. You do to help make the group graceful and provide a safe place to land for people doubting, deconstructing and deconverting. Thank you guys. I want to thank everyone who has been a financial supporter of the podcast in the past through Anchor and Stripe. Thank you so much for really years worth of giving there.
1:23:22 David Ames: I really appreciate that. And I want to thank the new Patreon patrons, some of whom have moved over from the Anchor stripe scenario. Joel, Lars, Ray, Rob, Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Thank you so very much. I want to thank Ray from the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group for doing the memes. These beautiful memes that you see of quotes from the guests on the episodes are just absolutely beautiful and it's a great way to promote the podcast and for people to connect and recognize there's something there that they want to see.
1:23:54 David Ames: In this episode, I mentioned there's a couple of people who I hang out with about once a month. You all know who you are and I thank you guys so much for keeping me sane, letting me be myself, and giving me a place to just vent sometimes. That is incredibly appreciated. Again, I'm terrified that I have left someone out. I need you to know that if you have participated in any way with the podcast as a guest, as a member of the community, if you've promoted the podcast on your social media, if you've told a friend, thank you, thank you, thank you.
1:24:26 David Ames: All of that is just so important. For 2023, as I've been talking about, we will be moving to the Atheist United Podcast Network. What that will do will give us. Some more exposure to the wider secular community, hopefully more guests on the show and me as a guest on other podcasts. But also we will be supporting the. Work that Atheist United does and they do a lot of work in the Los Angeles area for the homeless and various other community efforts.
1:24:58 David Ames: And the ad revenue from the podcast will go to Atheist United and will be helping a good cause. A reminder of one more programming. Note that after the 18 December to the 8 January, we are off. We're going to be migrating the podcast from Anchor to Spreaker. Definitely before the 8th, double check to make sure that you still have the podcast in your podcast application. And after the 8th, you definitely have a new episode.
1:25:27 David Ames: And if you don't, I might have made a mistake and you might need to refresh your connection to the podcast. I'm excited about 2023 and everything that we're going to do together. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from Mackay. Beats links will be in the show. Notes if you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media.
1:26:04 David Ames: You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on podcasters.com. You can also support the podcast by. Clicking on the affiliate links for books on gracefullaytheus.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate with the podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition and do you need to tell your story?
1:26:29 David Ames: Reach out if you are a creator. Or work in the deconstruction, deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast, just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes to find me. You can Google Graceful Atheist, you can Google deconversion, you can Google secular grace. You can send me an email Graceful. Atheist@gmail.com or you can check out the website Graceful Atheist.com.
1:27:01 David Ames: My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. This has been the graceful atheist podcast.
AMA? Try AAA. Ask Arline Anything. This week’s guest is your community manager, Arline. Arline tells us what she has learned from managing the community and interviewing guests. She explains how her views have changed on Christianity and fundamentalism after deconversion. She let’s us know what makes her mad and what gives her hope. She reveals her love language(s).
Join me in thanking Arline for all the work she does for the community and the podcast. Let her know she is appreciated.
There is a lot of empathy, with the emotions, the anger frustration, the sadness, the grief and the happiness. That “I am such a better person now, and wow, I never expected to feel like a better person having left Christianity.”
Watching my kids grow up and not having to micro-manage my kids. I can just let them grow into who they are going to. But I don’t have to have these strange bizarre expectations on my children.
Young people are not going to be able to be told the Bible is inherently true. They can literally google everything
The younger people give me hope. Their ability to push back on adults. Their ability to think for themselves and learn how to think critically.
The farther away religious people get from fundamentalism. The better their religion will be and the world in general. Fundamentalism just harms.
Anyone with whom I share values, I can try to hear them.
Everyone in the group that I have met! I am so thankful for this group. So many kind people, so many lovely people from whom I can learn things. The deconversion [anonymous] group is great. I love it.
I did not know that I needed it until I had [the group]. It is fabulous.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (deciphr.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
0:00:11 David Ames: This is the Graceful Atheist podcast. Welcome. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist Podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. I want to thank the brave people who have started the ball rolling on Patreon. Thank you. To Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Much appreciated. We are about to become a part of the Atheist United Podcast Network. That will include having ads on the podcast and in order to give you an opportunity to have an ad free environment, I have started the Patreon account.
0:00:47 David Ames: For those of you who have already become patrons, I'll be sending out an email shortly with the RSS feed, which is the way you can tell your podcaster to point to the podcast without ads. But I do want to make it clear that everyone else will still get the podcast. There will just be ads on it. Please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group. The holidays can be a really tough time if you are new to Deconstruction.
0:01:12 David Ames: New to Deconversion and it's a great place to connect with other people who are feeling and experiencing exactly the same thing. You can find firstname.lastname@example.org groupsdonversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On to today's show. My guest today is your community manager, Arline. Arline has been an integral part of the podcast and especially the community. We would not have the thriving Deconversion Anonymous community if it were not for Arline and her tireless work.
0:01:52 David Ames: Arline also helps out with copy editing and she just handles a lot of things on the back end. So as always, I'm incredibly grateful to all the people who participate to help make the podcast and the community as special as it is. This is an AMA or ask me anything style episode and so I ask Arline about what makes her angry, what makes her hopeful, and what she's learned from being a community manager, interviewing guests and watching the Christian nationalism that is playing out in our politics today.
0:02:29 David Ames: Here is Arline to answer lots of questions. Arline. Welcome back to the Graceful Atheist podcast.
0:02:42 Arline: Hello David. I am really excited to be here.
0:02:44 David Ames: It's a little ridiculous to welcome you to something that you are a major part of. First thing, right off the bat, I wanted to celebrate with you a couple of victories. You started the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group approximately a year ago. I think it was October of 2021. We're at somewhere in the neighborhood of 535 members as of today, which is astonishing. And as well as the podcast has been done really well. We just crossed our 200,000 mark for downloads.
0:03:15 David Ames: Downloads is a terrible metric to look at, but it does give you a sense of the growth. So it took probably three years to get to the first hundred thousand and so we did this in less than a year. Oh, wow, people are paying attention. You may recall when we were talking about doing the community group. That one of my goals was that we didn't just devolve into angry antichristian memes and just all venting. We wanted to allow space for venting, but we also wanted to allow for people to feel comfortable there if they were questioning that kind of thing.
0:03:51 David Ames: I think from my perspective, it has been, again, astonishing success, much more than I could have hoped for. And you are absolutely the reason why that is. So my first question to you is how do you do it? How is it that we have a successful community and it hasn't devolved into just angry antichristian memes?
0:04:16 Arline: Yes, well, I've thought a lot about this. Like you said, there's over 500 members. That still blows my mind. That still blows my mind totally. But how have we not devolved into chaos? I I think there most of the people in the group are acquainted with the graceful atheist podcast. So the vibe of the graceful atheist podcast, the way that you have interviewed people, the space you've given people to tell their stories, has drawn an audience of people who are also looking for that.
0:04:54 Arline: I've heard numerous people say, I was looking up atheist podcasts or I had deconverted and I wanted to find some podcasts to listen to that weren't just angry about everything and unkind who had podcasts that were just didn't make them feel some kind of way made them angry. You've drawn that audience, which then joins the Facebook group. And then I think the people who there are people in the group who are not don't even listen to the podcast go, oh, wait, this is associated with the podcast. Like, they have no idea, but they come into the space and they may post something or they read what other people have posted and they know the group is not going to be super inviting of the really angry, unkind stuff.
0:05:47 Arline: Now we totally have space. People post. Like they'll put, this is an angry post. And they just need to vent. They just need to tell how they're feeling. And people are like, yup, I get it. I empathize, I've been there. Here's a little bit of what I've gone through. And so there's the empathy and the space for all the emotions, the sadness, the grief, the fear, the uncertainty. People who are still Christians wanting a space to just like, how did you guys get here?
0:06:17 Arline: What happened? And so when people come into the group, curious or hopeful or just lonely, it's already the people in the group. I haven't done anything magical. The people in the group have created an atmosphere of just being, welcome to wherever you are. Here's a space that you can land. And it has been so I don't know what the word is, like, beautiful to watch and just see how people interact with each other.
0:06:49 Arline: And it's also been fun because there are the funny memes that people post and it's been a neat experience to watch and to be able to be a part of and get to know people.
0:07:03 David Ames: Yeah, and I do want to be clear that anger is a completely valid part of the process and we do need safe spaces to be able to communicate that. But again, I just think it needs to be commended that that's not the only thing that we're doing there, that there is a level of compassion and empathy, like you say. And what I think is just really beautiful is that someone will say, I'm having a hard time with X this thing and ten people come along and go, oh man, me too.
0:07:33 David Ames: That feeling of I'm not alone is so powerful. And as we've discussed before, the deconstruction deconstruction process is a lonely process and to just find your people is really amazing.
0:07:47 Arline: Yes, myself included. Lots of people don't have in real life friends who have gone through this. They're either still in church world, which is difficult with its own things, or they may have friends who are not believers, but they've never been believers. So all the weird stuff that we believed and did, all the grief of losing things that we used to believe, that we held so dear, all those different kinds of things, it's just harder. They can empathize with the emotion, but they don't understand necessarily those actual experiences.
0:08:24 Arline: And so, yeah, just finding a spot online where you can see that, yeah, I'm not alone, I'm not crazy, I'm not in this without anybody at all because yes, it feels like that in real life because you just may not have that. A lot of people don't have that.
0:08:51 David Ames: So you've done a number of things within the community. You lead a weekly discussion about the podcast episode, you've done sex and sexuality focused groups, you've done just social hangouts. What do you find the most useful, what do people respond to the most and what do we want to do new over the next year?
0:09:12 Arline: Yes, the Tuesday night podcast discussion. It's a lot of fun in that. Well, I'll say this, it's kind of like church world where you have like 20% who come to all the events and do all the things and then you have the rest who participate but don't necessarily come to all the little things. So you have the same people ish that come every week. It gives our guests who come who are on the podcast a chance to elaborate on things or just know other people empathize with.
0:09:49 Arline: Yes, I went through that same thing and it's we've had some very serious, like deep conversations and we've also had like just fabulous fun conversations on Tuesday night. And that, I think, has been it's added people to the group who've been people who've been on the podcast and then they join the group to be able to come to the Tuesday night thing and they get to connect with people on more than just now I'm in the group kind of level, like actually get to know some people.
0:10:20 Arline: So that's been a lot of fun. The sex and sexuality, like purity culture, people up. And so we have another podcast or a few different just random sex and sexuality type podcasts where they have nothing to do with graceful atheists that are just experts discussing different things, whether it's what's therapy like for the LGBTQ community what's it like to start having sex in your 30s, rather when you have no sexual experience, which that resonates a lot with people who've come out of purity culture.
0:11:02 Arline: What's it like to be in a sexless marriage? I mean, so many different just random topics that we listen to the episode, there's a few people in the group who are part of kind of figuring out what might be a good fit for us to listen to and then have more expertise in the area than I do. And then, yeah, we just talk. And again, we may learn stuff from the podcast, but just getting to hear each other's stories, getting to know that you're not alone, you're not the only 30 something who's like, oh, no, I've only had sex with my husband or my wife.
0:11:42 Arline: I've never realizing that I've always been attracted to people of the same gender, but I had no idea what to do with that. I mean, just so many different things and knowing you're not by yourself. And then as far as let's see the hangouts, those are literally that someone joked, this is our fellowship time.
0:12:02 David Ames: Pretty much it is.
0:12:04 Arline: Bring your own coffee. Yes, bring your own coffee, grab a drink. And we do. We've done. Just random icebreakers. People come with deep questions sometimes. I've been thinking about this, and it really is just to get to know people in the group. And that specific one has been during the day for those of us in the United States, so that we have not figured out how to get Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and the United States all in one social event.
0:12:35 David Ames: Yes, exactly.
0:12:37 Arline: That's fine. But it at least opens it up for people over in Europe and the UK. All of these things have been successful attempts of just getting people to know each other getting people to know each other a little bit more deeply than just posting on the wall. Because I've talked to lots of people who posted on the wall, but the people that I've personally been able to chat with more like this, like face to face, you start to build a closer friendship.
0:13:15 Arline: And there's an event coming up soon for people in North Carolina, people who are all there, they formed their own hail it's all get together thing because there's like seven or eight people that are all in North Carolina. And it's like, this is such a neat these little events have been to help people connect a little more deeply with people and they've been a lot of fun. As far as in the future, we've talked about possibly having maybe some discussions specifically on for want of a better term, some people are like, oh, I don't love the term unequally yoked marriages or relationships.
0:13:58 Arline: Parenting, what's it like when one is a Christian, one's not, or when you've only been Christian so far and now all of a sudden neither of you are believers. And what does parenting look like? What does it look like being single? You've come out of purity culture and you're single and you're like you want to make wise choices, but what does it look like? You don't have someone telling you what wise choices look like for single people.
0:14:23 Arline: So just lots of different it sounds strange, but like the same stuff that the church tries to give you space to discuss, but we're not going to tell you what to do. It's just like here's a space where we can see what does some research say or what are my personal anecdotal experiences say, and then everybody is able to just figure out what will work for them without people having to tell them what they need to do or don't need to do.
0:14:55 Arline: Shooting on each other. There's a person in the group who uses that phrase, don't shoot on people, don't shoot on people, don't shoot on yourself. Yeah, I like it.
0:15:06 David Ames: So, quick plug. For those of you listening, if any of those topics sound interesting and you'd be willing to run a group, you get in touch with Arline and we can make that happen.
0:15:16 Arline: Yes, absolutely.
0:15:17 David Ames: I think that is one of the fun things that goal for me, again, is that the church provides a place for people to use their hobbies talents. We can call them gifts if we want to call back, but whatever, right? Like the things you're good at, the things you're interested in. And I think the secular world that's what's missing is that there just are very few places to exercise things that you're probably not going to be able to make a living doing those things, but you're good at them and you want an opportunity to do it. So this is one of those things and that's going to be really exciting.
0:15:49 Arline: Yes. And if there are topics that we haven't thought about that it seems like a few people have posted about this in the group, maybe this is something we get to like, please send me. I am always open to Facebook messages, DMs and Instagram. I can hear those and we can talk about it and see.
0:16:16 David Ames: I'm curious, Arline, for yourself being more personal, do you feel like this fulfilled the community need for yourself as a community manager? You're kind of on stage a bit. I know a little bit about that, yes. Do you still get something out of this and then how have you changed by doing this work?
0:16:39 Arline: What do I get out of it? Yes. How do I explain this? I was still friends with a few Christians at the beginning of this year, but they were relationships where it's like they were not bad people. But it was not good for me. It was just not the best relationships to continue to be in. Because of the group and the friendships that I've made in the group, I was able to see those in real life friendships for what they were and be able to let go of them without thinking, oh my gosh, I am going to be literally alone other than my husband.
0:17:26 Arline: Now, I do have some friends who are still Christians, but they live in different places and they have never been evangelical.
0:17:38 David Ames: Sure.
0:17:39 Arline: They're not the Christianity that we really need to like that needs more deconstructing and pulling apart. Our values are still the same. We have things in common that have not changed. But having the friends that I've made in this group, just people that I know I can send a message to, I can send a Facebook message and just be frustrated or irritated and they can just hear me and empathize and then we can talk a little bit or not.
0:18:16 Arline: Yes, it has filled that. I feel like I'm just rambling, but yes, it has filled that need for community, for friendships, the different little hangouts getting to have my love language is I guess that's a little Christianse, but love language is like having deep discussions with a few people. So, like, I've always loved small groups, book clubs, things like that. So having those times during the week where I can have that and then I can go back to my husband and my family, my kids, who my husband is like, I don't want to have deep discussions about books that you've read that I don't want to read.
0:18:56 Arline: He's like, I love you so much and I'm so glad that these other people exist in your life because I don't have to feel like, oh, no, he's not meeting some kind of need or my friends aren't because I have friends now who are into similar things now being part of the community. Yes, I've built some good friendships. I have fantastic discussions with people. I'm learning from people that used to in church world, I had to be in like, White Lady Mom Bible study world and the men were in whatever man Bible study world they were in.
0:19:34 David Ames: Yeah.
0:19:35 Arline: And there was such little overlap that now I know I can send a message to one, to someone who is an expert in whatever the thing is that I talked to and I can just ask them a question and it's just a different experience and it's wonderful. What was your other question?
0:19:55 David Ames: How have you changed?
0:19:58 Arline: I am much more confident than I used to be. Now I say that I can lead little children like on paper, I'm an early childhood teacher, so I can hurt all the small kids, all the kids, all the cats. Yeah, adults were terribly intimidating to me. I had never been in positions of hurting adults, mixed groups because I was a teacher. So it's mostly women then in Church, Florida, it was always women and so I've had to reach out to different people in the group who are really good at that.
0:20:34 Arline: I've had to watch YouTube and learn all the things, so I've grown more confident in doing those things. But it's been definitely a huge learning experience. I've never done anything like this before, but it's so, I guess a little humbling, but in a good way. Like, I've learned a lot and getting to interview people, that was not something I'd ever thought. I've never crossed my mind, ever. And now I'm like, I want to be like David when I grow up.
0:21:08 Arline: But the neatest experience is getting being able to just hear people's stories and let them talk. Love it so much.
0:21:15 David Ames: That is my next question. For listeners who don't know, our leans played a number of roles, but one of which was just finding people to be interviewed. And then I think there was one person who said, well, why don't you arlene interview me? And you asked me if that was okay. And I was like, yeah, that's great. And this has turned into such a great thing that I've got atheist in my title and that might be scary for some people and there are going to be people that are going to be willing to open up to you in a way that they might not to me.
0:21:48 David Ames: So if you want to just expand, you basically answered it, but a little bit more on what has it been like conducting the interviews, being the one behind the mic?
0:21:58 Arline: It's much more intimidating because I enjoy hearing their stories. Well, I guess for me, really the intimidating part is trying to figure out how to make it flow and I want them to just talk. But also sometimes people tell their whole story and it's been like ten minutes and I'm like, oh, okay, now I have to figure out how to pull some more. Let's go back to this. But I have learned a lot and gotten to know people online very closely.
0:22:36 Arline: People that I've gotten to be much closer friends with after hearing their stories and just the things that we have in common, the things that I've had a few people that they would say come back to me in a few more months. Like, I'm not ready, I want to tell my story, but I'm not ready. And so for me, telling my story was therapy. It was so good for me, I wanted to get it all out there whenever I did it.
0:22:59 Arline: But other people, it's very intimidating, it's very scary. It's like now it's like someone in my family may listen to it, someone may hear. There's so much nuance with when people want to tell their story and they do want to get it out, but all the consequences they could possibly face. It's definitely helped me have a lot more compassion for people whose family or friends or spouse are part of the reasons why they want to tell their story but can't tell their story yet because my family have mostly not all, but mostly just kind of nominal Christians. So they were just like, okay, whatever you believe is they didn't care.
0:23:48 Arline: And so I didn't have a lot of push back, and so I just didn't realize how many people yes, it's hard for them to get out there and tell their story when they want to.
0:23:57 David Ames: I'm curious if you feel this I'm trying not to lead the question, but there's a deep intimacy in doing one on one interviews in a way that definitely not in a group, but even somehow you're hearing the heart of their life story. What has that experience been like as far as really getting to be from my perspective, it's a gift to be told someone's life story.
0:24:26 Arline: Yeah, I didn't know how to explain that, but yes, I feel like I know the people so much more deeply now. Most of the people that I've interviewed, not all of them, but well, it's only been a few people, but only one or two of them did I not know beforehand were recommended to me, and I just sent them a message. But others, we had talked and talked, and so I knew a little bit of their story. But, yeah, they sit there and they're looking at you, and they're telling some of the hardest things that have happened to them.
0:24:56 Arline: And, yeah, it's a gift. Like, they're so vulnerable, vulnerable with their story, with their whole selves. And they have to trust me a lot. They have to trust us to be able to open up and tell their story in ways that people often want to tell as much of the story as they can. They also want to try to honor certain people in their family. They also think, like, in the mother, where it's like, people should have behaved better if they wanted you to write or speak nicely about them.
0:25:35 Arline: But yeah, it's a very deeply intimate experience. Yeah, that's a good word. I couldn't think of a word for it a gift.
0:25:51 David Ames: All right. Another really kind of broad question that I just want you to run with is grace was a major part of my Christianity. It stuck with me through the deconversion process and obviously the grace lathe. I know what I mean when I talk about it, but I also know that it turns lots of people off. But I'm curious, what does it mean to you? What does it mean to be a graceful person from your perspective?
0:26:17 David Ames: Forget what I've said. I'm curious what you think it means and how you do or do not try to live that out.
0:26:23 Arline: Yeah, I love you say that at the end of the episode. Join me and be a graceful human being. I love that.
0:26:28 David Ames: Yes.
0:26:31 Arline: I think it means for me, giving people our family calls it giving people the generous story, which does not come naturally to me. Assuming the best in a situation or giving people a generous story, assuming the best. Remembering that, I guess the common humanity how do I say this kindly to myself, I can be very judgmental, like inside my mind about other people's choices that they make and just reminding myself of like, if I had their DNA and their life experiences, I would think and do exactly the same way that they're doing.
0:27:18 Arline: And so I feel like that's what grace is to me. Extending the love and compassion and empathy to others that I would like them to extend to me. And also extending that grace to myself. Because thinking back to when I was a Christian, it was a lot of like, kill your sin, kill your sin, kill your sin. So treating myself in a way that I would treat other people is also part of being a graceful human. And even which Joe Simonetta, who was just on the podcast, the way he talked about just respecting the environment, the idea of we're all interconnected, literally all interconnected and the choices we make on this planet, affect the planet and affect our children and all that, I feel like that's what grace is. I don't even know if I remember the correct definition of grace. But yeah, just all those kinds of things empathy, kindness, generous stories for people, remembering the common humanity of all of us and things like that.
0:28:30 Arline: I think that's what grace means to me.
0:28:32 David Ames: I don't know if you have the same experience, but on this side of deconversion, deconstruction, whatever you want to say, the manipulation from and we'll focus on Christianity here, but traditional religious figures in general is so blatant now to me. I'm curious if that's your experience. And what I want to ask is what have you learned about Christianity on this side of deconversion?
0:29:00 Arline: Oh, heavens. Well, here's one thing I have learned. The values that I had as a Christian are a lot of the same values that I have now. So I can still hear black Christians speak. Like I followed Jamartispie and some other the Holy Smoke movement. I'm not sure if they're Christian or not, but they're fantastic on all the stuff that they do and these different black believers that our values are still so similar.
0:29:32 Arline: But white American Christianity again, hashtag, not all. We all know that I cannot hear. But even as a Christian, looking back at my little Facebook memories that come up, I have been trying to call out and call in the racism, the misogyny, though. Well, the misogyny I didn't learn till later. Let me take that back because I thought it was biblical to be patriarchal and all that stuff, but definitely the homophobia and the racism for years.
0:30:03 Arline: Like, what is wrong with you people? Why can you not how can you vote this certain way that harms entire groups of people and see the way Jesus interacted with the poor, the immigrant, the lonely, all these people? So what have I learned about Christianity? The music is manipulative. I did not realize that. I learned a little bit of the brain stuff of how yeah, it's basically trying to get you high so that then you can listen, your brain is ready to receive the message.
0:30:40 Arline: That just makes me feel gross thinking and then that the white supremacy was, like, baked in from the beginning of American Christianity. White Christianity, even before whiteness was invented, like, the idea of whiteness existing, it was the idea that European people were just inherently superior to all other peoples. Baked in from the beginning. The misogyny I didn't realize. I started kind of realizing it while I was still a Christian.
0:31:20 Arline: I had a friend at the time who she came out of a part of Christianity where women could be pastors. And I thought that was just not heresy. But you all just are interpreting the Bible wrong. Since then, reading books like Cassandra Speaks and the Making of Biblical Womanhood, which is written by a Christian. She's a Christian. Author. Historian, I think. And just seeing, yeah, it's baked into the pie.
0:31:48 Arline: Just so many things that at the time I saw or just didn't like, how things just don't feel quite right to you, something's not quite right. But I was taught parts of those things were biblical, and so I had to believe them even if I didn't like them. What other things have I learned? I had already years ago, when Derek Webb was still a Christian, but making his own music, he was calling out the Republicanism and white Christianity being mixed together so much.
0:32:23 Arline: And I I feel like he was like a prophet. Like he called it way before anyone else was paying attention to it. He had a couple of albums that were just explicit about what was happening. And now we're seeing it. It's been happening this whole time. There's all these books being written about how the politics and the Moral Majority and all this kind of stuff is all mixed together. So it was happening.
0:32:50 Arline: We just didn't know about it because we didn't have social media. Now it's a lot more difficult for people to keep secrets, right? Other people can just find out. I say that I have also learned that there are different realities existing in the United States. So I said the phrase January 6, and someone in my family was like, what? What does that mean? And I was like, I don't understand why you don't he had no idea because that.
0:33:23 Arline: In his news world is not a phrase right and it's framed differently. It's a longer story.
0:33:38 David Ames: We got a couple of related questions to this new view on Christianity. So you live in the south? Yes. What is the experience of being a you know, on this side of deconversion? I think it's safe to say that you're a bit more liberal in your politics and living in the south, both from a you're no longer a Christian and from the political aspect.
0:34:02 Arline: When I was still a Christian, I had a little bit of because my politics went more liberal way before. That was way back when I was in college, I think I took a sociology class and was like, wait.
0:34:22 David Ames: I.
0:34:22 Arline: Don'T really believe or agree with a lot of what I had been taught was I was supposed to vote. And so I was like, oh, I can throw it out. But I also did not grow up in a church. I have learned since learned that people grew up learning that Democrats were literally demonic. Like there was this whole movement I had no idea that existed. I did not grow up in that. So I could throw out become more liberal in my politics and didn't have any kind of spiritual problem with it.
0:34:49 David Ames: Because you live in the south where not being a Christian is kind of a big deal and politically maybe a little bit different. Like, what is that experience?
0:34:57 Arline: When I was still a Christian, my friends could hear me. They could hear my thoughts on things. Yeah, but obviously maybe they were right and Democrats and we are demonic because apparently left Christianity true.
0:35:12 David Ames: They have a point.
0:35:14 Arline: Maybe it really is a slippery slope then. I did have some influence in conversations with the moms that I was friends with, I now do not have any kind of influence. I say that also thinking though, multiple times I think back to when I tried to I didn't call people out. I was like, hey, can we have a conversation about this? I feel like there's some information maybe you're missing. Whether it's on racism, that's usually my thing is the antiracist world. That's where I've had the most conversations with other white people, white women, but no one was interested.
0:35:55 Arline: And so maybe I didn't have as much influence as I thought of it. I'm not sure. But as far as just people around me, everyone just assumes you go to church. So unless I explicitly say anything, they just assume I'm a Christian and then I try when someone says something. I have noticed since 2016 in multiple encounters with people that there's a feeling of entitlement amongst more conservative white people to be able to say whatever they want and not expect there to be consequences just in interpersonal situations.
0:36:38 Arline: And they assume I'm going to agree with them, like, oh, here's a whitelist they just assume that my beliefs are going to be similar to theirs, and I try to go, wow, that's interesting. From my understanding, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, so that maybe they'll go, I haven't thought of that. I have no idea if they go, I've never thought about that. I don't like debate or anything like that. But I've had different conversations with people where I've just tried to ask some questions and see maybe to get them to think a little bit more about whatever the political thing is.
0:37:19 Arline: But for the most part, people just unless you have a conversation, people assume that we go to church, that we vote Republican, that we look like them, so of course we do the same things. And it is really nice when you meet someone that looks like me, and the conversation is completely different than I've expected. And there are plenty of people who maybe have different ways of thinking about politics, because a lot of it I don't necessarily understand, that I've been able to learn from, but I have to be honest, most of those have not been in real life. People those have been online friends that I who are in parts of the United States and so have just very different experiences.
0:38:10 Arline: But, yeah, people just assume things about you and don't usually engage in conversations a lot, not deeper conversations.
0:38:25 David Ames: You've brought up the topic a number of times, and I just want to explore it a little bit about becoming more aware of white privilege, your own personal experience, and kind of you've just described what systemic racism is, right? Like, that you get the assumed pass, so to speak, and don't have to justify anything. You've just really eloquently described that. I'm curious about timing. Was that something that you discovered prior to deconversion, or is that grown even greater after the fact for you? Where did that growth come from?
0:39:03 Arline: Oh, that's a that's a good question. For me, in my I guess beginning to pay attention was in 2014 when the Ferguson protests were happening, when Darren Wilson police officer killed Mike Brown. In my Facebook feed, where lots of the CVS is burning and people are riding, that just kept coming up. And then a friend of mine who is a black woman, she happened to post something from Twitter that was from what's called Black Twitter.
0:39:39 Arline: And I clicked on it to go see, and it was like kind of an on the ground conversation about what was going on. And it was like, here's where we're meeting for these protests, here's where we're meeting at this place. And it was just like 90% of what was happening were peaceful protests. And that was the first time I went, Wait, maybe something's not quite I don't know that I've ever would have paid attention.
0:40:06 Arline: I want to say, yes, of course I would have eventually paid attention, but that I know was because I've told her. Since then, you changed the trajectory of my understanding of the world. Yeah. So from that moment was the first, like, okay, something's a little different in the United States that I'm not understanding, that I haven't been taught. And at the time, I thought it was God telling me, but however it was, I realized I just needed to sit back and learn some stuff because I wanted to go save the world, which imagine a white person wanting to go save the world.
0:40:44 Arline: But I was like, okay, I just need to learn stuff I don't even know. I was listening to Jamartispie's podcast past the mic, and he Christian, so I was already learning from black Christians. And they were and so I was like, okay. I looked up every person I had never read, from IDA B. Wells to Angela Davis. I looked up different theologians. I was like, I just need to understand. I looked up just Googled things like police brutality. I started following all these different people online.
0:41:18 Arline: And I think for me, sitting back and being willing to listen to what had happened for 500 years in the United States, and what was just literally happening to people in real time forced me to have to pay attention. It was like, I can't unknow these things now. And so that was a long time ago now. And according to my Facebook memories, I can't remember the years, but there was like I remember when oh, I can't remember his name.
0:42:04 Arline: Trayvon Martin, when George Zimmerman murdered him. I just remember thinking, this is terrible. You don't do this. But that was it. My mom and I just argued about it. There was nothing more. But then it was like Tamir Rice, and it was just person after person, women, men, and just kept hearing all these names. And I was following all these people, and I was like, where? It broke my heart. I got a private message from a black woman that I've been friends with for years. She was like, Arline. Nobody else, none of the people we were in college ministry with are saying anything about this.
0:42:37 Arline: Everybody's silent. And we go to church on Sunday, and we're all together, and they don't say anything about what's happening to black human bodies, their brothers and sisters. They don't say anything at church. They don't care. They care about people's salvation and all that stuff, but not their real selves. And it made me sad to know where were all the other Christians, white Christians? So that's how mine got started.
0:43:07 Arline: And it's been just a lot of learning, a lot of really seeing that. Like I said earlier, it was just baked in from the beginning into white American Christianity. It was necessary in order to enslave entire populations of people. It was necessary to destroy human life and take land from indigenous peoples. I mean, it was just these things had to be mandated by God. If they were not mandated by God, we can't justify these horrible things. That we are doing.
0:43:45 Arline: And yes, I know I always assume there's going to be the like, but some Christians were abolitionists. Yes, thank you.
0:43:51 David Ames: I realize that the percentages were tiny. Whenever they make those arguments, the percentages relative to everyone else were very small.
0:43:59 Arline: When you can name John Newton, william Wilmore Force, that other Garrison guy, then okay, fair. When you can name, then there weren't that many people who were platforming because it was unsafe to them. They had to decide. We look at the civil rights movement, the strategic ending of lives, of human life, of leaders, so that they would stop asking that they have the inherent rights that are written down in all those fancy papers that dead white guys put together.
0:44:39 David Ames: Yeah, I don't want to take over here, but like my wife and I read a book by a black Harvard professor whose name is going to escape me, we'll have to do it in the show notes about the Declaration of Independence. Now, that's very problematic, right? But the prologue, the opening bits of that are so inspiring. They are so incredible about the equality that we state as Americans. We say this is what we believe in, and we have failed to live up to that even a little bit, including in the rest of that document.
0:45:15 David Ames: It's amazing that in the same document there's these beautiful, soaring ideals and also the embodiment of the opposite of that against the Native Americans at the time and things of that nature. I want to share one more thing to wrap up this conversation. You and I both were interviewed by Robert Peoples. He has been one of my favorite people that we've been able to interview. And I forget how he phrased the question to me, but it was similar.
0:45:51 David Ames: To what I just asked you in that. And my honest answer was, I felt I feel so naive. My former self, I feel so naive. And one breaking point for me was when Henry Lewis Gates, who was also a Harvard professor, was arrested in 2009 on his doorstep. He had forgotten his keys or something, was trying to get into his house. He was arrested, harassed. I don't know if he was fully arrested, but very much harassed and had ID on him, had his address, the place they were at.
0:46:24 David Ames: And that was the first time where I saw on Facebook, it's kind of the opposite of what you described earlier, people assuming that you agree with them. I assumed that everyone else understood that that's racist. And when I saw that some of my hometown people thought that because he raised his voice that he was out of line in some way, I was utterly shocked. I was just utterly shocked. For me, it has been and again, this is bad, right? This is a character flaw.
0:46:56 David Ames: But the breaking down of my naivete, of what I believed in all those ideals, I thought that's what america was about and just having the proof day in and day out, particularly during the 2010 of just having it proven to us that we are not over the racism that is inherent within the United States. It's just it's just painful and and.
0:47:19 Arline: Grieving, and it's like Ibrahim X Kendi, whose books I can highly recommend, he talks about racism like rain. He's like, It's just always raining. It's just always raining. And we don't even know it's raining because we have lived in the rain the whole time. And he says, when you realize or when someone else points out, hey, you just said or did something that was racist or this is a racist belief, if something like that happens, they're just handing you an umbrella so that you can go, oh, whoa, I didn't even notice.
0:47:53 Arline: Now I can notice this thing. And it isn't that people are all one thing or another. It's that we've just been swimming in it for our entire lives. And if it doesn't affect us, we don't even know we're supposed to pay attention to these other things that are happening. Because I can literally run into Walmart with my sunglasses on and a hoodie and a run back out, and no one's going to think, no one's going to say anything.
0:48:24 Arline: And it's also my responsibility, with the privilege that I have, to leverage as many other voices, as many other black men and women, especially women, especially women and other people of color women, women, their voices so that people can learn from people that we just haven't learned from because other groups have taken up a lot of the space.
0:48:51 David Ames: So semi related to this or the whole subject of what we've learned about Christianity. I'll ask the question and then I'll set it up. What makes you angry? The reason I asked the question is one of the things I've learned through this process is that my experience was pretty easy both inside Christianity and coming out of Christianity and that it was not easy for many, many people. You've already mentioned purity culture, but now that you've been a part of this community, you've listened to other people's stories, you've interviewed some people.
0:49:23 David Ames: Do you ever get angry for them? In proxy? For them, yes.
0:49:34 Arline: For me, anger is more accessible than grief and sadness. And I'm sure there's stuff I need to deal with in therapy. But yes, when I talk to black women who have not been heard, when I talked to were harmed, I experienced sexist remarks and things and a lack of access to leadership or whatever. If I had wanted things like that, I've never experienced the sexual harassment or the physical emotional harm done to a lot of women.
0:50:18 Arline: And another thing, I don't know if it makes me angry. It just makes me sad. The number of people that their sexuality was just more nuanced and they've spent their entire life not being able to do anything with that part of their body. They're part of themselves, if that makes sense. Yeah, I don't know if that makes me sad or angry or both. Probably the things that make me angry are when I think about all the when I hear people talk about the time they feel like they wasted all the years, that they could have just done things differently, done things in a more free way, in a more way that really honored their whole selves rather than having to squash that's how our family says, having to squash part of themselves instead of being able to live out of that.
0:51:26 Arline: The anger, it's still a lot of just the terrible okay, politics. There you go. That makes me furious. I was trying to think of the stories that I've heard from people, but most of when I hear the people hear people's stories, it makes me sad for them. The anger comes when I watch videos of the foolishness that comes out of white Christians mouths who also hold power in our country, in our states and stuff.
0:52:01 Arline: That just infuriates me. And it infuriates me knowing how many people can't hear my or other people's voices, to say, hey, this is Christian nationalism. This is bad. We need to stop this. They can't hear that because I'm not a Christian anymore. So I can't know what I'm talking about for sure, even though I really feel like a lot from the people I've talked to in the deacon version group. These were the Bible readers, these were the studyers.
0:52:31 Arline: These were the ones who were praying for all the things to make it happen. These are the ones who were trying to call people out, call people in, make things better. And not all of them finally gave up because I didn't leave Christianity because of that. Mine was completely different. But who wanted to glorify God, glorify Jesus, however they want to say it as Christians, and we're just like, screw this.
0:52:58 Arline: People didn't want to change. People didn't want anything, don't want things to be different if they're holding power, why would you want things to change? Why would you want other people to have more power if that means that you may not have all the power?
0:53:13 David Ames: You kind of answered one of my last questions. What are the commonalities and maybe the differences that you've seen in people's stories from your perspective? So from doing the community management and a few interviews as well. So one of them I think you've highlighted there is that it tends to be the most dedicated of Christians that are on the side of deconstruction. Deconversion. But anything else that pops to mind that.
0:53:41 Arline: 2016 always seems to pop up very often, and then 2020 for the people who have deconverted more recently, of course, Trump. And then the response to the pandemic, the way churches dealt with that, the conspiracy theories, you know, all that kind of stuff. Yes, lots of people have talked about that again, purity culture. Just realizing that I don't know, not even just purity culture, but just I don't know how to say this. People learning from people like Renee Brown and others about psychology and just learning that they're not sinful, they're not crazy, they're not filling the blank with whatever.
0:54:27 Arline: The thing is it's your limbic system taking over or it's just learning physiological things about their own bodies that explain what they used to think was whatever the sin. Fill in the blank with the sin. Because that's another thing that recently I've talked to someone about, is there used to be so many rules that you had to follow that you were always struggling. And now when there are just fewer rules, there are fewer rules to break without being micromanaged by a magical deity in the sky.
0:55:08 David Ames: Even that word struggle, I'll find myself trying to start to use that word, and I think that is a bad word. That's not a good word.
0:55:18 Arline: Because you couldn't just outwardly want to do the flagrant, terrible, sinful thing. You had to struggle with that's, right. I've given a lot of people, just even if they can't empathize with the experience of other people in the group, there's a lot of empathy with the emotions, the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the grief, the happiness. Like, oh, my gosh, I am such a better person now. And feeling like, wow, I never expected to feel like I was a better person.
0:55:56 Arline: Now on the other side of having left Christianity.
0:56:10 David Ames: So the flip side of what makes you angry, what gives you hope about this group, about secularization, about America, about your own life? What gives you hope?
0:56:21 Arline: What gives me hope? Oh, gosh. In my own just little personal life, we have a pond in the backyard, and we have Canada geese that come and the seasons. Just knowing that right now everything's starting to die, and it is beautiful, but it's going to be bare and miserable for a while. But spring will come. That natural, literal hope. There will be life again in the spring. That for me personally, that's a thing.
0:56:52 Arline: Watching my kids grow up and not having to micromanage my kids, I can just let them grow into whoever they're going to guide them, all that good stuff. But I don't have to have these strange, bizarre expectations on my children. And then the world secularization, oh, I read people like, oh, gosh, I'm going to say his name wrong. Noah Harare. You've all. Noah Harari. Who wrote sapiens? Yes. I've ordered the graphic we have the graphic novels for the kids.
0:57:28 Arline: He has a children's book, like his willingness to say a lot of the hard things about what we're doing right now to the planet and to ourselves and how we have to be able to cooperate. That's the most important thing in order for us to be able to continue into the world. He gives me a lot of hope that maybe we can do these things. Things that give me hope. Knowing how many young people are not just going to young people are not just going to be able to be told the Bible is inherently true and then be like, okay, right, they can literally Google everything.
0:58:12 Arline: They do not need information from us. They just need to know how to interpret all the information that they're getting. And so seeing the young people see that things like compassion and kindness and cooperation and love, all these things are so important to them and they're willing to push back on the adults in their lives and say, like, know what you're saying is bullshit. I'm going to treat my friend with respect.
0:58:36 Arline: They're not inherently bad because of their queerness or their color or whatever. The younger people give me hope. Their ability to push back on adults, their ability to think for themselves and hopefully learn how to think critically. I think we could go in a good direction in the future. I also think we might kill ourselves in 100 years. I have no idea. But I can try to be hopeful. I love the higher the increase of the nuns and the duns and the people who may still be some version of Christian or another religion, but just want it to be like loving and not trying to harm people.
0:59:20 Arline: All of that gives me hope that the farther away religious people get from fundamentalism, the better their religion, I think, will be. And just the world in general, fundamentalism just harms it harms so many people. So yeah, getting away from that, lots of stuff. Those things give me hope. That was a good question because I am not always like I literally have to have an app say, what are you grateful for today?
0:59:51 Arline: So that I can pay attention and think hopefully about the world. And gratefully.
1:00:06 David Ames: Arline, is there a topic that we didn't hit or that I didn't ask that you had prepared for and want to get out of this episode?
1:00:15 Arline: I don't think so. I do want to give tons of recommendations, not right now, but we can put them in the notes only because that's again, my love language. That's my second love language. Great discussions and then sharing resources. When someone says I thought of you and this was the book or the podcast I thought of, I'm like, I feel loved.
1:00:41 David Ames: Well, I tell you what, I've got a recommendation for you, sweet. Since you are open to listening to some black Christian voices. Tyler Merritt went to my Bible college. We probably had some overlap. I don't think we ever met one another. He had an Instagram go viral during 2020 and he has just a really interesting perspective and he is kind of providing that transition layer. He's definitely in evangelicalism, but he is saying to wide evangelicalism this is racism in a really good way.
1:01:16 David Ames: And he has written a book that is his memoir. And I might have to get the actual title in the show notes, but definitely recommend him.
1:01:24 Arline: Okay, yeah. Anyone with whom I share values, I can try to hear them. I can try to hear them.
1:01:33 David Ames: Yeah. Are there any of your recommendations you want to do on Mike?
1:01:39 Arline: Well, I'll do this. The Sex and Psychology podcast with Justin Lee Miller. That's the one that we get a lot of our stuff, our little Wednesday night or Wednesday night conversation that we get a lot from. And he has all the therapist like letters behind his name. I don't know what all he is, but he's fantastic. He has a book, Tell Me What You Want, and it's about sexual desire. And that podcast is just even if you didn't necessarily grow up in purity culture, but you've simply just wonder what life is like for people who have had a, quote, normal, whatever you would consider normal, even though he would say, no, don't use that word, sex life, it's just a fantastic resource. It's a really good podcast and I've learned a lot of stuff and I did not grow up in purity culture.
1:02:33 Arline: I was already thrown away, as my daddy would have said, when I got started going to church. So I wasn't part of all that. But it has a lot of excellent content.
1:02:48 David Ames: Fantastic.
1:02:48 Arline: And someone in the Deconversion group that I met told me about that, and he's someone that I want him to be on the podcast one day. He's fantastic. Everyone in the group that I've met, I'm so thankful for this group. So many kind people, so many lovely people from whom I can learn things. It's just deconversion group is great. I love it.
1:03:09 David Ames: We'll just say here again, if you are interested in being interviewed and you would prefer for Arline to interview you, that is definitely on the table and you should reach out to Arline. You can also email me and we'll make that happen. Arline, mainly I want to say to you thank you. The work that you have done is just invaluable. We'll get into some of it when we're going to reverse this. You're going to interview me in the next week's episode, but I just don't have the time for these things. We would not have the Deconversion Anonymous group if it weren't for you. So thank you so much for all the work that you do.
1:03:42 Arline: Yes, you're too kind. I love it. I did not know that I needed it until I had it.
1:03:54 David Ames: Final thoughts on the episode. That was a lot of fun. It was fun having the conversation. It was fun relistening to the conversation. And it has been a blast to work with Arline. I know that many of you who are part of the Deconversion Anonymous community group know what a vital and important part of our community Arline is. And as I said there at the end, we wouldn't have it without her. I do not have the time.
1:04:24 David Ames: So we are all incredibly lucky to have Arline in our corner, working to build our community. In fact, I was talking to Evan Clark about the future move to the Atheist United Podcast Network, and I was saying that I have these fabulous volunteers and he was definitely envious. So I want to begin by just saying, thank you, Arline, for all the work that you do. I know it's more than just community management, the copy editing, outreach to people online, and the thousand things that I don't even know about.
1:04:58 David Ames: We'd love you and thank you for all the work that you have done. There are lots of things that jump out from the conversation. My favorite part of the conversation was about anger and hope. The anger coming from the systemic racism and misogyny and anti LGBTQ elements of Christianity. But I want to point out here what character it shows in Arline that she was seeing that early, she was seeing that as a believer, and that that is what slowly led her out of Christianity.
1:05:33 David Ames: She still has empathy for people who are in the middle of things, and she is modeling secular grace in the community. I love that she talks about the hope about spring, that things do return, things do get better, watching her children grow up and not having to micromanage them, letting them be who they are, and the empathy that she sees expressed within the group. And again, I see that as a direct result of Arline's leadership and example.
1:06:07 David Ames: I want to thank Arline for all the work that she's done, the community management, the interviews, the outreach, for being on the podcast and continuing to show us what honesty and empathy looks like. Thank you, Arline, for being such an integral part of the podcast. The secular Grace thought of the week. Is a return to one of my. Favorite subjects, and that is participation in the community. Again, I could not do the podcast without people like Mike, who does the editing, without people like Arline, who we've just spent an hour or so talking about how much impact that she has, people like Ray, who's doing the memes for us with the quotes from each episode.
1:06:57 David Ames: One of the things that I want to provide, or at least facilitate, is a place for people to use their hobbies, their talents, dare I say gifts in some way that makes them feel good and benefits the community. In church, this could be abusive and exhausting and burnout prone. No one is asking for that level of commitment. But if there is something that you do well, and it would benefit the Deconversion Anonymous community or the Graceful Atheist podcast, we want for you to participate and we want for you to have the opportunity to do something.
1:07:39 David Ames: In the secular world, there are a number of roles. That we could fill. As Arline mentioned, we've got a number of different topics, including unequally yoked relationships, secular parenting, and a myriad of others that still need people to lead groups within the Deconversion Anonymous community. If you're interested in doing that, that'd be great. I could definitely use someone who is more social media focused to take some of that burden off. We already have a couple of the components. Like I say, Ray doing memes and things, but if you want to just manage the social media presence of the Graceful Atheist podcast, I'd be very interested in having you do that.
1:08:20 David Ames: If you are into audio production and want to do more of the music intros outros, more highly produced segments, things of that nature, I'd be really interested in that. I've been talking with Nathan about automating some work to make the podcast into simple video on the YouTube channel. But there's a lot of potential there. If somebody wanted to do more video, more robust video work there. The intro outro music that I currently have is Creative Commons licensed.
1:08:55 David Ames: I would love to have a license free bit of music. As I have said in the past, I'll be honest, I'm super picky about the music. I want it to be gospel, hip hop with a beach. So that one. I'd want to work with you directly, but if you're interested and you have those talents, that would be fantastic. The point I want to make is there are lots of different ways that you can participate with the podcast and the community and don't hold back.
1:09:23 David Ames: When I first spoke to Arline in. Her humility, she didn't know if there. Was anything that she could do to help, and she has turned out to be integral to what we do here. I know there are more of you in the community that maybe feel like you haven't been asked yet or you're not as confident or you're an introvert. This is that moment. I am asking you for help. We can all do something amazing and spectacular together.
1:09:54 David Ames: Reach out to me, email me at Graceful Atheist@gmail.com and we will make something happen. Next week is my ask me anything. Arline interviews me and asks the questions that the community came up with and then we're going to take a two week break. What you'll notice is that basically Christmas and New Year hit the weekend days that I would normally release podcasts. So we're just going to take the holidays off.
1:10:21 David Ames: We're going to kick off 2023 with Evan Clark of Atheist United. I just did that interview. That's an amazing interview. I think you're going to see why I'm interested in becoming a part of that organization. He's already provided a couple of different introductions and there will be more coming, so more opportunities for interviews, more opportunities for me to be interviewed. I'm very excited about that partnership.
1:10:43 David Ames: So 2023 is the year of Atheist United. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from makai beats. Links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application and you can rate and review it on podcaster.com.
1:11:20 David Ames: You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links or books on Gracellatheus.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate with the podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition and do you need to tell your story? Reach out if you are a creator or work in the deconstruction, deconstruction or secular humanism spaces and would like to.
1:11:47 David Ames: Be on the podcast, just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes to find me. You can Google Graceful atheist, you can Google deconversion, you can Google secular Grace, you can send me an email Graceful email@example.com or you can check out the website Graceful Atheist.com. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings.
1:12:28 David Ames: This has been the graceful atheist podcast.
This week’s guests are podcasters, Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares of Beyond Atheism.
Nathan grew up Anglican and in his early twenties, he realized there were no good reasons to continue believing. Todd grew up Catholic—technically still confirmed—but even at ten years old, he was a skeptic, wanting to explore reality rather than make-believe.
In this interview, Nathan and Todd discuss racism, humanism, community-building and what it means to live thoughtfully in a godless world. It’s a sharp conversion you don’t want to miss!
“The thing the nuns will teach you in Sunday school: God answers every prayer, but the answer is usually, ‘no.’…If there’s always not an answer, then there’s no one answering.” —Todd
“I kinda wanted there to be a god. I wanted it to be true because it’s a comfort that there’s some ultimate plan for you. You don’t have to worry because things are going to work out for you.” —Nathan
“Once I took that leap into atheism? You realize it’s not really a leap at all.” —Nathan
“Instead of sitting around, talking about technology and trans-humanism and how silly religions are, let’s address what we need as the people that we are.” —Todd
“If you look at the base numbers alone, the largest religious group who vote Democrat are Nones—atheists, people with no religion. It’s huge, solidly so.” —Todd
“The road to becoming an atheist is so lonely. Everybody does it alone. It’s an individual experience.” —Todd
“In the long term, maybe, having these groups where people are forced to create them, build them and dissolve them is the way it should be. That sort of creative process might be the healthiest thing for atheists…compared to those institutions that just stick around forever and outlive their usefulness.” —Todd
“Right now atheists are disproportionately white, but…when you look at the younger generations, it’s the case that atheists as a group are becoming more diverse…” —Nathan
Humanist author and speaker, Joe Simonetta, grew up in a Catholic home with good values. He and his brothers “did well,” and he is thankful for the foundation his parents gave him. As a young man, affected by all the suffering in the world, he vowed to be part of the solution. He has lived a fascinating life, holding degrees from multiple universities, traveling extensively and enjoying all kinds of professions. His full bio is available here.
Joe is hopeful about the future and has three basic rules that he believes can change the future for humanity: Be healthy. Be kind. Respect the environment.
“What triggered me was ‘suffering.’ When I observed the suffering in the world, it really disturbed me.”
“All the while I had this in the back of my mind; this concern about the state of humanity…”
“I said to myself, Do I really have to read all these books? [Metaphysics and religion] could not be this complicated.”
“As I studied all the world religions, it just hit me: There’s nothing here…This is old stuff…the products of our infancy of our intelligence.”
“Everything is connected to everything else. We exist, not separately, but in communion with all other living things…Everything’s in relationship. That’s the nature of the universe.”
“What level of thinking are we at? What level of thinking do we need to get to? And how do we get there?”
“These primitive instincts and emotions which are a biological reality and these antiquated and divisive and dysfunctional supernatural religious beliefs…are a lethal combination of behaviors…and they must be overcome.”
“Religion is clearly an obstacle to human progress.”
“The current great extinction is caused by…us! It’s caused by humanity.”
This week’s guest is Keke. Keke’s family was in church, “running the show,” anytime the doors were open. Life at home was difficult for Keke, however, so the church provided a safe haven. But over time, domestic violence, mental health problems and other family secrets were too great a burden for her to carry.
After high school, Keke joined the military, got married and even led her husband to Jesus. Then in 2017, as she was reading a most peculiar bible story to her daughter, she started on a deconstruction journey she never saw coming.
Keke now is learning everything she can about ancient mythologies, African American history and many other cultures. She’s raising her children to be open to the world and its vast ways of living. She knows that human connection is truly what we need—whether with our ancestors through stories or with those around us today.
This week’s guest is Daniel. Daniel is a social scientist with a master’s degree in psychology. He grew up in the United Church of Canada, but church wasn’t a huge part of his life until high school. He then went to bible college and worked in ministry. He tried to experience God like others were, but it just wouldn’t happen.
He took on the “Office of Skeptic,” for himself. He hoped it would help both his faith and the church. He could articulate questions and doubts that others couldn’t. Were these miraculous stories true? Was God really even there? If so, what the hell was he doing?
Unfortunately, this only kept him in the church longer than he needed. By 2020, he’d been an agnostic theist for years and was finally seeing the harm done in North America by White Christianity.
Now Daniel writes and speaks, sharing his knowledge with those struggling with addictions and other mental health needs. He no longer looks to the supernatural for miracles but knows how much human connection is the true healer.
“I was now immersed in a group where experiencing the presence of God—like spiritual experiences during worship services—was very common, and I could never manage to actually feel those things.”
“[I had a]…brief but memorable career as a Christian Ghostbuster…”
“He took me under his wing and informed me that why I couldn’t feel God’s presence was because it was all blocked by demons. Obviously.”
“Why do you believe that? What evidence do you have for this? Can your observations or experiences be explained by more mundane means or is the spiritual explanation the best or only explanation?”
“To have someone convince [another person that they don’t need their] anti-psychotics because of [their] faith is something that hadn’t even occurred to me before…it was deeply alarming and stuck with me for years afterward.”
‘[In seminary,] many professors would make logically sound arguments but they’d be based on assumptions or premises that were unfounded…”
“For many of the Christian intellectuals I was trying to learn from…critical thinking was a valued skillset up to a point. When we approach the underlying tenants of the faith, we’re suppose to stop…they’re simply too sacred to be questioned.”
“I was trying to find a reason to stay.”
“It’s the human connection that we make between us that’s really changing our lives.”
“I was encouraged by my new [secular] professors to be absolutely ruthless in my pursuit of knowledge, truth and understanding.”
“Me staying in this religion…despite the fact that I was basically agnostic. It’s lending validation to all those Christians who are actively working to make the world a worse place…”
“If we don’t have practices in place—like scientific thinking, like the scientific method…we’re always going to be taken in by things that we’d rather believe or that are easier to believe.”
“Apologetics: Philosophy, but done badly.”
“I don’t shy away from uncomfortable questions or even more uncomfortable answers. That has been such a valuable change in my life and has led me to some incredibly valuable and beneficial relationships…even some from bible college.”
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the best are going to be ahead.”
This week’s guest is Doug. Doug became interested in church when he was in junior high, and when Doug is in, he’s all in.
He was a believer throughout high school, college and into the military. But then books and magazines happened. Doug began reading more “skeptical literature,” and the questions began.
Doug’s faith unraveled while he was “an atheist in a foxhole,” but faith in the supernatural was unnecessary. He needed his own strength, and the strength of the people around him.
He has since been an atheist pastor, finding the human connection he and his wife needed, without changing their beliefs or forsaking their values. As Brene Brown says, “We are hardwired to connect with others,” and Christianity has no longer cornered the marked on community and belonging.
“When I was twelve, I decided to get serious about my eternal destiny”
“So I began asking harder questions at church, and I soon encountered a pattern I would see again and again as we visited different churches. Once my questions became too difficult (or too annoying), I was told I just had to have faith.”
“I left God behind, at least the version taught in the Bible. I would now be unapologetically atheistic.”
“I deployed for a year…and that was my ‘atheist in a foxhole’ moment. … we were convinced at least some of us were going to die, and I was thoroughly convinced in my mind at that point that this was my last full day on earth. … At no point did I pray, acknowledge God, feel slightly drawn to God…I was perfectly good with: There is no god, and I might die tomorrow. We’ll just see what happens.”
“People have often asked me why I left the faith, and I tell them, ‘It’s because I studied the Bible.’”
“It was my reading of skeptical magazines and literature that gave me the freedom to look at the Bible in a new light, but it was the actual Bible itself that condemned itself.”
“All I can say is I’ve been extremely happy not having to believe in God, not having to worry about saving other people.”
“Having left behind a church that demanded faith, I found a most unexpected church that reveres rational thought and welcomes atheists. Amazing. Having sworn to never set foot in a church again, I find that the universe loves to throw curveballs. To quote Douglas Adams, “In an infinite universe, anything is possible.””
“When you’re taking care of someone else, you’re not thinking about yourself.”
This week’s guest is Adria. Adria is a sociologist working in international development. Adria grew up in various multiethnic churches but each one seemed to worship whiteness more than Jesus. By the end of college, Adria was done. Years later, in atheist spaces, she would find racism to be just as prevalent.
Her experience with the Christian missionaries showed her the inequity that must exist for missionary work to thrive. In the last decade she has since seen that Western nations continue missionary work; only as evangelists for “neoliberal economic systems” rather than the gospel.
Adria’s understanding of supremacy culture’s effects on humanity is invaluable to any community—church, atheist or global—working toward a more equitable world. She truly is a model of graceful atheism.
We discuss international development, missionary work, economics, equity, racism, atheism, black non-believers and much more.
This week’s guest is Bob Barnes. Bob is a lifelong atheist and an organizer with BAHA, Bluewater Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics. BAHA “is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the image of Freethinkers and Atheists and to give back to our communities.”
BAHA is hosting its annual conference, BAHACon, with speakers and events you won’t want to miss! August 26 – 28th, 2022 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.