This week’s guest is Kelly. Kelly was raised as a daughter in a traditional evangelical household, “indoctrinated from diaperhood.”
They grew up perfectionistic, depressed, timid, and anxious, given Christian cliches about ‘God always being with them’ through their depression. Who they really needed were queer, whole, mentally healthy adult mentors.
“There was a dizzying array of mental exercises I had to engage in to keep the faith.”
Today, Kelly is living their truest life with wisdom and compassion. It’s been said that we become the person we would have felt safe with as a child, and Kelly has done that beautifully.
Dirty rotten church kids podcast
Deb is Done GAP Episode
Paul is Done GAP Episode
“I didn’t know it then, but it turns out being told that you’re depraved, sinful, and worthy of literal death…really fucks with a person.”
“What I thought was being moved by the ‘Spirit of God’ was actually being caught up in the emotion [of the music.]”
“I held onto God and my faith [after coming out], trying to find an interpretation of Christianity that would let me live my life openly and free as my authentic self…”
“There was a dizzying array of mental exercises I had to engage in to keep the faith.”
“There were too many holes. I couldn’t patch the holes.”
“I had lost the safety of the evangelical church but what I had found was myself.”
“I find myself now wanting to learn more. I want to learn about all religions…I want to know everything that I was told not to learn about…”
“…when you take God out of the picture, you’re just loving people…”
“I think, maybe, that’s the whole point of life: We go through life just becoming a little bit more ourselves and continue learning and evolving.”
“I’ve had more spiritual, connected experiences in concerts than I’ve ever had in church.”
…instead of reflecting God’s character or kingdom, I hope that my life reflects genuine unabashed freedom…”
“At the end of the day, you are the only one who can save you.”
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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
David Ames 0:11 This is the graceful atheist podcast United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheists podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank all of my patrons who support the podcast on patreon.com. If you too would like to have an ad free experience of the podcast become a patron at patreon.com/graceful atheist. If you are going through deconstruction, doubt the dark night of the soul. You do not need to do this alone. Please join us in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous, you can find that at facebook.com/groups/deconversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arleen interviews today's guest Kelly. They were a very sensitive child in their words, empathetic, anxious, deeply feeling and people pleasing. Kelly began questioning at a very young age, they were contemplating eternity and that was terrifying to them. They tried to be the good Christian girl and continue to double down on Christianity throughout their life. Kelly came out as gay in her adulthood. Now Kelly recognizes that they are enough. And their message is that you are enough. Here is Arline's interview with Kelly. Arline 1:50 Hi, Kelly, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Kelly 1:52 Hi, Arline. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Arline 1:54 You and I connected through a relative of yours who is super wonderful. I love her so much. Yes. And I'm excited to hear your story. Yeah, I'm excited to tell it. So usually we just begin with tell us about your religious environment growing up. Sure. Kelly 2:11 Well, I grew up in a family of five. My parents, my older brother and my sister and me. I'm the youngest of the family. Evangelical Christianity and the evangelical interpretation of the Bible was the only correct version in our household. Since I was in diapers, basically, I was indoctrinated into what I now view as the cult of evangelicalism. My my family brought me to Sunday school, where I was very timid child, I sat quietly paying close attention to those felt storyboards, they used to tell us watered down digestible Bible stories. But if I now now I think if I actually knew the real versions, I probably would have cried out of sadness or fear. I was a very sensitive child. But they told us that our Heavenly Father in the sky was our closest, closest connection. He was always there for us. They told us about heaven with its streets of gold and their mansions where all we did was sing praise songs to God for how great he was. And most importantly, we'd have eternal life, to see our past on family members and friends again, and I colored pictures of what I imagined heaven to be. And I proudly show my mom who encouraged my love of Jesus, and memorize Bible verses like the good little Christian girl that I was that they trained me to be. And I proudly rattled off books of the Bible and during prizes for my steadfast, childlike faith. What I didn't tell a soul about was the tail spin that my brain sent me and as I sat in the backseat of our family minivan, around age seven or eight thinking about the endless eternity, that was heaven. It didn't give me those feel good, warm and fuzzies but instead care scared me. shitless and how could we just live forever? Doing the same, doing the same song and dance and I mean, that literally as well as figuratively, for for eternity? What does eternity even look like? Also, why aren't other people freaking the fuck out about this? I push this anxiety deep into a dark corner of my self. I plunged myself into serving God, whatever that looks like with all of my heart and my soul in my mind calling back to that other that Bible verse we all know so well. As I was taught, on some occasions, I asked my mom what if Muslim This and Christians as Christians are actually the same. And I thought this was kind of me poking the holes at Christianity at a very young age. And I asked her what if we just had different names for God? Maybe they call him a law, maybe we call him Jesus. And she said, this was not true. She assured me this was not true. But she couldn't explain it to me how she knew it wasn't true, but she assured me that it was the truth. From Sunday school I graduated, I leveled up to the main search service where I took copious sermon notes on how on how I should have a child I was due to my sinful nature, but it was okay because of how great God was. And I didn't know it then. But it turns out that being told you're depraved, sinful and worthy of literal death. If it wasn't for God, stepping into send His Son to save the day really fucks with the person, especially the empathic, anxious, deeply feeling people pleasing kid that I was. Fast forward to youth group. During my teen years where I was taught about how my body was not my own. It was God's obviously, I learned to view my body as dangerous, a weapon that could be used to lead my brothers in Christ to stumble, whatever that means. And we got divided into boys and girls groups non binary was not a thing back in the early 2000s. We learned about purity culture course we didn't call it purity culture at the time, we called it remaining pure for marriage, modesty, saving our bodies for our future husbands. And I wanted to add in a side note that the gays also did not exist in evangelical spaces in the early 2000s. So any feelings that I might have had as a child I was taught to repress those deeply, which I'll talk about a little later, we took earnest notes on how to be godly women of God that were committed to following Him with all of our life. And apparently that translated into girls being required to wear one piece suits on summer retreats while our brothers in Christ walked around topless, like they were Jesus's disciples reincarnate. I eagerly signed up for summer and winter retreats, raising my arms, crying, being led by the music falling to my knees. What I thought was being moved by the Spirit of God was actually being caught up in the emotion that is purposefully communicated via the music and the melodies and all the chords and the build up of the guitar and I belted out Hillsong, which some of you might know what hell so yeah, yeah, it's a curse in classic Chris Tomlin the newsboys, which I probably attended their concerts by the way. I traveled to Louisiana with my youth group after Hurricane Katrina in early 2006. And it was to gut houses for God as what we call it really, and to spread the gospel to the lost souls of New Orleans. I was pretty chicken, I was too shy, too timid to get into actual conversations with people about God or about how they needed him and needed eternal life to be saved, but would listen at all and kind of jealousy. As my youth group acquaintances piously testified to strangers on the streets. I wanted that I wanted that bold faith, I want it to be that. So I pursued it. My junior year of high school I attended weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, singing in earnest at 7:10am Every Thursday in the library, and fervently praying with my friends for a revival to spread through the hallways of my high school. Whatever that meant, at the time I thought it was converting everyone to evangelical Christianity the interpretation that I knew to be correct. I circled the school on see what the poll day which we're all familiar with, see what the poll, walking laps and laps and laps as many as I could with two of my friends, as we belted out prayers for our lost friends and classmates and teachers. In March 2006 I was coming to the end of my junior year in high school. My family had never been financially well off. My dad was frequently away on business trips or working long hours. We didn't talk much my dad and I but I was a teenager. And I didn't talk to my parents much anyway. One night when the whole family was home around dinnertime, my mom told my siblings and me that we needed to have a family meeting. Because there was something they needed to tell us. I immediately thought that they tell us that my dad had lost his job. Or that she needed to that my mom needed to get a job to support us further. Instead, my dad told us that he had been cheating on my mom. And in a matter of seconds, my world collapsed in upon itself as my dad turned into a stranger before my eyes, I crumpled into the sofa, and I sobbed as my mom helped me. And it was kind of as if we were suspended and a movie, I watched my dad, walk to the door, collect some bags and walk out the door with my aunt and uncle, my Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul, who actually were on the podcast previously, he never lived in our house again, and that events would change our relationship forever. I leaned hard on my close circle of Christian friends after collapsing on the floor in tears during youth group worship, and I frequently would leave the service to talk to my friends in my youth pastors office. In short, it was an event that turned my world upside down and made me dig deeper into my faith. It's interesting because my older brother and sister looking back, they took very different paths than I did. My brother and sister were also involved in the youth group, but my brother kind of pulled away from youth group and Christianity after high school age, and I saw how he processed the divorce and separation which was kind of going out with his friends and kind of distracting himself and my sister distracted herself with getting into relationship and to relationship after another that were toxic. And I dug my heels in I dug deeper into leaning on God and leaning into my faith. senior year of high school was met with apathy. But I persisted with being president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and in college, I immerse myself into church and Bible study, it's a cover up the excruciating pain and abandonment that I felt. Throughout my high school and college years, I felt intense flashes flashes of attraction for my female friends, and it terrified me. Like I said earlier, being gay and evangelical spaces is not a thing. It does not exist. It wasn't in the evangelical playbook. It was not a part of God's plan. So my feelings would bubble up, and they would come to the surface and I would freak out and I push them so hard down that I eventually now know, as internalized homophobia, I immerse myself in and it took over my whole worldview like a like a invasive weed. I spent my college years in post college years going on one date after another with one man after the next, some blind dates, some dates set up from friends of friends. Some of them led to second dates, but most of them ended in one. I could never figure out what I did. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Or like my friends love to tell me you just haven't found the right man yet. So you just haven't met him yet. He's out there somewhere, just keep the faith. So I believe them. And I kept trying. Towards the end of 2018. After a well meaning man tried to make physical moves with me on a first date, my body froze. I awkwardly found myself pulling away and everything in my body was yelling, Kelly, run. But instead, I stayed with him in his house as he asked me questions about what was going on in my head. And just like I was taught in my evangelical upbringing by people pleasing training kicked in, and kept me solidly in that space. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. After about 30 minutes, I told him I had to leave. I made up an excuse, and I left and I cried the whole way home. And I think back wondering why my body had such a visceral reaction. And the only thing I can point to is because I realized in that moment, that I hadn't been able to listen to my body and spirit everything was telling me Kelly protect yourself. Pretty Head to your heart protects your soul, do what you know to do. And I couldn't move I was frozen in spring 2019, I couldn't pretend to be the straight version of myself anymore. And I came out as gay in March 2019, to my older brother, with tears in my eyes, my voice shaking and 29 years worth of tears of closeted tears streamed down my face. And he cried, too. I was so nervous with how he was going to react, but I knew in my heart that he was going to be a safe space, because as I mentioned, he had deconstructed from Christianity long before I had and I knew he was affirming of gay people. And I knew I would have a soft place to land with him. And he said over and over how much he loved me and how he was proud of me. And I will never forget that moment. I held on to God. And my faith, trying to find an interpretation of Christianity that would let me live my life openly and free as my authentic self. But my older sister, she's two years older than me. When she rejected that part of me. I eventually told her that I came out. I hadn't originally texted her called her because again, in my heart, I knew that she wouldn't be a place to land for my for my soul. But she told me outright that she did not approve of me being gay and living what she called the gay lifestyle. One of my friends, I kind of viewed this as a breakup, she broke up with me. This was one of my best friends. Yeah, one of my best friends from college after a decade's long friendship, called me. This was right before the pandemic happened January 2020. Saying that we were going down two very different paths in life. And she ended it with that. And I told her, okay, I guess I'll talk to you later, and we never talked again. So three years later, and that hurt that hurt like hell. Christians all around me, were turning their backs on Me, which left me confused and hurt. How could they be there for me? How could they love me and still reject this fundamental part of me. I thought they should be thrilled for me, because I was finally living without shame. And I was finally living openly as myself. And it made sense to only rejoice if one of my friends had done the same thing. I can only think how happy I would have been for them. But instead, I was met with rejection. And I asked myself, isn't that God's whole plan for us? Isn't that supposed to be his plan for us to live freely and in the fullest versions of ourselves and in complete and utter freedom? Isn't that the plan, but because I didn't follow their idea of the Bible. Because I was choosing to act on what they told me was my sinful thoughts. They couldn't affirm me. And the something, there's something extra that stings a little bit. Harder is the I love you, but I cannot love this part of you and your decision to live it out. It's the whole trope of love the sin or love the sinner Hate the sin. And I would almost rather take the outright rejection of my sister that she had handed to me one that wasn't rooted in a base of love for me even as a human. I think she at one point loves me when I was playing the straight me but she made it clear on two distinct occasions that she holds no love for the queer me. The straw that really unraveled my belief in God was prayer. I spent years of my life following my hands, my Aunt Deb and my grandma to Wednesday night prayer services, fervently praying on bent knees for dozens of sick and elderly and children dying of leukemia and lost jobs and family members gone astray. And the whole time I believed that, if there were enough of us gathering together as it says in the Bible, if even two or more of you are gathered in my name, that your prayers will be heard, if we prayed earnestly enough if, if we meant it with our whole heart that God would answer Are our prayers. But the boy with leukemia died, and the elderly were still sick, and my dad still lost his job. And my parents marriage still fell apart. There was a dizzying array of mental exercises that I had to engage in to keep my faith and I know you probably have done a lot of the same in our listeners have done a lot of the same. Doesn't God give us the desires of our heart? Or is it that our desires don't fit into the magic formula of his will? Or is it because Adam and li ne have sinned? So now we're fucked no matter what we pray for? Or is it that God's ways are higher than ours? And so they are not to be questioned? is Satan interfering? And preventing the prayers from being answered? Is our freewill holding God back from doing anything? I saw this Tiktok comment recently that said, God's omniscience and freewill actually can't coexist. Because of his omniscience, God didn't give Adam and Eve a choice. Actually, he knew what they do even before He created them. God knows whether you're going to heaven or hell before you even exist. That's not free will. And I've gotten into several conversations with some of my friends who are still practicing Christians. And I see my past self in them as I see themselves kind of working through these these mental exercises and trying to to rationalize something that can't be rationalized because when it comes down to it for me, there were too many holes, I couldn't patch the holes. D converting was a slow burn for me over the years. I had had thoughts of, of our suspicions that I might be gay. As like I said, as early as high school when I didn't have crushes on the boys I was supposed to have crushes on. And as that continued into high school, and I dug deeper into my faith. In the back of my mind, doubts that crept to the forefront were impossible to ignore. I had to address those, I would say in mid to late 2020. That was when I could no longer hold on to my Christianity and the irrefutable truth that I had held to so solidly for 30 years of my life at this point. It was scary. I lost friends. As I mentioned, one of my best friends from college for our decades long friendship dissolved immediately. I lost the safety of the evangelical community. But what I found was myself, and I had the intellectual curiosity that I had been carrying with me, my whole life and true wonder and awe as I became more and more delightfully uncertain of just about everything. And I didn't feel fear or misery or isolation. It's interesting, being a D, convert D convert from Christianity and my family, I am not formally outs as ex Evangelical, in my close family. My Aunt Deb and Uncle Paul, and my brother and one of my cousins are the only people in my family that are ex angelical that have deconstructed their, from their Christianity and now identify as agnostic or atheist. And it used to bother me for a long time that I wanted to have this close relationship with my mom being a being a child of divorced parents, in your late teens, it fucks with you on a different level than being a child because I now I'm working through abandonment from my from my dad, I now can't relate to my mom through our common our once commonly held faith. And it has bothered me the past couple of years that I can't really connect with her anymore. We have no common thread anymore. So I would say and maybe people listening can relate to this that I'm struggling with where to find common ground with her and how to in 2023 How to have meaningful and profound connections with her when we no longer share the fundamental belief that Jesus is the Son of God that He came to die for our sins, that Christianity is the base of our lives anymore. So there's not really a solution that I can see at this point. Maybe my mom will hear this episode and realize that I am in this new space. And she will probably more than that. I've seen her on occasion after occasion, say, Kelly, I'm praying for you. So the biggest challenge that I am finding myself facing now is finding true connection with my mom, because she is in her 60s. Now she has lived as an evangelical Christian her entire life. And now suddenly, I don't have a common ground with her. I don't have this shared faith, this shared worldview anymore. And it's interesting because my aunt who has deconstructed in her late 60s and early 70s, I've seen her her entire worldview shift. And I had always thought to myself, Oh, there's no way there's no way people can ever change when they are so deeply immersed in a worldview and in a faith. And I've seen that happen with my aunt and my uncle. And they have done a complete worldview shift. And I look at my mom, and I see the difference between her and I being this glaring discrepancy of intellectual curiosity. And I find my now wanting to learn more, I want to know about all religions, I want to know about atheism, I want to know about mysticism. I want to know everything that I was told not to learn about as a child and a teenager, and a young adult. And I look at my mom who lost her mom, April 2020. And that was the for that for her that was the loss of her her world in a huge sense. And I think the primary reason that she can't be intellectually curious, is because if she were to be intellectually curious, that would rock the foundation of her world, just like my world was turned upside down, when I realized that my dad wasn't the person who I thought he was when I was young. And I can't fault her for that. And I now find myself trying to connect with her and trying to love her in a way that is not so founded in Christianity, and it's, it's a weird thing when you're taught your whole life to love people as as God has loved you. And now when you take God out of the picture, you're just loving people. And this is a common theme. For a lot of people who have deconstructed is now I feel like I can see people for who they are. And I can love people for who they are truly at their core instead of loving them because a book told me to love them or because somebody's words told me to love them. And I'm trying to take the same approach with my mom, it's just that I haven't figured it out. So any any advice is welcome in that area. I'm finding myself trying to, to find meaningful connection with her and my other family members as well. But I'll be honest, it is an elephant in the room. We about faith. We don't talk about politics. As many evangelicals do, she is. She is deeply entrenched in the Republican conservative party, and I'm very much a progressive. Leftist, too, and she voted for Trump twice, and I did not at all so I have to find common ground with her and learn how to have deep profound conversations where I'm still making connections with her, but I'm not upsetting her entire worldview, which I haven't figured that out Arline 29:46 yet. Yes, I can. Oh, so many things that you've talked about, but this specifically, my real mom, I have a stepmom who raised me and my I've always just called her my real mom. That's just how we have used it and And it's similar like used to, we're both Christians and we had now we had completely different understandings of Christianity. She was more of the prosperity gospel, Jesus was wealthy, apparently, I'm gonna just like, Yeah, I had no idea. And, you know, TD Jakes and other people I can't think of right now. But so her theology was very different. But we both love to Jesus, we both, you know, the Bible is God's word, you kind of the basics, and we could connect on that. And then, over time, closer to 2016, it was like, wow, we really have completely different values. Now, we both still love Jesus, but it was just, our values were so different. And trying to find that common ground was hard, then. And now it's like, I do not have any kind of great advice for. For us, we've had to talk about things that, sadly, are not super meaningful and deep. And I've had to kind of spread my relationships out more where I find those things from other people. Because I would keep running into that Emma and my stepmom has passed away. So like, what she and I, you know, we had issues because every parent and kid has issues, but it was, I don't know, it's hard to explain. But yeah, I've had to kind of spread out my getting those relational needs met from more different people, so that I don't, you know, put them all on my husband or put them all on family members. And that has been jarring at times to remember that like, oh, this may not be a thing. And it may be one day, things like you talked about Deb and Paul like things can totally change that you don't see but you don't see coming but um, but please continue. Yeah, Kelly 31:53 yeah. Um, so that's kind of where I am currently. Yeah. Is I what you're saying resonates a lot with me. I'm having to find community outside of my immediate family and I rely heavily on my atheist and agnostic friends. A lot of them were also previous evangelicals. So they know a lot of the indoctrination that we experienced growing up and I'll be honest, that's that's a bitch to unravel. I'm still unraveling purity culture, and how insidious that is. I just kind of on a side note, I didn't really realize how much of an impact that would have on my life, I thought I'll be able to flip a switch and I'll and I'll be okay. But I'm still finding myself now. It's, it's, it's hot. It's different because I've come out later in life. So I'm but I'm still finding myself unable to to make that switch. I'm still having feelings of shame come up, I'm still working through living out my truest version of myself. And I think maybe that's the whole point of life is just where we go through life just becoming a little bit more ourselves and we continue learning and we continue evolving and changing and it's hard it's it's it's not like somebody handed me a guidebook after coming away from evangelical Christianity saying this is how to D convert one on one like you mentioned earlier, like, We're all just trying to figure this shit out. Like we're not we're not able to follow the the, the the Word of God anymore, like we used to. So we are now finding ourselves in Facebook groups, or listening to podcasts, and we're making connections with people online because we don't have those connections and our quote unquote, real lives. So yeah, now I'm trying to going back to the purity culture thing. I'm trying to chip away now at this indoctrination, and I'm, I'm turning to my left and to my right and asking my friends, like, Have you experienced this? And they're like, yeah, yeah, we are still we're still working through the the teaching this. It's not just teaching though. I want to just stress how insidious it is just because it permeates different areas of our life that we just weren't even aware. Arab. So, yeah, going back to the to the community and just how important that aspect has been. When I first D converted, I did feel isolation, I felt that now that I didn't have a church to go to I didn't have the the ritual of the waking up on Sunday and going to the service and singing worship songs and spending time in that space. I almost was having to reinterpret what Sunday looks like. And at first, it was jarring. And I felt guilty. Because again, that's that good old evangelical Christian guilt that you are supposed to be dedicating your Sunday to the Lord. And if you're sleeping in and you're watching TV, that's you better have a good excuse, you better be sick, you better be dying, because you absolutely should not be doing that. But then I think with the, with the beginning of COVID, and we were now having church online, and I think me as well as a lot of other people were discovering that this might not be as great as we were told, this might not be the be all end all. Having community in a church on a Sunday, I'll be quite honest, I've had more spiritual, connected experiences and concerts than I've ever had in church, post deconversion. I've felt the Spirit move as it were singing along to one of my favorite French rappers with the with the group of 1000s that I had in my youth group services as a 14 year old 15 year old. And I can see clearly now as clearly as clear goes, you know, life is always muddy, nothing's black and white anymore. When you've D converted, everything's kind of in that fuzzy gray. But I can see clearly now that what I was told, which I was taught to take at face value, and never question to hold tight to was purposeful. They and when I say they, I mean youth pastors, main pastors, Bible study leaders, the collective they, they were telling us these things to keep us on the straight and narrow. And what was what was the what was the straight and narrow what were the straight and narrow was following the bible as we see it to be interpreted as, save yourself for marriage, live live in accordance to God's design, man and woman and then build a life with your husband and and have children and and you will be carrying out God's will. So you can see and I can see how impossible it would have been for me to authentically live as a queer person in that space. I think now looking back, if I had come out in college, I would have had no one. I relied entirely on my Bible study community and my church community and my roommates and my hall mates who are Christians, that was my entire world. If I had come out, then I would have had no one. And none of my family had D converted at that time. That wasn't even an option. That wasn't even a blip on the radar. That was I thought for sure I'm I'm going to either be a nun because the whole dating men thing wasn't working out. So obviously, none are missionary. Those are the only two options or I find myself forcing heteronormativity on myself and marrying someone who I wasn't in love with. I got to the point where I could not compromise anymore. And the long and short of it is is that I have no regrets. I have no regrets for coming out when I did. The only regret and I'll be honest shame at some point is and not knowing that there was ever another way that there was never another path presented to me as a young queer kid. I think about how, and just decide no. So I'm a teacher, I also have been a mentor to gay and queer kids in my school. And I think about how lucky they are to have someone to look towards and to see someone modeling what it looks like to unashamedly and so openly live out who they are, which is what I tried to do now is just to be myself and to be genuine and to encourage my students to do the same with with with their lives. And I think about how drastically different my life would have looked like, if, as a 11 year old preteen, I would have had a Bible Study leader who was queer, who would have said, Kelly, you know what, you don't have to do this straight thing. That's not you. You're clear, and you're wonderfully made, and who the fuck knows who made you, maybe it was God, maybe you just appeared one day doesn't really matter. But you are you and there is no one else you should be. And I want my life to reflect instead of, you know, reflecting God's character or kingdom, I hope that my life reflects genuine, unabashed freedom. And that my testimony, quote, unquote, is that you are perfectly made the way you are, and you deserve to take up space. You deserve to fight for the things that bring your heart joy. You should never let anyone tell you that you are less than, and that you need someone to save you. Because at the end of the day, you are the only one who can save you. And I tell myself that now at 33, almost 34, to my nine year old self to my 10 year old self to my 17 year old self, you are enough for you. You never needed a god. You never needed saving from an outside source, you were always enough. Arline 42:47 I just want to like sit and let all your affirmation just like wash all over me. I'll be 40 In a few months. And it's like, I did not grow up in the church. But I spent my entire adult life from time I was 18 on believing the opposite of everything that you just said. And the times I have to reparent my little little Arline. That's her color. Arline. I just talked a little Arline and remind her. Yeah, everything that you just said, because even not growing up in the church, I still grew up in a patriarchal home, girls were valued less. And I was an only girl. So like I was just kind of a third wheel. And so yeah, just like I want our listeners to just pause, take this little chunk out where you're speaking and just like let it let it be true because so many of us who especially if you grew up in the church, but are Christians or I don't know about other religions, but there's just so much shame and internalized, whatever is against yourself. Like for me it was internalized misogyny, like how much I thought less of women I thought less of myself I thought less of girls and the things I believed that were just wrong, like they were just wrong. Kelly 44:12 I do want to speak a little bit on the importance of mental health and how it relates to my story growing up. So I do think there as as far as many insidious things as the church taught me, one of the most insidious things was God will save you from sadness. He will deliver you from oppression. If your faith is is strong and you and you put your entire trust in Him and that God can conquer anything, anything that you're going through as far as like mental health wise or, or physical health or anything. And I mentioned earlier, going to prayer meetings and fervently praying on hands and knees as a five year old, six year old seven year old. And I believed that I believed that I just needed to have faith. And if God wasn't responding, that means my faith wasn't enough. And let me tell you how that fucks with you because that puts the entire weight of the world on yourself now. Now you're saying to yourself, I need to be better. I need to read my Bible more. I must not be praying enough. I must not be witnessing to my friends at school enough. How else could these things be explained? How else could I explain going through all this shit? What's What's this all for? So I think about when I was when I was itty bitty, and we're talking like 567. And I know now that I had anxiety, I had anxiety as a kid. And that anxiety manifested itself as perfectionism, it manifested itself as obsessive compulsive tendencies, depression, there will be times when I would, I would be sitting on the sofa as like a sixth grade or seventh grader. And I would I would be so distraught I would be I would be crying, I would have my hair and like kind of veiled in front of my face, like picture the girl from the ring, like I would use my hair as a curtain like a room. And my mom would Cove come over to me and be like, Kelly, like, what's what's wrong? And I said, Mom, like, my friends don't care about me. And she said, How do you know that? And I said, I just No. And she was she was obviously taken aback by this because why would why would a kid even bring up something like this? Obviously, I had friends, I had friends that were that were loving to me, and that were always in my corner. But I was convinced to my in my soul in my being that my friends didn't care about me. And I now know, of course, that was anxiety. Of course, I was experiencing depression because of that anxiety. And because of my OCD, perfectionist tendencies, and there was no intervention. My mom didn't reach out for help professionally. Her solution was prayer was we need to pray about this. We, we need to surround you with with strong Christian role models. We need to we need to spend times on time on our knees in prayer because obviously, the devil is tormenting you. Satan is tormenting you. And he is he is infecting the thoughts of your mind. And this harkens back to what I mentioned earlier about God being omniscient. Well, is God all powerful? Or isn't he can can he stop Satan from putting these these thoughts in my head or campaign? And if he's not doing anything, well, what a shit dad that is like, who would let their child suffer in torment for years of my life. And I'll be honest, that a lot of my depression growing up was now I recognize internalized homophobia. And I was being forced to live a straight lifestyle when I was clearly queer. But to think about all that anxiety, and all that turmoil that I experienced as a kid, and no fault to my mom, because she didn't know better, but she did nothing. And no one stepped in on behalf of little Kelly. And I found myself growing up, thinking that I just need to be a better representor of God, I need to be, I need to be more in the word I need to be more faithful. And if I'm if I just do ABC 123, then maybe I'll get there. Maybe I'll maybe I'll wake up one day and find that God has lifted by depression that God has lifted these anxious thoughts from my mind that that God has made me straight. Because I can't tell you so many, so many prayers, I prayed to be straight. So many so many. But that never happened. God didn't lift the anxiety. He didn't lift the depression. And let's also talk about the fact that God could only be a he and never could be a day which boggles my mind to this day. How spirit could have a penis but you never know. But, you know, that never happened. That never happened. And I have to say like, it couldn't have happened any other way that I continually went to bat for God. I've heard a lot of guests on here talk about being an apologist and defending the word and defending God's character because God is untouchable God's ways are higher than ours. So we who are we to question Who are we to question? So, I spent all this time running circles in my mind, for this being who I'd never seen, by the way, who I was told was always there for me holding me, but I couldn't feel anything. If anything, it was it was the worship music and the Hillsong and the newsboys that were holding me way more than anything else. But I was told that this this, this being was, was always going to be there for me. But where was he? Where were they? Throughout my whole life, I'd experienced so much, and God was nowhere to be found. And my family who are still in that evangelical space, being very well versed in being in apologetics, I would say, God did answer your prayers, but they didn't look like what you thought they would look like. There's any answer, there's an answer. There's always an answer. Yeah, there's always an answer. But sure, you might have to live in torment in your depression for decades. That's just God's plan for you, because he needed you to trust him more. Obviously, that was the only explanation. Of course, you had to live with internalized homophobia and force heteronormativity. Because you had to rely on God. Of course, you couldn't rely on a partner, you had to rely on God. You couldn't trust your body, your body is evil, your body is sinful. Of course, you had to trust God, of course, they had to be the ultimate answer, because you are not enough. And again, that's coming back to my other comment of being enough. But now, looking back, there was just so many times where I can point to tying this back into the mental the mental health piece, like there were so many points where I could have said to myself, you need to talk to a counselor, you need to see a doctor for the effects of depression that it's having on your body. You need to examine why you withhold food from yourself why you look at your body as as being not enough. And you you need intervention you you need someone you need someone and God is obviously not doing it. He's he's just not he's he's leaving you high and dry on this one. Arline 53:07 The Christianity I was a part of, we had just kind of a catchphrase of like, we follow a suffering Savior. So like, Why could we expect anything different? And it was very much suffering was glorified. Like yes, very much a thing. The way you're able to tell your story is just absolutely beautiful. I have a couple more questions, but Okay, anything else you want to, to talk about that you haven't had a chance to yet. Um, Kelly 53:44 just to restate my appreciation on the side of deconversion for evolving and learning and giving myself grace, the name of this podcast, I love it so much because I'm constantly reminding myself that I deserve grace. I am deserving of the grace that I withheld from myself all these years. I deserve the celebration for who I am. I deserve the uplifting that I would have given God that I now give myself because now I'm pretty sure that God is me. I am God. We are all we are all divine. That's kind of where I've landed right now. I'm kind of in like a mystic state. And it's not too late. It's not too late to be fully embodied. It's not too late to to come out of indoctrination and to find freedom on the other side Arline 55:09 almost said Amen. Do you have any recommendations for listeners books, podcasts? Anything that has been helpful to you? Kelly 55:24 Yeah, yours? Yeah. So I love Marla Tatiana. Both of her books loves so much. Yeah. Her poetry just does something speaks something to my soul. And I find myself just constantly like taking photos and like passing them on to all of my friends. And this one and this one and have you oh my god, like it's just so amazing. But yeah, I found a lot of solace. In her books, I found a lot of solace in this podcast. Dirty Rotten church kids is another one of my favorite podcasts, which is more of like a tongue in cheek comic relief. Arline 56:10 There is plenty right now coming out. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. Kelly. I really really enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Eileen. My final thoughts on the episode, Kelly's ability to tell their story with compassion for their little self, little Kelly, compassion for their self now. Moving forward learning staying curious. Just so much grace, so much love and kindness for themselves. And for others. This was a really good episode for my own heart. The way Kelly was able to just speak truth. I don't know how I'm trying to articulate this. It was just it was just beautiful. Their story reminded me how there's no timeline for coming out to your family and friends with any information that is going to, to make the other people sad. These are our stories. These are our truce, these are our lives. And we owe it to nobody else. To come out as an agnostic as an atheist as not no longer a Christian no longer religious, as a queer person, as any is non binary trans to anything. We owe it to no one to come out on anyone else's timeline but our own, and to not even come out. Like we're all on our own journeys. And nobody. Nobody has a right to hear anything from our stories. If that's not what we know is best for us. So Kelly, thank you again for being on the podcast. This was this was good for me. David Ames 58:12 The secular Grace Thought of the Week is you are enough. Inspired by Kelly, as well as previous guests, Robert peoples who frames it as to be human is enough. I want to quote Kelly here I thought their way of framing this was really important. They said it turns out that being told you are depraved, sinful and worthy of literal death if it wasn't for God stepping in to send His Son to save the day, really fucks with the person, especially the empathetic, anxious, deeply feeling people pleasing kid that I was. You may or may not feel like you were a sensitive, deeply feeling child but many of us were damaged by the doctrine of total depravity for even faith traditions that didn't frame it in those terms. This idea your righteousness is as filthy rags. Part of that deconstruction process is to discover oneself to recover your own humanity to reject the framing that we are bad by nature, that we are evil by nature, that we are broken by nature, to accept the human condition that includes both great qualities like empathy and love and grace, as well as selfishness and bitterness and anger. That is what it is to be human. Kelly's message and Robert peoples message is that is enough. You are enough. You can walk away from that damaging message and accept your own humanity. As always, we have lots of amazing interviews coming up. We have Stephanie cat, Joanna Johnson, who has written a book called silenced in Eden Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats that you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show, email me at graceful firstname.lastname@example.org. For blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful atheists.com. This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheists United studios Podcast Network Transcribed by https://otter.ai