Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.
Meditations 3.10 (Hays)
One of the hardest things about deconverting is coming to terms with the fact that there’s so much time already spent: time spent doing what now seems like a complete waste; time spent not doing the things that seem to actually make up a life. So frustrating. Such a waste. Why did purity culture have to happen when I had youth and energy? Why did I spend that youth and energy building up hangups and trauma around sex? Why don’t I know how to have friends?
It’s like Plato’s allegory of the cave was somehow tangled up with that urban legend about waking up after a party, missing a kidney. Or does that metaphor only work for me?
And it’s harder the later in life you deconvert.
One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to accept that the past is gone. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I can do to get it back.
Easier said than done.
First, why is it helpful? If I know I can’t do anything about the past, I can shift my focus on the present moment. The present moment is something I can do something about. Sure, I can learn from the past, but when it comes to making choices, what matters is the here and now.
Even better, if I accept the past as unchangeable, I can be kind to myself, cutting myself some slack for the road ahead.
A thought experiment to take away: What if you were dropped into your current situation? What if you were unceremoniously plopped into the body, memories, life, history, and family of someone else in this situation? What if you knew it wasn’t your life? What would you do? Would you do anything differently? Would you feel differently about the past? How?
PS – I asked one of these new AI programs for a suggested title for this post. My favorite: “From Kidney Theft to Puritan Lessons: Surviving Unappreciated Time.” …success?
Stay skeptical? This week’s guest is Thom Krystofiak, the author of Tempted to Believe: The Seductive Power of Claims About “The Truth.”
Thom grew up Catholic but as an adult began practicing Transcendental Meditation. He followed gurus and groups for decades but was never quite convinced of the more spectacular claims of TM.
Thom shares about his experiences in the TM movement and what pushed him out. He also discusses important questions people, regardless of their belief or skepticism, could ask themselves: What do I mean by truth? How do I find the truth? And how much does truth really matter?
I am, by nature, a skeptical man. My skepticism shows no signs of mellowing, but grows sharper and deeper with time. And yet I have spent my life surrounded by believers.
[Is it] better to be fooled many times than to be a skeptical man[?]
Am I missing something?
“Why is that I’m not susceptible to any of the beliefs the people around me hold…”
“[Flying] wasn’t happening yet for us as individuals, but maybe if we put three thousand people together in one place…maybe that’ll be something!”
“…the rise of fake news and alternative facts and the more bizarre conspiracy theories…all of these things are based on beliefs and they’re based on beliefs that do not have evidence…’”
“Some of our greatest societal challenges…resonate with these same principles: How much does the truth matter, what do you mean by the truth and how do you find the truth?”
“It’s not just a matter of, ‘Do you accept evidence at all as a valid way of finding out what’s true?’…it becomes a much more difficult task of sifting through competing versions of evidence.”
“Some people have given—either themselves or others—the license to make things up…”
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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David. And I'm trying to be the case with our community manager Arlene continues to run the Tuesday evening after the podcast drops hangout. If you want to be a part of that, please join the deconversion anonymous Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/deconversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Thom Krystofiak. Thom has written an amazing book called tempted to believe the seductive power of claims about the truth, quote, unquote. What Thom has done here is really describe what skepticism is, why it's necessary and how to be skeptical without being cynical, and without being a jerk about it. What I think you're going to find interesting is that Thom's religious experience, although he grew up a Catholic is really about his time in the transcendental meditation movement, and more from a new age point of view. So what's interesting is, he's bringing skepticism from that perspective. And he begins the book by asking the question, Am I missing something? And the book is really the answer to that. I loved this book, I this is the book that I wish that I had had when I was going through my own deconversion. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Thom, and I hope you and to help you go out and get the book. tempted to believe. Here is Thom Krystofiak to tell his story.
Thom Krystofiak, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Thom Krystofiak 2:06
Thank you, David. It's a pleasure.
David Ames 2:08
Thom, you've written a book called tempted to believe the seductive power of claims about the truth. And as I just mentioned to you offline, this could not be more timely. I said in previous promotion of this particular interview that if I were going to give it a subtitle, I would say it is skepticism without being an asshole. I might have been a little bit more catchy. Yeah. And that is kind of right in the lane of what we're trying to do here on the gristmill atheist podcasts. So you are incredibly welcome. So glad that you're here.
Thom Krystofiak 2:47
Thank you, thank you so much.
David Ames 2:49
What I'd like to do is begin with, you know, your personal journey and for lack of a better term, your spiritual journey and what that was like, and then we'll jump into the book after that. Okay.
Thom Krystofiak 2:58
Yeah, let me try to boil it down. as briefly as I can, you know, I did not go through a difficult deconversion process in my, in my life, I was raised as a standard Catholic, I went to Catholic schools all the way through high school, including Jesuit High School. But, and I of course, absorbed all that as you do as a child. And you're more or less, I'm more or less assume that was just the way things were. But, you know, my my leaving the church or leaving belief of that kind took place quite naturally. For me, it was just the way my mind started asking questions, even when I was, I suppose around 16. And then, strangely enough, one of the Jesuit priests sort of there were some liberal priests in our, in our school, he thought it was a wise thing and what was called theology class, to assign Sigmund Freud's the future of an illusion, which is, which is all about Freud's idea that religious beliefs were illusory. And here's the psychological reasons why. And that really spoke to me. But in addition to that, my own thinking just about how is it that we can possibly know all this really definite stuff about the nature of the universe, so that'll happen. And so it was, it was, it was graceful. For me. It was graceful both for me, and it was, it was treated gracefully by those in my life. You know, luckily for me, I didn't have a problem with my parents, you know, freaking out that, that I had left the fold that they had invested in, you know, in so many different ways, right? There weren't that kind of they were those kinds of people, so I didn't have that issue. Even my teachers at school they knew by the time of my senior year of high school, they knew where I was but they didn't cause trouble either. So I had a graceful exit, it was easy. Okay. Then what happened to me is when I was in college, I started for whatever reason, beginning to have a sense that perhaps there's something more to this reality than what the day to day that we're all in meshed in. Now, whether recreational drugs had anything to do with that, or whether it was just some sort of natural curiosity, I don't know. But I was interested in the possibility. And so when I heard various people in groups talking about ways to open to greater realities, I was intrigued. And I explored a few of them. But the one that got me was Transcendental Meditation. And the reason it got me ultimately, in the beginning, was because they had embraced scientific approach to verifying the benefits. Right. So I mean, the kinds of benefits let's put it this way, a scientific approach to to verifying some changes that happened into people and people who practiced TM. You know, they certainly couldn't verify the broader claims that they may have been interested in. But they, but they had that scientific attitude, they had done some pioneering research that was published in Science Magazine and Scientific American. And, and I will say that, that hooked me I said, okay, if I'm going to try something, this is the one. So that's what I did. I liked it, I liked the way it work, the effects it had on me. And so I, as, as the years of few years unfolded, I got seriously interested and became a trained teacher of Transcendental Meditation, which, you know, this is, as people may know, this is a, a program or a practice that was brought out to the world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In the old days, I mean, some decades ago, a lot of people would recognize that name. These days, not so much, probably. But, you know, he was the guru of the Beatles, etc. That's the way he was always talked about in the press way back then, you know, millions of people learned all around the world, 10s of 1000s of people were teachers, it was a big deal. And as you can imagine, we we'd go, we were in the training was done in Europe, I was in Europe anyway, I was pursuing my own studies, but the trainings were generally in Europe, and they would last, you know, over the course of the entire training might be six months or more. And so you're completely enmeshed in this world of people who are absolutely enthused not just about the practical fruits of meditation, but about these ancillary claims that are more and more extraordinary about, about what the universe was about, and what human life was capable of, and so forth. And being in meshed in math for six months. And having, you know, you naturally have a desire to do well and be part of, you know, to be a good teacher and be part of this whole thing. I naturally was drawn to at least partial acceptance of some really extraordinary things. Now, I don't I don't think I ever became a full on believer in the sense that many people are believers and things about some of these claims. But they certainly enticed me and made me think they were possible. And so I'll just briefly mention a couple of them. So the the biggest thing that happened during the time I was doing that training was an advanced program was cut was brought out, in addition to the regular 20 minutes, twice a day of meditation, which was the whole thing in the beginning, an advanced program was brought out which was basically human levitation, the ability for the human being, to fly, not just some sort of internal thing that felt like you are floating but actually, the claim was, yes, we're talking, floating, flying through the air. And, and I was, you know, some people did it before I decided to try it, because, hey, why not? This is, this would be fantastic. If
David Ames 9:32
it was. Yeah.
Thom Krystofiak 9:36
You know, it's a little weird to say that I would even be willing to try it because it's so outrageous. No, that's such an outrageous claim. It flies in the face of just everything we know about physics and science. And that doesn't mean I don't rule things out is completely impossible if they fly in the face of current scientific knowledge. You know, there are things we can learn that we haven't learned yet, but this is pretty cool. pretty far out there. So, but nevertheless, I was far enough into it to say this is worth a shot. And some people had done it that I knew before I did a little bit before I did. And it came back with some, you know, reports that sounded like they were verifying the thing in some way. Anyway, so I jumped in and did it. And it was extraordinary. It was absolutely one of the most extraordinary things I've ever done in my life. And I think a lot of people might say the same, just the way the body reacted to this, essentially just a mental process. That was that was engaged. And it's, it's something that I think would be a great subject of scientific research exactly what is going on there where the body does some things it's never done before, in response to a mental stimulus. And so it was wild. It was incredible. It was energetic, but it wasn't flying by. It wasn't levitation by any match.
A couple of years later, after I had done this, and then come back, and I was teaching meditation, and here in the US, I, marshy put out the word that he wanted to gather 3000 people, this was in Amherst, Massachusetts, to do this technique of skill of yogic flying together for the first time in human history, you know, and I said, okay, at that point, I was willing to entertain the possibility that, okay, it wasn't happening yet for us as individuals, but if we put 3000 people together in one place, and we're all doing it simultaneously, maybe that will be something and something extraordinary. And, as I said, in the book, when I when when I did that, for the first time in that large group, I was expecting something to happen. You know, exactly what, who knows, but something really different from what had happened ever before. Right? And it did. So, you know, that's not to say there were it's not, it's a rich internal experience. It's something that people get value out of, and a number of ways by doing it. Maybe even some integration of brainwaves, and mind and body and all these things have been explored. But certainly it wasn't what the claim was, it didn't happen. Of course, it hasn't happened since. So that's one thing. And then my wife and I moved to a little town in Iowa called Fairfield, Iowa, which had about 9000 people at the time. And again, Maurice, she made up made the call in 1983, to say, let's get 7000 people into this little town of 9000. And all do this together. And that will really crack the world open. It wasn't so much, oh, we're gonna fly. Isn't that really cool? It was more. His focus was always what can we do as individuals that will affect the collective consciousness is the word he would tend to use the collective consciousness of the whole human race? Is there somewhat, and he certainly believed, apparently that, that, that that should be possible. And originally, the idea was, well, let's just get enough people to practice TM just to meditate, and that will change the world. And then as that wasn't happening fast enough, he said, Well, let's get this advanced group. And let's get them together. And then we'll see what can really happen. And so we said, Great, we quit our jobs, we moved down here along with 7000 people, it was an, again, a really amazing experience. And then, many of those people were encouraged later to stay, to form a permanent community to keep doing this together. And they built two large dome structures where the people would come every day and twice a day and do this. So the idea was, well, we'll keep doing this and then we will finally crack it all up. So this group here in Fairfield, that up maybe about 3000, stayed over time, not the first day, but they managed to arrange their lives so that, you know, they could somehow support themselves. Some entrepreneurs came started some businesses brought businesses, people managed to support themselves and got rolling here, and states, so maybe two to 3000. At the peak, we're here. And there's still probably 2000 here. And this group of people that I was now fully enmeshed in because I never lived in a community of two or 3000 people who believed a lot of very extraordinary things I'll just mention a few in a moment. And so all the people around me that I associated with believed a raft of things and these would be The one I already mentioned, you know, possibility of human levitation. Another one would be the fact that certain practices, they're called the Yagi O's, and in Sanskrit or an Indian lore, but these are basically just practices, performances can influence by performing some ritualized event, chanting some stuff in Sanskrit pouring some materials on some objects, you know, whatever the ritual was, that can eliminate problems change the course of, of a person's life accompany even as a society. And of course, the idea that a large group doing something together like this would like, like these practices would utterly transform human human life on a collective level. And belief in astrology, it's called Jyotish. Again, the Indian version is called Jyotish. But it's essentially just astrology, that it's a perfect predictive science. And on and on, so I'm surrounded by a belief in karma, you know, the fact that everything that's happening to us was because of things in past lives, or parent lives, and it's all highly orchestrated. And reincarnation, you go on and on. And this was the assumed coin of the realm among the people I was living with, including my wife. And I was curious about some of these things, but really not not a believer in any of any of them. Yeah. Especially, you know, as the flying, it became clear that wasn't really happening that one drifted, drifted away, even from my consideration that it's any kind of likely event at all.
So this was the origin of the book for me over the book that I wrote, because in my own internal exploration process, which was, why is it that I am not susceptible to these beliefs that everybody around me is holding to one extent or another in the early days, especially? And it was just a fascinating question. It wasn't just a intellectual academic thing, like, Oh, I wonder why it was also it wasn't like I had tension about it, or felt that I was horribly missing something. But I did wonder if I was missing something. Because a lot of a lot of these people were quite admirable, quite intelligent, etc, accomplished. And they managed to believe these things and found some sort of benefit in their lives from believing these things, apparently. And I wasn't. And so I'm going, what, what am I missing here? And so I just tried to dive into that, and exploration on many, many different fronts and different levels to see. Was I missing something? Or were they just applying criteria about reality that I could not subscribe to, due to lacks a lack of evidence, basically. And that, you know, that's essentially what I what I came to, and feel comfortable with. And that, to me, let me say one more thing that a major demarcation or separation that I make in the book is between something that someone chooses to have in their life because they like the way it feels, they just like, like having in their life, and making a definite claim about something about the universe or the world, or how human life works, a claim. So to me, a claim is something about, about an event that will appear in the material world, I claim that astrology will predict this in my life. Well, I want to see that prediction come true. It's a claim or the claim that you can levitate we want to see we need to see the levitation otherwise, let's not talk about it in that in that term. You know, if doing a certain spiritual practice or ritual is supposed to alleviate a problem, let's see does does that actually play out? And so yeah, my focus was on on claims. I'm happy to have people have whatever they want in their life that makes them feel satisfied as long as they're not bending the reality and making claims factual claims about the nature of human life, that really cannot be not only cannot be established, but all the evidence that we do have, seems to contradict it. And as as the years went on here, I mean, we've been here for 39 years. Yeah, so. So it's a long, it's a lifetime, you know. And during that time, many of the people, at least the people that are my closer friends, have had us not the same degree, necessarily, as I am in this journey, but a movement in that direction. And I'm pleased and happy to report that to some small extent, at least, some of the people who've have read my book have had some of that perspective solidified. And it kind of brought together some of the maybe thoughts they started having, but brought together in a more coherent way. That is, how do we want to look at this world? How do we want to evaluate claims about this world to make sure that they're, they're valid, and that they have substance,
David Ames 21:08
that so many things, I want to respond to their couple things, just just to say that one of the things I've really appreciated about the book is the humility and the kindness with which you describe some of these, in your words, off grid claims. And there's an empathy for the human condition and are and you know, the title of the book, tempted to believe that we are all tempted to believe in things that may or may not have enough evidence for it. Again, very much in line with what we're trying to do here with the podcast that just, you know, we're all human beings, we're all susceptible to these things. And, and yet, we are all after the truth, we're trying to find the truth. So I really appreciated that. One of the things I think, for my listeners is going to be interesting, my listeners tend to be former evangelical Christians, on some part of the spectrum from D convert from deconstruction, you're just doubting to full blown D converted atheists is that this comes at it from an orthogonal an angle, many of those evangelicals, when they were believers would have seen transcendental meditation as evil. And so it's, it kind of sneaks in past some of those defenses. And yet, I was amazed at the parallels, right? This is, again, the human condition. And last thing I'll say is, I also very much appreciated that you acknowledge the difference between the potential positive benefits of the experience and community versus a claim about the way the the universe actually works, and making a really hard bright line between those two. So for example, if you find, you know, performing the ritual of, you know, beneficial to you for your mental health, if you find meditation, or any of these, these kinds of practices, beneficial, more power to that person, not, that's fine. It's when the person begins to claim that this is affecting the world in some way that is beyond the realm of physics, that that's when we start to care about the truth.
Thom Krystofiak 23:09
Right? Well, that's great. And, you know, I appreciate your noticing what you're calling the humility in the book. And that has been an advantage. I just ran into someone at the grocery store yesterday, he goes, Thom, I love your book. And I didn't know she was reading it. And not not a close friend, but someone I an acquaintance. And she mentioned the same thing that compared to what what you often expect in books that are trying to deconstruct for former beliefs. You often have people like Richard Dawkins would be the extreme example of someone who is often described as caustic, and dismissive and so forth. And yeah, I mean, I didn't want to do that. And I don't feel that so. So that's cool. The one thing I didn't say yet that I want to say, and I think it's germane to what you were just speaking about is that, well, let's let's get into it this way, that the whole idea, the difference that you just summarized between doing something that feels beneficial, or that you'd like to have in your life, versus making a claim about how the universe actually works in observable ways. That's a that's a bright line. You know, that's a clear distinction. Some people many people don't care about the second thing. They don't care if it can be proven if there's evidence for it. They just clearly don't. And, and you go, Okay, well, is that all right? Is that is that just another way of being? And to some extent, I want to sort of go in that direction and be again generous to say, well, that's the way that's the way their life is going. And those are their values, but This is the other area that was not the impetus of my book, but sort of got sprinkled in as the time went on, with the rise of the incredible the rise of fake news and alternative facts and, and really bizarre, more bizarre conspiracy theories and so forth, and the divisive pneus. In our political sphere. All of these things are based on beliefs, and they're based on beliefs that do not have evidence. And these things are not a matter of, oh, well, this is someone's internal life, it's their spiritual life, or whatever it is. And, you know, we shouldn't be too concerned about what they're doing inside their own head.
But when it starts to manifest, as it really seriously has, not just in America, but really around the world, when these kinds of alternate realities, not based on facts start being treated as if they were facts, and building entire, you know, political movements on them. We've got problems. And so this is what started to become more apparent to me even though it wasn't part of my original impetus, that the same kinds of questions that we're talking about here about how you evaluate what's true or not, or whether it's important that you evaluate things in a certain way as to being true or false. Whether you apply the rigors of evidence and rational thinking or not. It it's it's become a matter of really deep societal importance outside the realm of religion or New Age beliefs or, or the kinds of things I was talking about in my background, well, outside of that sphere, as important as all those fears are, we have another big thing on our hands. And it's completely related, just as you said, even though my book is not talking about the typical journey that that a lot of your other guests and people have gone on, you found that it was resonant with some of those same same processes. Well, now we're having, to me, some of our greatest societal challenges outside of those realms, also resonate with the same principles, which is, how much does the truth matter? And what do you mean by the truth? And how do you find the truth? And, to me, the greatest challenge that we face, perhaps, is that people totally disagree about that. What's interesting, though, is there are people who go, especially in the spiritual realm go, I don't, I'm totally not interested in objective means of proving any of this. I have my own internal truth that I am totally solid and clear about, you know, that's one thing where you just sort of deny the applicability of any kind of objective truth you go. That's that's not that's not relevant here to me. And that's, that's a, that's a tough issue. But that's, that's mostly on the subjective or spiritual realm. When you get into these other societal realms, where people are arguing about what's true, or what isn't true. A lot of times the people who are saying really outlandish things,
Unknown Speaker 28:43
claim to have proof. They're
Thom Krystofiak 28:46
not saying, oh, proof doesn't matter. This is just the way I feel I have an intimate experience with Jesus Christ or with whatever. Don't talk to me about proving it's irrelevant. They're saying, No, we can prove this. Yeah. So if you, for example, I don't want to offend any particular groups that you have your listeners, but it's an obvious, obvious example, in our society. If, if Donald Trump or some or his fall, so many of his followers are going to say, the election was stolen, they don't say, I have a feeling the election was stolen, or, you know, my, my spiritual guide told me the election was stolen, they say it was stolen, and we have evidence, right, you know, and then they bring it to court. And of course, all the courts so far, have failed to agree that there was any kind of evidence, but nevertheless, the claim is made or a lot of conspiracy theorists will claim that they have evidence certainly the big one is the nine 911 truthers who, you know the idea that it was an inside job and it was totally put up fake thing. They'll put out reams of really impressive looking video discussions with some experts and so forth, proving that there's no way these towers came down in this way from from airplanes. And so this is what gets doubly difficult. Because it's not just a matter of do you accept evidence at all as a valid way of finding out what's true? They'll go, yes, of course we do. And we've got evidence. And then it becomes a much more difficult task of sifting through competing versions, right of evidence, and say, which one of his really holds up. And the problem is that none of us most of us are incapable of doing all of that background, evidential research or checking ourselves. And so we naturally have to ferret out which of the experts or authorities out there in the world are the ones that we have reason to think are reliable. And then we follow those. So this gets really thorny. And that's why the only the only hope I see is in a greater depth of education emphasis, I don't know if this will ever be happening in our educational systems, to the process of doing exactly that. How do you weigh how do you ferret out the the reliability of a piece of evidence of an authority of suppose it expert? You know, how do you weigh these things? You can't just take the one that feels?
David Ames 31:44
Exactly. And I you do talk about that a lot of just, and within the world of disinformation that basically, we just pick the paradigm that makes us feel the best. And that's no way to do this. I want to jump on this just for a second and say, This is why the book is timely for a number of reasons. You know, I think, you know, even beyond the political and the religious, you know, we're under an onslaught of advertising being thrown at us and with social media, and what have you that we are constantly evaluating claims, whether we know it or not, and being conscious of that, and having a standard is just deeply important. And in particular, and in time of disinformation. And in a time where technology is going to only get make the problem worse for the foreseeable future, that we will have more and more claims that we have to evaluate, having a sense of what the standard is for good or sufficient evidence is just absolutely critical.
Thom Krystofiak 32:44
That's right, and it's going as you say, it's going to get more and more intense. Speaking about social media, you know, you get, you get the problem of what are called Deep fakes, which are, there's, the better and better ability is of technology to create a video of you saying something that looks exactly like you're saying it even though you would never say that and never did. And so, it's going to go to a completely different level of difficulty, to tell the difference, and to see how any, any sort of authority is going to try to step in, to prevent some of these clearly wrong attempts to fool people. So it's, it's one thing in the old areas, you had stories, you know, if you go back 1000s of years, you had people telling stories about the origin of life, or some savior or some holy man. We, we basically had stories and that worked incredibly well. You know, you have billions of people subscribing to essentially stories that were created 1000s of years ago, or laid down 1000s of years ago, stories passed on were very potent, and they always will be, although, as we've been seeing, at least in in Western societies, for the for large degree, in more industrialized Western societies, that the grip of some of those religious stories has been greatly weakening, you know, in not true all over the world, but certainly true and like in Europe, and, and so forth. And even in the US among, among young, younger people. So some of these stories are not having the same potency that they had before. But but now we're gonna get a whole as you said, a whole onslaught of things, whether it be in advertising or even more, more dangerously, in those parts and those people who use social media to try to change your, your critical beliefs, about about things that really matter. It's one thing to convince you that this is the best bike to buy, you know, Hi, some advertising, you know, it's another thing to convince someone about the reality of some political claim or some or some factual claim, and to do it in a way that that you're completely incapable of, of yourself telling the difference. That is truly alarming. So, yeah, so it's not just a matter of individuals getting better at being able to tell the difference between some someone who's trying to fool him and someone who's giving them a good solid piece of information. It's, again, as I said, the question is going to be to what extent government or society is going to have to try to put some controls over this rampant growth in MIS misinformation that gets more and more sophisticated.
David Ames 35:50
And again, this is the I don't want to say argument. But the reason why skepticism is necessary. I think skepticism as a word has negative connotations, people think cynicism. And the thing I really related to you, and I think that my listeners will relate to is finding yourself what feels like alone? Why am I the only one who in your words is not susceptible to these these claims like that is the deconstruction deconversion experience, we find ourselves in this hermetically sealed bubble of people saying the same things, reinforcing the same things. We've heard the answers, we understand the answers, but the answers are not satisfying. And the the temptation is to say, maybe there's something wrong with me. And and yet, again, this entire book, and everything you're talking about here is about why skepticism is necessary. And that if the truth matters, you know, we can't we can't make someone value the truth. But if they do value the truth, there has to be some process some way of understanding, again, have good evidence or sufficient evidence, and can therefore be accepted or that need to be discarded.
Thom Krystofiak 37:02
Yeah, absolutely. It's an interesting process that you and your guests and others go through in terms of that, that we could say, a light a light bulb turning on or something, something inside being activated, to start to wonder about these things. And that that really is the essence, you know, it's like, do we wonder about what's true? I mean, obviously, all scientists have always wondered about what's true. That's that, that sense of, and they do it in a way that is, that is not constrained by necessarily what came before. It's not like, Oh, we've always been told that rocks fall, because it's the nature of things to go towards, you know, the center of the earth. You know, with no idea of gravity, just that it's the nature of things. And someone starts to wonder about that. You just have to wonder, how does, how does this really work? And what's really going on here, that, that light bulb coming on, which doesn't come on for some people? Yeah, it just, it just doesn't, they're, they're happy with, with the world that they're living in, and the beliefs and practices and community that they have, it's working, it's working for them? And it's only when a question comes up internally, to wonder about it and to ask certain questions. And I don't know how that exactly happens. But why it happens for some and not for others. Exactly. Yeah. It may just be that some people are temperamentally more open or ready to ask certain questions than others than others are.
I was on a podcast called Buddha at the Gas Pump, which is a fabulous thing. It's actually it's a friend of my longtime friend of mine, is behind it. He's interviewed like, I don't know, six or 700 people, and they tend to be people from the spiritual world, about all kinds of things. But he, he also had me on, and he was very forthright and discussing the kinds of things that we are. And anyway, as part of that, there was a group that he has, I don't know, maybe 15 People who email around on these questions. And it's fascinating because that group kind of bifurcates and some of them are strongly in the camp of I have had this experience which was so strong, and so opening or was clearly a direct perception of truth. But that's the end of it. That is just the end of it. and it has, there is it's not like they they're incapable of asking questions about all kinds of things, but they're not interested in asking questions about that.
David Ames 40:11
Thom Krystofiak 40:14
Yeah. And there's a difference between someone who's protected by, by a religious tradition, or the fact that their parents and their schooling and all of the people around them believe it. And it's, it's a whole community thing. And it's just been deeply bred into them. And someone who was absolutely sure, because they had some sort of awakened awakening experience. And, and they don't, and I keep, from now on then trying to get them to think about the idea that it is absolutely true and wonderful that they had this amazing experience. And it had great benefits in their lives, they feel freer, they feel wider, they feel, you know, less anxious, less concern, they feel more connected. These are all great things that anyone would love to have. So there's no question about it happened. You got these fruits. That's wonderful. Yeah. But there's an the tendency to want to claim things about the universe, about the nature of life in general, beyond the experience, and they it's almost always happens, that somewhat someone, even if they have an experiential basis, for some, some wonderful thing, they ended up wanting to make claims about the universe, like everything that consciousness was primary consciousness existed eternally, and it created a matter matter came out of consciousness, sort of like God, sort of like God, God was there eternally. And all this stuff that we see he just created somehow. Similarly with that, so they tend to go in that direction, even though it's that's a claim about things that goes way beyond anything that could ever be established. Right.
David Ames 42:14
You have some amazing quotes in the book. That's the other thing that I really appreciated about it is like this is well researched. And some of my favorites were from Fineman. The one that I've heard before, but just really struck me was, the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. I feel like that really expresses this. I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said it this way to relate to religion to what you just mentioned, that experience can trump evidence as we have to actually work fairly hard to overcome that feeling of experience that we've we've gained some insights about truth beyond just the the warm and fuzzies. And you know, the sense of awe. Last thing I'll say on this is just that it's the human experience to experience all and all as a good thing. It's when we start to attribute unverifiable or unfalsifiable claims based on that experience at all. Yeah, that's
Thom Krystofiak 43:12
right. I mean, the quantified men, you know that you're the easiest person to fool. Towards ties directly into the opening, you know, the opening aphorism in my book, you know, whether it's better to be fooled many times, yes, than to be a skeptical man. It's all about the fooling. And whether William James, I get into this a bit as well, William James, who explored spirituality and religion and psychic phenomena, as well as being the founder of American psychology. And philosophy really, is quite an amazing man. But, you know, when he wrote the book, or the essay called the will to believe he started it off with a preface, where he was saying, the person who, let's say, is going to be skeptical about about all these things, is, is is demonstrating that he's, he's afraid to be duped, he doesn't want to be duped. And he's saying he's putting that above some of the fruits that he could get, if you would just let it go. You know, this fear of being duped which is exactly, you know, kind of what, five minutes talking about to you know, the first principle is you must not fool yourself. Why not? Why not? is sort of the interesting question. That's the, the ultimate question, really, why not? And, you know, William James, I think he kind of went off the rails as far as I was concerned, because he was saying things like, Well, if you're always going to be skeptical, you're never going to get married. You're never going to take this new job that might have a risk in it. If you're always doubting everything. You're never going to do anything. In your life, and you go, Yeah, that's true. But that's all very pragmatic stuff. That's Those are choices that you make in your life. You know, whether you doubt whether this investment is going to be rewarding or not, is not the kind of doubt we're talking about. It's not the kind of skepticism we're talking about. We're talking about skepticism about claims about reality and how it actually works, not whether this woman is going to turn out to be the perfect wife for me. Right. So you know, so he ended up being really pragmatic when he was talking about doubt and faith and the will to believe, saying, We have to believe stuff. And of course we do. I believe that it's a good thing that I am, you know, this investment I just got in recently. I believe that's all right. I don't know. But I have a strong feeling that it will be a good idea. I don't hold back and go Well, I just don't know. I just don't know. So we're not talking to some kind of debilitating, absolute skepticism or doubt about everything.
David Ames 46:03
Right. I'm talking about solipsism. Yeah, exactly. Yeah,
Thom Krystofiak 46:08
we're only talking about when people make substantive claims about how things are, then make a difference that make a difference to the rest of her life goes. You know, that's where you might want to have some questions. Yeah.
David Ames 46:27
I wanted to circle back really quick to how some people who who make off grade claims say that they have evidence in my world, in my listeners world, that tends to be apologists. And there's a whole field of evidential apologetics that suggests that there is all of this evidence. And it's clear that it's basically, you know, circumstantial, hearsay, and embellished legend with kind of an objective point of view, when you're talking to that person, they are 100% convinced that they have evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, let's say, you know, there are historical record and, and so one of the, again, one of the experiences of, of deconstruction, deconversion, is when you begin to recognize, I no longer find that, that evidence such as this convincing, that isn't sufficient to the magnitude of the claim, I just want to like, talk about a bit more about the challenge of coping with people who are claiming they have evidence, but that evidence isn't sufficient for the claim.
Thom Krystofiak 47:34
Yeah. It's a matter of how much yeah, how much leeway you give this the sources of authority in your life. And how much leeway you give to the stories and, and the types of evidence, you know, generally, people who are believing in these, a lot of religious things and other off off grid claims, will give a great deal of leeway, you know, they will give the kind of spaciousness that they would never give, let's say in a court of law, or in some actual proceeding in their own practical life, where they're trying to nail down what really happened or what really is the truth. You know, I mean, Thomas Paine had that story, you know, that. If, if anybody were to come before a magistrate, with the four gospels accounts, which, about the resurrection, which have completely different details, and to some extent, contradictory details about precisely what happened when and who did what, you know, what is this? I mean, you can't possibly accept it, you go. There's something funny going on here. This isn't this isn't this isn't anything like an objective? evidential account? So? So yeah, it's, it's something some term that I use somewhere in the book was some people have granted either themselves or others the license to make things up. You know, you allow things to be declared and accepted as truth. Because of what they the fruits that they give you. And you give a lot of license to the quality of the evidence. Yeah, I've, I've certainly, I, you know, I always like to look at things like, Oh, someone and apologists trying to present the strongest proofs for God or something or for the resurrection. I always think they're going to come up with something really cool, you know, here that I can sink my teeth into. And I'm always I'm always dissatisfied, but I I have there something in me that wants us to, it's not like I want to believe in that sense. It's not like, Please convince me but, but I would, I love to I would love to be blown away. weigh, but the strength of evidence or the strength of an argument. You know, my wife always jokes with me. I don't happen to believe in UFOs, even though that's not that could be a physical reality. I mean, it could be, but I don't think we've got the evidence. I personally don't think we've got the evidence right now. And, but, but she knows that I would love to have a UFO land on my lawn? I would, I would love it. It's not like, no, no, no, I don't want to believe in that stuff. Right. I'd be happy to believe in it. Yeah, if there was good evidence. And so it's not that some people have a desire for belief or to believe certain things, and others don't. I have. I have I don't know about desire, I kind of have a desire to be to be confronted with a, an alien on a UFO. I mean, why not great, or, or a ghost or something? I mean, I don't believe in any of these things. But how cool would that be? Yeah, if it was really something I could sink my teeth into?
David Ames 51:11
Yeah, a few things about that. Like, I avoid talking to apologists, but when I do I point out that if you really could prove the point you're trying to make you can win a Nobel Prize, right? Like, you know, you discover alien intelligence, you know, you are a million dollar winner. They're like that, you know, all you have to do is have the evidence to back it up. And so I would love to see that kind of evidence for for something that was an amazing claim like that.
Thom Krystofiak 51:37
Yeah, I mean, you know, there's this guy, what's his name? Greer, the Disclosure Project? You know, that's an example of someone who has assembled huge amounts of military guys or intelligence guys are this that the other thing and all kinds of other fairly obscure evidence, but mounds of it, that it's totally convincing to large numbers of people? It's like this is it. This is evidence this is this is it? Yeah. But as you say, the truly convincing evidence is never forthcoming. Yeah. It's just not.
David Ames 52:22
You talk about a number of scientists that have, you know, a sense of wonder about the universe. And the immediate person who comes to mind to me is Carl Sagan. And his candle in the dark book, I think, really touches on this, you know, he tells the story of being a young boy, and just really being fascinated with UFOs and extraterrestrials and but his scientific nature took over and even though he would love to be able to have said, there are in fact, extraterrestrials, you know, he could not find the evidence to do so. And what I appreciated about Carl Sagan and I often say like, I'm a more of a Sega nite, atheist than a Dawkins, I guess, in the sense that I have this wonder at the cosmos, this wonder at the universe, and that, and he expressed that so so well, contrast that a bit with you also have a chapter where you talk about people who become dissatisfied, or with the scientific view of the world, and, and basically make a conscious choice to go from a more scientific view of the world to an off grid view of the world.
Thom Krystofiak 53:34
Yeah, no, that's great. I mean, the example of Sagan who is so great, someone who, as you said, was entranced with with some of these greater possibilities, like aliens and, and so forth, but couldn't go there unless the evidence allowed him you know, he was one of the strong guys involved with SETI, you know, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. And, but if the evidence wasn't there, he couldn't do it. And yeah, I mean, people who get, I mean, one example in the book was, this was a long time ago, but the former president of Columbia, who just came out with this remarkable statement that that where science was going meaning mostly Darwinian theory at that time, was undermining some of his beliefs in the divine origin and so forth of everything. And he just came right out and said that I would, I would rather rest in my satisfying even if they'd be deceitful dreams. Science is is not going to do it for me. And that that's an interesting problem. You know, people will, will wonder whether a view that is based on reason and science Ansan looking for evidence, therefore necessarily putting aside a lot of the things that humanity has taken sustenance for, spiritually for, for millennia, what exactly that's going to do like, some people like Sagan are going to be a brilliant and full of awe and wonder and great people, no matter what other people, if you totally remove these sustaining beliefs that they have, or if somehow they they get weakened, or lost in them. We don't really know what what what that's going, what that's going to do. And so some people do question certainly question whether science, a scientific view, has enough stuff to offer the human psyche. Yeah, those who are enamored by the wonder of the universe and of life and, and evolution and, and at every scale, it's just so remarkable from the, from the farthest reaches of the cosmos down to the tiniest bits of matter, you know, it's all uniformly amazing and wonderful, and those who are susceptible to that kind of joy or or interest are well rewarded by that kind of interest. Some people are not character are not temperamentally or characteristically as susceptible or open to those kinds of joys and those kinds of rewards. And so this is, this is an interesting question that I don't have a solid answer to, you know, those who either tired of science or are not susceptible to the charms of science, whether they just need something else. And so the people I talked about in the book, one was the guy who's known as rom das now, who was Richard Alpert. He was a psychologist at Harvard, with Timothy Leary. And they both did LSD experiments at Harvard, and got thrown out for that reason. And Alpert, when he went to his, his, his dismissal meeting, or his review, or whatever, said, I'm not a scientist anymore. I'm giving up my badge. You know, I'd rather I want to, I'd rather go to India, which he did. Where, where there are these miracles being talked about? And I'd rather believe these miracles, then be a scientist and study, you know, bring out the data anymore. And, you know, there are people with that kind of orientation, that, that they they'd rather have, sort of an extreme example of, of what Barnard Columbia said, where he'd be happy in his deceitful dreams, if they were, if they could sustain him. You know, deceit is as far as being full deceit was not necessarily a problem for some people, if they get the fruits and this is, this is a whole other area of challenge. I mean, I think, I think there's probably, I don't know, what percentage of the people on this planet are, are enthused could be enthused by, and nourished by and by the joys of, of scientific knowledge or true revelation based on evidence about the way this amazing world actually works in our lives and our bodies in the universe. versus those who are, are a little bit cool on that, or cold on that. And once something else, once once some other they want the miracles they want. They want some stories, they want some, some rich, you know, mythology, that's, you know, another person I talked about in the book was Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote, Eat, Pray, Love, that great best seller. And at one point in her life, she says, I'm tired of science, I'm tired of skepticism. I want to feel God in my playing in my bloodstream. And that's exactly what we're talking about here. That especially if she was depressed, your marriage broke, fell apart, whatever she was in a state of pain, and she's going I want the pain to go away. Yeah, I want something that will help get this make the pain go away and replace it with something else. And, you know, science won't necessarily always be able to step in when you have certain kinds of emotional and psychological pain. I mean, forget about pharmaceuticals or whatever. But I mean, in terms of scientific knowledge isn't going to unnecessarily come in and infuse you with all this joy, if you are truly in a needy, needy state emotionally, psychologically, so these are some of the other challenges to this whole.
David Ames 1:00:13
Yeah, for sure. And I agree with you that I think their new atheist perspective of the end of religion is ridiculous, that's never going to happen. I also found it interesting reading philosophical history that this question has been asked over and over again, what happens if we take the gods away? What, you know, what happens to society, you know, and the attempt to create civil religions and that kind of thing, the way that I, we try to approach it here is to say, you know, that, I think my conjecture is that our relationships with other human beings, is the point is the meaning in life, as it were, not that that the universe has meaning, but that, that we create that between us and that trying to provide some level of community for people to have had a soft place to land as they let go of some of these off grid claims. That's kind of what we're trying to accomplish here.
Thom Krystofiak 1:01:03
Absolutely. You know, and something I mentioned that people are probably aware of that. There's an interesting example of Scandinavia, which is the least religious least conventionally religious part of Europe, perhaps the world. They have really stepped away from there. They were, of course, Christian, primarily Christian, Jewish, whatever, but primarily Christian in the earlier times. And that has dropped away in Scandinavia to a degree that hasn't been seen in virtually any other society. And if you look at, there are studies that are done of the happiest cultures on Earth, the happiest countries, the the healthiest countries, meaning not just you know, their physical health, but their overall well being. Scandinavian countries are almost always at the top of those of those of those studies. And so, that to me, is now granted, people will say, Yeah, but you know, they're building on this history of Judeo Christian stuff of values. And, and sure they are, but so are all of us. I mean, we're all in Western societies, we're all in mashed in a society that has a lot of roots that way, and we're familiar with all that. And various stories that still resonate with us, you know, the story of the Good Samaritan, or whatever, that's a universal story that is just incredibly moving on an empathetic level. It's not, it's got nothing to do with, who is the god? Or what kind of God is it? Or what's what sort of deal does he have? It's just, here's a human being, how do you treat them, and, you know, but we're all enmeshed in these moral exemplars, whether it be from religious stories, whether it be from other stories, historical stories, you know, we all have plenty of stories, and plenty of examples, even just movies, books, whatever, where there's good people, and that resonates with us, or we know people, you know, we people in our own lives, who were just so touching that they were so loving, or caring or connected, and that resonates with us. And we resonate to with other people's needs and suffering. And so we have that basis. And so in Scandinavia, sure, you can say, yeah, they had Judeo Christian background, well, sure, we've all got all kinds of backgrounds, but what they've managed to do is take the fruits of those some of those stories or feelings and, and myths or whatever, and they're just in the background, they're part of their ethical life, probably. And they move forward without necessarily subscribing to these more outlandish or extraordinary claims about the universe. Without without the gods really without, so the question of what's going to happen without the gods, we don't know if it would always be like Scandinavia, but but Scandinavia being the premier example in the world. Right now. Is, is encouraging. It's encouraging.
David Ames 1:04:23
And just to wrap this up, one of my favorite definitions of religion is from Anthony Penn. And it doesn't require supernatural claims. It is the collective search for meaning. And so a sense of we are a community and we support each other and we care about each other and we are even pushing each other to good works as it were, you know, like it all of that is good. And it's only when we start to make, in your words, you know, claims about how the universe works, where the story becomes literal in some way. That that's the problem.
Thom Krystofiak 1:04:57
Yeah. When things sort of solidify I and solidify that way into discrete doctrinal claims, whatever, obviously one of the side effects of that throughout history has been wars fought over these doctrinal differences. I mean, you know, the idea that you have to take these wonderful aspects of human life and, and, and define them and say you must subscribe, or if you don't subscribe any longer, we're going to shun you, you know, these kinds of prac. This kind of adherence to the specificities of these discrete claims, has obviously been harmful in a whole bunch of ways. And if if it were possible to, to have religion in the sense of you just described it, which I think to some extent is what's going on and a lot of Scandinavia and elsewhere, is it would be, I think it would be a wonderful thing, it would be a win win, yeah.
David Ames 1:06:00
So heading towards wrap up here, you start the book with a couple of questions. Is it better to be fooled many times than to be skeptical? And are you missing something? We'll end with the beginning a bit here. But like how you resolve that for yourself, personally? How do you answer those questions? And again, I appreciate that's the entire book, people will go and buy the book.
Thom Krystofiak 1:06:22
Well, you know, the book is really a journey that's rather than the book being, I ask a question at the beginning, and then I answer it for the next 300 pitches, you know, it's more, let's, let's look into this. And so it's looking at it from this angle, from this angle from this aspect of history and this aspect of philosophy, this aspect of religion, this aspect of science, it's just looking at it from different facets and illuminating different ways of, of exploring the question. So it's in the book is an exploration rather than a declaration of my of my answer, but but in the last chapter, I think I say So after all that, yeah. Is it better to be fooled? And I admit that it is. It is, for me better to be fooled in certain circumstances. And I talk about that a lot. We don't need to get into it much. But I talked about that, that if if if I was in some horrific situation in the morphine had run out, and they could give me a saline solution, which has been proven to work as a placebo after you've gotten some morphine for a while, and then they give you saline for a while, and it works just about as well as the morphine because the body has that incredible response. Please fool me. Yeah, don't tell me. Sorry, Bob, the morphine is gone. Yeah. You know, I mean, fool me. But I go to some lengths to try to explain why that, to me is an acceptable kind of fooling. And the basic reason is that morphine is real. It's a real thing. It's not like an angel that they're telling me about, which I don't believe in, it's morphine. And that's real. And they're saying, this is morphine, they're fooling me about a specific fact, but not about the fact that morphine works, which is what's working in my brain. So there are ways that I'll be happy to be fooled, but they're more like that. They're more like these technicalities. No, I don't, I don't believe for me. And this is where it comes down to something, David, it's like, who are you? Are you a person who cares about the truth? Who cares to really feel grounded? In what am I doing here? In this world? Who What am I? What is all this? If those are questions that matter to you, then then being fooled about those things is completely off the table. It's completely unacceptable if that's, if that's a high priority for you to feel that here I am in these in these small number of decades on this planet? And do I is it important to me that I make my best efforts to really understand what is true, what is going on what this is, what life is, what all of this is how should I live my life, all of these things? If that's a critical priority, which it is for me, then the idea of being fooled about those fundamentals is completely a non starter. It's just and I you know, I understand that some people in my mind might be fooled about those things, or feeling great about it. Yeah, I'm not trying to take that away from them. I'm not pontificate. I don't go after my friends who are believers and just, you know, assault them with my skepticism. But, but, but for me, for anyone who is has that kind of orientation towards towards a grounding in reality, or grounding and truth, the kind that we're talking about, it's just not it's just not a possibility. And the second question, Am I missing Something I'm not missing something that I that I haven't clearly missing something that they have, you know, they've got some stuff that I don't know. But I mean, that's true all of us have people have stuff that you don't have one way or another. But the question is whether you would really want want that. And no, I'm not missing something that at this point in my life, I wish I had, I wish I had faith or I wish I could believe these claims that I can't find evidence for. Because they'll do something for me. I can't put those two together with the desire to be grounded in truth.
David Ames 1:10:38
The book is tempted to believe I want to give you just a second to be able to promote that how can people find the book and any anything else that you'd like to promote?
Thom Krystofiak 1:10:46
Okay, thanks. The book is just simply available on Amazon, both in terms of print, print, book and Kindle. So it's just Amazon, you can just say tempted to believe they will, unfortunately, Amazon always keeps older editions around once they've been published. And I did a preliminary version, mostly because I wanted to have some readers have a book in their hand, as I was finalizing it. Okay, so there was a preliminary version, which is still out there. This is this is the one with the dynamic blue cover with an incredible picture on it. It's not, it's not the one that with text only. And it's the one with, you know, all the reviews and so forth. So it's pretty obvious, tempted to believe on Amazon. And, you know, not necessarily terribly germane to the things we've been discussing here today, but some of my shorter writing over the years on a variety of topics. And other things is in my website, which is simply my last name, which is Krystofiak, which I will spell. It's, it's K, R, Y, S, T O, F, as in Frank, I A K. That's krystofiak.com. And then there's some things there that also talks about the book.
David Ames 1:12:03
Fantastic. And we will have those in the show notes. And I will try not to murder your last name again. Thom, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Oh,
Thom Krystofiak 1:12:12
it's been a great trip. Thank you.
David Ames 1:12:20
Final thoughts on the episode? I love this book. I loved this conversation with Thom, this is so important topic. Skepticism is it's it touches every area of our lives from the onslaught of advertising that we face every day to the misinformation and disinformation that political entities put out to apologetics. And this comes from all corners. It is not just Christian apologetics that I'm talking about. Thom comes from the Transcendental Meditation perspective, and having new age friends who are making in his words off grid claims. And I identified so much with the I feel impervious to these claims. Why is that? What is there something different about me. And so it's Thom's humility that comes through in the book in the conversation that is so profound. When you hear the word skepticism, the first thing that might leap to mind is really argumentative debate style cynics. And it is actually the exact opposite is humility, of recognizing the human condition and our susceptibility to believing things that we want to believe that we want to be true. And believing things that fit within our in group. And skepticism is actually from humility of recognizing I could be wrong. Therefore, I need some evidence to know whether this thing is true or not. The other thing that I think Thom does really well in the book, I'm not sure we completely got to it in the conversation is acknowledging the reality of the experience. These literally all inspiring experiences. Create in us a sense of having touch to the Divine, having touched the transcendent, having gained secret knowledge. When you have the experience, you can't help but make those connections. And part of skepticism is recognizing that it is our ability to fool ourselves as the Fineman quote says that is the problem. And so we are protecting ourselves by looking for objective evidence. But it is the empathy for the human condition that Thom has in the book that really speaks to secular grace, secular grace for our son elves when we believe things that don't have evidence and secular grace for those people, we'd love to believe things without evidence. The book is tempted to believe by Thom Krystofiak is amazing, you need to get this book you need to read it. It is one of those things that I'm telling you, we'll help you through deconstruction and deconversion. We will, of course have links in the show notes, as well as the link to Thom's personal sites. I want to thank Thom for being on the podcast and even more so for the book. I said to him Off mic that This truly was the book that I wish I had had when I was going through my deconversion. So thank you, Thom, for writing such an empathetic, humble and true book. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about humility, about our own ability to fool ourselves. The Fineman quote is, the first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. If you really absorb that, if you really feel that viscerally. And for those of us who have gone through deconstruction and deconversion that should feel pretty real and present in our lives, you can begin to recognize when you are fooling yourself in lots of different contexts. I'd love a quote from Alice Gretchen when she was on, she said that she stopped being good at fooling herself. And I feel the same way. And if you are like me, and you find yourself skeptical, and you're like Thom and unable to accept claims without evidence, that is okay. It's actually a good thing. And it will protect you from, as we've already said, advertising, politics, disinformation, as well as religion, or supernatural claims. But it ultimately begins with, I could be wrong. And really knowing that and feeling that. So the skepticism that Thom is talking about, the skepticism that I'm talking about is less about saying where someone else is wrong, and more about recognizing where we have been mistaken. We have lots of great interviews coming up. We have got Julia from Germany, who is a doctor and at one point in time in her life, given up her medical career to participate in a healing ministry. And her deconstruction is just powerful and deep. We have Jessica Moore, who is a part of the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, and is now dealing with purity culture, and surviving the aftermath of purity culture, as well as a number of other interviews that are coming up that are gonna be fantastic. Until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful.
Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links or books on Bristol atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful email@example.com or you can check out the website graceful atheists.com My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings
this has been the graceful atheist podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
I believe in you. I believe in people. I believe in change, and if any change is going to happen, we have to do it. There is no savior coming to save us that responsibility is ours.
This week’s guest is Robert Peoples of Affinis Humanity. Robert grew up in a Black Baptist church in New Jersey. When he was young, he enjoyed church but was an inquisitive child with many questions and no satisfying answers. As a teenager, Robert looked for answers outside the church—from Thomas Paine to Allah to the Buddha.
“When I read The Age of Reason, that set my trajectory on a whole different path.”
By 18 years old, Robert could no longer believe in anything supernatural. His understanding of the world came from philosophy, history and science. This was incredibly difficult for his family, but they continued to faithfully love and support him.
“[My mom] said, ‘Why don’t you believe in something?…’ I said, ‘I can’t…this is based on critical thinking.’”
One frustration Robert has with the Black church community is that it works to change unjust systems but then uses phrases like, “We couldn’t have done this without God.”
“It makes us co-dependent on…benevolent white leaders in power, for God to somehow change their hearts and change their minds.”
In recent years, Robert has been working with a political non-profit to ensure the “separation of state and church” and to change unjust policies. Human suffering is caused less by individuals “in need of heart change,” and more by systemic racism, homophobia, classism and other inequities.
“You can’t think transcendental thoughts. You can’t think about leaving religion…when you can’t eat, when you’re about to evicted…when you have no support.”
In the midst of all the work to be done, Robert is hopeful. He is effecting change in the world and reminding others that “to be human is enough.” He stands in awe of the beauty of nature, his daughters and this short life. His story is one of world-changing secular grace.
“The Book of Life opens up each and every time I wake up in the morning. I write my own book.”
[Humanism] has increased my love for humanity exponentially. I no longer love people with conditions.
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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be a graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Do to poor planning on my part and not at all related to the Christian holiday next weekend, we will not have a new episode. I had an interview that fell through and I did not have a buffer. The team was fully ready to produce another podcast and yet I didn't have an interview ready to go. So for next weekend, which does happen to be Easter. I have a few recommendations for you one, after you've listened to this episode, Robert Peoples of Affinis Humanity. Listen to it again. Robert is absolutely amazing. I'm also going to recommend three episodes that capture a lot of what you hear in Robert story today about humanism that is alive and proactively loving. The first is Jennifer Michael Hecht from way back in 2019. She wrote the book doubt a history. I have quoted that 1000 times it's an amazing conversation, and she is absolutely amazing. Next up is Anthony pin of Rice University. Robert and I talk about Anthony in this episode that I believe is back in 2020. Anthony has written a number of books on humanism, as well as the perspective from the black community, a really significant voice within humanism. So go back and check out that episode. And finally Sasha Siggins episode where she talks about her book, small creatures such as we, these three and Roberts episodes today that you're listening to represent secular grace and the kind of humanism that I am trying to espouse. So during your Easter weekend, jump back into the back catalogue and hear some great interviews from the past. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's episode. onto today's episode. My guest today is Robert Peoples. Robert is the founder of affinest humanity which is an organization that is trying to promote secularism in Arizona. Their motto affinis is Latin for affinity a natural attraction to a person, thing or idea. Our mission is to alleviate religious discrimination for secular communities in education, business and government. Robert also participates with the Secular Coalition for Arizona. They recently had secular day Arizona, where they spoke and talk with legislative leaders in Arizona about secularism and the need for secularism. We discuss secularism as pluralism, the needs to recognize that even for believers, separation of church and state is good for the church as well as the state. Robert represents secular grace in so many ways, he is a humanist who is focused on loving people caring for people for representing a proactive love. And Roberts motto for finesse humanity is to be human is enough. I cannot tell you how deeply impacted I am by that simple phrase. I will be meditating on that for years to come. Robert is a quote machine. I will try to capture a handful of those quotes in the extended show notes on the blog. Listen carefully to what he has to say Robert is an amazing person. Here is Robert peoples to tell his story.
Robert Peoples Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Robert Peoples 4:20
Thank you. I appreciate being here. Thank you. Thank you for reaching out.
David Ames 4:24
So Robert, you are the leader of an organization called Affinis Humanity whose mission statement is to alleviate religious discrimination for secular communities and education, business and government. I understand you've just participated in the secular Day at the Capitol and Arizona. Is that correct? That is correct. Yeah. And so I'm really excited to hear about your work and in the secular community. I tell you what, man, your tagline. To be human is enough. Just gets me. That is you have spoken to me This atheist soul I can tell you with with that, with that statement, this podcast, we talk about secular Grace a lot. And I think that you and your work embodies that. And as I mentioned off, Mike, you have made me a fan of yours. So I'm just really excited to have you on.
Robert Peoples 5:16
I'm honored, I'm honored. Thank you for that.
David Ames 5:19
So we're going to spend the first half talking about your personal story. And then probably the second half, we'll we'll get into all the things that you're doing with your work in the secular community. Let's start where we often do, what was your faith tradition growing up? What was that like for you?
Robert Peoples 5:34
Ah, so I grew up. I'm originally from New Jersey, currently reside in Arizona right now. And I grew up in a Baptist household, I grew up in a Baptist church. Actually, it was called union Baptists. I can't even I can't believe I still remember the name of the church. And, you know, and unlike some other unlike a lot of other people that have experienced, you know, the RTS, the religious trauma syndrome connected with religion, I did not, I liked going to church. I liked the people, I like my friends. And I even sung in the choir. And however, I always had a lot of questions. I was always very inquisitive about things. And a lot of those questions couldn't be answered sufficiently. And when I was about about 13 years old, I started having a lot of questions. And my mother was saying, you know, you need to talk to the pastor, you need to talk to the deacon about this. And I said, I did, but it just doesn't sound right. It doesn't feel right, I need to do a little bit more digging. So my cousin, my first cousin, he said, You know what, Robert? I'm gonna give you a book, man. I want you to read the Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. Oh, wow, I was 13. When I wrote. I was 13. Right? My mother always instilled reading in me at a very early age. You know, she and so I was very thankful for that. And you know, in a classroom, she didn't want me to be the kind of kid where the teacher called on you to read a paragraph, I would shy away from it. So she really instilled heavy reading in me at an early age. And I have to tell you, David, when I read the age of reason, that set my trajectory on a whole different path. And so from there, I told my mother, you know, I want to study Islam for a little bit. She said, Okay. Well, I work with some doctors, and there is a mosque in Princeton University. And so if you want to learn Islam, you're going to learn true Islam, you're going to learn how to speak Arabic and the whole nine, and so I was doing a lot. And an Arabic went to the mosque for about two years. And I said to myself, Okay, I get it. Now, I want to learn Buddhism. She knew a doctor that went, there was a Buddhist, a couple, and there was a Buddhist temple in Princeton University. So I study Buddhism for a couple years. And so about that time, I was about 1718 years old, and I said, you know, I have a pretty good foundation of what all of these belief systems are, you know, not so much Buddhism, because actually, Buddhism is actually atheistic in nature, right. It doesn't have a central godhead, you know. There's a saying that goes, if you ever see the Buddha on the side of the road, kill it. Because that's not the Buddha. Right? You are. Right. Okay. Yeah. And about 1718 years old, I said, Okay. I'm an atheist. I'm an atheist. And my mother had a hard time with that. The rest of my family had a hard time with that. But I did not face any. I was not ostracized I was not treated any differently. So I don't have any you know, horror stories regarding that. She said, Why don't you believe in something even if I want you to be a Christian, but even if, if you stayed a Muslim, right, just just just believe in something? And then I said, I, I can't because this is based on critical thinking. It's not based on emotion. No one in the church hurt me. The pastor didn't hurt me. People weren't mean to me. This was based on critical thinking this was based on just academic research, history, science. And, you know, I made that declaration. And so I got out very early. You know, it wasn't I wasn't like in my, you know, because I'm, you know, I'm in my late 40s Now, and so I wasn't in my 30s These are 40s When I decided to deconstruct, I started deconstructing in my teens. So good for me, right? Because I didn't have to wrestle, you know, with the psychological trauma of that. And so yeah, that's that's how I was raised up, man, I was raised up as a as a hardcore Baptist. And, you know, my mother is still a Christian to this day, but her eyes have opened up to a lot of different issues that we've talked about throughout the years. And so yeah, you know, that's kind of like my journey started out early man.
David Ames 10:35
Yeah, that's awesome.
I always say that I think for precocious kids, somebody who can read the Age of Reason 13 is Christianity and just, you know, more fundamentalist religion in general is just a really hard place to be, you know, especially you're asking questions to the deacon, and you're just not getting the answers that you want. And so, man, proud of you to, you know, grow through that and not and not fold under the pressure. What I find now on this side of deconversion, is the recognition of just the social pressure of religion, even like your mom saying, just believe in something. There's that social pressure of that concern, that you believe in something?
Robert Peoples 11:29
Absolutely. And I didn't tell you during my teenage years, I was also reading Nietzsche. You know, Ludwig Feuerbach, serene Kierkegaard Oh, I was heavy into, I went down to philosophy matrix. And so, you know, I just wrestled with a lot of things very, very early. And then I would say to anyone, you know, that is deconstructing to start implementing philosophy in your life, because it teaches you how to think not what to think. Yeah, you know, and that really helped me out, David,
David Ames 12:06
that's awesome. You have a, it's either Instagram or tick tock, where you talk about the reverse engineering of theology by using the tool of philosophy, just like you say, how it teaches teaches you how to think, absolutely, oh, that is so much fun, I'm super jealous, I didn't come to philosophy until much later in life. And I really, really wish I would have been exposed to it earlier.
Robert Peoples 12:31
Hey, but better, but a better, you know, mean, better to grasp it, you know, now than later, you know, it's, it's something and I blame our, our educational system for that, you know, because in a lot of, you know, European schools, you know, they're teaching philosophy and grade school, and here in America, and we're not introduced into philosophy, and so we want to take it almost as an elective in college, they don't teach that in high school in this kind of America, you know, so, you know, so a lot of us just missed the boat with that, you know, if you don't seek it out, you're not going to learn it.
David Ames 13:08
And then just one more comment about your story, I think, how important it is the step back, and the look at comparative religions. So you did it the real way you went and actually studied each of those religions, but even just taking a class, just to be able to recognize the similarities and differences. There are cultural differences, you know, radical cultural differences, but there are so many similarities as well, that it is incredibly difficult when you look at it as a whole, all of humanity and all of the religious beliefs that humanity has added over time to say, Well, mine is correct. And all the rest of them are incorrect.
Robert Peoples 13:46
Absolutely. And, you know, and what comparative religions, the, you know, the lesson programs teaches us as well as that, you know, we are kind of restricted in this box of geography. You know, if I grew up in Iran, if I grew up in Iraq, I'd probably be a Muslim. Yeah, right. If I fought, you know, if I grew up, you know, in China, you know, China's predominantly an atheistic country. Right, I would have been born an atheist, right, my parents would probably be secular, inherently. Right. So basically, our belief systems are based on our geography. Really? Yeah. Yeah. You know, comparative religions teaches you that like, Okay, over here, over there, and it's like, Oh, okay. So it's just by happenstance that I was a Christian in my early years, based on you know, and also based on the fact that, you know, 80% of African Americans in America are Christian of some sort. Yeah. So that, you know, that leads to, you know, a whole other history, you know, dealing with the Atlantic slave trade and all that, you know, so there's like a lot of rich history. that so?
David Ames 15:08
Let's address that, you know, so I've heard other black atheists talk about being a minority of a minority, you know, how difficult is it to be a black atheist, you know, within your own community within the atheist community? You know, are there extra challenges, there
Robert Peoples 15:27
are huge challenges. I could say, emphatically that coming out to one's family in the black community, as gay is better than to come out that you're an atheist. Homosexuality is more embraced, than you coming out saying that you don't believe in a God in the black community. It is it is hard. You know, you know, years ago, even you know, when I was dating, I would have women say to me, you know, you're a great guy, you know, you're a great guy, but I'm just I'm looking for God fearing man. You know, you know, but good luck, you know, good luck on your dating journey. And, and I'm like, wow. So it doesn't matter how someone treats you doesn't matter how a man treats you, you know, you're more consumed with his theological background with his belief system, than just treating you like, a great human being. You know, that's, that's unfortunate. I've lost friends, friends that I've because I shoot poor, like, I love shooting pool. And, you know, you know, friends that I've met just at the pool hall. And you know, we talk about a lot of things. And one person in particular, I knew for two years, and all of a sudden, religion came up. And I said, Oh, yeah, I'm not religious. He was like, Oh, so you're just, you're just spiritual. Now, it's more than that. It's a little more than that. I'm an atheist, you know, I'm an atheist, and, and, and I'm a humanist, as well. And he said, What, well, how do you? How do you think you got here? I said, evolution. And slowly but surely, he distanced himself from me. And that happened several times. years, just, you know, just being friends. You know, and that one thing, one thing, it just, you know, had me shunned. You know, and, you know, that was, that was difficult, you know, but I gained so many more friends, so many more like minded individuals, you know, and so, it made up for that, but, yes, being a unicorn, yes, being, you know, a black male who's an atheist who was also a feminist who was also for human rights. Yeah. I am in like, the fraction of a percent in this country, you know, and so, yeah, it's, it's, it's difficult, you know, and I'm gonna just say this. By mine, by me being an atheist, by me being a humanist. For what it's worth, I've been embraced more David, by the white American community, then I have my own because of this, and, and I don't say that lightly. I, that took a lot for me to just say that. That took a lot for me to say that and, but it's true, but But now, especially being on social media now, especially Instagram, more and more black people, more and more people of color in general are coming forward and expressing their ordeals with societal religiosity, and it's given me hope, you know, it's really given me hope and so yeah, it's it's difficult, you know? It's very difficult. But But now, it's, I'm okay. You know, I'm okay. I'm okay with it because I have a huge support base. And I have people that love me, and I, I wouldn't change my decision for the world
David Ames 19:56
you have, you know, mentioned a few times I think in Instagram and tick tock to normalize black atheism and, and I think you and your voice, you know, it's more than just atheism, it's the humanism in it, it's the humanity, it's a loving people part that I think is what will reach religious communities, right? Like, that's what's gonna reach in and say, Hey, there's a way that you can live and be kind to person without having to have a religious faith.
Robert Peoples 20:25
And I definitely agree with that. That's why a lot of times when I, when I have conversations with people and people question, you know, my belief system, or even lack thereof, I always start out, I used to always start out with the whole, you know, atheist conjecture. But over the course of a few years, I lead off with humanism, because I, basically, I, I live my life, you know, I identify by what I do believe in, versus what I don't believe in. And I think, like you said, that opens up ears a little bit more when I say I believe in you. I believe in people. Right? I believe in change. And if any change is going to happen, we have to do it, there is no savior coming to save us, that responsibility is ours. And people tend to perk up their ears just a little bit more. When when when they hear that because let's be honest, you know, all atheists aren't humanists. Right? Right. You can't write you can't you can't be a racist and be a humanist. I know, I know, atheists that are races, right, you can't be a humanist, and be homophobic. I do know atheists that are homophobic. Right? And so, you know, so the two aren't, you know, mutually exclusive, you know what I'm saying? And so, I like to lead with humanism, because that kind of lays the foundation, when I have a conversation with individuals.
David Ames 22:03
Awesome. Let's expand on that, how did you discover humanism? Who are some of your humanist influences?
Robert Peoples 22:12
Oh, well see, I know, you know, I know a lot of people have, have issues with, with Nietzsche, you know, in his, you know, Neo holistic, you know, views on on life, you know, it could be a little dark. But for me, he was the ultimate humanist for me. He critiqued religion so much, but it wasn't just out of just critiquing it, just to create arguments. He cared about how it affected people. And I was put on to him by my cousin, who also put me on to Thomas Paine. And but for more kind of modern, I guess you could say, mentor that who I never met. Oh, hitch, Christopher hitscan. See, oh, man, for me, he was the epitome of of humanism, or if it was anyone that I could, that I could have met, you know, before his departure on this Earth, it would have been all hitch, you know, he and I, and I liked his, his his veracity, you know, he didn't mince words. And I think one of the reasons why, you know, humanism and secularism has not really created a foothold in the government and businesses in education is because we're still, we're still dancing around eggshells, because we don't want to offend the sensibilities of religious, right, we still kind of want to give this kind of soft answer. And, you know, you can't go for the jugular vein all the time, right, but you have to stand your ground, right? It's like something what Malcolm X once said, he says, I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he's wrong than one who comes like an angel and is nothing but a devil. Right? I don't care if I think that you're wrong or right. But stand on something. Right, make a decision make an executive decision. And I loved hitch for that hitch did not care and especially in this era of evangelicalism, this Christian nationalism that is basically warped into fascism. They're bold, they are bold. I mean, you we have legislators that are saying, hey, You know incest and rate they're you know no they're they're not exempt from from the abortion hey if your rate gas one it's a gift from God look at it as a gift from God they're they're saying what they want to say they're bold but us as humanists us as atheists assists secularist we're still kind of like No, no, you shouldn't say that. That's against the Constitution. The First Amendment says we have to be a little bit more aggressive and how we attack this evangelicalism that is arrested our government we have to be a little bit more even on the verge of being a little bit more militant about it, but militant with love. Right, right. Militant with love. And so yeah, oh, hitch. Yeah. Oh, hedge you know, old time Nietzsche, but modern Oh, hitch for me. Oh, hitch was the ultimate humanist for me.
David Ames 26:14
I want to hear your thoughts on how humanism can or cannot be, in your opinion, a benefit for the black community? Do you see that as something that the black community is missing? Or needs? Or is that just something that has been helpful to you personally?
Robert Peoples 26:34
I think it is essential. In my opinion, I think it is a mandate for black America to get out of the situation that it's in. Um, I believe that societal religiosity has hampered the progress of black people in this country. It has made us docile, and how we are treated, because, hey, don't worry about what happens to you here. You're going to be in the great bind by forever, just life is just temporary, don't worry about what people do to you. And that message has been destructive. Ah, as Bob Marley once said, you know, if you knew what life was worth, you would look for yours on Earth. And now you see the light, you stand up for your rights. And once we realize that heaven is what we create here. Heaven is what we create generationally. Once we understand that, and we break the chains of religion, we'll be able to see life differently. And we'll be able to move differently, other than just marching. Because David, let's be honest, marching hasn't helped, you know, for society to say, well, you know, what, just dress a certain way, you know, just dress professionally? Well, MLK was assassinated. So he wore suits, so that doesn't help. Protesting hasn't held, if anything, things have gotten worse. And a lot of it is because we're still arrested, mentally arrested. And this form of religiosity where we're just like, it's going to get better. God has it. It's in God's plan. If we you know, we may not understand it now, but we just have to just be be strong about it. Instead of doing the work ourselves and it pains me to, to see my people just dragged through the mud and not promote action because we're waiting on a savior to make everything okay. You know, there's something to say psychologically about when, as a child, no matter how much you studied, as an athlete, no matter how much blood sweat and tears you spent, and practicing, getting injured, studying the playbook, you then say all of this couldn't have been accomplished without the power of God. You have set your own abilities aside your own abilities aside, to give all of the glory to what and what that does to us is it makes us codependent on and I'm gonna be honest, it makes us codependent on but Neverland, white leaders in power for God to somehow change their hearts and change their minds. That is what religion has us doing, waiting on benevolent white leaders that don't really care about us, that God is going to change their heart, we have to not be so concerned about changing hearts, we need to be concerned about changing policy. I don't care what you think about me. But you're going to change this policy. And if something happens, you're going to be held lawful for that. And so that's why I believe humanism is an absolute necessity. And, and it has to be something else as well. I can't say, leave this religion alone. Come on to the side of humanism. But we're not offering anything. Let's be honest, the church has had a head start. Yeah, the church is communal, David, right. I mean, hey, if you need a job, so and so as a, as a VP at this bank, hey, they can get you a job. Oh, you want a mortgage? Oh, you know what? So and so was a loan officer. I mean, the church is a one stop David. And so for me, for us to say leave that communal, rest Haven, and then come to the side of humanism. Okay. What is there on that side? What's the benefit? I'm struggling? What do you have to offer? Do you have any outreach services? What do you have to offer? And so you know, when we're talking about, you know, like Maslow's hierarchy of basic needs, you can't think transcendental thoughts. You can't think about leaving religion and thinking about humanism, and the philosophical connotations of what that means when you can eat, when you're about to be evicted, when you're about to be foreclosed. When you have no support. But you can go to the local church and get support. We have to do better. We have to create organizations that help people. And that will make humanism very much attractive. Because where people, right, humans are communal creatures. Yeah. You see, we have to have something else besides philosophy in order to bring people in. And that's my that's my take on that man.
David Ames 32:33
Yeah, I had Anthony pin on Rice University. And he talked about he's great. Yeah, he's great. He's amazing. Yeah, it talks about something very similar of like, we need to have a soft place to land for for people coming out of religion in general. And then the black community in particular, you know, like you say, resources, the community that all of those things that that's what I'm driving, trying to build, you know, like, how can we build community that could meet the real world needs of people in the world that that the church has been doing for millennia, right, then? And that's when I think humanism becomes functional? As it were, right?
Robert Peoples 33:16
And you know, what I want to be I want to be a part of that. Hey, you know, let's, let's, let's brainstorm. You know, like, let's, let's brainstorm and create, you know, like, national organization with it. Like you said, you know, humanism has to be functional. Yeah. It can't just be in the head.
David Ames 33:35
Yeah, exactly. I sometimes talk about like, I want to humanism that bleed, sweats and cries, like, you know, that we've had it so much so that it's the philosophers talking and their white towers. And you know, I'm much more interested in what it's like to, you know, you're going to be evicted and you're hungry, and you've got four children. What do you do then? That's, that's what actually matters. That's what actually counts and how do we how do we apply the principles of humanism in that environment?
Robert Peoples 34:05
Oh, excellent. That that's you hit the hammer on the nail with that one.
David Ames 34:17
I want to talk more about secularism that isn't necessarily something that we talk a lot about on the podcast. So what is secularism to you? And then that'll be a springboard for you talk about Affinis Humanity and what you're doing with that work?
Robert Peoples 34:34
Oh, okay. So yeah, so the so the terminology secularism, you know, it's there, there's duality that exists within the term, right? It has a dual meaning, right. So the political meaning is anyone who believes and upholds the separation of church and state. So actually, you could be a Christian. But if you believe in the separation of church and state by political definition, you are secular by nature. If you're a Muslim, and you believe in the separation of church and state, you are secular. Now, of course, just like any other words, words evolve over time throughout history. And so now secularism has become more attached to individuals that have no religious affiliation. Right? It has evolved into that. But I think people should always keep in mind that it has a dual meaning and I am willing to work with anyone that is for to separation of church and state, I don't have to agree with your theological base. But if you believe in the separation of church and state, we can work together. You know, and, and so and that, you know, brings me to, you know, how I got connected, actually, with the Secular Coalition for Arizona. lobbyists, extraordinaire, Tory ro Berg reached out to me on Facebook, I've been living in Arizona for about 13 years. And about a little over three years ago, she just messaged me and said, Hey, have you ever heard of the Secular Coalition for Arizona? Like, No, I've never heard that organization. So I started digging, and I'm like, wow, they're a 501 C four. They're a political nonprofit. Wow, with a lobbyist. Wow, that just blew my mind. And so I met with the chair, and I was a part of the organization for a few years, you know, and so that really started getting me and getting me aware of the politics that go on with trying to implement this at Woody in Handmaid's Tale society, within the government. And it just blew my mind. I performed the secular studies there where I would speak with a roomful of lawmakers, senators, House of Representatives, and we would just have a closed door session on what it means to keep Arizona secular. And sometimes emotions flared, right? Yes, you have people you got Christians in there, you got hardcore Christians in there. You You know, you have some senators, you know, Senators that are atheist. Right. And they're and, but at the end of the day, everyone was respectful. And I learned so much about that. And so that really kind of fueled my desire to really get into the government aspects of that, before that. I was into the schools, and I'm still into schools. I have to tell this story. So I have a friend and he's, he's a principal at a school here in Gilbert, Arizona. And if anyone knows about Gilbert, Arizona, it is very well, Mormon occupied heavily. And so a friend of mine, she has a daughter, and she was the class president. And so she said, Robert, I want you to come to my school and talk about what it is to be a humanist. I said, okay, so of course, I had to talk at a meeting with the principal and a meeting with the superintendent as well. And he said, Okay, Robert, I'm gonna tell you now, you know what territory you're in, you're in Mormon. You have a very small box to operate under a very small box to operate. There are going to be fires. I know that they're going to be fires. I just want them to be manageable. So you got a small box to move in? Got you. Yeah, went in there. I did about a two hour presentation. When I asked everyone, you know, what is their you know, if they would like to share what is their belief system or lack thereof? I would say about 75% Were like, I'm atheist. I'm agnostic. I'm bisexual and agnostic. I'm gay, and I'm a secularist. I'm a human. I'm like, Whoa. I'm sort of preaching to the choir, so to speak here, right. And of course, you had other ones that were Mormon. Right, sir. And q&a came up, they asked a lot of questions. And at the end of the day, I received about I don't know maybe about 3040 emails from parents saying, Thank you for your presentation and the name of that presentation. It's almost like self fulfilling prophecy almost ready, if I can say that right? The presentation was to be human is enough.
David Ames 40:07
Robert Peoples 40:09
And that was, you know, that was wow, maybe six years ago. Okay. Yeah, you know, and so, so I was in so I went to other several schools was very well received. And then of course COVID had to show its head. And so that kind of interrupted the flow of a lot of things. But from school, then I wanted to get into business and then government. And that's when the whole secularism bit came about and serving on the board with this wonderful organization really opened up my eyes really educated me on a lot of things. Got me connected with lawmakers, even though we might not see eye to eye. I made a lot of progress with him, and influenced a lot of policies that they created. There's still a lot of work to be done. But yes, I just want to let people know that are, you know, atheists humanists, that it's okay, if someone believes in a god or if they're religious, work with them if they uphold the separation of church and state, because in the grand scheme of things, we all need each other. I don't, we don't have to agree with one another. But the key thing is to understand I don't have to agree with you. But I want to understand your perspective. And to me, that's more important than agreement.
David Ames 41:35
I love it. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, quick story on that, you know, I think, even as a Christian, I was very much for the separation of church and state, because it's both good for the church, and good for the state. So when I, when I went through deconversion, and that was just an obvious, obvious thing that, you know, that's important to uphold. And, and I think within 2016, we had a real world example of that as kind of Christian nationalism came to the front stage. And I watched, my, my wife is still very much a believer. And when I watched her grieve, you know, how Christianity was being manipulated politically. And I think that's just a testament to why separation of church and state is important, even for believers, because it may not be your brand of Christianity that is being represented politically.
Robert Peoples 42:27
And that's something that we we consistently and perpetually brought up in the chambers of lawmakers is that, you know, what, like you said very eloquently, your brand of Christianity may be looked down upon. Yeah, you know, so a secular society is best for everyone, for everyone. And it's just, you know, I mean, you know, peer reviewed studies have shown that, you know, and the the Happiness Index report that comes out by the United Nations, the most happiest countries in the world happened to be the most secular.
David Ames 43:07
Robert Peoples 43:10
Right. You know, children who grow up in secular households exude higher levels of empathy than religious children.
David Ames 43:20
Yeah, interesting, which would shock a lot of people.
Robert Peoples 43:24
But if you think but if you really dig and being, you know, coming from an ex Christian background, you know, you know, both of us, you know, we can kind of understand why that is, right, because it's a level of accountability. If I do you wrong, if I commit a wrong to you, I can't go into my closet, and pray about and say, Well, you know what, God forgave me. I don't care if you don't forgive me, my Lord forgave me. So I'm gonna go on with my life. As a person who is a non believer, I have to rectify the wrongs that I committed to you. I can't go in my closet, and ask God for forgiveness. I have to come to you, man to man, woman, a woman and say, I'm sorry, how can I fix this? So it makes sense about the empathy being higher with children that have no religious affiliation? It makes sense.
And I have a question for you if I can ask you
David Ames 44:32
to. Yeah, please. Yeah. Go said Your wife
Robert Peoples 44:35
is still a Christian is still a believer. How? I'm curious, how do you how do you to navigate through through through this ordeal?
David Ames 44:45
That's a whole podcast in itself. You know, well, I'll tell you, it's your tagline. To be human is enough in that, you know, I recognize, first of all, how much I love my wife and I embrace all of her humanity, which includes her faith. But it's very hard, right? Like I don't want to pretend like it isn't difficult we we have a number of listeners to the podcast that are in what we call unequally yoked relationships. And it is challenging, it is hard. But we have recognized we've been able to communicate to one another that we we love each other for who we are, and that we're committed to the relationship and that we want to work through, we both want to work through it that that really helps. And so not every relationship, I think will survive through this unequally yoked thing. But one of the things that made me want to start the podcast was to differentiate from some of the atheist voices out there that were, you know, burn the bridge on your way out and go out in a blaze of glory, right? Yes, yeah. Yeah, there are some relationships you want to keep, obviously, not abusive ones, or psychologically or physically or anything like that, but once it you want to keep and so one of the messages that I wanted to have was, this secular Grace includes the believers in our lives to to not see believers as dumb or ignorant or what have you. But to remember what it was like to be convinced I was 100% convinced Robert 100%. And so I can't, you know, see that as lesser than or less intellectual or something like that. And so, again, my whole thing is about embracing humanity, embracing my humanity, embracing the humanity of others, that includes and entails other leaders.
Robert Peoples 46:38
I like the I like, you know, the whole you know, secular grace, you know, atheist grace, you know, because I do see that a lot. I see a lot of ad hominem attacks. Yeah, well, actually attacking people's character, because they, they're still a Christian, or they believe in some god of some sort. And, you know, we we've all been, I mean, at least for me, I think the majority of us the reason the number one reason we were Christians in the first place was because we were indoctrinated ever since we've had a rattle in our hand and a pacifier in our mouth. I mean, I mean, you know, our brains are, you know, that the human brain doesn't fully develop until about 25 years old. So imagine you're an infant, you know, and you're experiencing all this stuff. And it's like, no wonder, like, no wonder people are struggling, you know, and me knowing that, you know, I can't commit ad hominem attacks to believers, because I know why they believe I know why they're resistant to information because the indoctrination man, the tentacles of indoctrination, are deep, and they reach far. And that's why religious trauma syndrome is a thing. You know, and some people never, you know, some people will forever deconstruct, some people will never reach a conclusion. Right? They will always struggle with the residuals of their, you know,
you know, deconstruction of their religiosity, they will always I know, people that tell me, you know, Robert, I know,
hell doesn't exist. I know, it doesn't exist, but you know, what, every once in a while, I raise an eyebrow, and I get a little nervous. Isn't that something you know, that it doesn't exist, but because of the level of indoctrination that you've experienced as a child, the residuals are still there, even though you know, it's not real, you still have a physical reaction to it. Man, that's that's heavy I almost I've really not almost I'm gonna be a be hitch in this moment. Not almost, it is a form of psychological child abuse. It is a form of psychological child abuse. Children should be raised in a neutral setting and let them decide let them decide what they want to do. Yeah, you know so yeah, I I don't go for that when when people attack people's character for I don't I don't stand by that.
David Ames 49:14
I can tell from from the things I've read and listened to of yours. So yeah, yeah, back to the comparative religion you know, imagine if we did Middle School comparative religion class that you know, as children, the age of reason, they get, you know, exposure to more options and you know, would be able to make their own choices quite a bit better. So, absolutely.
Robert Peoples 49:45
What, because I talked about what kind of led me down that trajectory of, of embracing atheism and humanism humanism more importantly, what led you on that path is as as As a former Christian, what transition in your life that started you questioning your own belief system?
David Ames 50:08
Man, again, this could be an entire podcast. With 2020 hindsight, I recognize that I was a religious humanists, right, like I was all about grace, I came to Christianity in my teens. So I feel like I had a little bit of a sense of my own self without that childhood indoctrination, but I stayed in it for 27 some odd years. So it wasn't, it wasn't that I got out of it easy. But I always was focused on people. And I felt like the, the attractive part of Jesus was, I came for the sick and not the well, and, and, you know, and the attack on hypocrisy of the religious leaders. And that's what drew me to Jesus. And that was the thing that I thought it was supposed to be about. And it was, you know, years of watching other people not feel that same way or not think of Jesus the same way and be more focused on rules and not having sex and, you know, things that just didn't feel as important, right, like that, you know, was about caring for people. And so early, early on, you know, I had friends who were gay, where I recognized you, I can't, I can't hate this person. I love this person. That was one one part of it intellectually, for sure. You know, I deconstructed long before I knew what deconstruction was right? I had let go. literalist interpretation I had let go of even the authority of Scripture had really lost, lost all of it there near the end, I tell a story about reading through the Bible, in a year, a year or so before I D converted, and my wife would be like, you're angry? Why are you so angry? I, you know, that was that I, you know, I was I was reading it without the rose colored glasses on for the first time. And it was painful what I was seeing there. And so I talked about this in a, an article I wrote called, How to D convert in 10 Easy Steps as a joke. But you have this moment where you give yourself permission to doubt permission to go and seek information outside of the bubble. And I feel like that happened to me, roughly a year before a deconversion. For me, and I just started to allow myself to hear outside voices, you know, the occasional article would come up from an atheist perspective, and I'd find that I didn't disagree with them entirely. Things like the separation of church and state all of those things. But I always like to say it was 1000 things, not just one. Those are some of the mileposts along the way. But I had a oh shit moment. I was reading a Greta Kristina article that was talking about the lack of the existence of a soul. And I realized I agreed with that. And I was like, Oh, shit, I I don't believe and I was done. There was no progressive Christianity. For me, there was no anything else, I finally was able to just say, you know, kind of my skeptical personality, my need for answers that I think you have eloquently described for yourself as well. I was just going to embrace that. And let's go find, you know, the science and the philosophy that has, you know, evidence and argumentation and things that that felt like I could press on them really hard and be really skeptical, and they would still remain true, right? And how unlike that was for my faith where it felt like I was betraying God by testing him by asking questions and things like that. So that's the quick that's the quick version. Again, I could tell the a very long, long version of it, but
Robert Peoples 53:56
Oh, no, I appreciate that. David, man, like you said about doubt, man. You know, how does the quote go? All great truths start out as blasphemies. Yes. Right. It's it's that it's that doubt, doubt is the beginning of wisdom. Yes, you know, and that's something that the church really teaches against. And so yeah, man, thanks for Wow, thanks for sharing like when you said you were done done, and that was listening to what you were saying you were base you were deconstructing for years, you know, so that's when you came to that conclusion. Like kind of very easily like, Oh, I'm, I'm Dun dun dun. Because you had the years of not even knowing that you were really deconstructing
David Ames 54:39
I had no idea I was completely ignorant. That's what was happening, but that's exactly what was happening. Yeah.
Robert Peoples 54:44
Oh, that's good stuff, man. Good stuff.
David Ames 54:56
We've been talking about a lot of things, some of them negative one. I want to I hear a little bit about you have a, an Instagram where you talk about the benefits and the joy of being on this side of deconversion. Just like to hear you expound on that for a bit like, what is it like for you today that you've left kind of the religious bonds behind?
Robert Peoples 55:21
You know, I? Wow, I can I'll lead it with a with a quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
was a Douglas Adams right? You know, why is it that we can't look at a garden as beautiful without thinking that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? Yeah, that I'll open up with that. The benefits of walking away from religion and the benefits of humanism is it has increased my love for humanity exponentially. I no longer love people with conditions with conditions on their sexual orientation, their conditions on their ethnicity, their conditions on their gender, I can walk out of my house, and I look at the hummingbird differently. I'm in all, when I see a hummingbird, I'm in all when I when I see ants, when I'm walking on the street, I'm always looking down. Because when I look at ants, which are the strongest insects probably alive that can lift to 50 to 100 times its body weight. Can you imagine if we could do that as a human? I'm, I'm six, five about 225 Can you imagine me lifting 100 times my own bodyweight. You know, I'm, I just have such a reverence for nature around me. Um, I can wake up in the morning, and I don't have to, I don't have to go to a book. You know, I don't have to go to archaic scriptures to lead me. The Book of Life opens up each and every time I wake up in the morning, I write my own book, David. I can love people, regardless of their belief. You know, before when I was a Christian, I wasn't around people who didn't believe I looked at them like they were crazy. Now, even as a non believer, I can look at a Muslim as a Christian because I have a lot of Christian friends, I have a lot of Muslim friends. And I love them even still, I may not agree with them, but it doesn't impede upon the love, I exude for them. And it's such a bag of heavy bricks just to lay down knowing that I'm not going to be here forever, that I'm not going to be in this, you know, heavenly firmament, forever. There is there is peace and tranquility, knowing that my life is finite, because it allows me to love life more. I don't want to live forever. I want to do things where I know there is a limited capacity. I have an expiration date in this world. And so that allows me to try to make as much of an impact as I can, every day of my life. And I enjoy life more because it's finite. I want to say I love my daughters more man, I I love the fact that you know, you know what, I'm probably going to outlive you but I'm gonna make sure that I have the greatest impact I have in your life. Accountability, David, um, if I do it wrong, I'm going to remedy it. I'm going to bring rectification to the issue and to see someone look at me like, wow, that took a lot for you to come forward. I don't know. If I could have done that. I would probably have had to pray about it. Talk to my church leaders. The Accountability. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong. That's it. You know, and so those are those are some of the benefits of of humanism matches of reverence and an appreciation for life and humanity. Man,
David Ames 1:00:07
I could not have said it any better. That was amazing. Well, Robert, I am just profoundly impacted by your work, to be human is enough is going to stick with me for four years, I'm going to be quoting you on that one. So I hope that you and I can become friends, I hope that we can do more work together, I'd love your work, I want to give you an opportunity to tell people, how they can reach out for you to you how they can contribute to your work, how they can find you.
Robert Peoples 1:00:38
Oh, absolutely. Everyone you can, you can go to my website to learn more, it's affinishumanity.org. It's a f f i n is just a little a little side note. So affinis is the Latin derivative of the word affinity, which means a natural attraction to a person thing or idea. And my attraction is to humanity. Thus, humanism, you can find me on Instagram affinis, humanity, and also Facebook, the same and Tik Tok as well. I finished humanity. And I like to I like to hear from everyone. And yes, David, we must, you know, when social media works, it works right and our connection to just to to extend past this podcast, you know, I mean, I want to really, you know, connect with you and just brainstorm about, you know, some of the things that you were speaking about, you know, bring bringing the functionality to humanism to society to real world issues. And I'm all for that man. And so, yes, let's, let's stay in touch.
David Ames 1:01:54
Absolutely. And Robert Peoples thank you so much for being on the podcast. Hey, I
Robert Peoples 1:01:58
appreciate you, man. Thank you.
David Ames 1:02:06
Final thoughts on the episode? To be human is enough. Robert has captured secular grace in that phrase, I literally will be thinking about that phrase for the rest of my life. It is such a simple way to capture it and it has deep meaning. For humanists, it has deep meaning for anti racism. It has deep meaning for being a human being, period. Like Robert said, when social media works, it really works. I really appreciate this connection. I do want to thank our Lean for prodding both Robert and I to connect with one another, our lean our community manager for the deconversion anonymous Facebook group. Roberts work touches so many of the things that I care about, as we mentioned the secular grace and beginning with humanism and loving people without conditions. I need to quote him here at least once he says I believe in you. I believe in people. I believe in change. And if any change is going to happen. We have to do it. There is no savior coming to save us that responsibility is ours. And Roberts work in secularism, if for any reason that word secularism is bothersome to you think of pluralism, really, that's all we're saying is that no one ideology, whether it's religious, economic, philosophical or cultural dominates in a political sense, such that all other ideas are shut down. And the example is, like I mentioned with my wife, who was very much a Christian, but watched as a version of Christian nationalism, and not the Christianity that she would endorse, gains political power. You cannot guarantee that even if you are a believer that the version of Christianity that gains political power will be your version. And even if it is your version, you cannot guarantee that it will maintain that power. And so secularism or pluralism, the marketplace of ideas and ideologies, where there is freedom of speech, there is no religious test for for political office is an ideal, and it is both good for the church and it is good for the state. I love the work that Robert is doing in Arizona promoting secularism that is boots on the ground doing the hard work. I truly loved the way that Robert talked about reverse engineering theology with philosophy and how important philosophy was to him, even as a young man Starting with Payne's Age of Reason, and going into Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard and the existentialists, I can sometimes be negative towards the philosophy bros. But I need you to understand how much I appreciate philosophy and how important it is. It forces us to think deeply and critically about what we think, and why what we believe and why. And to be able to articulate an argument for it. It is incredibly important. And like Robert, I encourage everyone to dig in and learn philosophy. I very much appreciated Roberts willingness to talk about race that can be such an uncomfortable subject. And I appreciated the level of honesty that he brought to the table talking about not being accepted by his own community, and how hard that is. I also appreciated how much he recognizes that humanism can add to the black community. And Robert is such a powerful voice to spread that message and to spread a message of loving people without conditions. I want to encourage you to check out Roberts website affinishumanity.org, the links will be in the show notes. He has t shirts available, I think you can support him financially and the work that he's doing. He's also participating in the Secular Coalition for Arizona, we'll have links in the show notes for that as well. Please reach out to Robert and support the work that he is doing. Robert is a quote machine, go back, listen to this. I've listened to it twice already. He is an amazing human being and has such wisdom to share. I'm very glad that I got to meet Robert, I hope that he and I will have an opportunity to work together again. I want to thank Robert for being on the podcast for sharing his wisdom for sharing his love for humanity for sharing his joy in humanism and the freedom that he experiences in that. Thank you, Robert for being on the show. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is just to expound upon, to be human is enough. I'm not sure that I can adequately expand on on this. It is so profound in its simplicity. So much of what I am trying to say with secular grace is about embracing our humanity. When I say humanity, I mean our foibles, our weaknesses as well as our strengths as well as our intellect and rationality. So much of religion tries to deny our humanity that our normal human desires and wants are evil and wrong. You know, who we love or what color our skin is, and what we think in our private thoughts get categorized and moralize so that we turn in on ourselves and begin to hate ourselves. So much of what I want with secular grace is for us to be able to embrace ourselves as human beings and embrace one another as human beings. And that does include the human beings who believe in a theistic God, it does include human beings of a different race. It includes human beings have different gender identities and sexual orientations. It includes and people of religions other than Christianity, it includes people of other cultures. It is so easy to other eyes, the people with whom we disagree or who are different from ourselves and to deny their humanity. So my challenge to you is to recognize the humanity even in the people who you find difficult to love. This is secular grace. As I mentioned, we're going to take a break next week for your Easter holiday. Please re listen to this episode four or five times. I mean, really, this Robert is an amazing person and has so much to say. And then if you want to go into the back catalogue, and the links will be in the show notes to Jennifer Michael hacked Anthony pin and Sasha seconds episodes I highly recommend those for a secular Grace holiday weekend. Until next time, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful
It's time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate, podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? Do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out the website graceful atheists.com My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings
this has been the graceful atheist podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
This week’s guest is Luke J. Janssen, M.Sc., Ph.D., M.T.S., Professor Emeritus, Dept. Medicine, McMaster University, and co-host of the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. He is a scientist in medical research. During a faith crisis he began taking courses on theology which turned into an M.T.S degree.
I’ve been face-to-face with faith and science my whole life.
Luke tells his story in four 15 year phases: his early years as a nominal Reformed Christian, his young adulthood as a Pentecostal/Charismatic fundamentalist, a desconstruction phase, and where he is now, with a “small part of him that won’t let go” and a belief in a creative force.
It is just that I couldn’t pretend anymore. I just couldn’t pretend that I was a believer. I just simply didn’t believe.
Luke and his co-host, Boyd Blundell, cover many aspects of desconstruction on the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. They discuss various apologetic and scientific arguments and honestly reveal what they do an do not believe now and why.
Recovering Evangelicals … for those who were once very comfortable in their Christian faith until the 21st century intruded and made it very hard to keep on believing; … for those who are intrigued by science, philosophy, world history, and world religions, and want to rationalize that with their Christian theology; … for those who found that’s just not possible, and yet there’s still a small part of them that won’t let it go.
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. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As usual, please rate and review the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's episode. onto today's show. My guest today is Luke Jensen. He is the co host of the recovering evangelicals podcast. The tagline for the podcast is for those who were once very comfortable in their Christian faith until the 21st century, intruded and made it very hard to keep on believing. Luke is a scientist who's done medical research at the university level. And he also has a master's degree in theology. And as his website describes, he has been face to face with faith and science and that debate for all of his life. As you're going to hear as he tells his story, he has gone through multiple phases, faith and deconstruction. At the latter half of the conversation, we try to dig into what he does believe currently, and that is a journey in and of itself. You can find Luke on the recovering evangelicals podcast on all the major platforms. Luke's website is lukejjanssen.wordpress.com. That is lukejjanssen.wordpress.com. And I will have links in the show notes. A special thanks to Joe a mutual listener to both the graceful atheist podcast and recovering evangelicals for getting us all together. I got introduced to Luke and Boyd, his co host, and I really appreciate that. Thank you, Joe, for reaching out. Here is Luke Johnson to tell his story.
Luke Jensen, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.
Luke J. Janssen 2:20
Thank you for having me.
David Ames 2:21
Hey, Luke. So we had a mutual listener of ours, Joe who introduced us, he was a big fan of you and Boyd's podcast recovering evangelicals, and this one, and so that would be great for all of us to get together. And so far, our email exchanges, I really am fascinated by the work that you and board are doing. I've gotten a chance to listen to a handful of those episodes. And again, just really impressed with the level of openness and rigor that you guys handle those questions. And so I think it's gonna be a lot of fun to have you on. I want to give you just a couple of seconds to hear to say, who you are like your like your your resume, so to speak of where your education was, and things of that nature.
Luke J. Janssen 3:06
Okay. And I'll just comment as well on that, that Joel bringing us together. He's basically sent an email to the three of us, you, myself and Boyd, and he just said, well, to us, at least he said you should go and Dave show. Yeah. And we went we looked at each other when Dave show who's and the now your email was CCD in there, but your email is graceful email@example.com. And so we just thought that was a moniker that was a name. For a month, we didn't know who Dave was. And then some of the things happened with oh, that's who DAVE Yes. Yes. So it was great. So to answer your question, then, so I'm 6061 years old, went to university worked as a, as a scientist in a lab for just about 30 decades, just over 30 decades. And I'm now retired from that. I just wanted to move on to other things. And the work that we did was in the in the era of asthma, looking at cell function, that sort of thing.
David Ames 4:02
Interesting. All right. And you have a master in science, Master's in theological studies and a PhD in pharmacology and physiology. Is that correct?
Luke J. Janssen 4:13
Yes. And actually, you know what, now that I think about it, I'll have to talk about the MCS later on, because I forgot to even mention that. But yes, so in, I did my Master's and PhD in medical sciences. And that's what that formed the basis of my career for 30 years. And it was near the end of that, that I was going through this faith crisis. And amongst other things, I thought, you know, what, I'm gonna take some courses on campus here. And one course became three became 30. And then I thought, you know, get a masters and MCs so there you go.
David Ames 4:39
That's, that's awesome. Yeah, I think blade refers to that. You know, he says, the type of person Luke is he just went and got a master's in theology.
Luke J. Janssen 4:47
Well, it was easy because it's on campus. I didn't have to go far and then as an alumnus, as a member of the of the university I could take the course of for free Okay, so it was easy, but it was hard work. I will say
David Ames 5:06
Well, we're here to hear your personal story. And you have really interesting story of faith transition going kind of in multiple directions. But let's begin where we always do with the faith tradition you grew up or what was, what was your faith, like when you were young?
Luke J. Janssen 5:20
Right? I'll break my life up into four different parts. It just seems to be that what happened to my life, fell out over 15 year blocks. The first of which then was obviously when I was a kid, we grew up in a Christian reformed setting, which for the listeners who may not know what Christian reformed is, we were very Dutch and very Calvinist, I think a lot of people will know Calvinism is all about Yeah, I found that to be, it was more of a social identity, that group that I was in there. And again, remember, I'm just a kid, I'm less than 15 years old. But it was more of a social identity, it was just an in group, it was the place where your friends were your co workers, where a lot of your family members were there. And so it was just the place you were, it was the society, the social group that you were part of. And I wouldn't really say at least for me, as such a young kid, it wasn't a personal commitment to a worldview or a religion. But it was a very formative part of my life. It it shaped my initial views on who God is, or what God was, God was a very angry god, a very judgmental God. Obviously, he was absolutely in charge. And it also shaped how he saw humans how I thought I was led to believe that he saw humans, humans are utterly evil to the core. Not much good for anything else, but burning in hell. So And how was very prominent in the thinking when I was a kid again, and I think to some extent, I can see generally speaking in the Reformed faith, it also meant that I was utterly young earth creationist, I just took the Bible, literally, but then again, not that I spent a lot of time in the Bible, it was just when things were said, or you hear from the sermon from the the pastor at the front, you just took it at face value. And again, it just wasn't a particularly personal thing with me, it was just the water that I swam, and that was the first 15 years of my life.
David Ames 7:11
Okay, I guess my question then to you is, did you internally have faith at that point in time? Or was it truly just cultural at that point?
Luke J. Janssen 7:21
It would, it was very much cultural and not a personal thing. I certainly had beliefs and values that were shaped by that community, and I live my life by it. Well, that's not totally true. There are many times they didn't, but you, you strove to abide by the social norms, that sort of thing. But it was not a personal thing. Certainly not a personal relationship. Okay. But even to say that it was a personal belief. I don't know that I would say that,
David Ames 7:47
okay. That's actually relatively similar to me. I grew up in a nominally Christian family, you know, they were believers. But that wasn't talked about much we didn't go to we didn't go to church. And so, my grandmother, I remember this this moment. So clearly, I was about 13, or 14. And my grandmother realized that I didn't know what the apostles creed was, like, she just about died of shame, like she had failed. And so I kept asking, like, you know, who is this God character anyway, kind of thing. And it wasn't until my late teens, that I became very serious. But anyway, proceed. So what happens after this?
Luke J. Janssen 8:24
Okay, so then the next 15 year block of my life from 15, to 30. And it really begins with my parents, again, my parents were Calvinists. They were Dutch, and they both grew up in that whole system. But they had a major conversion experience. And I'd say this is they both had a major conversion experience. But it seemed to be more dramatic with my father. He had the from what he tells us, as I understand his background, he wrestled really deeply was religious issues, especially the idea of being one of the elect. This is one of those ideas that Calvinists are big on that, basically, some people have chosen to go to heaven, and some are chosen to go to hell. And that's just the way it is. It's nothing more to it. And he, my father really wrestled with that whole idea of being one of the elect, as opposed to the ones going to this very fiery hell. And he was deeply fearful that he was one of those assigned to hell. Now, I'm not clear on all the details, but what I do know is that he did have a very profound personal experience. It was a deeply religious experience. And it literally changed him overnight. He was a different person because of that. became very passionate about his new faith, which I'll now call the charismatic or Pentecostal faith. I mean, it took a few years for to really evolve fully into that Pentecostal charismatic. I'll use the word phenotype. Yeah. But certainly, it was a very sudden, emotional, profound commitment to this new kind of faith and it became the only thing that he could talk about even to this day. So that's what happened to him. And again, that was roughly when I was 15 years old. For a few years, I resisted that he of course would be one to take while he did take, take the kids to these various fellowships, various church groups, home study home groups. Every Friday night, we went to this one place called visa UK a very charismatic kind of a place. And I was very resistant to that for a couple of years. Until it basically was coerced into an all say, joining the team and air quotes there. It's it's an experience, I'm not sure how much really to get into, except to say, at one moment, I was completely against being, you know, joining this faith that he held. And just because of the circumstances that I won't get into the detail, it was basically I was pushed against my will into this new faith. Now, I don't want to just, I'm not going to put the blame all on him. I did accept that new worldview. I did. I did pray the prayer, say the words and became a Christian. And from that moment on, I was committed. But I do have to say that though the way to happen was rather coercive. And that's really all that I'm going to say. So bottom line is I've resisted for a number of years and now all of a sudden I dove in headfirst and I became one of them as well. I think I was sincere. I do think looking back on myself as a 18 year old I was committed. I sincerely held that belief. And I became Uber involved. I taught and was involved in the Sunday school groups, college and career group. I was part of that I was in a Christian rock band. This is hilarious, because I was a keyboardist even though I have absolutely to this day do not have any experience whatsoever with Keith Morgan's. I just simply had enough money to buy a synthesizer and I now became the keyboard is for this Christian rock band, which you know, toured for about a year didn't last long, but it came from the summer camp, and we played every year at the summer camp. But there you go, yeah. Went on all kinds of evangelists, evangelistic campaigns, if our church would, you know, have something going reaching out into the neighborhood or, you know, bringing your friends to Sunday, Sunday school, where their college and career group. There was one year that Billy Graham came to our city Hamilton in 1988. And so I was part of that.
David Ames 12:16
Okay, that's probably a big deal.
Luke J. Janssen 12:19
Yeah, so so very much I was, I was all in and I was serving, I played my guitar. I did play guitar. I didn't play the keyboard, but I played the guitar for youth group for worship services, that sort of thing.
So that's me being involved there. But then let's talk about what you know, what did that what did this mean? I went to church twice on Sundays, and at least once midweek, that midweek would be say the Wednesday night Bible study or the Friday night youth group and college and career, that sort of thing. So three days a week, if not others. And they were very emotional services, especially, you know, as you know, if the service is two or three hours long, which today is unbelievably long, but during the last half hour, things got really emotional, a lot of a lot of emotions, and especially the Sunday night service, that's really what it was all about is just driving towards that final hour, where a lot of emotions were being poured out. Went to revival meetings to various healing meetings. You know, I'm sure people have heard of Benny Hinn, there's a few others but Jesus festivals, there was the the, the folk gospel businessman conferences, they also had their events. And I was all always part of that. I was pretty committed, needless to say, and I bought into that for the first five to 10 years for sure. And what did I buy into? So I read the Bible, literally, I saw it is absolutely inerrant and infallible. Which obviously meant then that the creation accounts, they were literal. That's the way it happened six days, I was a young earth creationist. And I even started to write a book at that time. So now we're, you know, in the in, I'm past my undergrad, university experience, and getting into my postgraduate experience, where I was starting to write a book that would finally prove to the world that young earth creationism was true. And you're listening, you'll remember those days, I said, lots of coffee, lots of lunchtimes, with bread talking about young earth creationism, and I was working on this book, which needless to say, never happened. Yeah. Interesting. And it's not just the creation accounts that it took literally, of course, there's the destroyed Israel coming out of Egypt. That whole story I took literally, yeah, if you've seen the 10 commandments with Charlton Heston, Charlton, has you seen that movie? That's what was in my head? Yeah. And many of the stories, the Old Testament, the teachings of Paul, all these things I just took at face value, what it said on the page, I just took it that way, right? I was absolutely certain that we were in the end times. You know, that whole beast and the Antichrist thing. Speaking in tongues was part of it as well. The another thing that I refer often to the cosmic Vending Machine God, basically whenever you need something, you just pray for it, whether that be a healing, whether it be passing a test, or, you know, people often refer to getting a parking space, that kind of thing. Well, I believe in this cosmic vending machine, God, you just asked and expected to get it.
David Ames 15:21
I love that analogy that that really captures kind of the the attitudinal position towards oh, I need a parking spot.
Luke J. Janssen 15:30
Yeah. And it never occurred to us. It certainly does now, but never occurred to us that we expected God to answer that kind of a request, but not you know, this kid who's got brain cancer or, you know, kids. It's more heartbreaking when it's breaking when it's kids, but kids starving in Ethiopia, God wasn't paying attention to them, but he would find me a parking spot that just never occurred to us at the time. Now, having said that, I, part of my background there, part of my, what I grew up with, was this belief in miracles. And I I'm not sure really, I can't really remember whether I believe them or not, I certainly went to those kinds of meetings. I went along with it, not just went to it, but went along with the whole idea. But I'm not sure I can say I really believe that. Because the fact is, I didn't pray myself for healings. i If I really believed in it, then I would have done that. And I don't remember ever praying for myself or for other people for their healings. I mean, certainly not. You know, the whole. Well, there you go. Yeah, Demons, demons were everywhere. That was also part of my background, in the Pentecostal circles, we are always and that's going to play into the third part of my life where I reject the whole thing. We'll come back to that. And then the last thing that I believed in at that time, and it was a last thing that I can get rid of, that I had to wrestle through was this idea of the personal relationship. The whole idea that, you know, God is my, my, my personal buddy. And Jesus is my personal buddy. And, you know, I believe that wholeheartedly. But from time to time, if you asked me at that time, I would express some frustration that it was kind of hard to really see how it worked. Just didn't live. I didn't, didn't experience that personal relationship. In our podcast, we did a number of episodes that deal specifically with that. And maybe if your listeners are curious, you can see what I mean by that. But so there you go. Yeah. So those are the things that I believed that's the church I went to we saw the church down the road, we had this euphemistic expression the church down the road, which was basically, you know, any Baptist Church, and things like that. They were second class Christians. We were the true Christians. Oh, gosh. And of course, and of course, you know, Catholics, they weren't even Christian. Going to Hell, yes. That was what we absolutely believed. Yeah. So here's the thing is we're getting close to my 30s. The second the end of the second part, 15 year block of my life. All these uncertainties began to accumulate questions that were being raised, there was cracks forming in the wall, contradictions and mistakes that I read in the Bible, they just were becoming a bit of a problem a bit too much of a problem. I mean, I say, when I saw these contradictions or mistakes, even when I was in my 20s, I noticed them and you just quickly filed them away. But now they're beginning to sit in my brain a little bit longer. And I was beginning to puzzle with them, until I've quickly filed them away. Yeah. And here's the other funny thing that I do remember, at the time feeling odd about the idea that even though I was very Evangelical, evangelistic, I was also always, you know, not always, there were many times I was telling my friends or again, when I worked with the when I volunteered with the Billy Graham crusade, I would tell people about my face and about what I thought they needed. But, and I know I'm not sure I've articulated this, but I do remember thinking to myself, certainly become a Christian, go to church, but don't go to my church. My church is whacked. I want to be kind of a Christian. I honestly did think that even though I went there for years, and clearly, you'd think that means that I believed a good bit of it. I do remember thinking to myself, when I'm talking to people witnessing is the word that we use when I was witnessing to friends are telling other people. I was always thinking do go to church but Dakota mind because it'll weird you out. That's fascinating. Interesting. Yeah. It's funny that it never bothered me at the time. Yeah, yeah. But it did still attend for many, many years, even as these doubts and questions and concerns were building. And I do remember now, for stepping to the present here. I do remember reading your how to D convert article, David. And these are all steps that I read in there that these are all classic deconversion stories, people who are fully committed. And then one question after another begins to build and and then, as your article then talks about the whole deconversion idea. We also boy I also talked to Brian McLaren in one of our episodes about the same sort of thing. It's the exact same sequence of events. So that's the end of the second half of my life.
David Ames 20:18
So again, you know, it's it's I know, we're going to we're going to diverge at some point. But it is interesting, the number of parallels, I think you and I are contemporaries, and two things that really struck me. My first real church experience, first of all, was my my mother, who had a dramatic epiphany and a transformation from drug to drug addicts to functioning human being that that was my impetus to become a believer. I was all in, I felt like I had a personal relationship with Jesus. So that's slightly different. But Pentecostalism was the first exposure that I that I had in the 80s timeframe of Frank Peretti. And there's demons under every boy. Yeah, that whole. So that could definitely relate to that. So and then, you know, a long period of time of attending church, but having questions and not knowing at the time that the word was deconstruction, right like that, that, you know, I slowly began to see, well, this can't be an Eric, because there are problems. And like, and grappling with that, but but still absolutely remaining unbeliever for a few decades in my case. So right.
Luke J. Janssen 21:24
Now, I'm curious. And if you want take this out of the final cut, I'm curious, you said that you said you did have a personal relationship. I'll say that I claimed to have had one, but it didn't feel it. And here's the funny thing. There were times where I would begin to feel something and then it really is, yeah, I'm just creating these feelings. I'm just, you know, crip, tensing these muscles. And it's through the breathing and through various things. I'm beginning to feel something and I was smart enough to know at that time, you know, what, I'm just creating this feeling. And I didn't want anything to do with that. Did you have more than that?
David Ames 21:57
Yeah. So you know, it's, I think you've probably had the same experience. When we're talking to say, an evangelical today, you have this weird experience of kind of defending your former faith. And so I'm going to do, I'm going to do a bit of that, obviously, my perspective has changed today. But I had this sense of conscious contact is what I used to call it right. I was not terribly disciplined to have prayer time, half an hour out of the day, that kind of thing. But I felt like I had continuous contact as it were. So I know that you talked about feeling I definitely had a feeling of connection to God and a feeling of of relationship. How I interpret that today is radically different. But, but at the time, that's what I experienced.
Luke J. Janssen 22:42
Right? And no voice is obviously now. The other thing, I mean, I would hear people say, but I feel,
David Ames 22:49
you know, feel, you know, like the the language is so hard to pin down. But like you feel guidance, you feel a sense of God wishes this or that, that kind of thing. Yeah. As opposed to, you know, literal voice, right.
Luke J. Janssen 23:10
Okay, so I'll jump into the third quarter of my life. And I'm going to call this a slippery slope phase, which everyone can relate to that expression. You've heard it all the time. In your article to deconstruction, how to deconstruct article, I think you call this the critical mass stage. Yeah. And so here's an interesting story. I said that I was gonna come back to demons, which demons was one of the things that we believed in. And I said that played into the ending of this part of my life. I can distinctly remember that one Sunday that we were in that Pentecostal church I was going to at that time, and I think many of your listeners are going to know the name. Benny Hinn, faith healer, he had a brother or has a brother, Henry Hinn, and I'm pretty sure it was Henry, they both did the same kind of thing. But Benny certainly rose to very big fame. But I think this one was a service being led by Henry hand. And I just, I just remember in this service, again, in the background, over the over the weeks, months years, leading up to this, I was beginning to have less and less conviction about what we were doing. But in this particular service, as he was winding up, you know, turning the crank to get the emotions primed up. He had a stand up, put our hands to the front of the church, put on our palms to the front of church and said, Okay, now we're going to Castle, the demons from the North. Now, I want you to turn around, we're going to Castle, the demons from the south. And then we had to cancel the game from the east and from the west. And I distinctly remember leaning over to my wife, and even though I would still say I was a well certainly wasn't full fledged believer, and even to some extent, Pentecostal, I remember leaning over and said, We're not coming back here again. This is this is too much. This is whacked. Yeah. And we didn't. I think I was only there once again, years later when I was there for a funeral for a friend of mine who was there and otherwise we never went to that church, let alone we never attend Did Pentecostal churches and that sort of thing after that? It just was there was too much emotion and too much weirdness, I understand. Yeah. So we started going to another church and actually several churches, we had to find a place. And I'll just characterize them I was basically Baptist, because I think a lot of your listeners will get a sense of what a Baptist church is like. And that's the kind of place that we went to. At that time, I still saw united and Anglican churches, they were basically dead churches. That's what I would have said at that time that he was dead churches. But we'll go to these other churches that are certainly not on the other end of the of the spectrum, the Pentecostal type. And it was during this time, once we left that, we did find a church that we attended for quite a while for a decade at least. And I was quite happy there. But these questions were beginning to accumulate during that time and really accumulate with a vengeance with force. And I'm going to break those up into three different I'll call them forces or influences on my life. The first which would obviously be science. I was a scientist, I went to university, worked in the university and use science in my life. And it was at that time, and again, I was a young earth creationist again, at that time, every new dinosaur fossil, every new discovery of another evolutionary adaptation, when I learned about them finding basic building blocks of life in meteorites, and I read about what, so Stonehenge and Sumerian tablets, that sort of thing. Every time I read about these things, the all confronted the beliefs that I grew up with, they all challenged my faith. It was certainly the young earth creationism that I grew up with. Yeah. And it was just a constant onslaught. And I found myself developing this split brain mentality, I had the Monday to Friday brain that I took to work. And I might even use words like evolution and adaptation, that sort of thing. I will use them but I certainly didn't really think that way. And then this Sunday brain that I had, that was a whole different worldview, young earth creationism, creationism still, and I really maintained that kind of dichotomy for a long, long time, the Monday to Friday brain and the Sunday brain are two different parts of my thinking. And I kept them very compartmentalized. And I know that that's not, it's a short term strategy, it's not going to last very long, you can only hold that kind of dissonance for so long. And, and so we'll come back to that. And that's the one of those three influences in my life. The second one then would be the morals and ethics that I read about in the Bible. The classic list of things that seem to bother so many people, the Canaanite slaughters, the ones that are included, often included, apparently innocent women, children, animals, the completely male oriented thinking of so many stories and values, you see, you sell a slave, and if the slave is male, you can get this much money. But if it's a female, you get half as much or if a child dies, you get more for a son and a daughter, and so many other ways, there was very much this male oriented thinking, and a blatant discrimination against women and slaves and foreigners and children. And It puzzles me now, I don't know why I didn't see those kinds of discriminations before, or at least they didn't bother me. Somehow they made sense. I don't know what else to say about that. One of
David Ames 28:23
my observations was, obviously Grace was a major part of my Christianity is, and I'm continuing in a secular fashion. But I talked about how I had Grace colored glasses on when I went over that Scripture. And it wasn't until I like took those Grace colored colored glasses off to just read it, the text as it is, and just see what it actually says that the horror of what is Is there really struck me.
Luke J. Janssen 28:51
Yeah. I guess what I was doing, I guess I'm saying the same thing you just did. In my own words, I just think it was again, my biblical literalism working against me, I believe those stories as real events, the stories of the Canaanites slaughters as an actual events. In other words, it was a God ordained event. I just use it because that's what the Bible told me. And I realized now that these are very much stories that people told. But that was another influence that began to chip away at my my faith system, the morals and ethics, the biblical morals and ethics actually ruined my faith
and then the third one was world religions, which for decades, I believe that any other world religion was was well, you can't call them demonic but we would have there there this satanic Islam, long list of world religions that you just dismissed us completely. Well, certainly non Christian, but more than that satanic because we will use those kinds of phrases that back when I was still young and naive and very foolish. But here's the thing. My job as a scientific research researcher took me into contact with so many people of these other faiths and religions, even going to their houses for dinner, going to conferences and rooming with them sometimes. And it's, it's embarrassing to admit that what I found was I was very confronted with the idea that these people were not the evil monsters I thought that I was expecting, right? I expected these to be very different people that were just night and day different from me. And they were wicked to the core. And what I found, though, was that these people were fundamentally good, they were sincere, they were kind and compassionate. And when we did talk about religion, they were not offensive. And the funny thing was that they were also just trying to be right in the eyes of a God that they believed they were just trying to be good. Yeah. And what really brought this part this influence, this destructive influence in my life, what really brought it to a boil was reading a book, I read lots of books, but this one in particular, I know it hit me like a hammer in the center of my face, Kite Runner by Colette Hossaini. And very briefly, basically, the story is of a kid who grows up in Muslim Afghanistan in a modern setting, I think was like the 1990s or something. This kid makes a decision. He's only he's a young teenager, I think he's 12, I think, when this happens, betrays a friend, which leads to some horrible consequences. And, and then this haunts the kid, right from the moment it happens for his whole life, and then the rest of the book. I mean, that's the first chapter, I think. And then the rest of the book is him as an adult trying to reconcile, not only to find this friend and to apologize, and to get forgiveness and reconciliation, but he's also going through this journey to reconcile with a God that he knew the only one he knew, which happened to be a law. And again, he grew up in a setting this, Afghanistan, Muslim iscan Stan, where there was no other story paints that as if there was no other Christian influences, it was just Muslim. And so this kid, now a man is just trying to get reconciled with God, whom he calls a law, because that's the only god he ever knew. And it struck me as I was reading the story. And still in this, this Christian phase of my life, I was thinking, as much as this kid just wanted to get right with God, too bad, he's going to hell because he's Muslim. And, and then it dawned on me that this is I couldn't tolerate this anymore did not seem right. The kid just wanted to be right with Allah and wanted to apologize to a friend. But he was going to hell because he wasn't a Christian. And I just couldn't justify that anymore. That really was the nail in the coffin on that part of my life.
David Ames 32:43
Well, we talk a lot about that. It's not one thing. It's 1000 things. And we often focus on the first thing and the last thing. Right, right. And yet there are many points in between that, but so it sounds like this was one of the last things for you the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.
Luke J. Janssen 33:00
Well, certainly one of the last things that basically had me beginning to say, You know what, I'm not sure I'm a Christian anymore, that's for sure. But but it was a long list of questions that finally got me to well, we'll come to that in moments. So it did start a whole cascade of changes in my thinking questions that I now actually started asking with vigor, I didn't just kind of quickly ask me that and realize, oh, I don't want to go there and file them away. So I actually began to deal with some of these. And it was a long, hard journey of deconstruction, you know, with air quotes, that what people usually think of deconstruction, meaning just taking a sledgehammer and breaking everything, which I now have learned, deconstruction can mean, a very, excuse me, can mean a very different thing. Sure. Maybe we'll talk about that later on. But I started going out for coffee with friends with people I respected and was asking these questions and trying to reconcile them trying to have them make sense. And I just found myself giving up ground on so many things that I once believed with full conviction. And so what kinds of things naturally obviously one of the first things to go I think the first thing to go would be this, the inerrancy and infallibility infallibility of the Bible. How could that not happen? All these stories that I took at face value, and now I'm saying they could not have happened, it doesn't make sense. It's not right, you know, again, getting back to the canine Canaanite slaughters. So that was one of the first things that that definitely went, I stopped reading the Bible literally. We can talk more about that later. Things like atonement theology, I was very much I grew up Calvinist and for a long time I had I held this idea for decades held this idea of original sin, and that whole idea of Heaven and Hell and reward and punishment. Christian exclusivism though the whole idea that Christianity is the only way to get to heaven, and then that one of the other things I already mentioned this, but it was one of the last things that I had that I found myself wrestling with was that personal relationship even into my 40s and 50s, I still thought I'm supposed to have this and I just was not able to experience it not able to realize it. Without generating it myself. That's the thing. I think I could have been someone who would say, Yep, I feel that personal relationship. But I would know deep inside, I'm just generating as a friend of mine, as a friend of mine calls that the warm the warm fuzzies just generating the warm fuzzies. And then I call that God. And that was one of the last things that I've finally had to let go of. And it took me so long to get rid of that. That idea.
David Ames 35:34
I think people will relate to that. Yeah. Yeah. And I know there's a more to the story. I'm anticipating that but yes,
Luke J. Janssen 35:40
well, so now we're getting nearer to the end of that third 15 year span of my life, I found it necessary that I had to accept that I was no longer a believer. Definitely agnostic, that's for sure. But I've not wasn't quite comfortable calling myself an atheist. I wouldn't call myself an atheist. And that's because I'm a scientist, scientist says, Well, if you if you say this, you have to mean it in the meaning of the word. And to me an atheist is somebody who knows that there is no God. And I can't, I couldn't say that, then we can come back later to the fact that I still can't say that.
The interesting thing was leading up to that admission that okay, I'm not a believer, I'm certainly an agnostic, leading up to that there's all this fear of walking to the edge, and you know, the panic and the uneven uncertainty of coming to that. But once you do make that step, it was just a feeling of liberation. I just found that. Now I can now I can breathe easy. I can, I can be honest with myself, for starters, and I can, there was a joy and a peace. Let's put it that way. I actually enjoy MP. So I've given up this faith that I'd had for 40 or more years,
David Ames 36:55
we talked about just the release the you know, best self honesty, you lose the need to defend your Faith anymore. And yeah, there's some very interesting things that happen. And the irony is how evangelistic it sounds when you try to describe it, you know, like, literally, you know, scales falling from one's eyes kind of thing,
Luke J. Janssen 37:18
right? No, Dave, in your show? Do you? Have you had people talk? Or have you talked about this allegory of Plato's cave?
David Ames 37:25
I'm very familiar with that. I don't know that. We've talked about it a lot on on the podcast. So if you want to give the listeners just a brief overview,
Luke J. Janssen 37:33
okay, so and the reason I'm doing this is because this is now I'm feeling that in my life, in that part of my life, I was feeling this whole Plato's cave experience. Yeah. So very briefly, I haven't really thought to do this. But let me just try. So in Plato's cave, you've got this guy stuck in a cave, he's chained, and he's just seeing shadows on a wall, cast by some fire or something like that. And he just sees shadows, doesn't make sense. He's looking at it. And things don't make sense. But he eventually managed to get free, which allows him now to walk around the cave. And then he sees that these shadows are actually just, they're just shadows of A, he had been building an image of what the shadows meant. And now he knew what those shadows were all about. He knew what was creating the shadows, he saw it from from a whole different angle, He then proceeds to walk out of the cave. In the process, as he gets to the top of the cave and breaks out in the sunlight. Now he's absolutely blinded, and he's scared to death, because he can't see anything, doesn't know where he's going. But eventually, he, his eyes accommodate, he can now see clearly, things as they really are not no longer just shadows on a wall, in the cave. But now he sees the sky and the trees and everything around them. And he sees what things are really all about. And there's this feeling of of elation of joy. And then he realizes I should go back into the cave and get my buddies out of that cave. Yeah, and so so that's where I found myself at this point in my life that I had walked up to that edge with such fear and uncertainty, and the blindness of, you know, if I let go of this, and I let go of that, there's nothing there to catch me. And I didn't know what to do. But once I finally did, there was that feeling of, of release, you use word release, and joy and peace. And then I did feel that I wanted to go back and tell the people that I've been going to church with about, you know, what, all these things were talking about. Maybe there's a different way to look at these things. And I really began to as so I started a blog called reaching back into Plato's cave. I wanted to reach back to them and help them pass that those questions that we're all dealing with. Yeah. So that was very much a decision that I made to finally say, you know, what, I don't believe all those things. So in that sense, I'm not a believer, and I'm definitely agnostic. And I just want to clarify, I often want to clarify, I want to say this to people I'm talking to. I'm speaking now to two different groups of people, the ones who are Christians and the ones who are atheist. To the ones that are Christians. I want them to know that this is not a rejection of a faith. I have had, because it's not that I just chose to stop believing, and certainly not motivated by wanting to have a different lifestyle, you know, the whole sex drugs and rock and roll thing. It's just that I couldn't pretend anymore, I just couldn't pretend that I was a believer, I just simply didn't believe, at least not all the things that I used to believe. And so a lot of Christians will become judgmental. At this point, some Christians will become judgmental at this point. As if I had a choice, I didn't have a choice, I didn't just know that the faith was real. And I chose to believe differently, I just couldn't believe it anymore. And then the other thing I want to say is to the to the atheist, and it's, it's one thing to say that you can give up a lot of these faiths, but it doesn't mean that you have to reject the whole thing. And I just simply dropped the things that I couldn't hold anymore, which was a lot of things, I'll admit. But there still were some things that made sense to me, they still do, and I hope we can talk about some of those. We're in the fourth quarter of my life that I'll be getting to
David Ames 40:58
Yeah, I you know, I said this loop to you off Off mic. And I'm just gonna say it here that that really the podcast, as I started, it was for those people who, when they looked around at what they had left, it was so little, that what remained was so little that they maybe they don't call themselves atheists, but they they don't say that they're more than agnostic in some way or another right like that. They can't they there's nothing left for them. That was my personal experience. But I want to acknowledge that people go through the deconstruction process and land in different places, there's a wide spectrum available to people. And one of the things that I find exciting about that is that that people get to go and explore, to learn to find out what they believe and why. And that's ultimately their autonomous decision that they get to make, right. And so I just want to make sure that that's clear from my end that although the podcast does generally focus on the D convert, where I'm acknowledging there's a pretty wide spectrum for people to experience.
Luke J. Janssen 42:05
Good. So now I'm sure there's listeners that are wondering, well, then what do you still hold on to? The one thing that I just could not shake is the idea that there's this, there is a creative force, a life force. And that's simply because again, I'm a scientist. And so when I look under the microscope, and and see what cells can do, when I look at it through a telescope, and to see what's out there, it just leaves a feeling in me that there's something bigger out there. And I just, I can't believe that this whole thing is just some crazy cosmic accident. I just can't go there. Now, I know that some people call that a God of the gaps. And I have often wrestled with the fact I've been against people, not against people, I've been against the arguments that are based on a God of the Gaps argument. I'm just against those. And that's the thing I said, all I'm doing is holding on to a God of the gaps. But I'd been corrected on that partly through some thinking. But I'll be honest, it was also in a lot of these podcast episodes that I've done with Boyd and there was a an episode we did with Steven Freeland to chemo that they're more recently as well, where the point is made. It's not that it's a God of the gaps. I'm not using it as an explanation of things. It's more it's a sense of awe, there's this awe in looking at the stuff under a microscope or at the end of a telescope, and just being in awe and just feeling that there's something bigger out there. I have no evidence that there is no God, I don't have evidence that there is a God, this is not my evidence for God, when I look through the microscope, I don't say, well, that's proof that there's a God, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, there's an awe that there's something bigger called the life force, a creative force. And it just makes more sense to believe that, that there's this creative life force, rather than this is just a cosmic accident. That's where I stand on that whole idea.
It just makes believing certain things make more sense. For me, it's more intellectually satisfying. Again, it's not proof. For God. It's not proof that we exist for a purpose. But I also don't have definitive proof that there's no God or that we don't have a purpose. If you're going to be adamant on this, you have to acknowledge that. In this case, you're you're making a choice. I don't know that anybody has proof that there is no God or that we're not here for a reason. They don't have that proof. They just, I would say that they should acknowledge that they're making a choice to believe that and I just choose to believe that there is something bigger out there, and that we do exist here for a purpose for purpose that there is meaning to our existence. And I know that some believers will, will have problems with me referring to God as a creative life force. But here's the thing. I've moved past the idea of God is a personal God. A personal Buddy, He's not someone more closer to me than my neighbor or even than my wife, he's not a personal Buddy, he is he so I'm using, I'm using pronouns he, as if God is a person, and that's again, something that boy and I've talked a lot about in our podcast, God is not a person, he's not a he or a she or an IT, he's, he's it God is way beyond personification. And, and certainly I would call God a life force or credibly force in a lot of other things.
David Ames 45:29
You know, it's interesting, I just want to jump in here. If you're if you ever get a chance, go back and listen to marriage Simka a, I did a an interview with an Orthodox Jewish person. And, man, the language you're using right now sounds almost exactly for what he was talking, you know, the the kind of a, the core of being, that being itself kind of force of being as it were, I'm struggling to use the language, but it just what you just said really struck me as very similar to potentially Jewish thinking,
Luke J. Janssen 46:01
right? So I hang on to this idea that there is something bigger out there. And if I find out, I'm wrong, I don't feel I've lost anything. And even as I say those words, I don't want thinking, I don't want people thinking that I'm just, you know, the Pascal's Wager idea, I'm not just choosing to believe because it's in the hopes of being right about getting into heaven, I'm quite comfortable with finding out that we only have our life here on earth, and that there's nothing more after that I don't need to have a reward of heaven. For making this choice. I just choose based on what I see and what it feels that there is something bigger out there. And well, I certainly don't believe in the whole health thing, that's for sure. I grew up with and believed in this idea for 50 years, the idea that God hates humans, because we're so sinful, and that there's nothing he can do but just burn us up or even worse, torturous for an eternity, I find that I can't believe that. I do believe that people can create their own hell here on Earth. And I'm working my way through parsing the words of Jesus, when he's talking about hell, that he's talking about people creating hell on earth. And it goes both ways, I think you can create Hell on Earth, you can also create heaven on earth, if we can just get it together, okay. And that's where this whole meaning making thing comes together, I just choose to play in a team that's all about making meaning, making a difference, learning how to get along, learning how to love learning how to make things better, that's just a choice I made to be on a team. And if there's an afterlife, and there's a heaven, that's great, but I don't need that to make this choice.
David Ames 47:31
So it's really interesting, Luke, because I use a lot of the same language without the underlying metaphysics. And I'm not trying to argue here, I just want you to understand where I come from, from my perspective that human beings are meaning makers, we make meaning that is part of what it means to be human. And this concept that we talked about on the podcast of secular grace is that human beings need to be accepted, we need to be known, we have a deep seated needs to be known by one another. We are social creatures. And this idea of secular grace is a proactive love, call it agape if you want. But just that that is the attitudinal direction that we should be facing is loving one another. I know that's not original, I appreciate that I'm stealing that. But that, from my perspective, there's no underlying transcendence necessary for all of that to remain true. That all is a human experience, that that all of these things can be natural. So it's fascinating how close you and I are, is what I think you're a great guest. This is this has been this is a great conversation. So I really appreciate it.
I think my question that leaps out is, what is the Bible for you now? So there's a lot of deconstruction that's happened. You have this sense of the creative force. So what does that? What does that say about the Bible? What does it mean to you now?
Luke J. Janssen 49:02
For me the Bible. So I use an analogy. And in fact, I'm trying remember we use it recently in an episode, but for the longest time, that's right, it was it was an episode we did with Peter ends. And I asked him, What do you think of this analogy? For although the longest time I had this idea of the Bible as the user's manual, you know, you've got the user's manual for your car or for your stereo system. It's a manual. It's written by the maker of the product that we're talking about. And it's written to the people who are going to buy this product and how this is how you use it. Here's what you do and that sort of thing. That's what I thought the Bible for decades. I thought that's what the Bible was written by God is, you know, I might have been had to admit, okay, yes, sure. There was a human holding the pen, but basically, God's moving his fingers God's whispering in his ear, or is putting the thoughts in his head. And it's a it's a book written by God giving given to us humans to tell us how to live. And I've since realized, that's not realized. I've since come to accept the fact that it's not a user. As manual, it's rather a diary or a notebook. The whole idea that humans for millennia for 1000s of years have been have been looking up at the sky, feeling that there is this bigger thing out there trying to make sense of it, writing down their notes, writing down the stories that they told. Some of those stories are intended to tell us, okay, here's what happens when you do things this way. And here's how you could look better. Some things are written to basically say, here's how we did it, because we thought we were right. And boy, were we wrong. Now, now they're not that boy, were we wrong is not even admitted implicitly in the story. There's a lot of stores in the Bible that people look at and go, How can that be in that Bible? And I think it's there because the people at the time, this is what they did. And you look, we can now stand back and look at what they didn't realize how it just goes, it just goes downhill from there. So a lot of words to say, I now see the Bible as much more if not, well, largely, you diary or a notebook written by humans. And we get to look at those diaries and notebooks and take some lessons from them. And, and to some extent, we're writing back into those books when we interpret those biblical books. I mean, let's face it, a lot of the things that are written in the Bible have been interpreted so, so hugely differently. And that's why we have so many Christian denominations, they take the same passages and personal differently. And that's what we're now doing. We're taking those scriptures, looking at what those people wrote down and how they saw things and we're now applying our meaning to what they wrote down as if that's what those people meant all along. That's a lot of words to say where I see the Bible now.
David Ames 51:36
And it's okay if you I'd like to dig just one step further. In that do you see the Christian bible as special or different from say, the Koran or the Bhagavad Geeta, Geeta, or any of the other collections of human wisdom that are out there?
Luke J. Janssen 51:52
Only special in that that's what I grew up with. Okay. It's full of strange stories. It's full of, of, of disturbing stories, and it's full of things that I'll call untruth. I have looked at pieces of the Bhagavad Gita pieces of the Quran. So I'm not an expert on those and my point. My point is this. They contain a lot of truths. They may contain a lot of untruth, I don't know what those are. So I'm not going to say that they do. But I'm led to believe that they contain some untruths, and some disturbing stories. And but then so does the Bible. I mean, I will never deny that the Bible has a lot of very disturbing stories and a lot of wrong ideas, to be honest. So here's an example of what I'm talking about. The Israelites, if you if you take this Bible at face value, it talks about the Israelites having just come out of Egypt, they've been wandering around for a while, they're now setting up a religious system in the desert, and they're looking forward to getting into Canaan. And we're given these laws, presumably from God. And one of the first things they ask about is, well, what do I do when I need to sell my kid into slavery? And there's some words there that talk about what they need to do when they sell to kids into slavery. What do you do with a raped woman? And the solution there, presumably from God was, well, you have to make that woman marry her rapist, and there's no opportunity for divorce. There were opportunities, opportunities for divorce and other situations. But here in this case of rape, no, there wasn't. How can I? I can't say that that was God speaking. I think that was a human speaking a male speaking, were a bunch of males speaking. And that would be an example of what I'm talking about. When I say that there are things that are wrong in the Bible. Okay. And I think the Bible is intended to force us to ask some really hard questions and begin to look past the words. And really, yeah, actually, that's not the best way to do things.
David Ames 53:40
Where I think we agree is that I think the the collections of human wisdom are a particular group of people in a particular time writing about how they made sense of the world, how they interacted with one another. And what 21st century eyes, that can be horrifying. So yeah, I think from the anthropological point of view of just kind of having kind of a step back and saying, trying not to just judge it, but to recognize that's, that's what they thought at that time. And we can take what we we think is useful, and rejects critically, what we find to not fit in the 21st century anymore.
Luke, another topic that I was interested in, I heard you allude to it in relatively recent episodes of the podcast, but I was never able to go back to the the archives to hear the detail is that you wrote a book about the soul. And so I'd be really interested to hear what your perspective is on the concept of a soul.
Luke J. Janssen 54:43
So that actually came out of my studies when I did this master's of theological studies. Again, I want to say that I didn't just decide to get an MTS, I first took a course in Genesis what to do with Genesis because I wasn't a scientist and I did not know what to do with that whole creation account. So I took that course and then another and another until it finally became a degree. Now during that time taking all those courses, one of the things I began to learn, it really became so blatantly obvious to me and certainly is now was how thinking developed over time, I used to have this mentality that, you know, the Old Testament people believed this way, if you can't see me in the, in the audio, but I'm holding my hands as if I'm holding a basketball. This is what the Old Testament believed about things. The Old Testament, the ancient Hebrews believed about things. And then there was a change in thinking when Christ came on the scene. And now the New Testament again, have their new basketball. And they see things differently. But I really saw how thinking changed over 1000s of years. And in particular, on this topic of the soul and the afterlife, I realized that the very ancient Hebrews had a very different view completely different than what you might read about later on in the Old Testament, or certainly the New Testament, and certainly compared to now. And what also became apparent was that the changes in the thinking coincide when you when you take into account when these different books of the Bible are written. Some are written well. So we can argue about exactly when they're written, but certainly some are written from the point of view of many, many 1000s of years ago, say 6000, or 4000 years ago. Some of them were written from a context that's more like say three or 4000 years ago. And when you look at the at the timing of the changes in the thinking, when different books, the Bible convey a whole new understanding of the soul and the afterlife. They coincided with when these ancient people, the ancient Hebrews were in one context or another, they spent 400 years in Egypt, for example, they had a certain view, let me back up even further. So before they were in Egypt, they were Babylonians. Abraham was a Babylonian and we know about what the Babylonians believed. And there's hints of what a Babylonian, a Hebrew wise Babylonian faith look like some things that Abraham did, and people around him talked about, you can see now this base Babylonian influence. And they very much had a Babylonian look on what the soul was like and what the afterlife was like, then they end up in Egypt, and they're there for four or 500 years 430 You can hear different numbers. But the bottom line is they're in there for for almost five centuries. And if you look at anybody today, who comes from an immigrant family, and they are second or third generation in a new country, like Canada, or the US, those second or third generation kids are so North American eyes compared to their parents and grandparents who are so old school from the old country. Yeah. And there's a complete difference in just the course of a couple generations. Now you'll look at these ancient Hebrews they've been in Egypt for for almost 500 years, they're completely Egyptian eyes. And you can see that now in what they talk about. When we're referring to the soul in the afterlife. Then there's this encounter with the Zorro, Zoroastrians, the Persian Empire, Daniel, Daniel sees a whole has a whole new perspective on the soul and the afterlife. And it's largely because of his his contact with the Persians and the Zoroastrian faith. And then you come certainly Greek Greek thinking absolutely changed the way the ancient biblical writers saw the soul and the afterlife, it became a very platonic view on the soul in the afterlife. And then then you come to Paul and Paul was a completely Hellenistic Jew, and sees things very differently. And now we're today 2000 years later see the soul in the afterlife completely different yet again? Yeah. So that was the that was the generation of that book. It was a lot of learning. It was not a particular course, it was certainly was not my thesis while I was doing that master's degree, but it was an accumulation of all kinds of examples that I came across where the thinking of the ancient biblical writers how that thinking on all kinds of issues just changed over hundreds or 1000s of years.
David Ames 59:02
And for you, personally, what was what would your position be on the soul?
Luke J. Janssen 59:07
So that's what the book is about. And we did a number of episodes on that. And I'm just actually editing right now, as we speak. I'm editing an episode that will come out in a number of weeks where we talked about that. For me, the soul is an emergent property of the brain. Now, what is an emergent property? Basically, it's it's, it's a property that emerges out of basic constituents that you would not have seen those things there if you just looked at those basic constituents. So for example, I'm going to just try to quickly come up with analogies. You look at artificial intelligence or virtual reality. You can play virtual reality and you feel you're in a whole new virtual, you're in a whole new reality. But that's only because of a lot of circuits, a lot of software, a lot of electrons, and all the things are coming together to produce a whole new experience. And out of that emerges of unexperienced you can't it's a lot potential, if you don't have words for people will talk with civilizations that a civilization is based on people, people are built on organs. Organs involve chemicals, chemicals involve protons and electrons. And at each of those stages, you can't predict a civilization when you just look at the electrons and protons, neutrons. You can even predict the molecules. And then once you have molecules, you can predict the civilization all these things are emergent properties of, of the basic constituents. So the brain, the soul is an emergent property of a whole lot of nerves, a whole lot of reflex pathways, a whole lot of neural processing. And from that is an experience of what it what's going on around you who am I, I see myself immersed in a world where I am situated in a, in a social setting, I'm a member of a family and a social group, and a country all have these things feed into my personal experience of what is real to me. And that's to me, what the soul is all about the soul is what defines you, it defines your hopes, your fears, it defines your memories, all of these things, and we can route those in. The neural processing is an emergent property of that neural processing.
David Ames 1:01:24
One more question on this. I didn't I didn't see us going this direction. But I'm really you're just you just make me very curious. To me, you've just described consciousness. So are those synonyms for you? And I guess the ultimate question is at death, does the soul continue on for you?
Luke J. Janssen 1:01:42
Okay. First of all, no, I would not call consciousness and soul or mind or personality, the same thing, consciousness is just an awareness. And so even bacteria will have an awareness of a chemical gradient, for example, or light source, they have that conscious awareness. And so that would be consciousness. Now, soul and mind and personality certainly would include consciousness. It's one of those fundamental ingredients, they lead to a personality and a mind and a soul.
David Ames 1:02:11
Can I Can I jump in and just correct? How about sentience? Is that a better word?
Luke J. Janssen 1:02:16
Okay, so I haven't thought about that. So sentience, and and sentience is, you know what? I have to think about that that day, because sentence would be I think, it is a property, but I'm thinking more it's like a, it's an action of some kind of like, it's more of an action word to me, whereas soul to me is an experience. It's a it's a property. Okay. So there's overlap, I'd have to think about that one day.
David Ames 1:02:42
Okay, great. Yeah. Hey, I succeeded. I got you to think.
Luke J. Janssen 1:02:47
Now, you said, What does that mean for the afterlife? So Christians will talk about the resurrection, but he'll talk about the resurrection. And I firmly believe if you're going to believe in the resurrection, I don't know that there is I don't know that there's an afterlife, I really don't know. I honestly don't know that there's an afterlife, I believe it's possible, I have no idea what it looks like. But if there is they talked about this resurrection body, that body can look like anything. It doesn't have to be this physical body that I currently own today, which is a completely different body than they had 20 years ago. And let alone 40 years ago, I've had many bodies, and they've all looked very different. I know, we all grew up and by the you had five is not what you had 15 or 30. You get the idea. Yeah. So. So this emergent property that I call the soul works in the body that I now have, the nerves that I have, and the pathways that are ingrained in my brain. But in theory, those could be embodied in something else. People today talk about being embodied in a computer when you talk about transhumanism and, and being loaded up into the where they call it the metaverse, they talked about that. And it's something that actually they actually could believe would be possible. And in theory, if they could upload all your memories, all of your experiences, your preferences, the laws, you grew up with the values, you held all these different things. I would I would struggle to say that's not me that was embodied up there. If they had all those qualities and all those things of me, it'd be hard to say, well, that's not me. And then of course, that raises all kinds of other weird philosophical questions. So I think I've answered your question, David. Yeah, the afterlife could be a reimbursement in something doesn't have to be this biological body and probably wouldn't be a computer but who knows what it could look like.
David Ames 1:04:39
I lied to you just a second ago. I've got one more question along this line. Because and I'll set the context for so for me personally. The last two things to go were the concept of a soul, my soul, specifically mine. Right, not just not just theoretically, but the idea that I have something that that will transcend to death. went for me. And the second are the really the truly the last thing for me was the resurrection of Jesus himself as a literal event. So I'm curious if you believe that Jesus was physically, literally resurrected from death, true death.
Luke J. Janssen 1:05:16
Right. Okay, so I will take both of those. Let me start with the first one, though. So I think people will struggle with the idea that I talked with the soldiers being just an emergent property, especially the Christian believers amongst your listeners, and who here this will struggle with that whole idea. And yet, all you need is a brain injury, and you become a different person. There's stories, and people always pull out the story of Phineas Gage, people have a grandmother who's got Alzheimer's, and all that really is is a brain injury. And they recognize that that person is becoming less of who they once were. And sometimes they become a different person, they suddenly start acting and doing things that are completely different. Lots of stories of people having other forms of brain injury and becoming a whole different person. It's just bizarre. And the point is, if there really was a separate thing called Soul, write a thing called the soul that was writing in your body, you could have a brain injury, and that soul should still be there. But it's not. It's totally dependent on the brain, the machinery. So that's, we could go on at length about why I hold this view. But okay, so enough on that, yeah. Now back to the Jesus resurrection thing. Again, I don't know, I'm still wrestling through where I stand on who God is, whether he's an interventionist God. Certainly, to me, God represents a whole lot of moral values, good and love and that sort of thing. But whether he's an interventionist I don't know, if he were, if I could somehow be convinced that he were, I could see him looking down on these humans and saying, You know what, they could do things better here, I know this, the I have a better will for them. I'm going to send someone down there. Now, before I go any further, this is not I'm not going down the path where I'm going to send somebody down there. So I can rip him apart and spill his blood and pay for since that's not what I'm getting at. I think rather, if he were an interventionist God, he could send somebody in and say, Hey, guys, there's a better way. And here's how you do it. Get along, forgive, you know, that kind of thing, all the values that Jesus stood for, and which is why he was killed. And if that were the case, if this Jesus was either, you know, well, if this Jesus was there for that reason, and was killed for that reason, I could also imagine an interventionist God saying, You know what, now they've killed them, they've really done it, I'm going to bring them back, partly to put a spotlight on this guy, this guy is not just another guy who died from some good values. Here's a guy who stood for the values that I want these humans to finally get into their heads. And I'll put a spotlight on that. I would believe that such an interventionist God could conceivably be raising from the dead. So I haven't answered your question. I can't say yep, I believe that that's what happened is consistent with. I'm obviously not done wrestling through those questions. But I want to be honest with myself, and on the one hand, say, okay, look, I can't say that. I know that that's what happened that there was this interventionist God who did raise Jesus after Jesus made the point. Hey, guys, here's how to live. I'm not going to say I absolutely believe that. But on the other hand, I can't say well, I'm not going to say, it's not it's not possible because even as a scientist, I'm going to know that there are things that are now possible that were not possible. 100 years ago, we do things now today that are routine. We bring people back to life. We resuscitate, we don't we don't resurrect we resuscitate people, we do all kinds of things that are that were impossible. And now we realize, well, we just didn't know all the rules. We didn't know all the physical laws. And so I'm not going to deny that it's entirely possible. I can't say no, it's impossible. I just don't know how to say yes, it happened beyond saying, Well, I want to believe that it did.
David Ames 1:09:03
I think that's very honest. So thank you for, for letting me dig deep there. I definitely want to spend some time though, on your podcast recovering evangelicals. So I want to begin that with how did that come about? What what was the impetus and and how did you avoid Connect?
Luke J. Janssen 1:09:22
Okay, so again, I begin all those questions when I was in my 30s 40s, began a lot of questions. And eventually it became a blog site. And I started the blog, a lot of these questions, reaching into Plato's cave. And, and then that transformed into a podcast because one of the people that I had coffee with was this boy who happened to be at the time he was a no, not at the time. I knew him as a kid in the youth group. I was one of the helpers I used sponsor. I worked with our youth pastor and helped run the youth program with him. He did all the work. We were helpers, but boy was one of the kids in there and And, and then years later, I mean, I haven't even stopped to think how many years later, I then encountered Boyd again, that same youth leader brought the two of us together. Boyd and I, we had coffee he was there as well, we actually was a beer and french fries and that kind of thing, that scandal there. But that's where I had a good long chat with this boy. And he began to clarify a few things for me. And at the same time, at that particular time, I was wondering about doing a podcast. And it just turned out that, you know, the everything conversion, I began doing this podcast with this boy who I knew from long before, one of the reasons I wanted to work with Boyd said, he has a whole different background. Mine is very scientific with some little bit of religious an MTS degree. Whereas boys is very much philosophical and theological, he had that training. And he's a very sharp guy very quick in his mind. And I really thought, you know, this is the kind of guy that I can work with. So that's how the podcast started. So now I'm just going to very quickly do the blurb from my my podcast, so it's recovering evangelicals, I just want to point out to anyone who's trying to find it. We did start this podcast in January 2020, with that name recovering evangelicals. And just over half a year later, another group started with the same name on Facebook, recovering evangelicals. And then it was about a year later. So now, one year after I started, then another person started with a podcast called The New Evangelical, the new evangelicals, podcast, and the new evangelicals community. So a little bit of overlap there. And then another person came up with recovering evangelical podcast, she had the singular, we had the plural, but otherwise, it's the same name. So just want to call attention to the fact that there's at least four groups with very similar names. And we were there first.
David Ames 1:11:51
Yeah, I'm giving you credit, then. Okay. So maybe just give my listeners overview of some of the topics you cover. And, and then we'll get into maybe who your audience is.
Luke J. Janssen 1:12:02
Okay. So what we what the goal of the podcast is to just deal with questions that make it hard to believe it. And it's called recovering evangelicals, we've had a number of times a number, a number of episodes, where we explain why we call it that people who are trying to recover from evangelicalism, or even people who are trying to recover evangelicalism because we think evangelicalism is very, very broken today. So we're targeting those people who come from an evangelical background, or at least want to hear about that. And people who either have left behind, they've just given up on belief entirely, or people who are struggling with it. Maybe some people, some listeners are ones who are who are fully committed to the faith themselves, but they're working, they may be youth workers and working with kids who are asking these questions. So. So a lot of words to say, our goal in this podcast is to deal with those really tough questions. And we deal with ones like, you know, Original Sin and atonement theory, that personal relationship that I referred to earlier, we'd have a number of episodes to deal with that directly. Things like heaven and hell, or controversial things. young earth creationism for sure we deal with a lot, but things like intelligent design, religious trauma we have dealt with in the past, those are the kinds of topics that we have covered.
David Ames 1:13:17
Yeah, great. And I'll just say that you guys tackle these issues with a high degree of rigor. So you come prepared, there's clearly research that has been done. I appreciate that you, you know, you bring the scientific perspective. And Boyd has the, the philosophical background as well. And you both have a theological background. And so it's, it's exceptionally well done, and I'll give you give you props for that. So.
Who do you see as your audience who are the people who are listening?
Luke J. Janssen 1:13:55
Well, I kind of alluded to that. So there are people who have moved from one version of Christian belief into another, or they moved out of Christianity into an entirely different religion. We've I've heard from them as well. Some people who see themselves as agnostics, and some who are outright atheists, one of the most recent while this goes back, I'm going to take a guess. Five or 10 episodes. So to go we had somebody in particular who has just moved on from the Christian faith. A great guy I loved doing that episode with him. He and Redfern is his name.
David Ames 1:14:26
He has been on the podcast I love him. Yeah.
Luke J. Janssen 1:14:31
And and so we want to reach out to those people as well. Some of those people just we use this phrase scratching the itch. These people who even though they've left behind, they haven't left behind. They still come back whether they're aware of it or not. Well, the fact that they're listening to our podcast means that they aren't coming back to it. But they're just often finding themselves thinking these questions, they come back to scratch the itch. And so those are the people that we're talking to.
David Ames 1:14:58
Luke, this has been An amazing conversation, I think you and I could talk for hours upon end. If ever we are in the same town at the same time, I would love to have coffee or beer or whatever, so that we could chat and spend a few hours. I hope this isn't the last time that we work together. But thank you so much. I do want to give you just one last chance to you how can people reach out to you? Where can they find the podcasts, that kind of thing?
Luke J. Janssen 1:15:21
Well, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or go to the podcast, which is at Luke J. jensen.wordpress.com. Excellent. Didn't do that too fast. They can find me on Facebook, of course. And we have a private discussion group which people can join. We do ask a couple questions, three questions, and a lot of people asked to join and they don't ask questions, well, then they don't get in. So we just want to know a few things about these people, we
David Ames 1:15:47
do something very similar. I appreciate. Luke, thank you so much for telling your story. Good to be here.
Final thoughts on the episode. As you can hear, Luke is a really interesting person who has lived on that edge of science versus faith for all of his life. I've said this before, I really find it fascinating the number of people who have a young earth creationism as a part of their primary faith tradition. So here I mean, you know, Luke talks about not being fully committed as a younger person, and then eventually making a personal commitment, but having that be a foundational part of one's theology, and a very strong emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible. Between those two things really are the main cracks that happen, that as a person tries to hold on to the inerrancy of Scripture and a young earth creationism, against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, begins that process of deconstruction for many, many people. I appreciated Luke's honesty and talking about his younger years and not being entirely in and his description of his deconstruction of letting go of that inerrancy letting go of young earth creationism, as well as his honesty in still believing in something that he cannot look at the complexity and the beauty of life and not have adhere. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but not have an author or a designer of some kind or another. As I mentioned, throughout my conversation with Luke, it was fascinating to me, how close he and I are. And yet, I am comfortably on the other side of deconversion. And he maintains faith. On some level, I don't know that he would call himself a Christian any longer, but he has some sense of the Divine, something transcendent. I appreciate the tone of the recovering evangelicals podcast that they are very much trying to do what I'm trying to do in being an open, safe place for people to land. I think I'm on one side of the fence, and they're on the other side of the fence. But we're really trying to do the same work. So I appreciate it very much. I want to recommend for those of you who are interested in some of the apologetic arguments and what that sounds like from people who still maintain some level of faith, but who have deconstructed and let go of an evangelical fundamentalist perspective on the Bible. It is very interesting. As I mentioned, it's very rigorously done with a lot of research and intelligence, with Luke bringing the scientific perspective and Boyd bringing a philosophical and theological perspective. And like some of my guests who are in deconstruction, but would not say that they are D converted. They are working it out. And they are working it out on Mike in public. And I think that's really fascinating and interesting to listen to. So I can't recommend enough the podcast recovering evangelicals. You can find them wherever you find your best podcasts. You can also find Luke at lukejjanssen.wordpress.com. That's lukejjanssen.wordpress.com. And of course, we'll have links in the show notes. I want to thank Luke for being on the podcast and for sharing his story with honesty and being willing to dig deep. There is a potential at some point in time for me and a few other people being on the recovering evangelicals podcast. We'll see if that pans out. But thank you Luke for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it you and your story. Secular Grace Thought of the Week is it is also okay to be d converted to be done. I think for those in my audience who have crossed that Rubicon and They call themselves non believer or non theist or, or even an atheist or what have you, it's less about knowing that there is no God, the way that Luke framed it, and more about being done trying to find evidence for something that no evidence has been found for yet. I've intentionally had a number of guests who are deconstructing who are not de converts, to hear that voice to hear that side of the conversation. But one of the primary reasons for this podcast is to provide cover for those of us who say there is no more, there is no baby in this bathwater, and I am done. That is okay. I completely respect the agnostic position and not being willing yet to make that call. I think a much larger proportion of people who begin deconstruction are in that space where it's much more of an agnostic point of view. But I just want to make clear that if you are a listener, and again, you don't have to use the word atheist, but you no longer believe that a god or transcendence or supernaturalism exists. You are not alone, and you are okay. Next week, we have Robert peoples of the affinis project, Robert has done a tremendous amount of work in moving secularism forward in Arizona. He is a humanist and has a secular Grace perspective on life. And I'm excited for you to hear his story. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human.
Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and you'd 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 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
this has been the graceful atheist podcast
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
The best description of motivated reasoning I’ve ever seen comes from psychologist Tom Gilovich. When we want something to be true, he said, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to accept it. When we don’t want something to be true, we instead ask ourselves, “Must I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to reject it. … In contrast to directionally motivated reasoning, which evaluates ideas through the lenses of “Can I believe it?” and “Must I believe it?,” accuracy motivated reasoning evaluates ideas through the lens of “Is it true?”
One of the most difficult things about deconstruction, deconversion, etc. is feeling alone. It’s terrifying not only to go through a full blown metaphysical and existential crisis, but to do so knowing that the people who are supposed to love you the most can’t or won’t accept you as they once did.
My guest this week is Vanessa. She describes herself as “born into a large family of fire and brimstone preaching, bible beating, in-tongues-speaking Christians in the Pentecostal Church of God faith tradition.” Her father, her grandfather, and her great grandfather all were pastors of her home church.
My full break from faith came in the form of rage when it hit me that I’d never had parents – I’d only had pastors.
She began to doubt at a fairly young age and discovered she no longer believed in god in her college years.
As a non-believer she married her believing husband. Recently being unequally yoked has become a discussion point as they negotiate how to raise their daughter. Vanessa is grateful she can be present for her daughter in a way she did not receive when she was young.
We discuss unequally yoked marriage, secular parenting and post-traumatic church syndrome.
Reality Knows the Truth: The Art and Artifice of Being Human About Rational Spirituality–a way of looking at the world with a balance between ancient wisdom and modern reason. https://michael.ck.page/d36a3d2338
My guest this week is Rachael Parsons Svendsen. Rachael is a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor at RCPS Therapy. Rachael became a Christian at three years old. She went to Biola University and studied philosophy. Later in life she experience the effects of Religious Trauma: just setting foot in a Church she would break down in tears.
Honesty is an important value for Rachael and part of what led her to deconversion. She talks about the difficulty of relationships with believers in her life while attempting to maintain honesty.
Rachael and I investigate the experience of cognitive dissonance and religious trauma. We discuss the importance of the Easter story to Western thought, what is like to parent post-deconversion and the loss of the (false) sense of control after deconversion when difficult life events occur.
Rachael points out that she does not have it all together post-deconversion. We agree we are all winging it.
I am a Scientist, Skeptic, and Professor at Bryant University and the IBNS, Brown University. My goal is to make technical subject matters widely accessible and to use my analytical and computational skills to assist anyone with their science-related problems.
In this episode, I take the restraints off myself and express the reasons why I think apologetics is faulty. Brian is the perfect guest for this. We bounce ideas off one another to articulate good epistemology. We discuss how mathematics and Bayes can be abused by injecting unstated information which changes the probabilities and ultimately the conclusions one comes to.
We also discuss how beliefs have consequences. The current rash of conspiracy theories have had real-world effects. Brian explains how decision theory can be used to make difficult choices.
My guest this week is Barrett Evans, author of The Contemplative Skeptic. Barrett wrote the book for those who are skeptical but drawn to spirituality. A former evangelical seminarian and ex-Roman Catholic, Barrett is an agnostic who has retained a fascination with contemplative spirituality. Building on what he learned in his divinity, counseling, and historical studies, he draws on hundreds of religious and secular sources in an effort to combine honest doubt with the best of contemplative experience.
Perhaps ironically, dogmatic religions claims now seem to me to critically undercut two of the most valuable spiritual ideals for fallible people – humility in the face of complexity and honesty in the light of human limitations.
We discuss how honesty and humility lead to doubt. Barrett’s look at comparative religion reveals the reasons for doubt and the wisdom of a contemplative life. We ask what does it mean to be “spiritual.”
And as history of religions and other psychological phenomenon show, delusions can be passed from one person to another with some rapidity, especially if they are in close relationships and it is a time of stress or excitement.
The tremendous range of religious diversity is one of the greatest reasons for skepticism towards any particular religious belief.