Troy and Brian: I Was A Teenage Fundamentalist

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

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

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



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IWATF interviews David from the Graceful Atheist Podcast


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. It's part of the atheist United studios podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I want to thank my latest patron Ruby, thank you so much for supporting the podcast. You too can have an ad free experience of the podcast by becoming a patron at any level at atheist. You don't have to go through the deconstruction and deconversion process alone, please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, which includes various Hangouts, book clubs, discussion groups, you can find that at A quick shout out to my sibling podcasts on the atheist United studios Podcast Network, amusing Jews beyond atheism, and the humanist experience. Please check out those podcasts you can find them on the atheist United website at atheist Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. My guests today are Troy and Brian of the I was a teenage fundamentalist podcast. Troy and Brian have done some amazing work, you can hear the experience of having had faith and having experienced the downside and coming through on the other side. They both deconstructed at different times. But they've remained friends. And after they found each other after deconversion they decided to make a podcast and talk about it. They are from Australia as you will immediately recognize and the Assemblies of God was the faith tradition that they were both a part of at one time or another. Try and Brian have created a community much like our own the deconversion anonymous group for this podcast. They have the I was a teenage fundamentalist group on Facebook as well. Please check out their podcast, I was a teenage fundamentalist. There will be links in the show notes. Here are Troy and Brian to tell their stories. Brian, Troy, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

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

Troy  2:41  
Yeah, it's fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Ames  45:06  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Atheism, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace

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

0:00:11 David Ames: This is the Graceful Atheist podcast. Welcome. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist Podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. I want to thank all the patrons, many of whom have moved over from the Anchor and stripe support which is now shut down onto Patreon. Thank you to Joel, Lars, Ray, Rob, Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Thank you so much for being patrons. You all will have access to Ad Free for the podcast forever.

0:00:47 David Ames: As we move into 2023 and become a part of the Atheist United Podcast Network. There will be ads if you too would like to have an ad free experience, you can become a patron for any amount. There aren't any tiers, any amount and you'll have access to that RSS feed. As a part of the move to Atheist United, we are moving the podcast from Anchor to Spreaker. The podcast will be on hiatus for the Christmas and New Year holidays anyway.

0:01:14 David Ames: From the 18 December to the 8 January we are off. You may notice that the podcast may show up in a different way in the podcast application that you use to listen to this. So definitely by January 8 be checking to make sure that you have up to date episodes as of January 8, 2023. I'll try to minimize all the technical hiccups, but there might be one or two. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any problems.

0:01:44 David Ames: This hiatus will be right during the holidays, which I know can be a difficult time when you are in the middle of deconstruction and family can be challenging. First of all, my apologies, but I want to give all of our volunteers a break in this episode. I do a number of recommendations for this episode and really all episodes. If in the show notes you'll see a link that will say for quotes, recommendations and more, follow this.

0:02:12 David Ames: It goes to my blog. Truly, there are a number of book recommendations, podcasts, blog posts, all kinds of information that can hopefully get you through this holiday season. Please hang on to the Final Thoughts section as I want to thank a number of people. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arline guests, hosts and asks me anything. You all gave us some questions you wanted me asked in the Facebook group and Arline is here to ask the questions and I am here to give you some answers.

0:02:55 David Ames: As I say upfront. For those of you who have been listening to the podcast from the beginning, some of this will be a bit repetitive. For those of you who've just joined in the last year or year and a half, it might be new information, so I hope you enjoy this. Here is Arline asking me anything.

0:03:16 Arline: David. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist podcast.

0:03:19 David Ames: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you.

0:03:21 Arline: Yes, I'm excited to get to interview you we've had a lot of people in the Deconversion anonymous Facebook group ask them questions, and listeners ask them questions. And so today we get to hear all about the host. David, this is great.

0:03:37 David Ames: Very cool. Yeah. You and I were talking earlier that I'm sometimes concerned that I repeat the same stories, but we have such a brand new set of people that for the die hard people sorry, you're going to hear the same thing again.

0:03:51 Arline: That's okay. We love it. It's good for us. One thing that I do want you to start with is, can you tell us a shortened version of your Deconversion story? And then we have tons of questions after that.

0:04:03 David Ames: Yeah, so the quick version is that my family is very much a soap opera, so it's hard to tell my story without talking about my mom. So I'll just lay down on the couch here and tell you lots of drug and alcohol abuse on and off. Again, being, you know, an adult and then not. And when I was about 17 years old and again, this is after years already of back and forth, she came to me and said, Jesus spoke to me, and it was life or death, you choose.

0:04:45 David Ames: And I'm going to try to choose life. And I was like, yeah, sure, whatever.

0:04:50 Arline: I understand.

0:04:51 David Ames: Again, I'd heard I'll be sober tomorrow stories a thousand times. The next day she was sober, and the day after that and the day after that. And she was great, right? Like, she handed me a Bible and said, if you care, if you want, take a look at this. And, you know, I was an inquisitive kid, so I did something that was very weird. I really, you know, our family was really kind of nominally Christian, so I really hadn't I'd been to a friend's churches here and there. I really didn't have any church exposure, so I read through the entire Bible on my own before I really went to church, right, to have the experience of church.

0:05:30 David Ames: So I fell in love with Jesus, man, this guy. I came for the sick and not the well. And you cleaned the outside of the cup, but the inside is filthy. It's like that stuff spoke to me, and I was just all in. And it's hard to overstate as well the apparent miracle of my mom getting clean and sober. She went for yet another round of impatience for a few weeks and came out but clean and sober. She got a job.

0:06:04 David Ames: Things really did change. Really did, in fact, change, but I really took this on for myself. That was definitely the impetus. But my reading of particularly the New Testament, I thought this Jesus person was amazing. Like, I loved everything about it. It it spoke to the modern hypocrisy of of Christianity in a way that I was already critical of. And so I was convinced by this concept of grace before I even really had the theological underpinnings to explain it.

0:06:43 David Ames: I'll try to speed up the story here. We were also in poverty. I had grandparents that saved me from the most dire consequences of poverty. But I had very little hopes. I was dropping out of high school, no particular prospects of what I was going to do with my life.

0:07:00 Arline: Oh, wow.

0:07:01 David Ames: Then we did get to church. Had a youth pastor. At that time, I was probably late 18, almost 19. They really didn't know what to do with me. They threw me in the youth group as a leader. That kind of moving people up to leadership way too fast. I was good at it. Youth pastor basically said, you could do this, you should go to Bible college. And I will definitely credit him for that's. What I needed to hear, I needed to have someone other than my family say, you could go to college, you could do something with your life.

0:07:36 David Ames: And in that, with hindsight, I now see it was just somebody believing in me. That was like the huge power of all this. And of course, I saw it in spiritual terms that God was the father of the Fatherless because my dad had passed away when I was very young, and I saw this as divine intervention and so on and so forth. Still, to speed up the story, it went through Bible college. I absolutely adored it.

0:08:04 David Ames: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. There was an element of infantilizing students who are 18, 1920 years old. But at the same time, I had incredibly good professors who were critical thinkers. They taught critical thinking, they taught real biblical research, and the technical term is exegesis and herbaneutics. And I ate it up, man. And then I learned the theology of grace, and I was off to the races.

0:08:35 David Ames: And it was like, what the church is missing is grace. They just don't understand this. And I literally felt like God called me to do this thing. Speeding up the story again. I did ministry for a while. I burnt out. I left on bad terms. I had a relationship with it was fully consenting. It had a relationship with a woman. That was frowned upon. As you can imagine, that did not end things. I went on to marry my college sweetheart, who I'm still married to and adore.

0:09:10 David Ames: She is also still a believer, which I'm sure we may get into, but 20 years really like 20 some odd years after that, I remained a Christian and taught Bible studies, but didn't jump into ministry ever again. I went off on my tech career, and that has done really well, and so on and so forth. Having children was a big deal. Trying to convey this to children was kind of putting the mirror in front of me of what like, what am I saying?

0:09:51 David Ames: And in particular, what's something that stands out is when they were old enough to be baptized and really they weren't old enough to be baptized, right? The expectation was they were old enough, but really it just hit me like they don't understand the decision this means, what this means. And I started to feel really uncomfortable with it. That's about the time that I really started to be deeply uncomfortable praying, especially out loud, and expectations in a Christian family to pray for your children and that kind of thing.

0:10:24 David Ames: And I just got more and more uncomfortable and did it less and less. And near the end I had like a year or so, a year and a half before the end. I did a read through the Bible for a year, which is probably my 4th, 5th time through something like that. I wasn't like an exceptionally good biblical reader, but I read through it several times and my wife pointed out to me that I was angry, I was expressing anger and I thought, why is that?

0:10:59 David Ames: And I think it was the first time that I was reading it without kind of a grace rose colored glasses filter. I was kind of reading it for what it says and the judgment and the capriciousness of God was leaping off the page for me at that point in time. And that was, I think, a major milestone for me as I started to I was always a kind of pop science nerd and again, grace focus. So I wouldn't necessarily have called myself a liberal Christian, but on the liberal side of evangelicalism of trying to be open minded for people.

0:11:44 David Ames: And in the very last stretch, I didn't know it at the time, but I was deconstructing without knowing what the term was. I was doing it alone without any outside input. I think what Christians often believe is that, oh, we read atheists and then we deconstruct. But I did all of this on my own. But it was a much more liberal interpretation of the Bible, really understanding. And the thing that I was hanging on to, the last pearl of great prides, to use the term, was the resurrection.

0:12:18 David Ames: For me, if the resurrection happened literally, as it states on the Ten, I was a Christian. And if that wasn't the case, it was super binary for me, then I am out in the bitter end. Like I was just hanging on to my sense of God's presence alone and nothing else. And I found myself being exposed to secular and atheist writers just by accident, right, just in the Twitter feed, you know, and just like not being afraid of it and oh, let me see what this says.

0:12:52 David Ames: And in particular a blog by Greta Christina about why are atheists so angry was probably a list of like 20 things. And I realized I agreed with all 20 of the things. There was like no notes, right? It was just like, she's right. And I think in that moment. And I love the way friend of the podcast been on the podcast. Matthew Taylor says this, I suddenly realized I no longer believed, but the suddenly refers to my awareness, not the process.

0:13:26 David Ames: So that process was those years in the making, but it was this sudden moment of, I don't believe this anymore. And immediately part of it was the idea of a soul. Like, I really viscerally got. I am my body and my body is me. My mind is a part of my body and there is no soul. And then immediately afterwards was, there is no resurrection, and I'm out. I tried to make it quick. That's the quick version.

0:13:57 David Ames: And we'll get into what happens next, I'm sure, in more questions.

0:14:02 Arline: I can empathize with the doing it alone. My husband had deconverted, but it just looked very different for both of us. And so when I was going through what at the time called deconstruction, I didn't know any of these terms either. It's so lonely.

0:14:18 David Ames: It is. Yeah, I know. This is going to air later. I do an episode with the guys from beyond Atheism, and we talk about the juxtaposition of deconstruction, deconversion versus conversion. When you convert, you do it as a part of a community. In my case, it was my mom, right? You do it with people. Deconstruction deconstruction tends to be really isolating and alone. And I thought that was a really insightful thing we kind of came together and described.

0:14:51 David Ames: And so I think that's super common.

0:14:53 Arline: Yeah, I look forward to listening to that episode. And yes, that's very true. Like I said, I had my husband, but in real life, I had nobody from real life.

0:15:02 David Ames: Yeah, he doesn't tell. Johnny's amazing, by the way, listeners.

0:15:08 Arline: He's fantastic. One day, we're going to get him on here.

0:15:11 David Ames: One day.

0:15:12 Arline: But I didn't know podcasts existed. I knew the Four Horsemen, I knew some authors, but that was about it. And so that's one reason. And multiple listeners have said this. Like, when they found your podcast, when they found the Graceful Atheist podcast, it became a staple. It was like, I get to hear other people's stories. I'm not alone, and yet getting to hear the similarities and the differences.

0:15:37 Arline: And now with the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group, we're finding community. We're finding community.

0:15:43 David Ames: Yeah, definitely.

0:15:52 Arline: The first thing I do want to ask you is how would you define graceful atheist? You as a graceful atheist, how would you define that?

0:16:00 David Ames: So again, I'll circle back to mom. My my real first kind of spiritual introduction was the Twelve Steps, going to therapy and a couple of different aspects, going to the inpatient thing that I mentioned. And what attracted to me there and what attracted me to Jesus in the New Testament was brutal honesty, brutal self honesty and honesty with each other. And there was something incredibly intimate in the AANA context when somebody would get up and say, Hi, I'm so and so, and I'm alcoholic, or I'm a drug addict, and go on to describe horrific things and have a group of people love them, embrace them, and care for them.

0:17:01 David Ames: So that's really what I think my concept of grace comes from is like kind of the worst possible circumstances, real, quote unquote sin, right? These people really hurt people and finding that acceptance. And then as I became a Christian, I then had this theological foundation to describe this in this vertical way that God loves people, theoretically unconditionally, of course there's more to the story there, but I realized that that's kind of what I had been looking for.

0:17:38 David Ames: I was not a terrible sinner. Like, I had slept with my girlfriend and things like that, but it wasn't sex, drugs, and rock and roll for me. And in fact, in many ways, I was rebelling against my family by being a pretty good kid, right? But I had this visceral sense of the concept of sin, this visceral sense of, yeah, I could do better, you know, I'm not perfect the honesty. That honesty was a part of it. So over the time of being a Christian, that it changed for me between God accepting me or God accepting the people and then actually witnessing it in other people watching person to person.

0:18:21 David Ames: That that acceptance. That love. And one way I try to describe this is the first time you tell, like, your best friend about your first crush, right, and they don't run away screaming. Or to use a more purity culture example, the first time you tell somebody that you masturbate and they don't run away screaming, right. They're exhibiting grace, or what I would call secular grace, right? And what I've come to learn and what I think is just true about humans is that we need acceptance and love wherever we're at, right?

0:19:07 David Ames: We may have made mistakes, we may have actually hurt people, and yet we still need people to love us and accept us. And so there's some extreme examples like that, but then the regular average person hasn't gone around with a trail of tears behind them. They also need to experience love and acceptance. And for our LGBTQ friends who have been isolated from society in one way or another or felt different than they need love and acceptance, right? And so it just drove home for me over time how much we need this as human beings. And so what I'm trying to express is that there need not be a spiritual or.

0:19:52 David Ames: And here, I mean, like nonnatural I struggle for words, non transcendent aspect to grace. It can just be people loving people.

0:20:02 Arline: I love that. Yes, I am thankful for the atmosphere of this podcast because the Deconversion Anonymous group, like, the audience that we have attracted, want to be those kinds of people, people loving people, and compassion and empathy and grace. What are some things that you have learned through doing the podcast, or how have you changed over the years having done this?

0:20:34 David Ames: I want to tackle the first part of that question first. The number one thing that leaps out to me when I think about what did I learn, is that I had it super easy for a couple of reasons. One, I came to this, as I mentioned, in my late teens, and I was mostly an adult already. I had a sense of identity. I did. I grew up in a nominally Christian house. We talked about God, we talked about Jesus, but there was no pressure at all.

0:21:02 David Ames: There was no purity culture. None of that existed. Right. I had sex before I became a Christian. I knew what that was like. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I felt like that was a part of the grace that the church was missing, was, hey, human beings like sex. That's a thing. So the number one thing that I learned, and just one other aspect that I think was true for me, is there were lots of emotional elements, but it was ultimately a relatively intellectual process for me of like, this cannot be true, and this cannot be true, and this cannot be true, and what else might not be true?

0:21:44 David Ames: And it really was kind of an intellectual exercise over time. It took a long time, but, like, at the end of it all, it was it was breaking down my own cognitive dissonance, my own non critical acceptance of what the church had fed me. Right? So the thing that I've learned is that that is not the case for many, many people. I I think our our main target audience is millennials who grew up during the 90s with I've kissed, dating to goodbye.

0:22:19 David Ames: Purity culture has done an anomaly on these people, hurt them deeply. Whether they're LGBTQ, whether they're CIS, het, it doesn't matter. Like, they were deeply, deeply affected by purity culture. And then on top of that, I never had the hell drilled into me again. Coming to Christianity as an adult and being grace focused, I always thought that hell was not the focus of Jesus's teaching, and that was overemphasized. So I was trying to be a corrective.

0:22:56 David Ames: So again, I never had the sense of existential dreads that our target audience has. So thing I've learned, man, Christianity can be much more damaging, and I would want to expand this to traditional religious teaching. On the fundamental side, I want to be expansive here. Not just christianity can be deeply, deeply damaging to human beings. And that is the biggest thing that I've learned. How have I changed?

0:23:34 David Ames: I think you helped me arlene to be more open. I don't know if we have time to get into it, but, like, when I started the podcast, it was because I saw the atheist environment, particularly the kind of YouTube environment, was very reactionary. Literally half of the YouTube channels were response channels to something some apologists said, and I just felt like, that's fine, and I wanted that for like, a week, but then I was done with it, and I thought, what is next?

0:24:08 David Ames: What's the next thing? That's why I started it. But I still was relatively narrow and that I was still focused on very secular. I struggle for a better word than atheist, but non believer, non theist, non supernaturalist. Right. And I think some of the people you've brought in to have the interviewed, some of the people you have interviewed has helped me to kind of expand, hey, we want to be open, an open space for people questioning in the middle of the process.

0:24:42 David Ames: And the only way to do that is to actually do what I'm saying, really be graceful and love people where they're currently at, which is going to include things that I don't necessarily agree with. Right. And and so I think that has changed me of just loving people spiritually is where they are spiritually, where they are in the deconstruction process and not having to try to define hard barriers for that.

0:25:11 Arline: Some of that was taught to us as Christians.

0:25:14 David Ames: Yeah.

0:25:14 Arline: There are certain goals that people should reach, and so we should help them reach that goal rather than just letting them be wherever it is that they are.

0:25:21 David Ames: Yeah.

0:25:30 Arline: Speaking of a past guest who you interviewed, and she and I met through Instagram, who was in a similar place, in a place of still maybe kind of believing, not really sure, was Marla Taviano, and her question jumped out at me. So I'll jump here. How do you say, Stay so damn graceful?

0:25:52 David Ames: That's exactly how she wrote it.

0:25:55 Arline: And yes, how do you do it?

0:25:57 David Ames: How do you do it, David?

0:25:59 Arline: How did she say become the annoyed atheist or the bitter atheist?

0:26:02 David Ames: Yeah. So one of the things I want to just step back for a second and put context here. One of the things I didn't like about Christian thought leaders, let's call them, but authors, speakers, what have you, is that they would often be very judgmental without the honesty that would be required to make that actually powerful or useful. And so I want to make it clear here that I actually think I'm a fairly judgmental person.

0:26:35 David Ames: I have pretty strong opinions, right. And I'm holding those back 95% of the time. And the part of the podcast is you're hearing restraint from me. Right. I'm not doing the response video the way that I saw my peers do. I'm choosing Volitionally not to do that. And it's a close thing. And if you follow me on Twitter, which I know is dying every once in a while, man, I'll get sucked in and I have to respond to an apologist. It just drives me crazy.

0:27:16 David Ames: So the first thing is the honesty to say that I don't think I'm a graceful person, the graceful atheist moniker is Aspirational. That's why I literally start every episode by saying I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I do not think I am good at this at all. It is hard to have your arms wide open and accept lots of people from different diverse backgrounds. That's a difficult thing to do. And I never, ever want to suggest that I am doing that well.

0:27:49 David Ames: So there can always be we can do this better. It's kind of my constant mantra, I can do this better. And then further honesty is to say, I do get angry, right? Like, I get angry at the Christian thought leaders of today. I get angry at the Christian nationalism, at the politics. I am angry. I don't think that putting more anger out into the world will be helpful. So let me give you a dumb example.

0:28:22 David Ames: Like I see constantly, especially on Twitter, but elsewhere as well, a conservative Christian says some stupid thing and then a bunch of people in my timeline retweet that and have some comment about it. And it's like if we have learned nothing from 2016 to 2020, it's that you cannot feed the trolls or the trolls win. And so, again, it's restraint. It's not that I don't have passionate feelings about these things.

0:28:55 David Ames: It's that I think my end goal of a more pluralistic, more secular, and I mean secular here in the freedom of religion and freedom from religion, not more atheists necessarily, is to not put more hate into the cycle, right into the feedback loop. And I hope that answers Marla's question. But I just fall back on I'm trying and I'm trying to do that every day.

0:29:31 Arline: I'm going to tuck that away. Don't feed the trolls or the trolls win. Because yes, tuck that away inside my mind because I do get pulled into the retweeting and the memes because it is so angry. Why do you think the podcast is so successful? Like, what do people love about it?

0:29:58 David Ames: Yeah, it's hard to separate my own cognitive biases here. So, again, if I take you back to ID converts, I'm looking around online, trying to find a place for me and not finding it. On the one hand, there's kind of a hyper rationality. It's all about debate, it's all about aggressive. Even the good guys. I follow a number of philosopher people who do a bit of counter apologetics and they do it well, right? They do it with kindness.

0:30:36 David Ames: But even them, right, it's still pure rationality. It doesn't acknowledge the human being. Right? And I was feeling all this emotional response. And one other thing I'll say is it was all men, too. It was just men, right? And I thought, there has got to be other people out there who this is hitting the whole person and they want to express that in some way. And I also was cognizant of not like the flip side of this, the other side of the equation is there are 1001 three X pastors and a beer podcast.

0:31:21 David Ames: So the flip side of the hard atheist is the really open minded progressive Christian, right? And I knew that wasn't what I wanted to say either. I think, and I may lose people here, that Christianity is not redeemable. I think we should take things from it and learn from that. I think grace is one of those things, but I think history has taught us that every attempt to redo Christianity, to go back to the basics.

0:31:57 David Ames: Again, I hate to lose people here, but reconstruct Christianity in some way is doomed to failure. So those are kind of the polls and I was trying to hit the middle of people who are asking legitimate questions, but also are experiencing this range of emotions as a human being does. And again, one of the things I learned is that there's real trauma, literal trauma that people are experiencing. And I didn't know that at the time when I was starting and providing a place for that.

0:32:29 David Ames: So I went in with my own cognitive bias that there must be at least some people like me out there. And I did so with the podcast knowing that I could double quadruple the audience by being an asshole, being the hard atheist, doing the response stuff, and I chose not to. Again, restraint, as much restraint as I could have, right? And it has been slow but steady growth and I could not be more grateful for that.

0:33:01 David Ames: Right. I did not need the overnight success. I feel like now we're reaping the benefits of doing it the right way. And I hope that, again, maybe my cognitive bias, but I hope that that's what people are responding to, that the core message is if you find that you can no longer believe, there is still hope, there's still awe, there's still wonder, there is still community, there's still grace. And that's the core message of the podcast.

0:33:33 Arline: Yeah, I think you're right. Those are themes that I see when I talk to different people about listening to the podcast. Those are things that I've heard. Speaking of community, how do you find community? Who do you have in your real life or online life?

0:33:50 David Ames: Yeah, this is a tough one. My best friend lives in the area, so we see each other on a pretty regular basis, so I don't feel like I'm hurting. He's a believer, but we are real honest with each other. I would say that he's in a place where I was five years before my vegan. Whether he will or not, who knows? I've also built some friendships. I'm not going to name drop here, but a couple of people we meet almost once a month and they are kind of a, for lack of a better term, spiritual outlet for me where I don't filter myself.

0:34:36 David Ames: I can just say what I'm feeling and I don't have to edit it. And make it sound pretty or graceful and I really appreciate them. I don't want to call it an accountability group, but it's kind of an accountability group. It's not, but you know what I mean, I get that from those people. And then the other thing, and I think this will be an answer to another question I'm anticipating you asking is that I'm an introverts and that might surprise people, but I build very strong, few very strong relationships and I feel pretty satisfied.

0:35:18 David Ames: I know 2020 was brutal on people and the lockdowns and things, but I thrive. My wife's very similar, we are homebodies, we literally enjoy each other's company and at times to be on our own and we provide a tremendous amount of what we need in other human beings for each other. And so it's kind of a boring answer, but I am not hurting for friendships and I have work colleagues online as well and I meet with a handful of people on a relative regular basis as well.

0:36:00 David Ames: I do want at some point in time to have some in person real world in the same room, breathing the same air experiences. Whether or not I've had time for that in reality is a question, and again, that may be a question that comes up here in a second.

0:36:14 Arline: Yeah, that was one of the questions is you are largely absent from the Deconversion Anonymous group and people were curious why you're not able to be part of it more.

0:36:25 David Ames: Yeah, that is a super honest question and I'm really glad that that got asked. So again, Arline, I'm so grateful that you are here that you've taken on the community management. The reality is that when I started the podcast, first of all, we started every other week. I was doing the editing, the interviews, I was doing all of it and I knew that there just wasn't much more that I could do. Mike came on and made a huge impact. So we went to once a week, he's doing all the editing and we could not do once a week without Mike.

0:37:09 David Ames: I had seen online communities explode just like overnight sensations and then implode and self destruct probably three or four times in the time of being kind of online after deconversion for me. And I did not want to repeat that. I knew that I didn't have the time to start a community and shepherd that for lack of a better term, but like be a leader there. And so I didn't, we didn't for a long time. We started the podcast in 2019 and particularly over the pandemic and the lockdown, I could viscerally feel the need for it and I put out the call like, is anybody interested?

0:38:01 David Ames: And you responded. And again, I'm incredibly grateful. And the point I want to make is that for listeners who are part of the Deconversion Anonymous community, it would not exist if not for Arline. Because I have two things that are competing for my time that is a very robust work demand and family with a partner who is a believer and does not understand what I'm trying to do here. So I have a very limited window of time to do the things that I do, and I try to make what I do in that limited time as high impact as I can.

0:38:39 David Ames: And so that is doing the interviews and trying to provide some high level leadership. And that's about all I can do.

0:38:48 Arline: And I am thankful for that because I can do the group stuff.

0:38:54 David Ames: And I've heard fantastic feedback, by the way. You are a National Treasurer.

0:39:01 Arline: Yes. And I've said this I know I said this whenever I was interviewed and said, again, the atmosphere of the podcast has brought in such wonderful people into the group.

0:39:12 David Ames: Yeah. Let's take a quick second to thank the moderators. So there's a team of people that are moderators and they take that very seriously to try to protect the atmosphere and the environment for people. So thank you to everyone who participates in that way. The last thing I just want to say to wrap this up is that I'll refer back to I'm also an introvert. I'm a part of I don't know how many deconstruction deconstruction Facebook groups. And I think I can count on one hand the number of times I posted.

0:39:51 David Ames: It just isn't my personality. Right? Yeah, I can do this. I do one on one really well. I am terrible in a group. If we ever do a big get together party, I will be the guy in the corner by myself. That is just my personality. I know that about myself and I'm fine with it.

0:40:14 Arline: No, that's good. In the church, extroverted personalities and evangelism and get out and do all the things. Those are very much valued. I read the book, I was still a Christian. Read the book Quiet by Susan Cain.

0:40:27 David Ames: Very good.

0:40:28 Arline: And I was like, I am valuable because yes, similarly, Donnie and I would stay home and be happy. The pandemic, we were like, sweet. We just will work out at home now. Our whole family was perfectly content being at home. And I do love the small groups that we have during the week for the deconversion group. But that fills me up and then I'm good. I don't want to socialize in real life.

0:40:52 David Ames: Yes.

0:40:53 Arline: You told us earlier about some of the things that make you angry. You were very honest about that. What are some things that give you hope?

0:41:01 David Ames: So I'm tempted to grab the Joss Whedon quote, and I know he's kind of not super popular these days, but it expresses what I want to say. I'm actually going to look at my concussion. Joss Whedon said, the enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate. It is fear. It is ignorance. It is the darker part of ban that is in every humanness, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight.

0:41:25 David Ames: Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity this is the point I'm quoting. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are true believers. I believe in people, and I know that sounds insane. We're recording this on the day of the election. We don't know what the outcome is going to be.

0:41:55 David Ames: It looks grim. I know it looks bad. But I believe in people coming together and connecting with each other and being honest with each other and yes, showing grace with each other. That that is something powerful. And again, I want to be super clear here. I don't mean in some supernatural sense. I mean in a literal physical sense. It is powerful. It changes people's lives. It makes an impact on society.

0:42:26 David Ames: I think that if we can get beyond the just christianity is bad and actually start to collectively come together and see ourselves as even a political voice, as a civic voice, as a good actor in society, as a group, that that will have a positive impact on the world. And I'm sorry if that sounds sappy sweet, but I honestly believe that that honestly gives me hope. And again, we witness it in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group.

0:43:04 David Ames: I'm amazed on a weekly basis. I may not post there, but I'd read a fair amount of it. Someone comes in and says, man, I'm having trouble. I got to talk to my mom, I got to talk to my partner, I got to talk to my son. And 20 people come along and go, wow, I had to do the same thing. This is what I learned and I it that gives me hope, right? Like that is super, super powerful.

0:43:40 Arline: One thing that has come up often in the group are unequally yoked marriages. People who have deconverted their spouse is still a Christian or religious in some way. We have some who in the group who are Christians and their spouses deconverted and they're trying to figure out what is happening. What advice do you have? You and your wife are making it work. What advice do you have, if any, for people living in that?

0:44:10 David Ames: Yeah, I definitely want to refer back to I think last year my conversation with Michelle that we recorded or two years ago. I can't remember now what it was, but I first have to say this would not have worked if we both were committed to the relationship. And I know there are times when maybe the relationship won't work and if only one partner is committed and the other isn't, it might be terribly sad, but it may also be necessary for that relationship to end. So I want to preface it with here that I don't want to burden anyone here with more guilt.

0:44:56 David Ames: Having said that, another reason for the podcast was I saw lots of deconverts go out in blaze of gory and burn the bridge on the way out and f you to everyone around them that was still a believer. And I thought, that can't be right either. And I love my wife and I want this to continue. The core advice is this find the mutual values. And that can be challenging when one partner is a believer and one partner is not.

0:45:32 David Ames: But in our case, we have a lot of values. What drew us together, our impetus toward ministry, was about caring about people, right? We shared that. And so when I could put it in secular and again here, I mean, just nonreligious terms, right? Not atheistic, but nonreligious terms. We share these values and how that doesn't change. I think that's step one and then step two is making it abundantly clear to the other partner that you love that person for who they are, including if they are believers for the rest of their lives.

0:46:15 David Ames: The truth is that we as the deconvert may need to be the bigger person. That sounds arrogant, but but there's some truth to that in my How To deconvert in Ten Easy Steps, which is a joke title, which I wish I wouldn't have done, but here we are. Is you have to realize that all that process that we talked about, that took years, and then the realization is sudden. Your partner has done none of that.

0:46:43 David Ames: They have none of that context. They've read none of the books, they've listened to none of the podcasts. And when you come to that person, it's going to hit them like a ton of bricks from out of left field with no context. And that is a brutal thing to do. So you have to be the graceful person in that scenario because you have all the information and they don't. Beyond that, again, I'll refer back to my wife.

0:47:13 David Ames: She has a psychology degree. She brilliantly brought up this idea of in a long term monogamous relationship. And I know there are people out there exploring other options, but if that's you, if you want to be in a long term monogamous relationship, people grow and they grow in different ways and they can grow apart. And you have to kind of reevaluate, do we want to remain a monogamous partnership?

0:47:40 David Ames: And if you do, then you have to accept that person where they're at. Michelle had this idea of a second marriage to the same person, right? Like recognizing, yes, you changed and maybe she changed too. But we were agreeing volitionally, we love each other, we want to remain partnered. I'm big on volition. Right. I think marriage in general or partnerships in general are about will and not warm fuzzies necessarily.

0:48:13 David Ames: And it was just a restatement to one another. We're committed to each other and really trying to listen, really trying to hear where the other person was coming from. It may surprise you that I never correct or try to counter apologetics Michelle, ever. I never do that. There are times when I will carefully bring up a subject and it's clear that it's not going to go, it's not going to fly. So I don't I stop because I respect the boundaries she's telling me she has.

0:48:52 David Ames: Right. And that is hard, man. That's hard. Not everybody is going to be able to do that. These are restraints I've put on myself. Again, by volition, by choice, you out there may not be willing to do that. And that's okay. That's fine. Bottom line is it takes two to tango. You need both partners to be committed and you can't fix that for someone else.

0:49:20 Arline: I saw a meme that said the only time you can change somebody is when they're in diapers.

0:49:25 David Ames: Yes. For real. With teenagers. I agree. Yes.

0:49:33 Arline: Someone did ask. Speaking of teenagers, someone did ask, how have you guys, you and Michelle navigated parenting being in different faith or beliefs?

0:49:43 David Ames: Yeah. Again, both about the marriage partnership and about parenting. I don't want to make this sound like this has been smooth sailing. Again, we have tensions flare up and when we have an argument, 25% of the time, I think it's related to we, we are we have different world views, we come from different perspectives and there's this underlying tension that just never goes away equally with our kids.

0:50:12 David Ames: Again, fortunately, unfortunately, depending on your perspective, they were into their early teens when I deconverted. They had that exposure, a graceful exposure, but they had that exposure to Christianity prior to that. Both of them are definitely not traditional Christians. I don't like to speak for them, but more, very much more on the agnostic side of things than anything, that's tension in the family, that hurts Michelle and I know it.

0:50:42 David Ames: And I've tried to spin the plates of making sure my kids feel free and unburdened by purity culture and are free to make their own choices about spirituality and at the same time to try to any of you who have teenagers, you know, it is them against the parents. And so I have to back up Michelle too. There are times there are times where I put a boundary not quite where I would have and vice versa. I push at times to move that boundary and it is a give and take and it's tension and it hurts.

0:51:16 David Ames: And I wish I had a silver bullet and I don't. And again, for me, it's all about making sure that my kids know I love them and accept them. And no matter if they wanted to be hardcore evangelical Christians, I would love them and accept them for that. If they are agnostic, I love them and accept them for that. And I try to communicate the same thing to Michelle.

0:51:45 Arline: Something I meant to ask earlier when you were talking about the podcast, where do you want the podcast to go? What do you see for the future of the podcast and the deconversion group?

0:51:54 David Ames: Do you have places or how you.

0:51:56 Arline: Want that to go?

0:51:57 David Ames: Yeah, let's do the group first. Again, I'm really interested in now that it seems as though the pandemic is winding down. There doesn't seem as much personal health threat out there. I'm sure there are some of you who have family members who might be ill and that's not true for you, and I acknowledge that and I think that's true. But eventually maybe we want to meet together. And again, I don't know that I'm going to be the best person for that, both from a time point of view and a personality point of view.

0:52:27 David Ames: So I'd be interested to hear people who are interested in making this happen. I know that some North Carolina people and you in the south, there like a few other places have met one another in real life, and I think that's super valuable. So I'd love to see us try to build the infrastructure such that people can do that organically and then maybe also do something a little more structured once in a great while.

0:52:55 David Ames: I'd like to see more people step up, and that's happening just today even. I think there's more push towards an unequally Yoked group thing happening, like for people who are willing to lead, you know, a get together to step up. I know how much this sounds like the small group thing in church, and that's because it is. We're human beings. That's just the way we work. And I'm sorry, but we need people who are willing to just be there, be present, say, I'm going to be here at Wednesday at 07:00 every week, right? Like that's, that's all it takes.

0:53:29 David Ames: And then people will follow, you know, so more more niche needs in the group. So secular parenting, we've already talked about unequally yoked. We've talked about you're doing the sex and sexuality. I think that's an amazing thing. Maybe we need an LGBTQ, maybe we need a black corner, a Hispanic corner, whatever the people need, let's do that and provide that space for people. So as for the podcast, I feel like we go through waves and I'll talk about I'm going to go back to the beginning again.

0:54:10 David Ames: The other thing I noticed about my peers is they would go after all the famous people, of which there is really a very small number of secular people out there, and they'd get four or five of them and they would peer out. And I knew from day one. First of all, again, my personality, I'm not going to go ask all those people, like day in and day out to let me interview them. And I also was interested in real life stories.

0:54:36 David Ames: What is this actually like? I don't want to hear, like, even I at this point, what you hear here is pretty packaged. Like, I've told this story a bunch of times. I know the points I need to hit, that kind of thing. I want to hear regular people, what are they going through? And I've been honest with you. I wanted that to be open to women in particular as well, and not just be a male dominated thing, not just be a white dominated thing.

0:55:02 David Ames: We've tried really hard to accomplish that. I'll let listeners and community members be the judge of it. So I knew I wanted to do just people telling their stories. And here's the beautiful thing. And you and I talked about this, how intimate it is to just be the receiver of someone's story. And I could feel the magic of it right while I was interviewing somebody. This is it. This is the thing that people will want to hear.

0:55:34 David Ames: And again, maybe my cognitive bias, but I believe that sincerely, that that was the thing that was not out there or rarely out there. Yeah. And then I have interviewed I've interviewed authors, some people that I adore. Jennifer Michael, hex jumps to mind. Alice gretchen recently. Tom Cristofiak I love that book. I really like author. We just had Heather Wells, just someone who takes the time to really lay out that story in detail and has much better eloquence than I do to put that down on paper. So I really enjoy that.

0:56:12 David Ames: So we have an opportunity to be and I'm not going to name drop yet because I don't know if it's going to happen. Part of a podcast network that is atheist focused but very humanist in its approach. Basically what we're doing here, and I'm fairly certain that's what we're going to do and we're going to cut this part if we don't. And that would open up the door to a few more famous people, right? So a few more authors, a few more speakers.

0:56:49 David Ames: So I want to lace that in. I do not want to lose the heart of what we're doing, which is the people. And so my promise to you is that will always be the core. That's going to be the core. But if you have a few more podcasters, a few more authors, a few more speakers, that's what's happening. And we're also getting noticed. So even apart from the network thing, I'm starting to get people reaching out to us back to the it's starting to pay dividends, doing it the right way from the beginning and not just taking the easy, quick way.

0:57:25 David Ames: I'm getting solicitations from slightly more, wellknown, people and things like that. So I think you're going to see a bit more of that on the podcast. And again, I want to keep our feet on the ground and it's still going to be about people. The core driving thing for me is about honesty and vulnerability. I think you get those two things, and you have an amazing conversation, and that's what people relate to, and so I'm not going to lose sight of that.

0:57:55 Arline: And that's exciting. That sounds exciting. The last couple of questions, some of your favorites. Do you have any favorite interviews that you've done, favorite blog posts that we can link in the show notes?

0:58:16 David Ames: Sure. Some of my original stuff was before the podcast. It was me just figuring this stuff out. If you read it, you hear me trying to work out what this has become. Right. I already mentioned how to deconvert into any steps. Again, I hate that title, but it has a bunch of Google SEO. I can't leave it. Yeah, trust me, this is not just an intellectual exercise. I was trying to get to what does it feel like to deconvert?

0:58:47 David Ames: What does it feel like? And I feel like I hope that I captured some of that. I've gotten some positive feedback from it. So I would say that my early doc on secular grace and humanism. So those two different blog posts are really kind of my pouring out my soul. I did my deconversion, but it was a bit intellectual. I've had feedback on that, that it was more counter apologetic than most people care about.

0:59:22 David Ames: But if you're into that thing, you'll enjoy that if you're into that counter apologetic things. I also have a set of what I call thought experiments for believers where it kind of addresses some underlying apologetic without just to let the reader come to their own conclusion. Right. I'm not trying to tell them what the answer is. Just like, what do you feel the answer is when you get to ask this question? So I love all of those blog posts for interviews. I've already mentioned Jennifer Michael hecht her book.

0:59:56 David Ames: And let's do recommendations, too, if you don't mind, here.

0:59:59 Arline: Yes, go for it.

1:00:00 David Ames: So her book, Doubt a History, one of the early books I read, actually not the earliest. So, again, I read all the people that atheists read. I read The Four Horsemen. I read a few humanists early on, and it was all very cold and philosophical, and I still was looking for if I was going to describe secular grace. It's humanism with boots on the ground, blood, sweat, and tears, loving people. Right.

1:00:28 David Ames: That's what was missing. And what I found in Jennifer's book was, yes, it was intellectual, but it connected me to history. Deconstruction is not new. Atheism is not new. These questions, I mean, the exact questions now, I'm not talking about just generalities here, but the exact questions you are likely to have gone through. There is a trail of historical references of people going through the same thing, feeling just as isolated, feeling just as societally, left out and apart from the mainstream.

1:01:09 David Ames: And her book connected me to that. It also was humbling. I say this every time I talk about the book, not only are my ideas not original for today, they are not original for 2500 years ago. This is not new. And there's something profoundly comforting about that for me. I love her spirit. She also comes from a secular Jewish perspective, which I adore. Christians who say that humanism is stealing from Christianity. I want to just laugh in their faces.

1:01:45 David Ames: It is all secular Judaism. Like, we owe everything to secular Judaism. That's best. So a follow along to that is Sasha Sagan, that interview with her in it. First of all, I think Carl Sagan is one. You know, I often say I'm a Sagan like atheist, not a Dawkins like atheist. And what I mean is there is still wonder and awe and joy and connection and people. I love people. And I feel like Carl captured that and Dawkins doesn't.

1:02:21 David Ames: Well, man his wife Annie and his daughter Sasa Sagan have extended that legacy, and I love everything they do. Her book, Small Creatures Such as we, captures the need for us as human beings to have ritual again. There need not be a spiritual, non physical, non natural element to the need to connect with each other and mark time, mark birthdays, mark weddings, mark mark deaths, and collectively grieve and celebrate.

1:03:01 David Ames: Right? So in that conversation with Sasha, we talked about, man, how can we capture this and put it in a bottle and give it away? If I could give away to you the feeling that I have the satisfaction and I'm not a nihilist at all, right? 95% of what they accuse atheists of, I feel like that just doesn't apply to me. Right. I have more than what I felt as a Christian because I feel freer. Right? And if I could give away this project is trying to give that away.

1:03:41 David Ames: And I feel like people like Sasha have that. Alice Gretchen, I think I already mentioned she wrote the book, wayward I'll mention it's, in the same tone. Heather Wells, who was just on both of them are memoirs. I think there's a deep place for that. You mentioned Marla taliano hers'book of poetry. The three of them speak in a way that I could never right. That's not my experience. They are expressing an experience that's deeply important in a way that I don't have access to.

1:04:17 David Ames: And so I love those three. Amy rath came on. She has a podcast about nuns. N-O-N-E-S. Love her work. I think she's on to something deep and meaningful and important there. Just in the recent past, ryan Mukowski, Robert Peoples gosh, there's so much. I feel like I leave people out by trying to acknowledge these people. But you can hear in my voice when I'm super excited, right. And it tends to be humanist, skepticism, loving people, right? That combination, some combination of that is going to fire me up and I'm going to be excited.

1:04:58 David Ames: Can I give you more recommendations? I don't know you have more questions. Okay. More recommendations really quick, because this question was asked of me. I think it was via you. And I was unprepared. I came prepared today. All right?

1:05:13 Arline: That's right.

1:05:13 David Ames: Yeah. Often people ask me, what podcasts do you listen to? And the truth is, I don't really listen to the conversion deconstruction podcasts. And the reason is, like, I know that people will age out, for lack of a better term, of the graceful atheist, right? People come to us at a time of need, either during the process or they need a booster shot, so to speak, after deconversion, and they need to feel like I'm not alone.

1:05:46 David Ames: And they probably get satisfied right. Within, let's say, a year or so, right? Like, okay, I have enough. I can move on. And they will age out. And that is a good thing, not a bad thing. I feel like that for me, too, just in the same way that I was just 15 minutes of rationalist atheist and I was done in the deconversion space. Like, you know, I've listened to the podcast. Of course. I still do. I do a ton of research, right? Like, just for the podcast, I do a ton of research.

1:06:15 David Ames: So I still am listening to it. But for myself, that's not what I listen to. So a couple of recommendations. One is. Sabina hasenfelder. Dr. Sabina hasenfelder. She is a science communicator, and she is a skeptics skeptic. I love this person. She has both a YouTube channel, she's written the book Lost in Math. Where she is critical of the Tlcr is the concept of the beauty of mathematics and physics.

1:06:51 David Ames: And she says that led us astray. We're too focused on this aesthetic value and not looking at the data. She is critical of the foundations of quantum field theory, which, as you know, can spill out into things like the multiverse concepts and things like that. She is a skeptics skeptic. I love her. Even if I disagree with her, I respect her beyond anything else. For that reason, she's willing to just stand.

1:07:25 David Ames: And I want to be really super clear here. There is a movement, the wrong word, an intellectual trajectory sometimes called the heterodox sphere. And that's actually my next recommendation I'll talk about in a second that I don't agree with. Okay? So this is the people who are heterodox just for the sake of being heterodox. These are the people who were pushing ivoryctum during the antivaccine, during the pandemic, which I think was it makes me angry.

1:08:07 David Ames: Misinformation, disinformation, makes me angry. That was to build a podcast audience, and it pisses me off. So I do not mean heterodox. I mean willing to stand for the truth based on the data we have, right? And stand in the unknown. We don't know. The other message of this podcast is that the Christian apologetics will say, you have to have this answer. You have to have an answer. And it's okay to just not know.

1:08:37 David Ames: And I would much rather not know something than to speculate and get entrenched into my speculative answer. And that is the description of all of apologetics, but also sometimes philosophy and sometimes even science in some science, anyway. Sabina the second one is a podcast similar in that it is of skepticism. It is decoding the gurus. Two guys, Chris Kavanaugh and Matt Brown, they are both academics, but they are looking at all the famous people that I have avoided talking about so far, people like Sam Harris and Brett and Eric Weinstein.

1:09:22 David Ames: And that heterodoxphere. They are looking at it from an academic point of view, and they are looking at how it feels. Whenever you use the term cult, it gets negative immediately. But how they are abusing their personality, their charismatic personalities for monetary gain. And so it is critical of the critics, right? And so I think it's a super valuable perspective. Another YouTube channel that I really like, that I just found literally within the last month is Matt Baker's Useful Charts.

1:10:01 David Ames: Matt is a theistic Jew. He came, from, what he calls his words a cult. The British Judaism. I don't probably not even calling it right. Anyway, long story short, he's a history buff. He is a religious studies. That's his actual degree, his education, and his business is building, drawing out these charts. So he does things like monarchic lines, successions and so forth. But he has applied that to his religious studies knowledge.

1:10:45 David Ames: And so he has a ton of really well documented, really well resourced researched biblical history from a critical point of view. So he'll be like, here's the Bible's timeline and here's the archeological timeline. It's super valuable, right? Like, was Moses a real person? He tackles that with real honesty, right? And he separates mythology, legends, and history. And there's a bright line there. And I've learned things from him, I think.

1:11:20 David Ames: Man where were you 20 years ago? So I love that one from that podcast is of the book by Neil Silberman, the Bible unearthed similar. This is actually I'm way late to the game here. This has been out for a while. I believe he's at least Israeli, if not Jewish. But again, looking at the actual archeological evidence, is there evidence of 700,000 to 202 million people going through this tiny little space in the Middle East? And spoiler alert, no, there is not.

1:11:56 David Ames: And it's just an honest look at what does the data actually say, right? And I'm just beginning that book, but I think it's great so far. Again, I'm late to the party. Christian Demez is Jesus and John Wayne. One thing I learned what did I learn? I learned that I have been super privileged and ignorant and I have had the privilege of nivete. Right. I was a white ish male in an evangelical patriarchal environment.

1:12:36 David Ames: And similar to Jennifer Michael Heck's book about deconstruction is Not New the Christian Nationalist Patriarchal Elements of the Christian Right and Is Not New And something I would talk about from the Watched it Happen from the 80s, but she's taking it all the way back before the 50s even and just tracing the line of we should not have been surprised by Trump. So the fact that I was surprised is a revelation of my own naivete and privilege. Right.

1:13:19 David Ames: I highly recommend that book. I know you have as well. In my interview of you we talked about Tyler Merit. The name of it is I take my coffee black. He references the school I went to. He is definitely a Christian. But the experience of being a Black Man in 2020. And not only that, a Christian Black Man and his Christian friends and family not understanding, not getting it. And the pain that he'll just what he's so good at is the visceral experience of being a Black Man in America during that time period. And prior to that, too. So I highly recommend his book.

1:14:10 David Ames: Just to rattle off more podcasts that I listen to. You don't have to. Ezra Klein on politics I think is amazing. Yes. Sean Carroll on all things science, particularly physics, particularly cosmology, but also the philosophical background. He kind of blends those two. His his is called Mindscape 538 on politics, political Gabfest on politics. You're seeing sensing a theme here, very bad wizards, philosophy and psychology kind of related to the gurus, but without that critical aspect.

1:14:48 David Ames: So those are the kinds of things that I listen to. And then last recommendation is I wouldn't have known these guys but my teenagers. But Lincoln Rhett are the famous guys from what is it? Mythical Morning. Mythical morning. Yeah. Now. Ear biscuits. They were youth for Christ. Minister they did all kinds of stuff. They didn't talk about that through Mythical Morning. They deconverted and they came out publicly.

1:15:19 David Ames: And the series of podcasts in ear biscuits, both on YouTube and on their podcasts are just amazing. Very, very good. They did like a year after retrospective. All of that is fantastic. Go listen to it. It is great.

1:15:37 Arline: Yes. And Good Mythical Morning is just hilarious and funny and it's just think of a family friend, their kid was like, can we watch Good Mythical, Mythical Morning? Like eating the hot cheetos stuff. I mean, just the most bizarre, random stuff and it was so much fun. And then somehow I found out that they had deconverted and listened their story and so similar to so many people's stories that we've heard.

1:15:59 David Ames: Totally. Yeah.

1:16:01 Arline: Any more recommendations?

1:16:03 David Ames: I'm done. I'm finally done. That was wonderful.

1:16:06 Arline: I wrote a lot down podcast, although I do not need to keep adding to my podcast.

1:16:11 David Ames: Yeah, I hear you. And I'll definitely send you these names. I had to write it down. I would not have remembered.

1:16:18 Arline: Is there anything I did not ask that you wanted to talk about?

1:16:22 David Ames: I talked briefly about kind of having this packaged, trying to have the elevator pitch. So I want to wrap with secular grace is I sometimes talk about this ABCs of a secular, quote unquote, spirituality that's all belonging in connection. So again, I appreciate that this is a little too three points in a sermon kind of thing, but to try to simplify it for people. Again, thing I learned is how much cultural context feeds into our interpretation of the experience of awe.

1:17:05 David Ames: We know that you can use high powered magnet over a person's brain and they will experience God. And if you're in the west, you're going to see Jesus, right? And if you're in Asia, you're going to see the Buddha maybe, or Shiva or Vishnu or what have you, right? And if you're in the Mideast, you might see Allah, right? Your cultural context gives you the interpretation of what awe means to you. And what I'm trying to say is awe is a human experience and we should embrace it.

1:17:39 David Ames: It is a wonderful thing. I experienced that for sure, in nature and in friendship and sometimes in these interviews, right. That literal physical feeling of man. This is amazing, right. I feel that and I no longer have to say that's a god, right? No, it's just two people connecting and that's a great thing.

1:18:00 Arline: Yes.

1:18:01 David Ames: The belonging is what we've been talking about with the deconversion anonymous group. It's to know that you are not alone. You are a part of a people. It's part of what I talked about with Jennifer Michael Heck, that we are in a historical line of doubters. We are not alone, not only for this time period, but for all of human history. As long as there has been belief, there have been doubters, and we are a part of that. And so having a sense of I'm a part of something, I'm a part of this group is a hardwired need.

1:18:36 David Ames: We are social creatures. It's okay to embrace that. It's also okay to be very critical about which groups you are willing to make yourself be a part of. We are not particularly joiners secular people and that's okay too, but it is kind of a human need. And then the connection is back to what I was talking about earlier, about that almost confessional level, one on one human talking to your best friend in the world, the human being who holds your secrets, whoever just came to your mind.

1:19:13 David Ames: That's what I mean by connection. It's about trusting that person with implicitly. You know they are going to hold your secrets. You know that you can tell them anything. You can be angry and you can be an asshole. You can be yourself unedited to that person, find that person, love them, hug them, be the same back for them. That connection is so valuable, so necessary, such a deep part of being a human being.

1:19:40 David Ames: And the whole thing I'm trying to say is if you find yourself no longer able to believe in spirituality of any kind, you get to keep all those things. Those things still come with being a human being. You do not lose them. You do not need to be a fatalist nihilist who succumbs to despair. That is not necessary. And that is the message of the podcast.

1:20:06 Arline: All right, mic drop.

1:20:07 David Ames: I don't have a microphone.

1:20:09 Arline: David, this was wonderful. This was so much fun. I learned a lot and I know our audience is going to really enjoy this episode. This is great.

1:20:16 David Ames: I appreciate it. Thank you so much for doing the interview. I think this is valuable.

1:20:20 Arline: Thanks for being on.

1:20:27 David Ames: Final thoughts on the episode.

1:20:31 Arline: My final thoughts on the interview I really enjoyed getting to interview David. I learned a little bit more about his story, where he's come from, and it reminded me again how much he has a heart for people, how much he has a heart for helping people who used to find community. In the church, but now know that's not something they can believe in or are journeying away from the church and can figure out ways to give them space to tell their stories, to find empathy and compassion from friends through whether it's the podcast or the Facebook group.

1:21:14 Arline: He is putting good things out into the world and it's wonderful and I love it. And it reminds me of how thankful I am that I get to be part of this. I get to be part of his vision, I get to be part of whatever comes in the future. And it makes me excited about the future of the podcast, to see where things are headed and to get to see what the future holds for David and the graceful atheist podcast.

1:21:46 Arline: I love it. It's wonderful and I'm so thankful to get to be a part of it.

1:21:51 David Ames: For the secular Grace Thought of the. Week, it's just my gratitude for everyone involved with the podcast. I'm terrified I'm going to leave some names out here. So please, if I forget you specifically, you are included in all of this gratitude. I obviously have to begin with Arline and all of the work that she's been doing as the community manager of the Deacon Version Anonymous Facebook Group, guest hosting, recruiting people to be on the show, copy editing, just a number of things.

1:22:22 David Ames: The podcast could not happen without her. Equally, Mike T doing the editing, we do about 48 50 shows a year. That is a lot of editing to do and I could not do it without Mike. He is an integral part of what you get to hear. Both Arline and Mike are in the deconversion anonymous Facebook group. So if you appreciate the podcast, please thank them. Let them know how much their work means to you. I also want to thank the moderators in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group.

1:22:53 David Ames: Thank you to Arline again, lars, Mike, T. Again, Stephanie, Ian and Vanessa, thank. You so much for the work that. You do to help make the group graceful and provide a safe place to land for people doubting, deconstructing and deconverting. Thank you guys. I want to thank everyone who has been a financial supporter of the podcast in the past through Anchor and Stripe. Thank you so much for really years worth of giving there.

1:23:22 David Ames: I really appreciate that. And I want to thank the new Patreon patrons, some of whom have moved over from the Anchor stripe scenario. Joel, Lars, Ray, Rob, Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Thank you so very much. I want to thank Ray from the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group for doing the memes. These beautiful memes that you see of quotes from the guests on the episodes are just absolutely beautiful and it's a great way to promote the podcast and for people to connect and recognize there's something there that they want to see.

1:23:54 David Ames: In this episode, I mentioned there's a couple of people who I hang out with about once a month. You all know who you are and I thank you guys so much for keeping me sane, letting me be myself, and giving me a place to just vent sometimes. That is incredibly appreciated. Again, I'm terrified that I have left someone out. I need you to know that if you have participated in any way with the podcast as a guest, as a member of the community, if you've promoted the podcast on your social media, if you've told a friend, thank you, thank you, thank you.

1:24:26 David Ames: All of that is just so important. For 2023, as I've been talking about, we will be moving to the Atheist United Podcast Network. What that will do will give us. Some more exposure to the wider secular community, hopefully more guests on the show and me as a guest on other podcasts. But also we will be supporting the. Work that Atheist United does and they do a lot of work in the Los Angeles area for the homeless and various other community efforts.

1:24:58 David Ames: And the ad revenue from the podcast will go to Atheist United and will be helping a good cause. A reminder of one more programming. Note that after the 18 December to the 8 January, we are off. We're going to be migrating the podcast from Anchor to Spreaker. Definitely before the 8th, double check to make sure that you still have the podcast in your podcast application. And after the 8th, you definitely have a new episode.

1:25:27 David Ames: And if you don't, I might have made a mistake and you might need to refresh your connection to the podcast. I'm excited about 2023 and everything that we're going to do together. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from Mackay. Beats links will be in the show. Notes if you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media.

1:26:04 David Ames: You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on You can also support the podcast by. Clicking on the affiliate links for books on If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate with the podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition and do you need to tell your story?

1:26:29 David Ames: Reach out if you are a creator. Or work in the deconstruction, deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast, just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes to find me. You can Google Graceful Atheist, you can Google deconversion, you can Google secular grace. You can send me an email Graceful. or you can check out the website Graceful

1:27:01 David Ames: My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. This has been the graceful atheist podcast.

Ask Arline Anything 2022

Atheism, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Podcasters, Purity Culture, Race, Secular Community, Secular Grace
Listen on Apple Podcasts

AMA? Try AAA. Ask Arline Anything. This week’s guest is your community manager, Arline. Arline tells us what she has learned from managing the community and interviewing guests. She explains how her views have changed on Christianity and fundamentalism after deconversion. She let’s us know what makes her mad and what gives her hope. She reveals her love language(s).

Join me in thanking Arline for all the work she does for the community and the podcast. Let her know she is appreciated.


There is a lot of empathy, with the emotions, the anger frustration, the sadness, the grief and the happiness.
That “I am such a better person now, and wow, I never expected to feel like a better person having left Christianity.”

Watching my kids grow up and not having to micro-manage my kids. I can just let them grow into who they are going to. But I don’t have to have these strange bizarre expectations on my children.

Young people are not going to be able to be told the Bible is inherently true.
They can literally google everything

The younger people give me hope. Their ability to push back on adults. Their ability to think for themselves and learn how to think critically.

The farther away religious people get from fundamentalism. The better their religion will be and the world in general. Fundamentalism just harms.

Anyone with whom I share values, I can try to hear them.

Everyone in the group that I have met! I am so thankful for this group. So many kind people, so many lovely people from whom I can learn things. The deconversion [anonymous] group is great. I love it.

I did not know that I needed it until I had [the group]. It is fabulous.



Pass the Mic

Sex and Psychology Podcast

Ten Percent Happier

The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos


Every book by Kate DiCamillo


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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


0:00:11 David Ames: This is the Graceful Atheist podcast. Welcome. Welcome to the Graceful Atheist Podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. I want to thank the brave people who have started the ball rolling on Patreon. Thank you. To Peter, Tracy, Jimmy and Jason. Much appreciated. We are about to become a part of the Atheist United Podcast Network. That will include having ads on the podcast and in order to give you an opportunity to have an ad free environment, I have started the Patreon account.

0:00:47 David Ames: For those of you who have already become patrons, I'll be sending out an email shortly with the RSS feed, which is the way you can tell your podcaster to point to the podcast without ads. But I do want to make it clear that everyone else will still get the podcast. There will just be ads on it. Please consider joining the deconversion anonymous Facebook group. The holidays can be a really tough time if you are new to Deconstruction.

0:01:12 David Ames: New to Deconversion and it's a great place to connect with other people who are feeling and experiencing exactly the same thing. You can find groupsdonversion. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On to today's show. My guest today is your community manager, Arline. Arline has been an integral part of the podcast and especially the community. We would not have the thriving Deconversion Anonymous community if it were not for Arline and her tireless work.

0:01:52 David Ames: Arline also helps out with copy editing and she just handles a lot of things on the back end. So as always, I'm incredibly grateful to all the people who participate to help make the podcast and the community as special as it is. This is an AMA or ask me anything style episode and so I ask Arline about what makes her angry, what makes her hopeful, and what she's learned from being a community manager, interviewing guests and watching the Christian nationalism that is playing out in our politics today.

0:02:29 David Ames: Here is Arline to answer lots of questions. Arline. Welcome back to the Graceful Atheist podcast.

0:02:42 Arline: Hello David. I am really excited to be here.

0:02:44 David Ames: It's a little ridiculous to welcome you to something that you are a major part of. First thing, right off the bat, I wanted to celebrate with you a couple of victories. You started the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group approximately a year ago. I think it was October of 2021. We're at somewhere in the neighborhood of 535 members as of today, which is astonishing. And as well as the podcast has been done really well. We just crossed our 200,000 mark for downloads.

0:03:15 David Ames: Downloads is a terrible metric to look at, but it does give you a sense of the growth. So it took probably three years to get to the first hundred thousand and so we did this in less than a year. Oh, wow, people are paying attention. You may recall when we were talking about doing the community group. That one of my goals was that we didn't just devolve into angry antichristian memes and just all venting. We wanted to allow space for venting, but we also wanted to allow for people to feel comfortable there if they were questioning that kind of thing.

0:03:51 David Ames: I think from my perspective, it has been, again, astonishing success, much more than I could have hoped for. And you are absolutely the reason why that is. So my first question to you is how do you do it? How is it that we have a successful community and it hasn't devolved into just angry antichristian memes?

0:04:16 Arline: Yes, well, I've thought a lot about this. Like you said, there's over 500 members. That still blows my mind. That still blows my mind totally. But how have we not devolved into chaos? I I think there most of the people in the group are acquainted with the graceful atheist podcast. So the vibe of the graceful atheist podcast, the way that you have interviewed people, the space you've given people to tell their stories, has drawn an audience of people who are also looking for that.

0:04:54 Arline: I've heard numerous people say, I was looking up atheist podcasts or I had deconverted and I wanted to find some podcasts to listen to that weren't just angry about everything and unkind who had podcasts that were just didn't make them feel some kind of way made them angry. You've drawn that audience, which then joins the Facebook group. And then I think the people who there are people in the group who are not don't even listen to the podcast go, oh, wait, this is associated with the podcast. Like, they have no idea, but they come into the space and they may post something or they read what other people have posted and they know the group is not going to be super inviting of the really angry, unkind stuff.

0:05:47 Arline: Now we totally have space. People post. Like they'll put, this is an angry post. And they just need to vent. They just need to tell how they're feeling. And people are like, yup, I get it. I empathize, I've been there. Here's a little bit of what I've gone through. And so there's the empathy and the space for all the emotions, the sadness, the grief, the fear, the uncertainty. People who are still Christians wanting a space to just like, how did you guys get here?

0:06:17 Arline: What happened? And so when people come into the group, curious or hopeful or just lonely, it's already the people in the group. I haven't done anything magical. The people in the group have created an atmosphere of just being, welcome to wherever you are. Here's a space that you can land. And it has been so I don't know what the word is, like, beautiful to watch and just see how people interact with each other.

0:06:49 Arline: And it's also been fun because there are the funny memes that people post and it's been a neat experience to watch and to be able to be a part of and get to know people.

0:07:03 David Ames: Yeah, and I do want to be clear that anger is a completely valid part of the process and we do need safe spaces to be able to communicate that. But again, I just think it needs to be commended that that's not the only thing that we're doing there, that there is a level of compassion and empathy, like you say. And what I think is just really beautiful is that someone will say, I'm having a hard time with X this thing and ten people come along and go, oh man, me too.

0:07:33 David Ames: That feeling of I'm not alone is so powerful. And as we've discussed before, the deconstruction deconstruction process is a lonely process and to just find your people is really amazing.

0:07:47 Arline: Yes, myself included. Lots of people don't have in real life friends who have gone through this. They're either still in church world, which is difficult with its own things, or they may have friends who are not believers, but they've never been believers. So all the weird stuff that we believed and did, all the grief of losing things that we used to believe, that we held so dear, all those different kinds of things, it's just harder. They can empathize with the emotion, but they don't understand necessarily those actual experiences.

0:08:24 Arline: And so, yeah, just finding a spot online where you can see that, yeah, I'm not alone, I'm not crazy, I'm not in this without anybody at all because yes, it feels like that in real life because you just may not have that. A lot of people don't have that.

0:08:51 David Ames: So you've done a number of things within the community. You lead a weekly discussion about the podcast episode, you've done sex and sexuality focused groups, you've done just social hangouts. What do you find the most useful, what do people respond to the most and what do we want to do new over the next year?

0:09:12 Arline: Yes, the Tuesday night podcast discussion. It's a lot of fun in that. Well, I'll say this, it's kind of like church world where you have like 20% who come to all the events and do all the things and then you have the rest who participate but don't necessarily come to all the little things. So you have the same people ish that come every week. It gives our guests who come who are on the podcast a chance to elaborate on things or just know other people empathize with.

0:09:49 Arline: Yes, I went through that same thing and it's we've had some very serious, like deep conversations and we've also had like just fabulous fun conversations on Tuesday night. And that, I think, has been it's added people to the group who've been people who've been on the podcast and then they join the group to be able to come to the Tuesday night thing and they get to connect with people on more than just now I'm in the group kind of level, like actually get to know some people.

0:10:20 Arline: So that's been a lot of fun. The sex and sexuality, like purity culture, people up. And so we have another podcast or a few different just random sex and sexuality type podcasts where they have nothing to do with graceful atheists that are just experts discussing different things, whether it's what's therapy like for the LGBTQ community what's it like to start having sex in your 30s, rather when you have no sexual experience, which that resonates a lot with people who've come out of purity culture.

0:11:02 Arline: What's it like to be in a sexless marriage? I mean, so many different just random topics that we listen to the episode, there's a few people in the group who are part of kind of figuring out what might be a good fit for us to listen to and then have more expertise in the area than I do. And then, yeah, we just talk. And again, we may learn stuff from the podcast, but just getting to hear each other's stories, getting to know that you're not alone, you're not the only 30 something who's like, oh, no, I've only had sex with my husband or my wife.

0:11:42 Arline: I've never realizing that I've always been attracted to people of the same gender, but I had no idea what to do with that. I mean, just so many different things and knowing you're not by yourself. And then as far as let's see the hangouts, those are literally that someone joked, this is our fellowship time.

0:12:02 David Ames: Pretty much it is.

0:12:04 Arline: Bring your own coffee. Yes, bring your own coffee, grab a drink. And we do. We've done. Just random icebreakers. People come with deep questions sometimes. I've been thinking about this, and it really is just to get to know people in the group. And that specific one has been during the day for those of us in the United States, so that we have not figured out how to get Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and the United States all in one social event.

0:12:35 David Ames: Yes, exactly.

0:12:37 Arline: That's fine. But it at least opens it up for people over in Europe and the UK. All of these things have been successful attempts of just getting people to know each other getting people to know each other a little bit more deeply than just posting on the wall. Because I've talked to lots of people who posted on the wall, but the people that I've personally been able to chat with more like this, like face to face, you start to build a closer friendship.

0:13:15 Arline: And there's an event coming up soon for people in North Carolina, people who are all there, they formed their own hail it's all get together thing because there's like seven or eight people that are all in North Carolina. And it's like, this is such a neat these little events have been to help people connect a little more deeply with people and they've been a lot of fun. As far as in the future, we've talked about possibly having maybe some discussions specifically on for want of a better term, some people are like, oh, I don't love the term unequally yoked marriages or relationships.

0:13:58 Arline: Parenting, what's it like when one is a Christian, one's not, or when you've only been Christian so far and now all of a sudden neither of you are believers. And what does parenting look like? What does it look like being single? You've come out of purity culture and you're single and you're like you want to make wise choices, but what does it look like? You don't have someone telling you what wise choices look like for single people.

0:14:23 Arline: So just lots of different it sounds strange, but like the same stuff that the church tries to give you space to discuss, but we're not going to tell you what to do. It's just like here's a space where we can see what does some research say or what are my personal anecdotal experiences say, and then everybody is able to just figure out what will work for them without people having to tell them what they need to do or don't need to do.

0:14:55 Arline: Shooting on each other. There's a person in the group who uses that phrase, don't shoot on people, don't shoot on people, don't shoot on yourself. Yeah, I like it.

0:15:06 David Ames: So, quick plug. For those of you listening, if any of those topics sound interesting and you'd be willing to run a group, you get in touch with Arline and we can make that happen.

0:15:16 Arline: Yes, absolutely.

0:15:17 David Ames: I think that is one of the fun things that goal for me, again, is that the church provides a place for people to use their hobbies talents. We can call them gifts if we want to call back, but whatever, right? Like the things you're good at, the things you're interested in. And I think the secular world that's what's missing is that there just are very few places to exercise things that you're probably not going to be able to make a living doing those things, but you're good at them and you want an opportunity to do it. So this is one of those things and that's going to be really exciting.

0:15:49 Arline: Yes. And if there are topics that we haven't thought about that it seems like a few people have posted about this in the group, maybe this is something we get to like, please send me. I am always open to Facebook messages, DMs and Instagram. I can hear those and we can talk about it and see.

0:16:16 David Ames: I'm curious, Arline, for yourself being more personal, do you feel like this fulfilled the community need for yourself as a community manager? You're kind of on stage a bit. I know a little bit about that, yes. Do you still get something out of this and then how have you changed by doing this work?

0:16:39 Arline: What do I get out of it? Yes. How do I explain this? I was still friends with a few Christians at the beginning of this year, but they were relationships where it's like they were not bad people. But it was not good for me. It was just not the best relationships to continue to be in. Because of the group and the friendships that I've made in the group, I was able to see those in real life friendships for what they were and be able to let go of them without thinking, oh my gosh, I am going to be literally alone other than my husband.

0:17:26 Arline: Now, I do have some friends who are still Christians, but they live in different places and they have never been evangelical.

0:17:38 David Ames: Sure.

0:17:39 Arline: They're not the Christianity that we really need to like that needs more deconstructing and pulling apart. Our values are still the same. We have things in common that have not changed. But having the friends that I've made in this group, just people that I know I can send a message to, I can send a Facebook message and just be frustrated or irritated and they can just hear me and empathize and then we can talk a little bit or not.

0:18:16 Arline: Yes, it has filled that. I feel like I'm just rambling, but yes, it has filled that need for community, for friendships, the different little hangouts getting to have my love language is I guess that's a little Christianse, but love language is like having deep discussions with a few people. So, like, I've always loved small groups, book clubs, things like that. So having those times during the week where I can have that and then I can go back to my husband and my family, my kids, who my husband is like, I don't want to have deep discussions about books that you've read that I don't want to read.

0:18:56 Arline: He's like, I love you so much and I'm so glad that these other people exist in your life because I don't have to feel like, oh, no, he's not meeting some kind of need or my friends aren't because I have friends now who are into similar things now being part of the community. Yes, I've built some good friendships. I have fantastic discussions with people. I'm learning from people that used to in church world, I had to be in like, White Lady Mom Bible study world and the men were in whatever man Bible study world they were in.

0:19:34 David Ames: Yeah.

0:19:35 Arline: And there was such little overlap that now I know I can send a message to one, to someone who is an expert in whatever the thing is that I talked to and I can just ask them a question and it's just a different experience and it's wonderful. What was your other question?

0:19:55 David Ames: How have you changed?

0:19:58 Arline: I am much more confident than I used to be. Now I say that I can lead little children like on paper, I'm an early childhood teacher, so I can hurt all the small kids, all the kids, all the cats. Yeah, adults were terribly intimidating to me. I had never been in positions of hurting adults, mixed groups because I was a teacher. So it's mostly women then in Church, Florida, it was always women and so I've had to reach out to different people in the group who are really good at that.

0:20:34 Arline: I've had to watch YouTube and learn all the things, so I've grown more confident in doing those things. But it's been definitely a huge learning experience. I've never done anything like this before, but it's so, I guess a little humbling, but in a good way. Like, I've learned a lot and getting to interview people, that was not something I'd ever thought. I've never crossed my mind, ever. And now I'm like, I want to be like David when I grow up.

0:21:08 Arline: But the neatest experience is getting being able to just hear people's stories and let them talk. Love it so much.

0:21:15 David Ames: That is my next question. For listeners who don't know, our leans played a number of roles, but one of which was just finding people to be interviewed. And then I think there was one person who said, well, why don't you arlene interview me? And you asked me if that was okay. And I was like, yeah, that's great. And this has turned into such a great thing that I've got atheist in my title and that might be scary for some people and there are going to be people that are going to be willing to open up to you in a way that they might not to me.

0:21:48 David Ames: So if you want to just expand, you basically answered it, but a little bit more on what has it been like conducting the interviews, being the one behind the mic?

0:21:58 Arline: It's much more intimidating because I enjoy hearing their stories. Well, I guess for me, really the intimidating part is trying to figure out how to make it flow and I want them to just talk. But also sometimes people tell their whole story and it's been like ten minutes and I'm like, oh, okay, now I have to figure out how to pull some more. Let's go back to this. But I have learned a lot and gotten to know people online very closely.

0:22:36 Arline: People that I've gotten to be much closer friends with after hearing their stories and just the things that we have in common, the things that I've had a few people that they would say come back to me in a few more months. Like, I'm not ready, I want to tell my story, but I'm not ready. And so for me, telling my story was therapy. It was so good for me, I wanted to get it all out there whenever I did it.

0:22:59 Arline: But other people, it's very intimidating, it's very scary. It's like now it's like someone in my family may listen to it, someone may hear. There's so much nuance with when people want to tell their story and they do want to get it out, but all the consequences they could possibly face. It's definitely helped me have a lot more compassion for people whose family or friends or spouse are part of the reasons why they want to tell their story but can't tell their story yet because my family have mostly not all, but mostly just kind of nominal Christians. So they were just like, okay, whatever you believe is they didn't care.

0:23:48 Arline: And so I didn't have a lot of push back, and so I just didn't realize how many people yes, it's hard for them to get out there and tell their story when they want to.

0:23:57 David Ames: I'm curious if you feel this I'm trying not to lead the question, but there's a deep intimacy in doing one on one interviews in a way that definitely not in a group, but even somehow you're hearing the heart of their life story. What has that experience been like as far as really getting to be from my perspective, it's a gift to be told someone's life story.

0:24:26 Arline: Yeah, I didn't know how to explain that, but yes, I feel like I know the people so much more deeply now. Most of the people that I've interviewed, not all of them, but well, it's only been a few people, but only one or two of them did I not know beforehand were recommended to me, and I just sent them a message. But others, we had talked and talked, and so I knew a little bit of their story. But, yeah, they sit there and they're looking at you, and they're telling some of the hardest things that have happened to them.

0:24:56 Arline: And, yeah, it's a gift. Like, they're so vulnerable, vulnerable with their story, with their whole selves. And they have to trust me a lot. They have to trust us to be able to open up and tell their story in ways that people often want to tell as much of the story as they can. They also want to try to honor certain people in their family. They also think, like, in the mother, where it's like, people should have behaved better if they wanted you to write or speak nicely about them.

0:25:35 Arline: But yeah, it's a very deeply intimate experience. Yeah, that's a good word. I couldn't think of a word for it a gift.

0:25:51 David Ames: All right. Another really kind of broad question that I just want you to run with is grace was a major part of my Christianity. It stuck with me through the deconversion process and obviously the grace lathe. I know what I mean when I talk about it, but I also know that it turns lots of people off. But I'm curious, what does it mean to you? What does it mean to be a graceful person from your perspective?

0:26:17 David Ames: Forget what I've said. I'm curious what you think it means and how you do or do not try to live that out.

0:26:23 Arline: Yeah, I love you say that at the end of the episode. Join me and be a graceful human being. I love that.

0:26:28 David Ames: Yes.

0:26:31 Arline: I think it means for me, giving people our family calls it giving people the generous story, which does not come naturally to me. Assuming the best in a situation or giving people a generous story, assuming the best. Remembering that, I guess the common humanity how do I say this kindly to myself, I can be very judgmental, like inside my mind about other people's choices that they make and just reminding myself of like, if I had their DNA and their life experiences, I would think and do exactly the same way that they're doing.

0:27:18 Arline: And so I feel like that's what grace is to me. Extending the love and compassion and empathy to others that I would like them to extend to me. And also extending that grace to myself. Because thinking back to when I was a Christian, it was a lot of like, kill your sin, kill your sin, kill your sin. So treating myself in a way that I would treat other people is also part of being a graceful human. And even which Joe Simonetta, who was just on the podcast, the way he talked about just respecting the environment, the idea of we're all interconnected, literally all interconnected and the choices we make on this planet, affect the planet and affect our children and all that, I feel like that's what grace is. I don't even know if I remember the correct definition of grace. But yeah, just all those kinds of things empathy, kindness, generous stories for people, remembering the common humanity of all of us and things like that.

0:28:30 Arline: I think that's what grace means to me.

0:28:32 David Ames: I don't know if you have the same experience, but on this side of deconversion, deconstruction, whatever you want to say, the manipulation from and we'll focus on Christianity here, but traditional religious figures in general is so blatant now to me. I'm curious if that's your experience. And what I want to ask is what have you learned about Christianity on this side of deconversion?

0:29:00 Arline: Oh, heavens. Well, here's one thing I have learned. The values that I had as a Christian are a lot of the same values that I have now. So I can still hear black Christians speak. Like I followed Jamartispie and some other the Holy Smoke movement. I'm not sure if they're Christian or not, but they're fantastic on all the stuff that they do and these different black believers that our values are still so similar.

0:29:32 Arline: But white American Christianity again, hashtag, not all. We all know that I cannot hear. But even as a Christian, looking back at my little Facebook memories that come up, I have been trying to call out and call in the racism, the misogyny, though. Well, the misogyny I didn't learn till later. Let me take that back because I thought it was biblical to be patriarchal and all that stuff, but definitely the homophobia and the racism for years.

0:30:03 Arline: Like, what is wrong with you people? Why can you not how can you vote this certain way that harms entire groups of people and see the way Jesus interacted with the poor, the immigrant, the lonely, all these people? So what have I learned about Christianity? The music is manipulative. I did not realize that. I learned a little bit of the brain stuff of how yeah, it's basically trying to get you high so that then you can listen, your brain is ready to receive the message.

0:30:40 Arline: That just makes me feel gross thinking and then that the white supremacy was, like, baked in from the beginning of American Christianity. White Christianity, even before whiteness was invented, like, the idea of whiteness existing, it was the idea that European people were just inherently superior to all other peoples. Baked in from the beginning. The misogyny I didn't realize. I started kind of realizing it while I was still a Christian.

0:31:20 Arline: I had a friend at the time who she came out of a part of Christianity where women could be pastors. And I thought that was just not heresy. But you all just are interpreting the Bible wrong. Since then, reading books like Cassandra Speaks and the Making of Biblical Womanhood, which is written by a Christian. She's a Christian. Author. Historian, I think. And just seeing, yeah, it's baked into the pie.

0:31:48 Arline: Just so many things that at the time I saw or just didn't like, how things just don't feel quite right to you, something's not quite right. But I was taught parts of those things were biblical, and so I had to believe them even if I didn't like them. What other things have I learned? I had already years ago, when Derek Webb was still a Christian, but making his own music, he was calling out the Republicanism and white Christianity being mixed together so much.

0:32:23 Arline: And I I feel like he was like a prophet. Like he called it way before anyone else was paying attention to it. He had a couple of albums that were just explicit about what was happening. And now we're seeing it. It's been happening this whole time. There's all these books being written about how the politics and the Moral Majority and all this kind of stuff is all mixed together. So it was happening.

0:32:50 Arline: We just didn't know about it because we didn't have social media. Now it's a lot more difficult for people to keep secrets, right? Other people can just find out. I say that I have also learned that there are different realities existing in the United States. So I said the phrase January 6, and someone in my family was like, what? What does that mean? And I was like, I don't understand why you don't he had no idea because that.

0:33:23 Arline: In his news world is not a phrase right and it's framed differently. It's a longer story.

0:33:38 David Ames: We got a couple of related questions to this new view on Christianity. So you live in the south? Yes. What is the experience of being a you know, on this side of deconversion? I think it's safe to say that you're a bit more liberal in your politics and living in the south, both from a you're no longer a Christian and from the political aspect.

0:34:02 Arline: When I was still a Christian, I had a little bit of because my politics went more liberal way before. That was way back when I was in college, I think I took a sociology class and was like, wait.

0:34:22 David Ames: I.

0:34:22 Arline: Don'T really believe or agree with a lot of what I had been taught was I was supposed to vote. And so I was like, oh, I can throw it out. But I also did not grow up in a church. I have learned since learned that people grew up learning that Democrats were literally demonic. Like there was this whole movement I had no idea that existed. I did not grow up in that. So I could throw out become more liberal in my politics and didn't have any kind of spiritual problem with it.

0:34:49 David Ames: Because you live in the south where not being a Christian is kind of a big deal and politically maybe a little bit different. Like, what is that experience?

0:34:57 Arline: When I was still a Christian, my friends could hear me. They could hear my thoughts on things. Yeah, but obviously maybe they were right and Democrats and we are demonic because apparently left Christianity true.

0:35:12 David Ames: They have a point.

0:35:14 Arline: Maybe it really is a slippery slope then. I did have some influence in conversations with the moms that I was friends with, I now do not have any kind of influence. I say that also thinking though, multiple times I think back to when I tried to I didn't call people out. I was like, hey, can we have a conversation about this? I feel like there's some information maybe you're missing. Whether it's on racism, that's usually my thing is the antiracist world. That's where I've had the most conversations with other white people, white women, but no one was interested.

0:35:55 Arline: And so maybe I didn't have as much influence as I thought of it. I'm not sure. But as far as just people around me, everyone just assumes you go to church. So unless I explicitly say anything, they just assume I'm a Christian and then I try when someone says something. I have noticed since 2016 in multiple encounters with people that there's a feeling of entitlement amongst more conservative white people to be able to say whatever they want and not expect there to be consequences just in interpersonal situations.

0:36:38 Arline: And they assume I'm going to agree with them, like, oh, here's a whitelist they just assume that my beliefs are going to be similar to theirs, and I try to go, wow, that's interesting. From my understanding, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, so that maybe they'll go, I haven't thought of that. I have no idea if they go, I've never thought about that. I don't like debate or anything like that. But I've had different conversations with people where I've just tried to ask some questions and see maybe to get them to think a little bit more about whatever the political thing is.

0:37:19 Arline: But for the most part, people just unless you have a conversation, people assume that we go to church, that we vote Republican, that we look like them, so of course we do the same things. And it is really nice when you meet someone that looks like me, and the conversation is completely different than I've expected. And there are plenty of people who maybe have different ways of thinking about politics, because a lot of it I don't necessarily understand, that I've been able to learn from, but I have to be honest, most of those have not been in real life. People those have been online friends that I who are in parts of the United States and so have just very different experiences.

0:38:10 Arline: But, yeah, people just assume things about you and don't usually engage in conversations a lot, not deeper conversations.

0:38:25 David Ames: You've brought up the topic a number of times, and I just want to explore it a little bit about becoming more aware of white privilege, your own personal experience, and kind of you've just described what systemic racism is, right? Like, that you get the assumed pass, so to speak, and don't have to justify anything. You've just really eloquently described that. I'm curious about timing. Was that something that you discovered prior to deconversion, or is that grown even greater after the fact for you? Where did that growth come from?

0:39:03 Arline: Oh, that's a that's a good question. For me, in my I guess beginning to pay attention was in 2014 when the Ferguson protests were happening, when Darren Wilson police officer killed Mike Brown. In my Facebook feed, where lots of the CVS is burning and people are riding, that just kept coming up. And then a friend of mine who is a black woman, she happened to post something from Twitter that was from what's called Black Twitter.

0:39:39 Arline: And I clicked on it to go see, and it was like kind of an on the ground conversation about what was going on. And it was like, here's where we're meeting for these protests, here's where we're meeting at this place. And it was just like 90% of what was happening were peaceful protests. And that was the first time I went, Wait, maybe something's not quite I don't know that I've ever would have paid attention.

0:40:06 Arline: I want to say, yes, of course I would have eventually paid attention, but that I know was because I've told her. Since then, you changed the trajectory of my understanding of the world. Yeah. So from that moment was the first, like, okay, something's a little different in the United States that I'm not understanding, that I haven't been taught. And at the time, I thought it was God telling me, but however it was, I realized I just needed to sit back and learn some stuff because I wanted to go save the world, which imagine a white person wanting to go save the world.

0:40:44 Arline: But I was like, okay, I just need to learn stuff I don't even know. I was listening to Jamartispie's podcast past the mic, and he Christian, so I was already learning from black Christians. And they were and so I was like, okay. I looked up every person I had never read, from IDA B. Wells to Angela Davis. I looked up different theologians. I was like, I just need to understand. I looked up just Googled things like police brutality. I started following all these different people online.

0:41:18 Arline: And I think for me, sitting back and being willing to listen to what had happened for 500 years in the United States, and what was just literally happening to people in real time forced me to have to pay attention. It was like, I can't unknow these things now. And so that was a long time ago now. And according to my Facebook memories, I can't remember the years, but there was like I remember when oh, I can't remember his name.

0:42:04 Arline: Trayvon Martin, when George Zimmerman murdered him. I just remember thinking, this is terrible. You don't do this. But that was it. My mom and I just argued about it. There was nothing more. But then it was like Tamir Rice, and it was just person after person, women, men, and just kept hearing all these names. And I was following all these people, and I was like, where? It broke my heart. I got a private message from a black woman that I've been friends with for years. She was like, Arline. Nobody else, none of the people we were in college ministry with are saying anything about this.

0:42:37 Arline: Everybody's silent. And we go to church on Sunday, and we're all together, and they don't say anything about what's happening to black human bodies, their brothers and sisters. They don't say anything at church. They don't care. They care about people's salvation and all that stuff, but not their real selves. And it made me sad to know where were all the other Christians, white Christians? So that's how mine got started.

0:43:07 Arline: And it's been just a lot of learning, a lot of really seeing that. Like I said earlier, it was just baked in from the beginning into white American Christianity. It was necessary in order to enslave entire populations of people. It was necessary to destroy human life and take land from indigenous peoples. I mean, it was just these things had to be mandated by God. If they were not mandated by God, we can't justify these horrible things. That we are doing.

0:43:45 Arline: And yes, I know I always assume there's going to be the like, but some Christians were abolitionists. Yes, thank you.

0:43:51 David Ames: I realize that the percentages were tiny. Whenever they make those arguments, the percentages relative to everyone else were very small.

0:43:59 Arline: When you can name John Newton, william Wilmore Force, that other Garrison guy, then okay, fair. When you can name, then there weren't that many people who were platforming because it was unsafe to them. They had to decide. We look at the civil rights movement, the strategic ending of lives, of human life, of leaders, so that they would stop asking that they have the inherent rights that are written down in all those fancy papers that dead white guys put together.

0:44:39 David Ames: Yeah, I don't want to take over here, but like my wife and I read a book by a black Harvard professor whose name is going to escape me, we'll have to do it in the show notes about the Declaration of Independence. Now, that's very problematic, right? But the prologue, the opening bits of that are so inspiring. They are so incredible about the equality that we state as Americans. We say this is what we believe in, and we have failed to live up to that even a little bit, including in the rest of that document.

0:45:15 David Ames: It's amazing that in the same document there's these beautiful, soaring ideals and also the embodiment of the opposite of that against the Native Americans at the time and things of that nature. I want to share one more thing to wrap up this conversation. You and I both were interviewed by Robert Peoples. He has been one of my favorite people that we've been able to interview. And I forget how he phrased the question to me, but it was similar.

0:45:51 David Ames: To what I just asked you in that. And my honest answer was, I felt I feel so naive. My former self, I feel so naive. And one breaking point for me was when Henry Lewis Gates, who was also a Harvard professor, was arrested in 2009 on his doorstep. He had forgotten his keys or something, was trying to get into his house. He was arrested, harassed. I don't know if he was fully arrested, but very much harassed and had ID on him, had his address, the place they were at.

0:46:24 David Ames: And that was the first time where I saw on Facebook, it's kind of the opposite of what you described earlier, people assuming that you agree with them. I assumed that everyone else understood that that's racist. And when I saw that some of my hometown people thought that because he raised his voice that he was out of line in some way, I was utterly shocked. I was just utterly shocked. For me, it has been and again, this is bad, right? This is a character flaw.

0:46:56 David Ames: But the breaking down of my naivete, of what I believed in all those ideals, I thought that's what america was about and just having the proof day in and day out, particularly during the 2010 of just having it proven to us that we are not over the racism that is inherent within the United States. It's just it's just painful and and.

0:47:19 Arline: Grieving, and it's like Ibrahim X Kendi, whose books I can highly recommend, he talks about racism like rain. He's like, It's just always raining. It's just always raining. And we don't even know it's raining because we have lived in the rain the whole time. And he says, when you realize or when someone else points out, hey, you just said or did something that was racist or this is a racist belief, if something like that happens, they're just handing you an umbrella so that you can go, oh, whoa, I didn't even notice.

0:47:53 Arline: Now I can notice this thing. And it isn't that people are all one thing or another. It's that we've just been swimming in it for our entire lives. And if it doesn't affect us, we don't even know we're supposed to pay attention to these other things that are happening. Because I can literally run into Walmart with my sunglasses on and a hoodie and a run back out, and no one's going to think, no one's going to say anything.

0:48:24 Arline: And it's also my responsibility, with the privilege that I have, to leverage as many other voices, as many other black men and women, especially women, especially women and other people of color women, women, their voices so that people can learn from people that we just haven't learned from because other groups have taken up a lot of the space.

0:48:51 David Ames: So semi related to this or the whole subject of what we've learned about Christianity. I'll ask the question and then I'll set it up. What makes you angry? The reason I asked the question is one of the things I've learned through this process is that my experience was pretty easy both inside Christianity and coming out of Christianity and that it was not easy for many, many people. You've already mentioned purity culture, but now that you've been a part of this community, you've listened to other people's stories, you've interviewed some people.

0:49:23 David Ames: Do you ever get angry for them? In proxy? For them, yes.

0:49:34 Arline: For me, anger is more accessible than grief and sadness. And I'm sure there's stuff I need to deal with in therapy. But yes, when I talk to black women who have not been heard, when I talked to were harmed, I experienced sexist remarks and things and a lack of access to leadership or whatever. If I had wanted things like that, I've never experienced the sexual harassment or the physical emotional harm done to a lot of women.

0:50:18 Arline: And another thing, I don't know if it makes me angry. It just makes me sad. The number of people that their sexuality was just more nuanced and they've spent their entire life not being able to do anything with that part of their body. They're part of themselves, if that makes sense. Yeah, I don't know if that makes me sad or angry or both. Probably the things that make me angry are when I think about all the when I hear people talk about the time they feel like they wasted all the years, that they could have just done things differently, done things in a more free way, in a more way that really honored their whole selves rather than having to squash that's how our family says, having to squash part of themselves instead of being able to live out of that.

0:51:26 Arline: The anger, it's still a lot of just the terrible okay, politics. There you go. That makes me furious. I was trying to think of the stories that I've heard from people, but most of when I hear the people hear people's stories, it makes me sad for them. The anger comes when I watch videos of the foolishness that comes out of white Christians mouths who also hold power in our country, in our states and stuff.

0:52:01 Arline: That just infuriates me. And it infuriates me knowing how many people can't hear my or other people's voices, to say, hey, this is Christian nationalism. This is bad. We need to stop this. They can't hear that because I'm not a Christian anymore. So I can't know what I'm talking about for sure, even though I really feel like a lot from the people I've talked to in the deacon version group. These were the Bible readers, these were the studyers.

0:52:31 Arline: These were the ones who were praying for all the things to make it happen. These are the ones who were trying to call people out, call people in, make things better. And not all of them finally gave up because I didn't leave Christianity because of that. Mine was completely different. But who wanted to glorify God, glorify Jesus, however they want to say it as Christians, and we're just like, screw this.

0:52:58 Arline: People didn't want to change. People didn't want anything, don't want things to be different if they're holding power, why would you want things to change? Why would you want other people to have more power if that means that you may not have all the power?

0:53:13 David Ames: You kind of answered one of my last questions. What are the commonalities and maybe the differences that you've seen in people's stories from your perspective? So from doing the community management and a few interviews as well. So one of them I think you've highlighted there is that it tends to be the most dedicated of Christians that are on the side of deconstruction. Deconversion. But anything else that pops to mind that.

0:53:41 Arline: 2016 always seems to pop up very often, and then 2020 for the people who have deconverted more recently, of course, Trump. And then the response to the pandemic, the way churches dealt with that, the conspiracy theories, you know, all that kind of stuff. Yes, lots of people have talked about that again, purity culture. Just realizing that I don't know, not even just purity culture, but just I don't know how to say this. People learning from people like Renee Brown and others about psychology and just learning that they're not sinful, they're not crazy, they're not filling the blank with whatever.

0:54:27 Arline: The thing is it's your limbic system taking over or it's just learning physiological things about their own bodies that explain what they used to think was whatever the sin. Fill in the blank with the sin. Because that's another thing that recently I've talked to someone about, is there used to be so many rules that you had to follow that you were always struggling. And now when there are just fewer rules, there are fewer rules to break without being micromanaged by a magical deity in the sky.

0:55:08 David Ames: Even that word struggle, I'll find myself trying to start to use that word, and I think that is a bad word. That's not a good word.

0:55:18 Arline: Because you couldn't just outwardly want to do the flagrant, terrible, sinful thing. You had to struggle with that's, right. I've given a lot of people, just even if they can't empathize with the experience of other people in the group, there's a lot of empathy with the emotions, the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the grief, the happiness. Like, oh, my gosh, I am such a better person now. And feeling like, wow, I never expected to feel like I was a better person.

0:55:56 Arline: Now on the other side of having left Christianity.

0:56:10 David Ames: So the flip side of what makes you angry, what gives you hope about this group, about secularization, about America, about your own life? What gives you hope?

0:56:21 Arline: What gives me hope? Oh, gosh. In my own just little personal life, we have a pond in the backyard, and we have Canada geese that come and the seasons. Just knowing that right now everything's starting to die, and it is beautiful, but it's going to be bare and miserable for a while. But spring will come. That natural, literal hope. There will be life again in the spring. That for me personally, that's a thing.

0:56:52 Arline: Watching my kids grow up and not having to micromanage my kids, I can just let them grow into whoever they're going to guide them, all that good stuff. But I don't have to have these strange, bizarre expectations on my children. And then the world secularization, oh, I read people like, oh, gosh, I'm going to say his name wrong. Noah Harare. You've all. Noah Harari. Who wrote sapiens? Yes. I've ordered the graphic we have the graphic novels for the kids.

0:57:28 Arline: He has a children's book, like his willingness to say a lot of the hard things about what we're doing right now to the planet and to ourselves and how we have to be able to cooperate. That's the most important thing in order for us to be able to continue into the world. He gives me a lot of hope that maybe we can do these things. Things that give me hope. Knowing how many young people are not just going to young people are not just going to be able to be told the Bible is inherently true and then be like, okay, right, they can literally Google everything.

0:58:12 Arline: They do not need information from us. They just need to know how to interpret all the information that they're getting. And so seeing the young people see that things like compassion and kindness and cooperation and love, all these things are so important to them and they're willing to push back on the adults in their lives and say, like, know what you're saying is bullshit. I'm going to treat my friend with respect.

0:58:36 Arline: They're not inherently bad because of their queerness or their color or whatever. The younger people give me hope. Their ability to push back on adults, their ability to think for themselves and hopefully learn how to think critically. I think we could go in a good direction in the future. I also think we might kill ourselves in 100 years. I have no idea. But I can try to be hopeful. I love the higher the increase of the nuns and the duns and the people who may still be some version of Christian or another religion, but just want it to be like loving and not trying to harm people.

0:59:20 Arline: All of that gives me hope that the farther away religious people get from fundamentalism, the better their religion, I think, will be. And just the world in general, fundamentalism just harms it harms so many people. So yeah, getting away from that, lots of stuff. Those things give me hope. That was a good question because I am not always like I literally have to have an app say, what are you grateful for today?

0:59:51 Arline: So that I can pay attention and think hopefully about the world. And gratefully.

1:00:06 David Ames: Arline, is there a topic that we didn't hit or that I didn't ask that you had prepared for and want to get out of this episode?

1:00:15 Arline: I don't think so. I do want to give tons of recommendations, not right now, but we can put them in the notes only because that's again, my love language. That's my second love language. Great discussions and then sharing resources. When someone says I thought of you and this was the book or the podcast I thought of, I'm like, I feel loved.

1:00:41 David Ames: Well, I tell you what, I've got a recommendation for you, sweet. Since you are open to listening to some black Christian voices. Tyler Merritt went to my Bible college. We probably had some overlap. I don't think we ever met one another. He had an Instagram go viral during 2020 and he has just a really interesting perspective and he is kind of providing that transition layer. He's definitely in evangelicalism, but he is saying to wide evangelicalism this is racism in a really good way.

1:01:16 David Ames: And he has written a book that is his memoir. And I might have to get the actual title in the show notes, but definitely recommend him.

1:01:24 Arline: Okay, yeah. Anyone with whom I share values, I can try to hear them. I can try to hear them.

1:01:33 David Ames: Yeah. Are there any of your recommendations you want to do on Mike?

1:01:39 Arline: Well, I'll do this. The Sex and Psychology podcast with Justin Lee Miller. That's the one that we get a lot of our stuff, our little Wednesday night or Wednesday night conversation that we get a lot from. And he has all the therapist like letters behind his name. I don't know what all he is, but he's fantastic. He has a book, Tell Me What You Want, and it's about sexual desire. And that podcast is just even if you didn't necessarily grow up in purity culture, but you've simply just wonder what life is like for people who have had a, quote, normal, whatever you would consider normal, even though he would say, no, don't use that word, sex life, it's just a fantastic resource. It's a really good podcast and I've learned a lot of stuff and I did not grow up in purity culture.

1:02:33 Arline: I was already thrown away, as my daddy would have said, when I got started going to church. So I wasn't part of all that. But it has a lot of excellent content.

1:02:48 David Ames: Fantastic.

1:02:48 Arline: And someone in the Deconversion group that I met told me about that, and he's someone that I want him to be on the podcast one day. He's fantastic. Everyone in the group that I've met, I'm so thankful for this group. So many kind people, so many lovely people from whom I can learn things. It's just deconversion group is great. I love it.

1:03:09 David Ames: We'll just say here again, if you are interested in being interviewed and you would prefer for Arline to interview you, that is definitely on the table and you should reach out to Arline. You can also email me and we'll make that happen. Arline, mainly I want to say to you thank you. The work that you have done is just invaluable. We'll get into some of it when we're going to reverse this. You're going to interview me in the next week's episode, but I just don't have the time for these things. We would not have the Deconversion Anonymous group if it weren't for you. So thank you so much for all the work that you do.

1:03:42 Arline: Yes, you're too kind. I love it. I did not know that I needed it until I had it.

1:03:54 David Ames: Final thoughts on the episode. That was a lot of fun. It was fun having the conversation. It was fun relistening to the conversation. And it has been a blast to work with Arline. I know that many of you who are part of the Deconversion Anonymous community group know what a vital and important part of our community Arline is. And as I said there at the end, we wouldn't have it without her. I do not have the time.

1:04:24 David Ames: So we are all incredibly lucky to have Arline in our corner, working to build our community. In fact, I was talking to Evan Clark about the future move to the Atheist United Podcast Network, and I was saying that I have these fabulous volunteers and he was definitely envious. So I want to begin by just saying, thank you, Arline, for all the work that you do. I know it's more than just community management, the copy editing, outreach to people online, and the thousand things that I don't even know about.

1:04:58 David Ames: We'd love you and thank you for all the work that you have done. There are lots of things that jump out from the conversation. My favorite part of the conversation was about anger and hope. The anger coming from the systemic racism and misogyny and anti LGBTQ elements of Christianity. But I want to point out here what character it shows in Arline that she was seeing that early, she was seeing that as a believer, and that that is what slowly led her out of Christianity.

1:05:33 David Ames: She still has empathy for people who are in the middle of things, and she is modeling secular grace in the community. I love that she talks about the hope about spring, that things do return, things do get better, watching her children grow up and not having to micromanage them, letting them be who they are, and the empathy that she sees expressed within the group. And again, I see that as a direct result of Arline's leadership and example.

1:06:07 David Ames: I want to thank Arline for all the work that she's done, the community management, the interviews, the outreach, for being on the podcast and continuing to show us what honesty and empathy looks like. Thank you, Arline, for being such an integral part of the podcast. The secular Grace thought of the week. Is a return to one of my. Favorite subjects, and that is participation in the community. Again, I could not do the podcast without people like Mike, who does the editing, without people like Arline, who we've just spent an hour or so talking about how much impact that she has, people like Ray, who's doing the memes for us with the quotes from each episode.

1:06:57 David Ames: One of the things that I want to provide, or at least facilitate, is a place for people to use their hobbies, their talents, dare I say gifts in some way that makes them feel good and benefits the community. In church, this could be abusive and exhausting and burnout prone. No one is asking for that level of commitment. But if there is something that you do well, and it would benefit the Deconversion Anonymous community or the Graceful Atheist podcast, we want for you to participate and we want for you to have the opportunity to do something.

1:07:39 David Ames: In the secular world, there are a number of roles. That we could fill. As Arline mentioned, we've got a number of different topics, including unequally yoked relationships, secular parenting, and a myriad of others that still need people to lead groups within the Deconversion Anonymous community. If you're interested in doing that, that'd be great. I could definitely use someone who is more social media focused to take some of that burden off. We already have a couple of the components. Like I say, Ray doing memes and things, but if you want to just manage the social media presence of the Graceful Atheist podcast, I'd be very interested in having you do that.

1:08:20 David Ames: If you are into audio production and want to do more of the music intros outros, more highly produced segments, things of that nature, I'd be really interested in that. I've been talking with Nathan about automating some work to make the podcast into simple video on the YouTube channel. But there's a lot of potential there. If somebody wanted to do more video, more robust video work there. The intro outro music that I currently have is Creative Commons licensed.

1:08:55 David Ames: I would love to have a license free bit of music. As I have said in the past, I'll be honest, I'm super picky about the music. I want it to be gospel, hip hop with a beach. So that one. I'd want to work with you directly, but if you're interested and you have those talents, that would be fantastic. The point I want to make is there are lots of different ways that you can participate with the podcast and the community and don't hold back.

1:09:23 David Ames: When I first spoke to Arline in. Her humility, she didn't know if there. Was anything that she could do to help, and she has turned out to be integral to what we do here. I know there are more of you in the community that maybe feel like you haven't been asked yet or you're not as confident or you're an introvert. This is that moment. I am asking you for help. We can all do something amazing and spectacular together.

1:09:54 David Ames: Reach out to me, email me at Graceful and we will make something happen. Next week is my ask me anything. Arline interviews me and asks the questions that the community came up with and then we're going to take a two week break. What you'll notice is that basically Christmas and New Year hit the weekend days that I would normally release podcasts. So we're just going to take the holidays off.

1:10:21 David Ames: We're going to kick off 2023 with Evan Clark of Atheist United. I just did that interview. That's an amazing interview. I think you're going to see why I'm interested in becoming a part of that organization. He's already provided a couple of different introductions and there will be more coming, so more opportunities for interviews, more opportunities for me to be interviewed. I'm very excited about that partnership.

1:10:43 David Ames: So 2023 is the year of Atheist United. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the Graceful Atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves from makai beats. Links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application and you can rate and review it on

1:11:20 David Ames: You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links or books on If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate with the podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition and do you need to tell your story? Reach out if you are a creator or work in the deconstruction, deconstruction or secular humanism spaces and would like to.

1:11:47 David Ames: Be on the podcast, just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast, there's links in the show notes to find me. You can Google Graceful atheist, you can Google deconversion, you can Google secular Grace, you can send me an email Graceful or you can check out the website Graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings.

1:12:28 David Ames: This has been the graceful atheist podcast.

Nicki Pappas: As Familiar as Family

Adverse Religious Experiences, Autonomy, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Hell Anxiety, Missionary, Podcast, Podcasters, Purity Culture, Quiver Full, Race, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
Listen on Apple Podcasts

Content Warning: Spiritual, physical and sexual abuse. Depression, post-partum depression, infertility and suicidal idealization.

Arline guest hosts interviewing author and podcaster, Nicki Pappas. Nicki Pappas is a writer who critiques the evangelical establishment that shaped her. She’s the author of As Familiar as Family: Leaving the Toxic Religion I Was Groomed For. She’s also the host of the Broadening the Narrative podcast where she interviews guests who are broadening the narratives she was taught within white evangelicalism. She has three young children with Stephen Pappas, her steady partner in the chaos since 2010. Through her work, she desires to spark hope in the world around her and live out an embodied faith.




Broadening the Narrative Podcast








I wasn’t ready for Rachel Held Evans but I read her.

Who am I if I am not going to church?

And over the next few months I really got to spend a lot of time with myself and was, ‘Oh, I really like myself apart from a church … and like the person who I’m getting to know.

Curiosity and compassion

I feared I was gonna fall apart. And that was when I was like,

‘Okay so we can actually leave church and I’m not gonna fall apart because I have something better than my trust placed in [pastor].

I trust me. I trust myself.’


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Nathan and Todd: Beyond Atheism

Atheism, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Community, skepticism
Beyond Atheism
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guests are podcasters, Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares of Beyond Atheism

Nathan grew up Anglican and in his early twenties, he realized there were no good reasons to continue believing. Todd grew up Catholic—technically still confirmed—but even at ten years old, he was a skeptic, wanting to explore reality rather than make-believe. 

In this interview, Nathan and Todd discuss racism, humanism, community-building and what it means to live thoughtfully in a godless world. It’s a sharp conversion you don’t want to miss!


Beyond Atheism

Nathan Alexander

Race in a Godless World: Atheism, Race, and Civilization, 1850-1914



“The thing the nuns will teach you in Sunday school: God answers every prayer, but the answer is usually, ‘no.’…If there’s always not an answer, then there’s no one answering.” —Todd

“I kinda wanted there to be a god. I wanted it to be true because it’s a comfort that there’s some ultimate plan for you. You don’t have to worry because things are going to work out for you.” —Nathan

“Once I took that leap into atheism? You realize it’s not really a leap at all.” —Nathan

“Instead of sitting around, talking about technology and trans-humanism and how silly religions are, let’s address what we need as the people that we are.” —Todd

“If you look at the base numbers alone, the largest religious group who vote Democrat are Nones—atheists, people with no religion. It’s huge, solidly so.” —Todd

“The road to becoming an atheist is so lonely. Everybody does it alone. It’s an individual experience.” —Todd

“In the long term, maybe, having these groups where people are forced to create them, build them and dissolve them is the way it should be. That sort of creative process might be the healthiest thing for atheists…compared to those institutions that just stick around forever and outlive their usefulness.” —Todd

“Right now atheists are disproportionately white, but…when you look at the younger generations, it’s the case that atheists as a group are becoming more diverse…” —Nathan


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. It's been a dry spell for rating and reviewing. So I'm going to ask again, 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. Are Lane continues to do an amazing job as Community Manager for our deconversion anonymous Facebook group, please consider joining at A quick note about social media. I'm actually slightly more active on Twitter than anywhere else. And as you may have heard in the news, there is some craziness happening at Twitter these days, a number of people have moved to a new platform called mastodon. It is I'll be honest, slightly more difficult to get the hang of but if you're interested in that kind of thing. I am at graceful atheist at ma s dot T O. I'll have the link in the show notes. I don't know what's going to happen to Twitter over the next year. But if it does come crashing down, which is at least a small possibility. I will be on mastodon. I also wanted to acknowledge that on Instagram and Facebook Ray, former guest of the show has been doing beautiful means of quotes from guests on the show. So you can find them there as well. I tend to lurk on Facebook because of the deconversion anonymous Facebook group on there. And then finally, I do in fact have a YouTube channel that is way way out of date community member has talked about possibly participating in progressing that forward so hopefully that will soon be up to date. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. onto today's show. My guests today are Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares. And they are the CO hosts of beyond atheism. I love what they're doing over there at the podcast. It is a sister or cousin podcast to this one. They are asking the question. We're atheists. Now what what do we do beyond atheism? So this was a really fun conversation. We have so much in common. I really appreciate the work that Nathan and Todd are doing. Here are Nathan and Todd to tell their story.

I have with me, Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares. Gentlemen, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Todd Tavares  2:56  
Great to be here, David.

Nathan Alexander  2:57  
Thanks for having us.

David Ames  2:59  
So Evan Clark, who is of the atheist united group got us in touch with each other. I'm very, very excited about this. You guys have a podcast called Beyond atheism, that I would say is, if not a sister podcast, a cousin podcast to this one. I think you guys are covering a lot of very similar territory. So we'll we'll jump into that momentarily. But the question we asked everyone on the podcast is what their religious tradition was like growing up, so we'll, we'll have both of you answer that question. And let's begin with Todd.

Todd Tavares  3:28  
No, all right. I was raised Catholic. And I mean, technically, since I was confirmed, I still am. So if anyone presses, I can say I am kind of like, they haven't excommunicated me yet, so Okay. All right. Um, and I, you know, it's I don't know where to begin with this. Because it's not that it was like a super intense part of my upbringing, although, but I think I'm different from you guys. At least in the sense of like, it wasn't that strong for me. I never had I was never like fervently Catholic. I was never deeply religious. I remember being young and skeptical. Like, I remember that going along with that thing. And I remember like developing this skepticism quite early. And comparing it to things like Santa Claus, because as a kid, I don't know what kind of bratty in some ways I remember every year trying to catch the Easter Bunny, I set up a net one year it's left under the Christmas tree so I could catch Santa Claus. So there was always that part of like, you know, experimenting with the world and testing and trying things. And like that, you know, at a certain point with God, you just I just got to the point where like, you know, there are pictures of UFOs people see you. People have seen Bigfoot. This seems to be without that.

David Ames  4:56  
Well, Todd, it sounds like you were an empiricist from a very young age. Yeah.

Todd Tavares  5:00  
I do like I remember being told, like toys move around at night. And then like setting them up very strategically and measuring it in the morning after. But yeah, so like, I mean, it was a very weak faith. And it was there was it was imbued with lot of skepticism. And what really mattered for like the religious upbringing to me was that it was a source of conflict, right? In my family. It's like, this is not something I believe. It's not something I want in my life. And there were very early signs that it that I strongly disagreed with it. I was being coerced into it. And so I'll give you there are two things that I kind of like to highlight about it. One was, I remember being quite young, maybe like 12 or so. And being brought to an ash wednesday mass in the basement of the cathedral, where there was a shrine, and they had like, crutches everywhere, where people who had been cured, left their crutches right, because now they can walk. It's amazing. It's American. And I went with my mother and my mother was deeply Catholic. She's very strongly Catholic. She taught catechism, she would sometimes invite the priest over to have dinner, we would bring the sacraments up occasionally at Mass, things like that. And we saw she was sitting in the front made me sit right in the front. And I remember the priest comes out. And the opening thing was like, you're all sinners, everything. You know, it's like we're here to atone, because you're sinners. You've been offending God for the whole year. It's this litany list of how terrible we are. And this voices started coming out from the back of the room. People saying like, you can't call me that, um, no center. interest. And like, yeah, and I mean, that really, I remember that really stands out as an important memory, where I remember my mother was sitting there nodding along with the priests going along with this guilt trip, which I mean, it's Catholic guilt, it sticks around forever, and he never ever shake it off right about anything. And meanwhile, like hearing other voices that said, like, No, you're not we're not sinners. We're not bad people. We're not terrible. Right? That I think that was the kind of thing that shook me out of just going along, being like, I don't I don't need to other people feel this way. It's a normal thing. It's okay to say no, when you disagree, right. And that's, it's, it's such a rare thing. The only other times things I would see things like that is my father wouldn't take communion. And I mean, it's for people listening, if you, you know, you're on the verge, or you're still going, attending or whatever, like going up, and joining this line and taking the communion and turning around and seeing an empty church, with one person sitting there. It's a very powerful signal. It's pretty impressive. So and of course, it's like, well, now I know, I've kind of got an ally. Um, and then in, in the, I think, Gosh, I guess it would have been the late 90s. By then, yeah, it was sometime in the late 90s. There was a Catholic sex scandal, if you can imagine such a thing.

David Ames  8:25  
Say, Well,

Todd Tavares  8:28  
it's the really crazy thing about this is that the conspiracy of silence around it, like people just didn't address it was really ridiculous. I mean, by then I had already made up my mind, I had to go through confirmation as part of, you know, family negotiation stuff that you just have to do.

David Ames  8:47  
And it's, you're still very young at this age. Yeah.

Todd Tavares  8:50  
Yes, I would have been I mean, like, it definitely helped by the time I was confirmed. So I'm from a town, Fall River, Massachusetts. So this is right before the Boston one, maybe like, you know, about 10 years before five or 10 years. But what was really shocking about it is people who were really Catholic really supported the church. Just never mentioned it. There were never any apologies there were never like, and that's and that really, that really turned me off to the whole mindset. I think it's like, you can't At what point do you like its children? And you're going to defend this institution?

David Ames  9:34  
That would be a powerful motivator, I would think, yeah, it

Todd Tavares  9:37  
was, it was a thing that's like it's okay. There's, there's a time to run, not walk. And this is a signal. So yeah, I was raised with this sort of the title No. Well, I'll just say you can you guys can tell me if I'm way off base on this and sort of like the naive faith of a child, right. Well, everybody says there's a God everybody says there's a center there must be a And went along with it until I was like, I just don't I don't see it, right? Like how many times the thing that the nuns will teach you, they teach a Sunday School is God answers every prayer. But the answer is usually no. And well, then the answer is always buying. But yeah, if there's always not an answer, there's no one answering. And that's so I was pushed down that road very early. And in my, I want to say was about 10. By the time I started actively not believing and moving past that.

David Ames  10:39  
See, that's amazing to me at the ripe old age of 10. Like, yeah, that's a that's a that's really impressive, actually. Well,

Todd Tavares  10:48  
I It's, I think we all kind of end up in these to me, there seem to be about like three doors. And I guess you would, David, you would know this better than me. But it seems the people I interact with, we we either end up kind of either, like very religious, and then we have to make this dramatic move away from it. Or kind of like me, where it's a little bit softer, you're raised in it, it's a tradition and you just move away from it, it dies way, you've never really that committed to where people are raised without religion. Right? These seem to be the three avenues that people go down. I guess it's just an you know, it's a continuum. And we kind of slotted this way. Yeah, for

David Ames  11:25  
sure. I see just an entire spectrum of people's experiences both coming into and leaving religion and but one of the things that is a relatively common theme is very young people having like a moral stance against what they're being taught so that a child's sense of morality says this isn't right. And then they begin that process of, of leaving are very, very early.

Todd Tavares  11:52  
Totally, totally. And I mean, a big part of it is like, I didn't like being lied to. I don't think anybody likes that. And once you get to the point where it's like, okay, like, the thing that makes sense is people made this up. They're just telling these stories. And I don't want to be told that these stories need to dictate my life anymore. I want to go out and explore and find out what's real and see what that what that means. So yeah, it really I think, like in terms of personality, which is really rubbed me the wrong way. The downside is like, it leads to a lot of conflict. I lived right down the street from the church. I remember waking up to church bells, we could hear it from where we lived. And one morning, my mother heard it, and then started this started this like slow motion fight is pretty amazing. Where like she was trying to get me to go to church without saying you're going to church. It's like, oh, let's go for a walk. Oh, dress.

David Ames  12:50  
Eventually, right

Todd Tavares  12:51  
before the house, like at nine o'clock, and by 11 o'clock, it was getting a car. And it was I mean, it's only like, a quarter mile up the road. And I think I threatened to jump out of the car. That's really what

David Ames  13:06  
I'm willing to get out of a moving car, rather than go. Okay, yeah, it

Todd Tavares  13:13  
did not. It did not agree with me at all. But technically, I'm still confirmed conflict. So there they go. I think it's different for Nathan

Nathan Alexander  13:30  
Well, I think I think my experience is a bit different than than Todd just because I was raised Anglican. And I never really had a seriously negative view of religion growing up. I mean, I think I didn't like going to church. I mean, but more because you know, it's just boring when you're a kid, you know, you it's just, you just don't want to you don't want to get dressed up. You don't want to you don't want to go, you don't want to just sit there. It's like it's you know, and you know, there's a whole bunch of old people there and stuff and you really don't like it, but I never had, you know, I didn't, I didn't so I didn't just like it on like metaphysical grounds or anything like that. Yeah. Yeah. And so I you know, I, I went to church growing up and stuff, but I sort of stopped when I was a teenager but I still believe I still would have you know, called myself a Christian and still believed in God and stuff like that. And I think it was early in my early 20s that I kind of was becoming more and more sort of skeptical and eventually became an atheist. I mean, it's it's also different to because I really kind of wanted wanted there to be a god like I wanted it to be true. Yeah. Because it's such a it's like, it's a comfort that just you with the idea that you know, there's some ultimate plan for you and like, you don't have to worry because things are or, you know, things are gonna work out for you. And so on. There's a purpose to life and a meeting and all this sort of stuff. Yeah. And so I didn't have, like, a sort of a negative break where I was leaving a commute a church community or something, because I didn't go to church. And, you know, there wasn't very much conflict, except for sort of internally. Yeah. And even, you know, that wasn't too dramatic, really, in the end. I mean, I think, once I, maybe this is sort of common, it's like, once I sort of took that leap, or whatever, you know, to atheism, then you realize, like, it's not actually a leap at all. And, yeah, there's nothing, there's nothing to, you know, to be worried, like, life still has meaning after all, and so on, at least, I think so. Yeah, so I think it's sort of interesting, you know, because my own religious experience was not, you know, strongly negative or anything like that. And yet, I've sort of wound up doing this atheist podcast and being involved in atheist stuff and other other respects.

David Ames  16:09  
Did you have a moment, Nathan? So it sounds like Todd, you know, 10 years old was like, this is just Santa Claus. A level of of true. Did you have a moment where you were like, I don't think this is true anymore.

Nathan Alexander  16:19  
Yeah, I think yeah. Like in my early 20s. And I think, I mean, I think it's sort of, like a gradual process where, sure, I think early, at some point, maybe in my teens or something, I found it. You know, like, the idea that the Bible wasn't literally true. That was kind of, if it's not, if you know, if everything in the Bible isn't true, then how can that help? Maybe How is it possible that just some of it is true? Right. I think you sort of reconcile yourself to that. But yeah, I think yeah, my early 20s, I would say, there was a point when you when you sort of like, you kind of strip away more and more than it's just sort of becomes a sort of generic kind of like theism or whatever that and then even then that finally goes as well. Yeah. Yeah, I think I mean, the funny thing is, like, I remember watching a debate with, like, a Christian and Richard Dawkins. And as by this point, I was sort of, you know, still, like, hoping that the Christian was gonna sort of try and give a good argument for God. And I really found the argument like, you know, pretty poor, obviously. So. Yeah,

David Ames  17:31  
I think that's still my experience. every once awhile, I'll listen to an apologist, and now they have like some point to me. No, they don't. Yeah, that's quite disappointing. Yes.

Nathan Alexander  17:44  
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think, yeah, it's also because you sort of assumed, like, you know, there's this idea like, Okay, I'm not I don't have, I don't have good reasons for believing but other people probably do. And like, and I can sort of, you know, like, they they sort of prop up my faith, because other people really strongly believe this. And therefore, if, you know, if, if they do, there must be something to it. And yeah, and that sort of helps you as well.

David Ames  18:13  
I think you just described a lot of my faith lasting longer than it needed to was, you know, I thought somebody smarter than me understands this somewhere else. And I can just pass that off to them. And yeah, and then when I started to actually look at it myself things that House of Cards starts to fall down. Exactly, yeah.

So Nathan, you provided us with a really good segue of you know, now you do this podcast. That's all about atheism. So, first, I want to I want to hear the story about how the two of you met because you met in South Korea, correct? Yeah. And so I'd love to hear how'd you both end up there? How'd you meet each other? And how did you wind up deciding to do a podcast with one another?

Todd Tavares  19:00  
I'm not even sure where to begin with that. How far back to go, David, how we ended. Um, I think we were both teaching there. And we ended up on the through mutual friends on the same trivia team. Day, and then a hell of a team. That was one of the problems was you could win free beer, and we won free beer quite often. It was a weekday, so we'd stay up late drinking way too much. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. We were also we think we, I Nathan, were you you were in an atheist group there, right. Yeah.

Nathan Alexander  19:42  
It was. It was basically when I when I went to Korea, it was after my master's. I did my masters and I wasn't sure what to do next, really. So I wound up in Korea. And so this was at the same time as I was kind of, you know, becoming an atheist and I was kind of seeking out community of atheists and there was Um, there was an atheist group I found in in Korea, South Korea. It was mostly expats as I remember. But anyway, like, eventually in a roundabout way, I met Todd through that. Yeah.

Todd Tavares  20:12  
We may have been members of the same group. And we just, we just missed each other, but we never met there. Oddly Mo. Okay. Okay. Interesting. Yeah. And it's, it was a strange group, because if it was the same one, I was a member of rational thinkers first. And that was a little strange, because it included religious people, it was open for religious people, anyone who's rational, like, like, there are people who identify as irrational. That was a little strange. Yeah. It was also one of the other things that was weird about it is like, you know, that that continuum of atheists, it was a lot of people who never had any religion. Okay, so and that, that's a very, very different dynamic. And one of the things that I saw, not a lot, but you'd run into it is people who ended up I mean, they ended up in a foreign country, because they were so cut off from their family. Like, they literally had nowhere to go. They they lost their family, they lost their friends, they, they can't get work. This is this is where they end up. I mean, people who were the often from the south, I knew someone who was a foreigner, who was training to become a pastor, and had to, you know, I think he's still I think he's in Japan now. Really tough stuff. And unforced. One of the unfortunate things is that with a group like this that's not attuned to that need. We would the you know, it wasn't a very welcoming environment. And that, I mean, it's heartbreaking. It's not it's, it wasn't at all what I wanted to be part of, like, why are we more welcoming to church people than we are to people who have serious needs. I know, a guy from Pakistan who got run out of the country with death threats, it's like this is we need to take this seriously. So we ended up I mean, some other people kind of Reformed, uh, you know, made a different group that was just atheists and was more centered on this idea of like, you know, kind of like the beyond atheism thing. Instead of sitting around and talking about technology and transhumanism, and how silly religions are, let's kind of address our what we need as the people that we are. And it's a weird and one of the things that the podcast is discovered, too, is like, yeah, this happens all the time. And like people always making these groups, and they have, sometimes they have a short shelf life, sometimes they last a long time. They're always reconstituting themselves. So that was that's part of the background of, of, of what led to or like, what led to the aim of beyond atheism? Right? Like we've done enough of this. Yes, religion is silly. We don't need to have these two arguments about the proof of God, what we need to do is, is think more about like, what it is that we need, what it is that that we want, what what is the world that we're trying to make? And how do we make it and fortunately, that's where we ended up with the with the podcast now. Nathan, very wisely. As when we started pointed out, like, Let's never talk about what religion is up to never think about. And that I think has been like the the best thing to happen for us for the podcast is never never needing to worry about that, because it's irrelevant to what we're doing.

David Ames  23:36  
Yeah, I'll just comment here. Like, when I started my podcast, I saw the same thing. I saw so many people doing response, podcasts and YouTube videos, and, you know, they're always responding to the religious arguments, and they're playing on their, their turf. And I think all of us had the same impetus of like, Yeah, but now of lies, right, like, now, what do I do with my life? Like, that's what I care about. And in trying to move beyond that. So I think that's really interesting.

Todd Tavares  24:06  
Yeah, it feels like it's kind of like, we're, like the next generation of things, right? Like, it's been about 20 years since we had the New Atheists. Right. And that that moment did what it did, right, it broke atheism, it made it mainstream, became okay to talk about and the numbers. Anytime there's a peer report, or any sort of religious you know, survey that comes out, you see the results. Atheism, nuns keep growing and growing and growing. You don't need to replay these battles. Again, it's okay to take the next step. And I think that David, that's definitely where you are. It's where we're trying to be. Yeah, yeah.

Nathan Alexander  24:49  
Yeah. I do feel like there is still a place I think for the sort of people who are kind of you know, still debating And Christians and so on. You know, because we, we need to keep keep our supply of new of atheists fresh.

David Ames  25:11  
I seem to have an infinite supply almost. But yeah.

Nathan Alexander  25:17  
You know, I guess, you know, I think everyone, you know, when I became an atheist, like I was, you know, watching, I really liked watching all these videos of, you know, like, Christian destroyed by atheists or whatever. But, you know, obviously you get past that, but I think everyone maybe like, you know, there's still a place for that, depending on where people are in there sort of their journey, so to speak. So I don't Yeah, so I think you know, I guess I'm glad people are still doing that, although I think, you know, it's not what me and Todd are really interested in doing.

David Ames  25:58  
I wanted to talk a little bit about the language or the nomenclature, I saw you guys kind of in the podcast and your writing, struggled through some of the same things that I have that in that atheist has such a negative connotation in society. It's seen as an aggressive stance, when I think most of us would say we're agnostic, atheists are weak atheists, or whatever terminology you want to use. I know for a while, like, just prior to my deconversion. In 2015, there was some discussion of things like Atheism Plus, I really landed on humanism kind of encompassed what I was interested in, right, like a secular outlook, a scientific outlook, and caring for people. And that last bit was was really critical that this is what I actually do believe in is people. So I'm curious how you've worked through some of those language issues for yourself, what do you call yourselves? And what is it like that the podcast represents for you?

Todd Tavares  27:01  
Well, David, I'm shocked that you're, you're still on the weak side of

David Ames  27:07  
I mean, in the sense of you can't prove a negative and yeah, and then what might not be knowable, but yeah, and I get

Todd Tavares  27:14  
it, I mean, like even now, vastly between, you know, some form of agnosticism, right? Like it's unknowable. There's just, we know that what what the claims that are religious claims that are made, we know that they're, they're false. But the there's stuff that we just can't know. But you're right, in this, there's, it's really, really difficult, it's loaded. One of the things that we like to use are sort of like big atheists, and small atheists. Were like, yeah, if you identify as an atheist, and that's your position, that is, it's a strong position, it's, it's pretty definitive and clear, but plenty of people go out and live their life as if there is no God. Right? If all religion is not true, as if there are no gods and gods and goddesses. And if you live that way, you are atheist? Right. So that's like the small atheist? I think that's a fair distinction. I think it's a great way to think about it. And when we think about, you know, moving beyond atheism, in that sense, that's what we're talking about. Right? Just figuring out that were, you know, that we're living in a material world without deities. The other thing we've been using a lot is, is the nuns, which David, I don't know how familiar you are with that. I don't, I don't know. Do you talk to many people who identify as a nun?

David Ames  28:40  
I would say that, because of the podcast is so specific to deconversion there are a few of them, but there's, I definitely see that as a category and I would say that many of the members in our community group are what I would call nuns, right? They're spiritual but not religious. They have their there somewhere in that category where they're done with organized religion for sure. Like that. That's over there. Not quite. naturalists, you know, empiricist, that kind of thing.

Todd Tavares  29:11  
And I'm trying to think Nathan, I don't know if we've have we talked to anyone who identifies as something other than a humanist. That

Nathan Alexander  29:20  
Well, well, I mean, I want one thing. We talked to Lucien Greaves who's a Satanist? That's, yeah.

Todd Tavares  29:29  
They Yeah, but I think they are. They're definitely secular

Nathan Alexander  29:34  
there. I think they would say they're atheist as well, probably. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think so many of these labels, like there's a lot of overlap, obviously. I mean, they're not. They're definitely not sort of mutually exclusive. And I think yeah, I think for me, I always, I always say I guess if I was pressed to say atheist is the main identifier just Because maybe people know what that means most, most of all versus other things. I guess I understand the point of like humanism, where it's, it is it is focusing on the more positive aspects or like, you know, positive in the sense of like, the actual content of your beliefs rather than what you you don't believe. But yeah, I I guess I mean, I always maybe maybe there's some some sort of thing among atheists about just recoiling at any kind of joining something too closely.

David Ames  30:38  
Yeah. That's for sure. Yeah. That's the thing. Yeah. Yeah. So

Nathan Alexander  30:42  
it's like, yeah, I mean, I think I would agree with with, you know, everything really, that the humanists would, would would stand for? There's always just that reluctance to identify yourself as it was something to do closely or whatever. Yeah,

Todd Tavares  30:57  
yeah. And I mean, part of the project for us, it's identifying what atheists are, which is not it doesn't come out. I mean, it's not fully formed, right? We don't really know what people who are nuns who are spiritual, who are, you know, or who may even still believe in God, but have just left a religion. We don't really know the whole thing. Originally, I think this the, before the podcast, we had been shopping an article saying that the it wasn't basically that atheist, people who were without a religion, were the block the block that sort of pushed the Democrats and Biden over the top. In late 2020, all of these think pieces came out about this very specific groups that were that were the difference. And our point was like, no, look, if you look at the numbers based numbers alone, the biggest part now is or I think it's the pluralist, the largest religious group in the Democrats are vote Democrat, are nuns are atheists, people with no religion? It's huge. And they vote solidly. So more so than evangelicals vote for Republicans. That's okay. There's something going on here. There's something very, very important. But anytime we tried to tell this story, this the every rejection was the same. It was always like, no, they're not a block. What you're seeing this is something different. You're talking about young people who are college educated and live in cities and have white collar jobs. That's it, but that that doesn't show up in the in the numbers, right? If it's just that then you would expect college educated people that would vote tremendously this way urban people would vote tremendously. This nuns vote stronger Democrat than urban people do. There's something special that's going on here. Yeah, and I mean, exactly what you said David, like it, it must be that you know, there's humanism, it's, there has to be something like that going on. It's just not accepted or not evidently clear enough right now, yeah.

David Ames  33:29  
That was one of your first episodes, you were looking at the tendency towards liberalism within the atheist community. And one of the things I was struck by that I'd like to explore here is the atheist community here. And I'll just say like, online atheists, right, tend to say about themselves, that there is no atheist community that there is no atheist culture. And I think your first number of episodes was kind of debunking that in one way or another. So you talked about liberalism. I think I've heard you mentioned vegetarianism, which is very over represented amongst atheists, meditation, hallucinogenics, what have you, right, all these things are very, very, like, you know, over over represented by atheists. So I'd like you to talk about what you've explored that are you would say, our kind of atheist culture.

Todd Tavares  34:18  
Well, that first thing I didn't, I didn't believe in that. And then I was on only sky, trying to figure just trying to talk to people and be like, What would convince you that we are a block and that we are? Right, and it was the same thing? It's like, oh, it's just correlations. There's no, cause we're just that's just how we are. Well, yeah, well, what causes us to be that way is yeah, it's it's very, it's a really, really weird thing. Yeah, so Nathan, what have we found? Have we answered this question yet?

Nathan Alexander  34:53  
I mean, I think it seems pretty clear that yeah, that politically, atheists To diagnostics and another non religious people are leaving kind of left politically. I mean, I don't think that's really been controversial to say. I mean, I think it's, you know, if you look at the nuns as a whole, sort of like everyone who's who checks the sort of no religion box, it's strong, but then if you look specifically just at atheists, it's even stronger. And I think like, the reason why that is, I think there's probably

Todd Tavares  35:29  
no pet theories. Yeah,

Nathan Alexander  35:31  
I mean, I think I think one of them is? Well, I'm not. I mean, I think I think that one, one sort of aspect of atheist politics is sort of like, there is kind of like a rejection kind of, of certain forms of authority. I suppose that, you know, and I think, particularly in issues where, you know, rights, say, like, abortion, or same sex marriage, things like this, where it's sort of a religious authority who's trying to curtail these rights or whatever. I mean, there's naturally going to be kind of a recoil at this. But I'm not sure. I mean, in terms of things like, Well, I don't know the numbers, but I imagine it's, there's a similar kind of political view about, you know, increasing social spending, you know, greater spending on health care, something like this. I mean, why atheists should support that, like, how does that fall from atheism? I don't know. Exactly. It could be. I mean, it could be something, you know, a kind of a view of, you know, this is the life we have, and so we should, you know, try to help other people, too. And then maybe there's, it's also, I mean, I'm just sort of thinking on the fly. Your circumstances are really just random. It's not, there's nothing. There's no kind of divine plan that says, you know, you're, you're rich, and therefore you must, you must be looked upon fondly by God, or, or vice versa, or something like that. I mean, maybe there's some, like, greater ability to realize that you could, you know, your lot in life is pretty much randomly determined, and you could just as easily if your advantage you could have just as easily been disadvantaged, and therefore, to try to make things more equitably, equitable. I don't know. I mean, I'm, yeah, I mean, it's also, you know, like, to just, there's a danger, I guess, I've just, like, sort of taking my own views, and then kind of extrapolating them to other atheists.

Todd Tavares  37:49  
And like, that's the weird thing about this, as I'm sure like you've seen is that, like, the road to becoming an atheist is so lonely, right? Everybody's, everybody does alone. It's always an individual experience. So it's, it seems like it seems natural that when you come out of it, you would just be won't have caught it. Look, it's it's something you do alone. It's something you do as an individual individuals come out there. And we don't understand the reasons why we are certain ways very well, we can't, and if we do, we can't articulate it. So that's why I'm on board with the authority authority. thing is that, like, there's just, if you look at a lot of religion, it's, you know, it's authoritarian. It's, there's a big, you know, Kim Jong moon in the sky. They're always watching you, God knows everything. He's, he's in your heart. He's in your mind. He knows when you do things that are wrong. And if he's, and he's going to punish the wicked. Now, if you're on board for that, that sounds great. If you're someone who wants to take orders, and do as you're told, that's, that's probably a good train to ride. If you don't like that, if that turns you off, then you're not going to be interested in it. And that's what I suspect. And I'm glad to like, I'm very happy to promote this theory, without any evidence that someone will gather evidence.

David Ames  39:11  
Yes, that's right. Exactly. Yeah. So that we don't continue to just speculate, I do want to come back to a point that I think is quite profound that you just said, Todd, we don't want to lose it. And I believe in one of your medium articles, you talk about this, that the deconversion process tends to be a lonely have you do that alone, it's a lot in your head. But in the writing, you mentioned that it's kind of the opposite of the of a religion or a cult experience, where it's much more about community or you know, who you were born with family you were born with. And I think that's really a deep insight there that the rejection of religion is much more of an individualistic part, and maybe that hints at why you know, liberalism is attractive then,

Todd Tavares  39:57  
yeah, it also helps explain why i The like, why atheist groups, broadly speaking kind of wax and wane like that sort of having to conform to a group, no matter how mildly like it's people know, people who have been down that road don't want to go down it anymore. And this is something we've read about and heard from other people. It's tough to keep those groups together. It's tough because a lot of atheists will say they don't believe in anything. So clearly you believe in things. You have a worldview, you have a perspective, you have things that you take as fundamental truths that other truths have to hang on. You accept gravity. Um, but yeah, I think that having to do everything alone, that becomes the place you're most comfortable. And when you have to be in part of the big group, and go along with certain perspectives, that's when you become uncomfortable. Yeah, David, I hadn't really thought about that that deeply until just now. That's yeah.

David Ames  41:00  
Yeah, I think we should explore it more so

Todd Tavares  41:03  
tempted to credit you with that insight? You gave me credit for thank you yeah.

David Ames  41:19  
I'm going to just keep quoting you back to yourselves here. Another thing that you guys were grappling with was I think, this idea of community. So now you have a secular group and atheistic group. And as we've just mentioned, we are not joiners. Yeah. I believe it was Nathan, who talked about the three B's the belief, belonging and behavior. Yeah, I say it slightly different. I do ABCs, the all belonging and connection. But interesting that, again, Todd, you mentioned that everybody's kind of rediscovering this and redoing this over and over and over again in isolation. So I'm wondering what your thoughts are on atheist community and how that is built? Yeah, this is an easy one. This is. Isn't that easy?

Todd Tavares  42:08  
Wow, gosh, this is one I'm struggling to find a good place to begin with, with this. Um, well, do you mean, David, you mean like, well, I Okay. Here's the thing. One of the things that's really loaded by this is that most organizations, actually almost every organization people are part of is an atheist organization. Right? Like, right, right. They're not religious. Yeah, it's just but it's, it's secular. It's not religious, it's atheistic, it ignores it's that, that soft atheism we were talking about, it's not this strident, let's go out and destroy all gods. It's this, like, it doesn't matter. It's not what we're talking about. It's not we're worried about. So those organizations already exists. And they I mean, you know, it would take all day to just to start to categorize them. With atheist organizing. There's always two tracks. And this is something like from my personal experience, it was exactly what I ran into talking to other people on our podcast, similar thing. And Evan, who, from APS, united, I think, like his experience was the same thing, right? Like, where it starts off is the very social thing. You need it, you want to be people meet people like you, you want to be with people like you, share those stories, share your experiences, and just support one another and be able to do things like make fun of religion every once in a while, and not have to like not have to smile and nod when people talk about praying for your soul and all that other nonsense. So it that that social part is usually pretty attractive. But it also it's limiting, right? People who are serious about atheism and want to promote it and want to push it further. And that's when people start getting alienated when it becomes more community oriented, or political or something like that. That's when you see this sort of, that's when they start to fracture based on what we know about how these organizations work. It doesn't mean they all do. I think the there were numbers on it. I can't remember. Oh, Nathan, I'm really unprepared for this.

Nathan Alexander  44:24  
Or are you thinking of the numbers from the Joe Joseph paradise book? Yeah, there was something Yeah.

Todd Tavares  44:32  
Is it two thirds?

Nathan Alexander  44:34  
It was yeah, it was something like it might have been. Yeah, this guy named Joe Joseph blank when we interviewed him a few episodes ago. He's social scientists. That's sufficiently broad. I know, he looks at, you know, atheist communities. And I think that I'm not sure in late 2000s. And then again, 10 years later say and there was a About the same, like 1500 atheist groups each time we counted, but I think, basically, you know, I'm not sure if it was a third or two thirds. Were just, you know, had completely some of them had disappeared another and then sort of new ones spring up in their place. Right. Yeah. Which, yeah, I'm not I don't remember the exact numbers, but there was a substantial, you know, sort of turnover, I suppose. I guess in these these groups.

Todd Tavares  45:29  
You're saying? Yeah, yeah. And that's for specifically, he's looking at sort of the grassroots atheists getting together. There are, of course, these more established nonprofits that have either like legal goals, like American Atheists is very legalistic, where they're much sturdier. But, yeah, David, did that answer the question?

David Ames  45:53  
I mean, yeah, we're asking an impossible question. It's a question that just constantly gnaws at me.

So right now, my podcasts, we have a little Facebook group called deconversion. Anonymous, that is, it's doing quite well, as far as like people supporting one another as they go through from the questioning phase to how do I parent as a secular person? Or how do I deal with my believing spouse, those kinds of things are the kinds of things that come up. But I'm also acutely aware of that people, you know, for lack of a better term age out of it, right? Like, they're there for a year, year and a half or so. Okay, I got what I needed out of this, and I'm gonna move on. The thing that I'm interested in, is that just being that hyper rationalist and coldly saying, Well, you know, religion is wrong, there is no God, now you're on your own good luck, is not a compelling argument is not a compelling thing for normal human beings. And if we actually want, you know, more secularization, more pluralism, we're going to have to do better than that, and provide some kind of soft landing for people. And so I'm just constantly asking my guests like trying to find, you know, kernels of knowledge of how we can accomplish that.

Nathan Alexander  47:10  
Yeah, I think I think it's like you said, it's, yeah, people may age out of it. And it's like, you know, people may want different things at different times. I mean, sometimes it's just wanting to have a social, you know, like, when I've moved to different cities, like, you know, you sort of seek out, because because I think, you know, for a Christian or someone, a natural place to meet new people is at a church or wherever, and I think it was the same for me in a couple places, where like, a natural kind of community, what might or 1.1 sort of starting point might be a atheist or secular community. But then, you know, once you're sort of established, maybe you don't, you don't need that sort of anymore, but then you might, you might want to be involved in something more political or something like that. You might want to, or is like volunteering in your community or something. I think it's, it is a question you're like, is not believing in God? Is that enough to bind a community group? I really don't think so. I mean, but I do think I watched I happen to see this video the other day, a few weeks ago, or something. And I think, Todd, I told you about it like this, this guy is talking about the need for third places, meeting places where people hang out. You know, it's not at home, but it's not at work. And there's sort of like someplace, you just, you just sort of go and hang out. And there's sort of in this this videos, he's just saying, you know, there's been sort of a decline of third places. Because, you know, community centers are like, just that things are its sense of kind of community centers are kind of hollowed out now. And there's the places are now there's some kind of profit motivation, you know, like, at a coffee shop or a bar or something, you can't Yeah, you know, you got to spend money you guys

David Ames  49:02  
spend money to be there. Yeah, that's actually quite insightful. And I think you I think you're onto something that it's that's beyond just secular people. That's just culture in general Yes, isolated from one another. We desperately want community and connection and it's lacking in our college

Todd Tavares  49:17  
culture. Whereas in this was a big thing. Like that third place was huge in Korea, where like, the homes are really small, nobody really hangs out at their home, they do have like you go from work to another place that is theirs. And then there's also like, you know, different terms for like the first place you go and then the second place you go and sometimes it gets crazy. The third place you go about these, like those outside places. And then coming back like if you I mean, cities are, are rough now in the US, certainly during the pandemic, but then you go out to the suburbs where there's just nothing, right like you are in your home and that's really all there is. That makes it tough. So And, you know, it's like you're saying with Facebook, that's a different experience. It's a different way to meet people. But you know, David, another way we can think about this is like maybe that these that these groups come and go is a good thing. Maybe it is the right thing. What we've seen talking to people, one of the big things that really jumps out at me is that to, to get plugged into the atheist community to get to become part of it to take over leadership role, you just have to go and do it. And that's the amazing thing, right? Like, they're always looking for volunteers, they're looking for leaders, they're looking for coordinators, whatever it is, you just, you can just go and do it. If there isn't a group, you make a group, and people show up. And it's amazing. And maybe, I mean, the way you put it, I think it's kind of sums it up pretty perfectly right? If people age out, it means like, they're moving on to something else. And that's really good.

David Ames  50:57  
And that's actually can be very healthy. Yeah,

Todd Tavares  51:01  
yeah, it might be it might be for the best it might be what we need to do. We were atheism is not at a place where we can answer that definitively now. But we recently talked to the head of recovery from religion, which walks people through the deconversion process offers a lot of peer support, meaning people who've been through it. And fortunately, like that one is pretty sturdy, it seems really, really set. It's not fly by night operation. It's professionalized, um, but like, that's, like, that's what they do right there. There's no one who should be be going to that forever, right? You should do it. you rebuild your social capital, you meet people, you, you readjust to the world, and you go on to something else. So in the long term, David, maybe maybe having these groups where people are forced to create them, build them and dissolve them, is the way it's it should be, right. That's that sort of creative process might be the healthiest thing for atheists, it might be what atheism really, really needs, compared to those institutions that just stick around forever. And outlived their usefulness. And just like, and I mean, we, there are a lot of instances of this sort of institutional legacy where an institution is built to meet a specific need, that need may or may not go away, but then it needs to sustain itself. And it says the institution needs to start taking in money, regardless of what it actually offers. So I'm that's the alternative view to it.

David Ames  52:50  
Yeah. Well, I think that's interesting inside as well.

Todd Tavares  52:53  
Yeah. And really where we are right now, we don't have an idea of what it's, it's, it's going, it's going to look like it's not predetermined. The future is unwritten. This is the good thing. We get to do it now. And that's and that's beyond atheism. Right. How are we doing it?

Nathan Alexander  53:11  
Yeah, I guess, just just to sort of add on, I think there's also the problem, though, is that there's a problem of like, people having to kind of reinvent the wheel constantly. If there's not, you know, if groups are constantly dissolving. And again, I mean, maybe that's not a bad thing, necessarily. I mean, it's in the same way that everyone kind of goes through the deconversion process in some it's gonna look different for everyone. But you know, it's Yeah, but But nonetheless, it's sort of a journey, everyone. Well, not everyone has to go. But you know, some people do. Yeah, but yeah. Yeah, I guess that's that's the point of how to kind of keep up that institutional legacy. So that people who are going through it, that that it's, it is there for for them or something.

Todd Tavares  54:06  
Yeah. And there are people who are great at it, and do it again and again. So

David Ames  54:11  
yeah, yeah, I think the the takeaway from this conversation is to say that there's nothing special about starting a group, you could just, you know, go on Say, Hey, I'm going to be at this location. This time, we're gonna talk about deconversion we're gonna talk about atheism, what have you and people just show up? Just do?

Todd Tavares  54:27  
Yeah, I mean, a follow up to it, the thing that we were starting to find is that they are the same names keep coming up, right there are these the sort of network effects that are happening and because it's, you know, you you opt into this stuff. People who do it the most do it the best, or they're, they're moving their way to the top, and they're connecting with other people who've done it. So we're Starting to see sort of big national groups having connections with smaller local groups. And that seems much more stable. The sort of network effects they're growing. And again, we don't know where it's going to go. But like, we did it with, I think it was, was it Chris camera? We Who did we get the survey for? As you can tell, I'm David, I'm not very detail oriented, not have good memory. But basically, there was one group who they were like, oh, yeah, we started vetting all the local politicians. Yeah, just send out a survey. And, you know, when they, when they send it back, we give it a score. And we tell everybody in the group what the score was, right? And then we started getting requests for the survey. Right from other groups who want to do the same thing. That part is building. Right? That and that seems so we have these these two things, right? We have these transitory groups, people come and go, they're looking for connections rebuilding social capital, then you have these long term institutional organizations that are more stable and sticking around. And they're learning. And they're building on it. So like, that survey is gonna go round and round round, it's gonna become a set thing, everybody's gonna know about it, and you can just you just change the name of the state or whatever. Right? Yeah. Right. So we were seeing some of these effects, but on the most immediate personal level, it's still just Yeah, yeah, drop ah, you know, good to meet up.

David Ames  56:46  
One last topic. And I may rearrange this thematically. So I understand Nathan, that you've written about, and some of your expertise is about racism. And I'm interested to know, like, the intersection between racism and atheism, I know, I've had lots of our black friends on who said this is the they're a minority of a minority, and have not necessarily been accepted with wide open arms. But how we address that within the secular atheist community, how we can make sure that we are welcoming to everybody. Yeah, no pressure, no pressure.

Nathan Alexander  57:25  
Guess I researched the topic, sort of historically. And so I wrote a book. Everyone should check it out. Yes. Go ahead and plug race in a godless world. Atheism, race and civilization 1852 1914? Kind of a long title. Basically, why? Yeah, well, maybe I'll just I'll just say something about the book and then see if this has some relevance to the present. Basically, the the the argument was, Well, I think that this sort of starting point is in the 19th century, which is what I was looking at, you know, it was the vast majority of atheists were were white. And so I was really looking at, you know, what is the attitudes of the white people about race and racism? And what I found is that there were, as you might expect, in the 19th century, you know, they did, they did accept these ideas of racism and white supremacy, and so on. But I also found that in other ways, there were these way the atheists who were far ahead of their time, I would say, with regard to race and, you know, questioning things like slavery and, and imperialism and even sort of the, the underlying logic of racism, you know, that there was sort of a biological hierarchy of races or something like that, and which is not, you know, it's quite a radical position in the 18th century. So I think, I guess, I guess the theme of the book was sort of just getting at this complexity. I think as as it stands now, I mean, yeah, I really I don't know if I have too much to add other than what you said that I I think, you know, atheists of color and I should shouldn't have you know, for for listening, you know, since it's just audio I'm, I'm awake. i So. I mean, yeah. You know, it's a little a little bit weird. But

David Ames  59:30  
on the spot, I'm sorry.

Nathan Alexander  59:34  
No, I mean, I understand you know, that atheists of color have sort of unique needs, we'll say within within the community. And I think, you know, we've talked with Mandisa Thomas, for example, you know, who started black non believers. Yeah. And I think big because, you know, there's sort of a unique you know, atheists they You know, atheist share sort of this, you know, coming out, or you know, D converting and so on. But, but I think, you know, black atheists, for example, maybe have particular things in common that perhaps white white people or other other people just really can't maybe relate to as much. Right. So I think, yeah, I think having space spaces for that, I think is a good thing.

David Ames  1:00:27  
All right, I'll let you off the hot seat. It.

Todd Tavares  1:00:32  
The other thing is we're like we're old atheist. Now is another thing. We kind of why certainly. I'm on

David Ames  1:00:39  
the Great Barrier. So yeah.

Todd Tavares  1:00:42  
Like I, generationally, things are things are changing. It's tough to keep track of the youth. But they have very different perspectives. And they're, I think the numbers are changing, too, which is a good thing, right? Yes. Yeah. Right. We did also recently learned that among the sort of black atheists lineage of thought, right, when we take this intellectual family tree, it goes back to Thomas Paine, which is, it's was a wake up because it's like, wait a minute, that's like every time we start tracing it back among you, in the UK, even in the US, where this line of fire back to Robert Ingersoll goes back to Thomas Paine. So it's amazing that like, intellectually, there's this incredible overlap. There's, it's completely related. There's not there's not really a difference. The cultural overlap isn't there yet. But it's, you know, generally, generationally, and as like, eight more atheists get together. Like, it's something we're gonna have to do. And, of course, being since we seem to be so related to humanism, the interest is there. It's, it's, it's not just that, you know, in the past, we might be able to say, atheists are right about exactly one thing. There's no God. Now, it seems if we are expanding this to like, well, you know, we all we're all materialists, right? We're all humanists. We don't think we should have a secular government. It's time to, you know, put it into action.

David Ames  1:02:25  

Nathan Alexander  1:02:25  
yeah. Oh, can I can I add one more thing on the race thing, just sort of sort of what Todd was saying a little earlier, just about? You know, it's true that I think, white and right now, white atheists, like atheists are kind of disproportionately white. But I think when you look at sort of the younger generations, it's the case that more like, you know, it's atheists as a sort of group are becoming more more diverse, I suppose. When you look at kind of the Gen. Gen. Zed, as

David Ames  1:02:59  
Canadian would say, yes.

Nathan Alexander  1:03:02  
Yeah. So I think you know, as it's, you know, growing more, I mean, I guess, like, you know, atheists are gonna just look more like the population as a whole, I suppose. Yeah.

Todd Tavares  1:03:11  
The Canadian thing and the vegan thing is we keep surprised. Yeah. Especially since I stopped eating meat and dairy. That's, like, I don't think but you still do eat meat?

David Ames  1:03:25  
I unfortunately, do. Yes. Fortunately, yeah. I felt like I'm way I'm way out of out of the atheist culture by still eating meat. But yeah, but this it's

Todd Tavares  1:03:38  
a weird one. Like, I don't think there is like a, is there an atheist culture that says, You can't eat meat?

David Ames  1:03:45  
No, I think, Ron for sure. No, but I think that the, you know, the, we take a rationalist approach to morality, we think about consciousness and, and sentience. And you know, that we see how that expands to the animal kingdom. And, I mean, there are some moral obligations there. I will admit that, you know, the factory farming is horrendous. And I know that and I just basically go blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So that is not a terribly ethical stance. So

Todd Tavares  1:04:17  
what you just explored, like is something that's not It's not coincidental, right, but it comes out. It's it's part of the Atheist Experience where you you're critically thinking about all these things, you're using these tools, and you've taken in these values as part of it. It's a really remarkable thing that we're all you know, we're kind of discovering ourselves that we're all we all have these commonalities. Yeah, for sure.

David Ames  1:04:48  
You know, I think just to wrap this up here, one of the things I find interesting about the commonalities amongst religious traditions, obviously, there's lots of diversity but there's also So lots of commonalities. And I think one argument is to say that you take the supernatural elements out and the very specific cultural elements out and you wind up with humanism. You know that that is the commonality, but also that it is the commonalities there, because human beings, we are the operating system as it were aware that, you know, we're the same no matter where we are. And we're going to come to some very similar conclusions. And so well, I think you've tapped into that, Todd, that, you know, as we explore a rational approach to morality, and we're trying to be consistent within our morality, we're going to come to some very common conclusions. And it's because we're human beings, and that's the common denominator.

Todd Tavares  1:05:41  
Yeah, that makes sense. And that mean, I think we are I think there's more variety than that, David. And I think rationality is. Rather, rationality is a lot more flexible and fluid than we think. But yeah, like, you know, when you take the time to think these things out, it's remarkable that we all come to similar conclusions, right, just by giving it a good thing. Yeah.

David Ames  1:06:11  
Yeah, yeah. And just to be clear, I don't mean that we will come to happy harmony and agreement. I think that's why I'm a pluralist. That's why I'm a secularist, is that I want the marketplace of ideas, to be in competition with one another, to find the truth closer to the joy. I

Todd Tavares  1:06:27  
mean, that's one of the things that like I appreciate about your being graceful, right? Like, it's not either of us to we're not out to abolish religion. And I think it's, it's important not to lose sight of that, particularly for what we're doing. The thing that kind of, especially where the battle lines have been drawn, these days, where we're seeing real political struggle, it's not that we need to go out and destroy religion and make sure it never impacts humanity this way again, right? We're saying just leave us alone. Right. Don't impose it upon us. Because we have no interest in imposing upon other people. We've never met, we've never talked to any atheist who said, you know, we need to force these people to renounce their beliefs. It never ever comes up.

David Ames  1:07:23  
Yeah, I would hope that most of us are not totalitarians. And that, yeah, you know, I truly do believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religion. And it's that last bit that we've been lacking, yeah. And that we do in some senses need to fight for on the political stage. Absolutely. Yeah. Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure. The podcast is beyond atheism. This has been Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares. Can you tell people how to get in touch with you how to find the podcast? Any other work? You want to plug? Oh, well, we're on the

Todd Tavares  1:07:57  
atheist United Network now, so you can find it through their website? Um, any problem? Do you have any complaints? Go on Twitter? It's Nathe. G. Alexander. We'll look them over. Yeah. I think that's it. I don't. David, I've been I've been such a hermit lately. It's ridiculous. Really, I spent all this time talking about and reading about and talking to other people about atheist organizing. And man, I yeah, I'm not even online. I don't even know.

David Ames  1:08:34  
It's crazy. That's awesome. That's probably better for your mental health. Nathan, last word, anything?

Nathan Alexander  1:08:42  
Yeah. Just find me on Twitter, like Ted said. And yeah, check out my book of fight you.

David Ames  1:08:49  
If people are interested. Yeah. One more time the title of the book, Race to the godless world. Fantastic. We will have links to those things in the show notes. Gentlemen, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode.

I think you can see that Nathan and Todd have a very similar approach to what we've got going on here at the graceful atheist podcast. Beyond atheism, is asking the question that I was asking shortly after my deconversion. Now what? As I mentioned in the conversation, I had read all the books, all the four horsemen and was immediately aware of the fact that I was just rereading things I already agreed with and I was much more interested in what do we do now? And that is the topic that Nathan and Todd are tackling in the beyond atheism podcast. I very highly recommend that you check them out. There were a number of things that came up in the conversation that I think are deep and insightful. Todd talked about recognizing early on in their set healer communities in South Korea, that there was a difference between the community of those who were raised with religion and those who were not. I think that is the difference that we are trying to describe here on this podcast. It is a radically different experience to be an atheist from the age of reason on and maybe have only a lightweight religious training versus being steeped in a fundamentalist experience as a child, and then coming out of that as an adult. The other thing that I thought was super deep that we got to was the fact that the conversion experience the experience of becoming a believer and a part of a community is a community event. It's driven by your family, if you grew up in it, it's driven by a church, or a general rule, it's person to person, literally all of Christianity is about evangelism, it's about to give it its best spin, it is about loving people out of hell to give it its worst spin, it is manipulating the people that you have connections with. And yet deconversion deconstruction is a completely isolated, solitary and alone experience. Almost every one of us who has gone through this has gone through this alone, very, very few of us have a partner in crime, so to speak, going through the deconstruction process. At the same time, the last people we are able to talk about it with our the believers in our lives, I find that to be a profound insight of what it takes to go through this process, the guts that it takes the courage, the willingness to face truth, even when it hurts deeply. That willingness to risk community and friendships, and even potentially family. It is an amazing, amazing journey that you all have taken. I also thought Nathan's insight, referring to this concept of third places, community locations, and how they are missing within Western culture was also deeply insightful. The first two places are home and work. But these third places where you're out in the community, being a part of the community are very, very difficult to find. And I think that is what we've been talking about a lot here on this podcast as well. We're trying to build online community. But there's a desperate need a desperate desire for people to connect with each other to be in the same room with one another to be able to spend time with each other. And I do hope that over the following years that we're able to make that leap from online to in person. And then finally, the insights that because secular people tend not to be joiners, and we continue to kind of recreate these communities over and over again, without any reference to previous attempts. There is an upside to this in that it remains fresh. As I said, people will age out of listening to this podcast, and people may age out of these communities. But having that refresh process taking place constantly means that they are not stuck in tradition and making the same mistakes that fundamentalist religion has made. It allows it to be contemporary, and in the moment, the zeitgeist of the thinking of that day. Still, I think we do need to connect with each other and that should be a goal for people who are in the middle of deconstruction, or on the other side of deconversion. I'll plug here Nathan Alexander's book race in a godless world atheism, race and civilization 1850 to 1914, that it's going to be a bit more of a scholarly piece of work, but I think it would be very interesting to go and check that out as well. The podcast is beyond atheism, you can find that on all the major platforms. I want to thank my guests Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares, for joining me here and for the work that they do, bringing us beyond atheism. Thank you both. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is you are not alone. The deep inside of this conversation is that you convert in community and you d convert alone. I have been saying that over the years, but I've never been able to put it in quite that succinct and pithy away. I think this is helpful to understand the feeling of loneliness, the feeling of isolation, the feeling of the uniqueness of your experience, when I think back on my deconversion and the years leading up to it, which really was a deconstruction, but without me knowing that word. And I'll say here that most people who are questioning have no idea what the word deconstruction is, or at least haven't until recently until it's become widely known. It feels like you are the only one that there couldn't possibly be any other people who are doubting the way that you are. I know that I felt that way. And the message of this podcast is that not only is that not the case, there are hundreds of 1000s of people who are questioning, doubting, deconstructing, and de converting. But also, the reference to Jennifer Michael hex book, doubt a history that this has been so for as long as there have been believers. I find that deeply and profoundly comforting that we are not unique, that this is a process that human beings have been going through for time immemorial. The important part for you to know as you question and face your own cognitive biases as you wrestle with the cognitive dissonance, that can feel like a wrestling match with yourself that this isolated feeling isn't actually true that there are so many out there going through the same process. The community that we are trying to build at deconversion Anonymous is a safe place to question to doubt to deconstruct and de convert, please consider joining and you will know instantly that you are not alone. That's at All right, we've got a lot of exciting interviews coming up. We've got a couple of for Marlene, in fact, Arlene is going to feature throughout the rest of November and December. Arlene has two interviews one with a couple Ben and ENTJ, and one with Nikki papas. We have Jessica Moore who is focused on recovering from purity culture. Again, we had to redo her interview, but that's been done that'll be coming up. And then for December, late December, we have two conversations between Arlene and myself. I interview Arlene and talk about what she's learned from the community management of deconversion anonymous and doing these interviews, and then we turn the tables and she interviews me. For those of you who are longtime listeners, it might be a bit repetitive. For those of you who have just joined in the last year and a half or so, it might be brand new information. So I'm excited for you to hear my thoughts on secular grace and deconversion and the process of doubting. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves 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 You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol 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 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 or you can check out the website graceful 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

Jack: Emily’s Story

Atheism, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace, secular grief
Emily, Jack and Duncan

Content Warning: graphic wound details, surgical processes, PTSD, emotional trauma, religious trauma and dark humor.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Jack Robertson. Jack is a returning guest and an integral part of the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group. Earlier this year, Jack’s youngest daughter, Emily, was in an accident, suffering severe burns on her body.

Jack explains how his online community and IRL friends stepped in to support his family but also recounts the platitudes and clichés given by the Christians in their lives. 

Emily’s clearheadedness, dark sense of humor and incredible resilience has brought her a long way in the healing process—mentally, physically and emotionally. Jack and the rest of their family are also healing in their own ways, supporting one another and seeking professional help. 

We are Human. We are social beings whose needs are not met by “a guy in the sky.” Our needs are met through our relationships with one another, especially those who are closest to us. 


“It is heart wrenching to see someone you love go through that much pain…[and] there’s not anything else that you can do, other than hold their hand.”

“Do NOT, while people are still in ICU or a burn unit…message them and say, ‘You know? God only gives you what you can handle.’” 

“If I have to be caught on fire, so you can look super to heal me, I want nothing to do with you.” —Emily

“You’re going to have to talk to a professional…You can get through it, no matter how difficult it seems in that moment…”

“You don’t need the clutching of a Bible or a rosary. You don’t need that. You and your family are what are going to get you through it. Not some guy in the sky…Talk to a professional.”

“I’m going to make the fire my Bitch.”—Emily


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Jack’s Deconversion episode

Kenyetta and Jack Save the World
Graceful Atheist on Kenetta and Jack Save the World

Musings of an ADD Mind


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Luke Janssen: Recovering Evangelicals

Agnosticism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
Click to play episode on
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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.



Recovering Evangelicals


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


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Support the podcast

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. 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 That is 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 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 Or go to the podcast, which is at Luke J. 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 That's 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 You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol 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 or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

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Ryan Mulkowsky: Some Random Thoughts

Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, secular grief
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This is the three year anniversary of the Graceful Atheist Podcast. Thank you to everyone who has listened and participated. Special thanks to Mike T and Arline for their work on the podcast over the past year.

This week’s guest is Ryan Mulkowsky. Ryan grew up Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. He made a “profession of faith” when he was nine years old and was reading Christian apologetics before he was twelve. By fourteen, Ryan was “licensed” by the church and started teaching the kids. 

However, Ryan’s mental health suffered during adolescence. Whether at home, school or church, no place was safe for him to grow and change—strict dress codes, young-earth creationism, white-centered history books and virtually no sexual education. 

“I constantly felt like anything that was happening to me was because I was a sinner or because I was depraved or something was wrong with me.”

Ryan went to one university that was even more conservative and strict than his high school, left and graduated from another with a degree in apologetics. But Ryan knew he wanted to be with people.

“I realized that the majority of the apologists have this disposition. They have zero interest in talking to people. They just like to debate, and they just like to lecture.”

Soon Ryan was introduced to healthcare chaplaincy, and for the first time, saw people up-close in great physical and emotional need. He was also introduced to other religious faiths—Buddhism Orthodox Judaism and progressive Christianity. 

“That’s when a lot of my beliefs started disintegrating and dissolving and coming apart was when I was a chaplain and a resident.”

Ryan is a now a secular humanist, married with a family and working as a grief coordinator for Hospice. His life has both meaning and purpose without religion. He is living out secular grace by providing comfort and peace in some of humanity’s most vulnerable moments.

“That’s where the beautiful stuff is. That’s where the human, raw, real, unfiltered but so damn beautiful and sacred stuff is.”





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Meghan Crozier: Prog/Post Christian Deconstruction

Agnosticism, Autonomy, Bloggers, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Podcasters, Purity Culture, Secular Community
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This week’s guest is Meghan Crozier, the writer behind The Pursuing Life blog and co-host of Thereafter Podcast. Meghan grew up in an Evangelical Free church and she was “all in”.

“I had my bible on my desk in middle school…so people knew that I was a Christian.”

After high school, Meghan attended a Christian university, signing a pledge to become a missionary. Her life turned out differently, and it took years to be content with that. Now, however, she is extremely thankful she never became a missionary. 

At the beginning 2020, when so much was changing in everyone’s lives, she clung to her faith. She journaled. She prayed for an hour daily and read her bible every morning.

“I don’t know what to do, so I’m going to pray through this. I’m going to try to figure this out.”

As the year progressed, she began to see other aspects of her church that she could not unsee—homophobia, gaslighting, ableism. Then the January 6th insurrection happened, and her church’s response to this disturbing event, Meghan knew she had to reconsider almost everything her life. 

“I’m a Person of Faith…ish.”

Meghan now holds her Christianity very loosely. She’s found community and connection through running half-marathons, social media, and her blog and podcast. Meghan is an important voice in the deconstruction world, influencing people with both the spoken and written word. 

“You have such a window into so many different pieces of faith change and deconstruction and discovering yourself.”


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome welcome. Welcome to the Bristol atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store and rate the podcast on Spotify. subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. The Facebook community continues to be a thriving place for people to connect every Tuesday night at 530 Pacific 830. Eastern there is a get together to discuss this week's episode. So if you are listening to the show and you have a very very strong reaction, and you want to talk about it with somebody, come join Facebook group links will be in the show notes. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's podcast. On today's show, my guest today is Meghan Crozier. Meghan is a professor at a community college in the Pacific Northwest. She has a blog called The pursuing life that began as a Christian blog and has developed into a deconstruction blog. She is the co host of the thereafter podcast with Courtland where they discuss deconstruction and their experiences within evangelicalism. Meghan is a really important voice in the deconstruction community. She has a huge Twitter following and she hosts a weekly Twitter spaces on Monday mornings at 6am Pacific 9am. Eastern that is really filling a need and creating community within the deconstruction space. Here is Meghan Crozier to tell her story.

Meghan Crozier Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Meghan Crozier  2:07  
Yeah, thanks for having me.

David Ames  2:09  
This has been a fun connection. Arlene who does our community management for our our Facebook group reached out to you she'd heard you on a number of podcasts and I think on a discord connection and asked you to if you'd be interested in being on the podcasts. And when she mentioned you. I was very interested. And now that I've listened to a bit of your work and read a bit, I'm fascinated by your position and all this. As I was thinking about this conversation, I was thinking we're kind of very close on the other side of the fence from each other so close. We can reach over and shake hands, right? Yeah, absolutely. So you are definitely still a person of faith. But you have been in the deconstruction world now for a bit. A bit of your bone a few days. You have a blog called pursuing life. And you're the co host of the thereafter podcast. Yes, yep. Fantastic. And then you're a bit of a Twitter phenom. It seems that you seem to have a pretty big following there as well.

Meghan Crozier  3:14  
Yeah, I mean, it's it's too bad. You can't get paid to tweet you know. It, it's fun. And it somehow it works for me. I don't know. I love community on Twitter. So for sure.

David Ames  3:27  
That's awesome. That's awesome. So let's jump in and I want to hear about your story. We often begin the conversation with what our faith tradition was growing up. So I'd like to hear what that was like for you. Was it meaningful? What was it like?

Meghan Crozier  3:42  
Yeah, so my story starts where a lot of stories start, right. I grew up evangelical. I was in a non denominational church. Actually, it was an E Free Church, but we were we were modeled largely after Willow Creek Community Church. I grew up in the Midwest, we were very close proximity wise to Willow. And I was I was all in man. I was the student leader in my youth group and I was at the pole See you at the pole. You know, I was there I had my Bible on my desk in middle school, you know, so people knew that I was a Christian and and I went to a Christian college so I went to North Park University in Chicago, they're affiliated with the evangelical Covenant Church. And I didn't grow up covenant but I just fit right in and yeah, so I was very closely almost became a missionary. I studied Spanish in college and for a lot of reasons that led me to becoming a bilingual teacher instead, which I'm so thankful for I'm so I'm so grateful that I missed that missionary mark, because yeah, it's a whole thing. And

David Ames  4:56  
we've we've heard one or two horror stories. Yes. Yeah,

Meghan Crozier  4:59  
yeah. I really and it's funny because one thing that I write about sometimes is I signed a pledge at Urbana in Urbana Conference, which is a huge missions conference through university to become a missionary after college for one to three years. And it took a long time to feel like becoming a teacher was okay, and that I hadn't missed this, you know, path that God was supposed to have me on and, and all of these things, and it's kind of a mindfuck how I thought that becoming a teacher was such a, you know, not the path or the right path for me. And looking back, I'm like, oh, man, I'm just so glad that I never was a missionary.

David Ames  5:41  
It amazes me how we treat teachers just in general, like, but specifically, you know, you comparing that to being a missionary, you know, it's quite a noble profession. It's really, really important. So, yeah,

Meghan Crozier  5:55  
yeah, yeah. And, and so one thing that happened during the pandemic is I wrote through my story, I had time, and I was, I was, I was trying to process you know, I was teaching at the time, and I was trying to process the shift that I was going through, because, you know, for my husband, we were all working at home, but he just, you know, he was at a computer already. And he just did it at home. And for me, I had to totally change everything. And I had to learn, you know, how to teach online, I was teaching first grade in Spanish. And so it was a lot. And so I initially started with writing, and I was trying to process and I really at first clung to my faith that was, you know, I was like, Okay, I don't know what to do. So I'm going to pray through this. I'm going to try to figure this out. And I wrote a memoir, and it was a memoir of prayer. And it was very evangelical. And it was, you know, I kind of called it from college to COVID. And I had prayed for, to like, for two years, I had prayed for an hour a day. And I was trying to trace these arcs of these prayers through, you know, 20 years later, and how I ended up as a teacher instead of a missionary and in the Pacific Northwest, and, oh, I might have written about the Prayer of Jabez. Like it was, there was some cringe stuff in there.

David Ames  7:16  
Sure. And it all makes sense time. Yeah.

Meghan Crozier  7:19  
Yeah. And people loved it. I, you know, people I went to church with it, my parents in my, you know, family and friends were like, wow, this is so good. And I just didn't sit right with me. And it something was off about it. And, and the more I was reading the Bible, I'm like, there's some really, really messed up stuff in here. And I am, this is not okay. And, and I was, you know, I have a whole healing story with my daughter that people tried to really push, you know, pray for healing. And she has a whole genetic condition, which is a whole thing. But and she's fine. But people tried to say, she was healed for what she wasn't. And so there was just a lot of stuff happening in messages that I was in a lot of political stuff happening that I wasn't comfortable with. And so I just that I mean, slowly, bit by bit, started to really question things. And, you know, you say, you're still a person of faith, and I'm like, I'm a person of faith ish.

David Ames  8:18  
Okay, all right. Yeah, you get to label yourself, that's fine. I really want to I want to explore, and if it's too personal, please say no, but this, the social pressure about healing, is, if you're not involved as an objective point of view, you know, you can see that there's a bit of manipulation there. But the as the person who is being prayed for, or the person who's the parent of the person who is being prayed for, there's a lot of social pressure to say, oh, yeah, it's a little bit better. It's incrementally better. And like, you can see how, you know, if we're being kind, well intentioned, care and hope, can lead to ultimately becoming wise, you know, basically something that that just isn't true. I wonder if you just explore that a little bit like, what was it that difficult for you as a parent?

Meghan Crozier  9:09  
Yeah, for sure. And so I mean, yeah, this is not a private personal thing. This I'm absolutely willing to share about this. But when, when my daughter was a baby, we found cysts on our kidneys. And we had no idea what it was. And so we went to a small group that it was almost like there was excitement about, oh, there's this mystery medical condition that we don't know what it is. And like, let's pray for this. And, you know, I was in therapy because it was scary. Because, you know, a doctor had said, like, she could be fine her whole life or she could be on dialysis by the time she's two. And that was scary, right? And so we were navigating that and going to doctors and going to clinics and trying to figure that out. And in the midst of that. We have people playing praying healing for her and we are in the Pacific Northwest. We're not far from Bethel. Well, we had people say you should get take her to Bethel. And we're like, oh, we're gonna take her to doctors. And, I mean, they didn't, we didn't have pressure to not go to doctors. But then every doctor's appointment became this framing of okay, well, this is have grown, but her kidneys are still well, God is working on those kids, you know, and it was just the framing of what is happening. And when she was five, we finally we had an MRI, we did a diagnosis, she has a condition called tuberous sclerosis, and she has a very mild form of that condition. And many kids, adults live with this condition. And there's a range of severity. And there's a lot of kids that have that are on the autism spectrum. And, and so there was a lot of messaging of, Wow, thank God, she's not this, or thank God, it's not this. And I was not comfortable with that messaging, because I'm like, there are very whole people that are living with different versions of this, this condition. And, and I cannot chalk my child up to and say, like, Thank God, she's not this person, because I felt like that was just so I guess ablest I have that terminology. Now, for it at the time, I was like, something's wrong about this, you know,

David Ames  11:24  
you know, again, on this side of deconstruction, I find it fascinating that it's never considered the opposite side of that coin. So your daughter was incredibly lucky to have a, a low severity version of this. Sorry, if lucky, is probably the wrong word. You know, what I'm trying to say that it wasn't, it wasn't more severe. And yet, you're now aware of people who have significantly more severe versions of this. And, and so that, you know, or given the example of COVID, right, you know, people who haven't had COVID aren't aren't able to recognize, you know, that there are people who will have very severe versions of COVID, or the, you know, they just had a cold, right. Thank God. Yeah. You know, and not, you know, recognizing the statistics, and particularly on the the subject of poverty. For those people who are well ensconced in the middle class, it's, it's very easy to think, Oh, well, you know, God loves me, without recognizing, you know, how many people who are praying every day to have food on the table on they don't have it?

Meghan Crozier  12:27  
Right? Absolutely.

David Ames  12:38  
I feel like I pulled you off off your storyline a little bit. But so the writing of the book looking at prayer over time, your daughter's illness, you started to have some pretty serious questions. And and let's take it from there.

Meghan Crozier  12:52  
Yeah, I would say you know, a lot of people ask what pulls what was what pulled the first thread for you. And for me, I was watching an evangelical megachurch, locally, I'm in the Pacific Northwest, I said that. But locally, we did a huge series on race. And that was it was great. Our pastor, you know, he it was almost like a docu series. He had traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, he had traveled to, you know, Montgomery, Alabama, and there was a lot of really good stuff in that. And then, you know, there was a lot of chatter about well, he's not afraid to lean into difficult topics. And I was like, what does that mean? And I discovered that his prior church, he had preached a very well known series called God in homosexuality, and dove into that, and I was, you know, it was the first time that me as you know, assists at White woman really saw what was being asked of the queer community. And so I saw, I watched him go through, you know, you know, you have three options. If you're queer, you can be celibate for life, you can force yourself into heterosexual marriage, and that might be fine. Or you can, if you, you know, do live into your full identity, you're just really not living God's plan for you. And so I started to just started to listen to myself for the first time and say, hold on. And as I started to share with other people, the reaction was so wild. And I was like, Wow, there's so much homophobia and what and, and I, it's hard to say that now. And now because I have so many queer friends now. And I and I just think I was blind to it for so long. And there were so many ways that I just fit right into what was being asked of people in the evangelical church. And so I just really didn't wake up to the exclusion and the hate and now I see the depth of the harm and how far it goes. And I've, of course, you know, looking at colonization and all these other things. It just opened the door for me.

David Ames  14:54  
Yeah, I think that a lot of the missional you know, seeker friendly churches don't realize that by by not being positively affirming, they are non affirming. And they feel like they can get away with ignoring the issue. Don't Ask Don't Tell kind of thing. And yet they are causing harm. Active harm.

Meghan Crozier  15:16  
Yeah. And I think, you know, well, I mean, I could talk about that forever. But I will just say that what is happening to is, there are parents that are being pressured to disown their children, when they come out as queer now, and I just, I see things like that happening. And it's like, okay, you can either choose God, or you can choose your child, what are you going to do? Because your family is just here for now. So, you know, God is eternity. And the messaging is so awful about that. And, and, you know, you see what the damage that it does to people trying to sort through their identity and, and, you know, growing up with messaging that says, you know, I'm, I'm inherently wrong for being this way. And so yeah, it's, it's infuriating.

David Ames  16:01  
Yeah. I am amazed by how many says hit people, one of the major factors of their deconstruction is the treatment of the LGBTQ community. And in that, you know, it's not their personal experience, necessarily, but that they begin to recognize the humanity of this person is being is being minimized, it's being reduced in the same way that racism does. And, and that that is such a catalyst for people to begin to reevaluate. And why I find that fascinating is it's really a moral argument, one that from the evangelical point of view we shouldn't be able to make. And yet it is very strong. I feel like I didn't really understand the term righteous anger until about 2016. And then it was like, Oh, this is what, that's what that feels like. Yeah, kind of having a sense of this is wrong. Justice is not being served here. And something is missing.

Meghan Crozier  17:04  
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that in the context of what was happening politically, I mean, I this is going to be tallied on how new I am to deconstruction. But I will just say, I was still going to this mega church, when somebody reached out and said, hey, you know, there's a progressive church in Portland that that has some of your same deal breakers, and I've seen you write about this. And after January 6, I watched both online, and I was in I was, I've never been one of those people. That's like, if your pastor doesn't preach about this on Sunday, walk out, just do it, you know, but it just, I think, the watching what had happened on Wednesday, January 6, and then going to church and having this like, lovely talk on making good habits. And, you know, making sure that you sometimes it might be helpful if you read your Bible before you drink your coffee, so that you know you get that time in and then going to this progressive Church Online and just having space held to say, how were you feeling on Wednesday? How are you feeling right now? Let's talk about that. And I was like, whoa. And that was that was the last time that I had opened that, you know, the Facebook page for that mega church because I was like, I you know, I think I'm just gonna just admit that I'm deconstructing and so yeah, I'm new in this.

David Ames  18:29  
Ya know, I can hear that a little bit. Yeah, that it's also the that exciting time where you, you know, at some point, I call this the permission to doubt phase right? Or the information seeking phase where, like, up until this point, you have a lot of things happen to you, that cause you to question, but at some point, you take the kind of proactive step like, Alright, I'm gonna take, I'm gonna take responsibility for this, and I'm gonna go learn some things and decide what I believe or don't believe it's terrifying. But it can also be really, really exciting.

Meghan Crozier  19:01  
And I mean, exciting is a word. I mean, it can be like, it's, I wouldn't recommend somebody to just like, hey, this is an exciting journey. But yeah, it's magical, airy, maybe. And, yeah, it's it's work.

David Ames  19:26  
On that note, you know, we throw the word deconstruction around. I have a definition in my head. I'm curious how you define it. And is that something that you are recommending is a strong word, but is that something that you're you're active for people online to begin questioning that kind of thing?

Meghan Crozier  19:45  
Cool. Yeah, that's the L. That's a two parter. So yeah, deconstruction. I probably have a different definition by the day. But I really believe it's a process of leaning into those doubts that you have have an understanding and, and really, you know, for me starting to understand that the inherited faith that you've had your whole life might have been, you know, you might have been taught an interpretation of something. And that, you know, there are other interpretations out there, you might realize, oh, there's other faith traditions out there that, you know, better match what I'm looking for, and what my value system is, and what my deal breakers are. And, you know, for some people, there's people that say, you know, this is not for me, and, and so I really feel like it's an ongoing, never ending journey. I really push back when people say I've deconstructed but I, you know, I think I'll, I'll say this is kind of when I started deconstruction, and it's, it will probably be going on forever. I still use the term progressive Christian, I hold it very loosely, there are times when I wonder if it's just to stay comfortable, because it's scary to let go of that. And so, but I'm willing to admit that and sometimes I say agnostic, Christian. But yeah. And then I on the second question, I was recently in a conversation on Twitter spaces about this where the question was, should we be evangelistic about deconstruction? And even though that phrasing kind of sucks, and people said that, which is fair,

David Ames  21:27  
I hate that sentence. But anyway, yeah.

Meghan Crozier  21:29  
But, you know, it's a shortcut to asking the question, right. And so it's a language to speak, some of us speak. And so there was a lot of really good conversation about, you know, not trying to push people out of their faith or what you know, their value system, but yet wanting to really point out the harm, and really help people understand, hey, this is super homophobic, and this is super queer phobic. And this is super colonizing, and, you know, and all of the things and help people understand and the harm towards women. And you know, my dad and I have had conversations where I'm like, your experience in the church has been a lot different than mine, as a woman who grew up in purity culture. So I mean, and that's, you know, we can go there, if you want.

David Ames  22:27  
I think that unless you want to head down that road, I think what I'm more interested in is, it sounds like you were active. I don't know if you'd say leadership. But you know, you were a voice in the Christian world, right, writing a book, you had people that were listening to you, I believe your blog was originally more Christian oriented. I'm curious what the response was, as you began to change, and publicly so

Meghan Crozier  22:52  
yeah, so once I wrote my book, I started to kind of explore what what will I do with this, and the blog came after the book, and there are posts on my blog that are not public anymore, about prophecy, and it's great. And, but I knew that if I wanted to be an author, I would have to build a platform on social media, I did not have that. And so I started this the pursuing life, which I still hold to that name. And I think there's something to be said about an ongoing pursuit of truth and what matters. And so it you know, it was interesting, because I did have initially connections with, you know, people I went to college with, or people that used to be my mentors, or people I was in small group with, and slowly as I started talking about pro choice things, and, you know, being queer affirming, and things like that, I would get messages. It was like, interesting thing that you said, Are you and, you know, pro and with a lot of language that I don't even want to say, because it's super nasty, and I and just so dehumanizing. And but then on the flip side, I would have like a neighbor that would reach out quietly and be like, Hey, I've been reading these blog posts that you're putting on Facebook, and I went through this, and I feel so seen. And, you know, I or, you know, I really feel like I could talk to you about this, can I let you know, and it was like, that was the beauty of it. Because even though it was hard to have people, you know, be so assuming about things and not want to have a conversation, but just kind of direct me away from what I was talking about. It was beautiful to really connect more deeply with some people in my life and then new people and you know, you can see now there's, I've been part of building community. And so it started as platform building and now I really see it as community building. Wow.

David Ames  24:56  
Yeah. Fantastic. I definitely want to talk about community Need, I'm gonna pause there for just a second and say, I think an answer to the question earlier about being evangelistically. Towards deconstruction, I always think that my goal is not to make more atheist or more deconstruction, my goal is to be the place to land for those people who have already began that process, right? Or those people who can no longer live with it at all. And to be that safe place. And yes, just by being public, you know, you're putting it out there. There's there's some element but I feel like like your neighbor, there are many, many people sitting in pews questioning themselves and, and feeling alone and isolated, and not realizing that there's this huge wave of people who have been going through the same thing been asking very similar questions. And and I think the answer to that is community so yeah.

I know that you've been doing like clubs, clubhouse and Twitter spaces and things of that nature. How did that come about? And how's that been working for you?

Meghan Crozier  26:14  
So interesting. Really early on some when I was, you know, still kind of trying to figure out well, what was going on, somebody reached out and said, I feel like clubhouse would be a good medium for you just the way that you are and the way you want to connect with people. And immediately after I joined somebody from my profile, my friend teal, short, he lives in Chicago, and he lives in an intentional community. And he's a progressive Christian. And that's how I had identified on my profile. And he was like, I really feel strongly about community. But it's so hard right now with the pandemic. And I just What would you think about having a weekly room to pull people together to talk about stuff, and it was beautiful, and the conversations were amazing. And we had our first our first night was about LGBTQ ally ship or something like that, which now I look back, and I'm like, wow, I really said that, huh? Like I called myself an ally, I would okay. But it turned into this beautiful community, there's something to be said about live audio conversations that aren't being recorded. There's nobody trying to one up or get likes or retweets, and just kind of come there. And through that, I connected with some other people that and I was on some deconstruction panels. And it was so early. I mean, this was January of 2020. This was, you know, I told you, I mean, this was just a couple of weeks after the insurrection where I was still kind of processing. So I always say, you know, I will be moderating the clubhouse room on music. And, you know, I would say something like, God, I can't listen to worship music anymore, because it's so triggering for me, because the organizations that put out what I used to listen to were complicit in this insurrection. And I would mute they would go on, and I would be like, on the floor, sobbing, like, what am I gonna do with me, like, what music is gonna carry me like, I had so much grief over the loss of things that comforted me that I, it was hard, but I was processing it in community. And that kind of led to Twitter spaces. And what I do now, and I have, you know, deconstruction, bookclub discord and things like that. And then, you know, that's how I connect with Courtland. And they started co hosting their after pod and, and I just became this thing where, and I think people saw that authenticity, and they were like, I, I don't know if people resonated or connected or what, but I think just knowing they weren't alone. And that's a powerful thing, I think.

David Ames  28:46  
Absolutely. I think my experience so far has been, you know, once people find some community at all, they read, and they begin to say, Hey, I feel this way about this thing. And 10 people come along and go, Oh, that's me, too. That that experience, that recognition of one story being told by someone else, is incredibly cathartic and has some healing elements to it.

Meghan Crozier  29:12  
Yeah. And I will say one other thing is, and I share this a lot, and it's just a small piece of it. I was also I taught for 15 years, and I was leaving my teaching career at the time, too. And so I was just unraveling everywhere I was, you know, going through faith change, career change. And so I think, too, I was very vocal about not being a person that had all the answers. And I think that's, that's the thing that draws people in sometimes is like, Okay, who I have totally put all my hope in these pastors that I thought had all the answers for so long, or this church that I thought had all the answers to this faith tradition, and it's I think there's something comforting about being in community with people that don't try to make it seem like they have all the answers and you They're totally together whole people. You know, I'm super vocal about therapy too. So

David Ames  30:05  
we're very pro therapy here on the podcast.

Meghan Crozier  30:08  
Yeah. I love it

David Ames  30:19  
I want to talk briefly about the thereafter podcast I listened to when you were interviewed on the show. And then, you know, a bit later their second season, you became the co host. I'm curious what that process was like, because as a, you know, again, I haven't listed a lot of them. But from my perspective, it was like, here have this podcast, they just handed you the reins, which is great. But I'm curious, like, were Was that something you were looking for? And how has that been for you as as an outlet?

Meghan Crozier  30:49  
You know, I had thought it would be fun to have a podcast, I didn't really know why or would or, you know, I'm glad I didn't do it when I was writing my book, you know. And I have become good friends with Courtland. And that's a whole thing too. I think I've made some I write about this, sometimes I've made some really close friends that are men, and that has, its new and I really fiercely advocate for it is possible to be friends with people and close with people that aren't your partner and have good healthy communication about boundaries and, and know, you know, where things are at. And, and I love it. And I think you know, there's this messaging for so long that you should just not be close with anyone that's not your partner. And so anyway, Carolyn and I had become good friends. And his first season was awesome. But his co host wasn't going to continue on for the second season. And so I, you know, just kind of happened, I was kind of like, Hey, I'm thinking about doing this. And we had a conversation that was like, what if, what if this is what it looks like, and started to kind of have talks and there was a, I run, I have this big goal to run a half marathon in every state. And so I was flying through Denver, and he came to the airport and we sat down and had dinner together and talked a little bit about it. And, and I love it, I it's just been so fun to sit down like you're doing I'm sure the you know, and have people share their journeys and have people you know, process and you see so many you have such a window into so many different different pieces of faith change and deconstruction and discovering yourself and all of those things. And so it's been really fun to connect with people. And also like, it's just yeah, it's it's a, it's a fun thing.

David Ames  32:44  
You guys, I sound like you've been doing it forever. It's very well produced. Courtland has that radio voice thing going for him? sounds it sounds, it's a great podcast. So I recommend it. So we'll definitely links in the show notes for people to find that

one of the episodes that I listened to you in Portland, we're talking about the evangelical response to deconstruction. And this has been one of those things where I find it so infuriating that I hold back a lot like, you know, I've gone on some friends podcast, to vent and to be less than graceful. To say how bad it is, I've interviewed a couple of people who are in the evangelical world who consider themselves experts on deconstruction. And what I find most often is that you can tell they've never actually spoken to someone who is in the middle of deconstruction or or, or, you know, deep on the other side. So I'm curious from your perspective, what you think of the evangelical response to this moment in time that we are having?

Meghan Crozier  34:04  
Well, I'll say this, I think a lot of the people actually might have spoken to people at deconstruction, but they've never listened to people. Yeah, yeah. And I so I think that there's a lot of pastors that look around and they see this hashtag or they see you know, videos, or they see people unpacking and, you know, like me, people are living their journeys out loud. And they it's like, they want to jump in there like I want to, I want to have a pulse on what's happening here and so they bring their hot takes, you know, there's the matt Chandler that says, people just think it's a fad and that it's sexy and they never had to pay to begin with and Joshua Ryan Butler had his for reasons people deconstruct and, and it was, you know, it's, it's to be cool to for street cred, you know, and it's, it is is infuriating, it feels because this journey is so personal. And because the first time I sat down with the the pastor at the faith community I've been part of and said, I'm going through deconstruction, and he was like, take care of yourself. Like, this is like really, you know, be kind to yourself. And it's like, he knew, you know, and these people that are making their hot takes, it's like, you have no idea how how much grief there is on this journey, you have no idea how hard this is. I mean, I, I said, I'd be like sobbing on the floor. Like, you just have no idea because it was because I was reading the Bible and, and seeing, you know, David fight, like winning over wives for you know, as part of a war prize and things like that. And I was like, no, like, I just, I could not, I could not do it anymore. And, and I and a lot of them are, you know, white men that have a lot of benefits from their position, and you know, and keeping their position. And so it is it's infuriating. And what's even more frustrating is those people that I mentioned earlier, that have you know, pushback on the things that I say they'll send me articles, and they'll be like, Hey, I saw this article in Christianity Today, about deconstruction. And it really made me kind of understand a little bit more, and I just want to be like, no, like, please, it does not make you understand a little bit more. And so that's the frustrating part. Because I think Christians that are trying to understand what's happening to their friends that are leaving the church are reading this stuff, and they're like, oh, okay, I feel comfort and like they never had true faith to begin with. And it's like, no, no, that's not it. And so I think there's, it's it's really false messaging, and it is very infuriating.

David Ames  36:51  
In my Kinder moments, I try very hard to understand the position that particularly pastors are in. And having both sides of understanding both sides of that equation, I realize you realize that the very thing they are recommending, get closer to God read the Bible more, pray more, are the things that most people in deconstruction are doing, they have doubled, they have tripled, they have quadrupled down. They are working, you know, to maintain their faith, and they are being dragged away, kicking and screaming. And that's the part that they don't seem to understand. And I think you've said it really well that it is really a grief process. It is the process of losing many, many things, the intimacy of a relationship with God, the community, friendships, family, in some cases. And so while you're going through this grieving process, and someone is saying from a pulpit that you were never a real Christian, it's pretty, pretty devastating, pretty hurtful.

Meghan Crozier  37:52  
Yeah. And I think, you know, to tell somebody that's healing from religious trauma. And I would say, my journey is like fear, like, you know, when I say that, I just, I have so many folks and community that I'm in community with that have had more severe trauma than I have in all of this space. But to tell somebody that's going through very severe trauma, you need to find healing from trauma in the institution that traumatized you. That I mean, it's just it's so bypassing of what's really going on and and or they say, it's really not trauma or it's really not, you know, what you're saying it is or it isn't that bad. And I think that you know, which is gaslighting? And then or they're just, this is my favorite. Why What about the good that happens from it that like people try to say like, but but this pastor even though he was an abuser, like there were he wrote some really good books, and it's like, no, like, no. So yeah, I they just don't get it. They really don't. And they're not listening to people that are hurting.

David Ames  39:06  
You mentioned earlier that you person of faith ish. So I'm curious, what are the things and you also talked about, you know, what music will carry you through things? So what what are the things that you now find as spiritual however, you'd want to define that spiritually fulfilling for you?

Meghan Crozier  39:27  
Yeah, so it took me a long time to close my Bible. I you know, and I, there was I had been during the pandemic, I had been had this habit of journaling and reading my Bible, and I, you know, and Enneagram one, it was just like, he liked to follow rules and have that kind of thing. And I was in therapy, and I was constantly saying, This is so triggering for me, this is so hard for me and my therapist was like, what if you didn't read your Bible? And I was like, what would I do in the morning? She was like, What if you read other things, and I started reading Brene Brown and I started, you know, reading other things. And then I started, you know, reading authors of color and queer authors and just really having more routine and structure around that instead of you know, that instead of trying to force myself through something that was not healthy for me. And I also started a vinyl collection. And I just really was like, I'm gonna reclaim what the role that music has in my life, because I am a runner, I run to music, I ran to playlists, and I needed to have a I have things that I resonated with. And so that has been amazing. And it's funny, because I, I read a lot, and I have not dug into all the theological, all of it, you know, like, all of the things and so Christians will try the Theo bros, you call him on Twitter, try to come at me with, you know, do you really think like, what do you think about hell? And what do you think about, you know, all of these things, the resurrection, and I'm like, you know, I don't really know right now. And I'm actually okay, not knowing that's not something that I'm sitting with, you know, trying to understand I'm okay, just kind of setting it aside, and really just saying, I don't know. And that's very infuriating. You know, I talked about having a, like sex positivity, and people get real mad that I, you know, push back on people trying to preach abstinence. And they're like, that is the biblical sexual ethic. And I'm like, Really, it's not. And they get so furious, because they want to tell me that I'm not a Christian. And I'm, like, you know, believe whatever you want to believe, like, you have no way of having, you know, deciding what I am or what I'm not. Right. And so I think, you know, like I said, I have that label ish. And I don't know it, well, I have it forever. I don't know, do I, you know, am I uncomfortable with it? Not really, but it's not something that I will ever hold grip onto, like I have in the past.

David Ames  42:02  
And one of the things we've talked about on the podcast is that, you know, you own the privacy of your own mind, and no one has access to that you choose to reveal what you want to to people who are safe and trustworthy, and you don't owe anybody else, anything else. So they have no access to that.

Meghan Crozier  42:22  
Well, and I do think that the way that I approached my faith is what I mean, you know, my co host, Courtland for the podcast is an atheist. And I mean, it's what has given me the opportunity to have these beautiful friendships with people of all different faith traditions, or non faith post faith traditions, or non faith traditions, you know, and so I think, you know, the fact that I hold it loosely, I don't feel this urgency to try to convert other people to what I believe in. And I, I love listening to what's meaningful to other people, right. And so if somebody's finding meaning in other traditions, I love it, I'm here for it, I want to read about it, I want to learn about it.

David Ames  43:08  
So selfishly, you've mentioned running a few times. I'm a runner, and I, I talk about all the time that you know, I don't meditate I run. And it is so important to me as a as mental health. And I know that that is also a privilege that not everyone will be able to run, but I recommend that people do something, some kind of exercise something, get out of the house, move around, get out in the sunlight, that kind of thing. That's really, really good for you. So I'd be curious if that is that's meaningful for you. And tell tell us about the half marathons in every state.

Meghan Crozier  43:44  
Yeah, so it's, you know, it's just kind of a fun hobby, but half marathon, I just feel like it's a good distance. For me, it pushes me to have those, you know, 789 10 mile runs on the weekends, but and you know, kind of stick to a schedule on the weekdays. That are it's a little shorter, and do it more doable. I've done a couple marathons, it kind of tears up my body a little bit too much. But I'm gonna say this because it has been part of my deconstruction is trying to navigate this. And so I think it's an important piece. For a long time running was very tied to my spirituality. I felt like it was, you know, God gave me the strength to get through that run. I was listening to worship music on the run, I was crossing the finish line to I'm no longer a slave to fear, you know, and it's just a coup. So I will say this, sometimes what I do, just to try to I live in the Northwest, and so to try to knock out some of those East Coast states. I will run a back to back half marathon. So I'll do one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I just did that last October. I did West Virginia and Maryland. And it's so what I do is kind of a typical training cycle, but I'll do double long runs on the weekends. And so I'll run on Saturday and Sunday. And I had this experience when I was training for that Um, West Virginia, Maryland, where I spent, you know, a weekend running. I'm not fast, I don't go for time I wouldn't be able to run, you know, for half marathons a year or six or whatever if I did. But I had this weekend where I went out on a Saturday morning, I was running for like, a couple hours. I went out on a Sunday, I was running for a couple hours, and I got in my car, and I was just like, sobbing. And I was like, What is going on here? And it was like, I felt like I got my body back. Like, I felt like I did that. Like, I felt like I worked hard. I got up, I hit the trail. I did it. I was listening to podcasts, and audiobooks. I listen to all kinds of things. And it was all for me. And it wasn't this. Like, I was like, Finally, I've reclaimed the role that this has in my life too, because I felt like I worked hard. And I knocked it out. And I did a great job. And I slayed you know, and I was like, wow, that was amazing. And so I think that's what running has done for me. And you know, whether I'm consistent every day, not really I've you know, and it's also helped me learn to not be perfectionistic about something because I'm like, you know, if I walked or in a race, that's fine. If I you know, if I don't go running on Monday, and I hit it on Tuesday, that's great, too, you know, so it has been it has been life giving for me.

David Ames  46:18  
Definitely for me, too. And in my case, age knocks out the need for speed there. I just want to be able to keep doing it, you know, yeah. Great mechanism for listening to podcasts as well. So for sure. Meghan, thank you so much for for being on the podcast, I want to give you a moment here to share all the myriad of things that you're doing. How can people get in touch with you or interact with some of your work?

Meghan Crozier  46:44  
Yeah, well, the best place to find me is on Twitter. And I am super responsive. DMS, comments, things like that. And so I'm at the pursuing life on Twitter. Check out the podcast. We love hearing from people that have listened to episodes and connected there after pod on Twitter. They're after podcasts on Instagram, and it's on all the platforms you can listen to. And I do have a blog, the pursuing website. I'm kind of working on revamping it. Like I said, there's some older stuff that I'd love to update, edit, respond to. And keep an eye out because I have some writing things in the works. But yeah, like live conversations. We do Twitter spaces every Tuesday morning at 6am. Pacific Northwest time and so are Pacific time. I just must love to say the Pacific Northwest. Times. Sorry, I just I really do like it here. But don't tell anyone because we're good. But yeah, and I mentioned a deconstruction. Discord that's open, people can jump in. So if people want to see what that's about, they can send me a message and I can get them the link. And I think yeah, I think

David Ames  47:57  
that covers it. That's awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Meghan Crozier  48:01  
Yeah, thanks for having me.

David Ames  48:10  
Final thoughts on the episode. Meghan is truly fascinating in that she is in some ways in the early stages of deconstruction, when I said it's exciting, she pointed out that it's also very difficult that it's work. And at the same time she has become a central voice within the extra angelical deconstruction community. It's always fascinating when someone deconstructs in public the way that Meghan has, she began as a Christian blogger and was writing a memoir about prayer. And then to go through the questioning phases and identifying what you no longer hold to be true. Obviously, in Meghan's case, a lot of embracing the LGBTQ community recognizing the racism within evangelicalism, and the harm that comes from that, as I mentioned in our conversation, that that's truly a moral argument. And it is weird in many ways for us on this side of deconstruction to be making a moral argument. When evangelicals act as though we have no moral standing. I was deeply touched about Meghan's daughter, and I appreciate her being willing to share what could be a very painful part of her life with us. I am struck over and over and over again from people's stories about the dark side, the dangerous side of the concept of prayer for healing and the social pressures that a person is under to say, Yes, something is better. And especially if it was your child. I can't imagine the kind of suffering that that would cause I'm very glad to hear that her daughter is doing well these days. I appreciate Meghan's honesty and saying that she's a person of faith ish that she sometimes calls herself a progressive Christian, she sometimes calls herself an agnostic Christian. That is kind of what I've been trying to capture this early part of the year is those people who are really in the middle of it, although my core audience does tend to be the D converted, deconstruction is a part of that process. And not everyone will land in deconversion. But it is good to hear voices who are processing. Right now, in the middle of those kinds of questions. I have now quoted Meghan several times, in reference to my saying that many of the hot takes on deconstruction show that those thought leaders, quote, unquote, have not ever spoken to someone going through deconversion. And she corrected me and I thought this was really insightful. It's not that they haven't spoken to people who are going through deconstruction, it's that they haven't listened to them. And I imagine that you listener can relate to that, that it's very hard to be heard when what you are trying to tell them is threatening to their identity to, in some cases, their livelihood, and something that is so deep as faith. One of the most important things that Meghan is doing is that deconstruction voice against evangelicalism against the backlash from evangelicalism towards those of us who have deconstructed or deconstructing, I think that is an important role that Meghan is fulfilling. I want to thank Meghan for being on the podcast, I appreciate the vulnerability, talking about grief, talking about her experience with her daughter, talking about the work that deconstruction is, we need to hear that we need to understand that it is a process of grief, it is at times and existentially difficult time in one's life. I appreciate Meghan's honesty, and I think she is a significant and important voice within the deconstruction community. Thank you Meghan, for being on the podcast. I'm all over the board on a secular Grace thought of the week I have several things that are just popping to mind having read listened to Meghan's interview. First is the true downside to prayers for healing. And those of us who were a part of a charismatic or Pentecostal faith tradition, or had a more full gospel perspective within a Baptist or Reformed theology, will have that experience of the expectation as someone has prayed for you that you are prompted to say, Yes, I feel better the headache is gone. So much of the apologetic argument about healing is questionable not because I think people are lying, but because the kinds of studies that have been done on healing are very rarely double blind, scientific studies. And therefore the people who were the subjects have a motivated reason to say that they got better. And therefore those kinds of studies are just not valuable. But really, what I wanted to talk about is the pain of being the person who is ill put the pain of being the person who is disabled, the pain of being the parents of the person who is ill. What begin is well meaning and well intentioned, and trying to show care can turn very quickly into something painful, and something that induces suffering. So much better to be like Meghan, and just to be present with someone as they are going through difficult times. As you've heard me talk about losing my father in law, I've recently learned from a nephew of mine a really powerful way to try to be present for someone who is going through grief or some suffering, and that is to ask them, Do you want to talk about it? Do you want to have space? Or do you want to be distracted? And that's really powerful. Because sometimes if we just say, What can I do for you, the person who is in the middle of grief of some suffering, doesn't have the emotional capacity to tell you what it is that they want, but they can answer those simple questions. It's a practical way of being present. Letting them know that you care without putting social pressure on the person who is in need to have to say the right thing or do the right thing or live up to some expectation. The other thought I had was about the evangelical response to deconstruction and how we respond to that response. As I mentioned in the episode, I get very, very frustrated that that, especially for very public evangelical leaders, and again, they show as Meghan pointed out, that they have not listened. I've said before that if they truly did understand us, they would be condemned. instructing themselves. And in some ways that relieves the burden, that we know that we won't be able to convince them, because we wouldn't have been convinced double. And if they did understand they would be on their own deconstruction path. Having said that, I do think it's very important that we represent deconstruction and deconversion, atheism, secular humanism, agnostic, whatever label you choose for yourself, that we are moral, that we do have a sense of purpose and meaning that all of the shortcut dismissals from the evangelical response are incorrect. And one of the ways that we do that is by doing so in public, I don't expect everyone to have a podcast, I don't expect everyone to have a blog. But for those of you who do, or are interested in doing so, every little bit, makes an impact. The last thought is about the community that Meghan is creating with the Twitter spaces on Monday mornings. You've heard me go on and on about community about the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, but also we are nearing the end of the pandemic. And we need to begin to look toward a in person connection. And I just encourage you to think of ways that you can create community, wherever you are. As I keep saying, we've got a long slate of really amazing interviews coming up we have Marla Tobiano coming up, we have April, a joy from Instagram fame, Ryan will kowski who is a secular humanist hospice chaplain, we have community member Bethany coming up and also Luke Jansen of the recovering evangelicals podcast. So I'm excited to share all of those, we do have a bit of a backlog. If one of those people you're really excited about don't panic, if it doesn't come out in the next week or two, it will be there. And until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings, 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 You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol 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 or you can check out the website graceful 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

The Ranting Atheist

Atheism, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters
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This week’s guest is the Nigerian podcaster, The Ranting Atheist. He grew up in a strict Pentacostal church where his parents were ministers. At home, his parents were tough on him and his brothers, and made sure they attended Christian schools, even into university. 

“They did not want me to be derailed, which is quite ironic, saying this now.”

While TRA was in university, following all the rules, his parents parents were rising in the ranks of their church. All was well until “church politics” got them. After that, his parents’ health began to decline, but TRA was still a believer. 

But as years passed and Nigeria suffered an economic recession, TRA’s faith in the Christian God started to wane. 

“Okay. We are majority Christian in the south. They are majority Muslim in the north…Everything is messed up, both in the north and the south…[The] gods we are worshipping? Nothing is working [for either side.]”

Between conversations about the Bible with a friend, Youtuber DarkMatter2525 and a false prophet in his church, many seeds of doubt were planted. 

“I lost all my faith, all my belief, my hope of the future, because looking at this whole religious mindset, people are not living in reality.”

As an atheist, TRA wanted to find a way to assist other Nigerian atheists. His podcast The Ranting Atheist has been the perfect tool.

“It enables me to understand that people arrive at atheism from different routes.”

Every weekend a new episode is released “to let Nigerian atheists know that they are not crazy and they are not alone.” TRA is living out graceful atheism one podcast episode at a time. 

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Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats