This week’s episode is a compelling discussion between David and past podcast guests Jimmy and Colin. They take a deep dive into how The Truman Showmirrors the long, painful journey of deconstruction—realizing the story you’ve been told isn’t quite what it seems, pushing back little by little, and then sometimes leaving completely, walking out the door and into the darkness.
“You never had a camera in my head.”
They consider it all:
The induced trauma and fears
The constant gaslighting
The creation and controlling of relationships
And the lies–a completely fabricated life.
All done to “love him, protect him.”
“He wanted what was real more than was presented to him.”
They each bring their own stories to the table, stories of courage and uncertainty and a desire for truth, stories that resonate with many people. Like Truman, we can lean in when what we’ve believed no longer lines up with what we’re experiencing. We can be curious, ask questions and see where that journey takes us.
“It is a painful process, and it is scary. But also there’s more on the other side that is very fulfilling.”
My guest this week is Hannah Ramos. Hannah grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist family, one of ten homeschooled children. Dissuaded from going to bible college, she waited for her Prince Charming. When Jose showed up to speak at her church, she knew he was “God’s choice” for her as a husband.
Very early in their marriage, Jose took over as pastor of a Spanish speaking church. Everything seemed to be going according to God’s plan, until three years later when Jose admitted to Hannah that he no longer believed. Suddenly, she found herself in an unequally yoked relationship.
For six years, Hannah focused on her own faith and raising their three children as believers, and they loved one other through this time. Jose supported Hannah’s faith, and Hannah had given up on changing Jose’s mind. Hannah had the space to begin to question her own faith.
Her children innocently asked her to explain the Trinity, and they were not satisfied with her answers. She read through the Bible, asking, “But is this true?” She no longer could assume that it was. Finally the pat answers Hannah received no longer satisfied her, and she admitted to herself that she also no longer believed.
To Jose’s amazement (and slight disbelief), Hannah revealed that she was no longer a Christian. Today, they are closer than ever, and their children are free to decide for themselves what they believe. Hannah has found a peace she did not think was possible.
My guest this week is Phil Quagliariello who blogs at Phil Q Musings. Phil grew up moving around often as PK in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Churches and attending Christian schools even into college. Unfortunately, he saw the dark side of ministry when his father was removed from a church by its board for being too “new fangled.”
Phil eventually found himself in Calvary Chapel churches. They were were more exegetical, more focused on the Bible. He married and they both were worship leaders. Phil led worship for the service in which he was introduced to the idea of the “Emergent Church.” His marriage did not last, and Phil found himself seeking a church experience that was more authentic and “did not suck.” He found a faith community that met in the basement of a bar, and at first, it was satisfying.
Phil remarried a woman with two children. These children and the children they have together became the light of his life. When he became a father, he began to recognize the trauma of his upbringing: the fear of punishment and the fear of Hell. He focused on being parent who does not use fear as a weapon.
Phil began to seriously doubt Evangelicalism during the 2016 election. But he still hung on to the church experience until the Jan 6th insurrection when he could no longer call himself an Evangelical, a Christian or even a believer.
Phil has a particularly thoughtful answer to how he finds meaning in his life now.
My guest this week is Jack Robertson, host of the Musings of an ADD Mind podcast. He grew up with a deeply evangelical Southern Baptist mother, always going to church. As a teenager, he became decidedly religious himself until a confidant revealed a secret. They let the entire youth group know that he was having sex with his girlfriend. He then stopped attending church for a while.
Late in his 30’s, Jack became heavily involved in an Oklahoma City based megachurch. He read through the bible three times, but Jack always had questions.
“In the Exodus story god is the bad guy, not Pharaoh. If man was created in god’s image, then wicked pre-flood people that were so evil [that] he needed to destroy the world, would be a reflection of him.”
Jack asks himself now: Did I really believe or was it my ADD hyper-focus on Christianity that kept me in for so long?
After a friend asked him to pray about a job interview, it hit him, “How would god decide? Go with whoever had the most friends pray? The person whose friends prayed the most? Use a prayer version of a ‘comment winner generator’?”
Later, during a deep dive into Mesopotamian history, Jack realized it was all just stories.
“It is weird that history cemented my deconversion, but I guess that’s just me.”
Lastly, the results of the 2016 US election and his son coming out as bi-sexual finalized his decision. He could no longer believe.
My guest this week is Emily. Emily grew up in an Evangelical Free Church in the rural Midwest. She was on the Cubbies-Sparks-AWANA track. Around age 10, Her dad switched careers, went into ministry and she became a pastor’s kid. Her early childhood church experiences were fairly positive, but from a young age, she struggled with a severe fear of hell and the rapture.
The youth group setting was horribly unsuited to a sensitive introvert like Emily. She was miserable, being forced to attend churches where she didn’t know anyone except her parents. This discomfort in Christian circles continued into college.
After college, Emily spent a year in London working on a master’s degree. She immersed myself in the city’s amazing performing arts scene and met a lot of people with totally different backgrounds and beliefs to hers. That year expanded her horizons; when she moved back to the US, she pursued a career in performing arts administration.
For the first few years after grad school, Emily wasn’t ready to reject everything, saying she didn’t believe in God. However, she had no interest in going to church, praying, reading the Bible, etc. Then the 2016 election happened. She watched with horror as Christians whom she loved and admired went all-in for Trump. At that point, she wanted nothing more to do with Christianity.
[The White Evangelical embrace of Trump] turned my indifference that I had had towards Christianity into a feeling of disgust. I want nothing to do with this. I was so disillusioned and just repelled by it.
In the past 2-3 years Emily has really done the hard work of figuring out what she believes now and addressing the harm that her Christian background has caused. Emily has had to work through the baggage of purity culture as she is in her first long term relationship.
Therapy with a focus on religious trauma has been helpful; Emily is discovering who she is–relishing the arts and experiencing the joy of being a human being.
I’m so much happier now that I’ve left Christianity. As someone with a deep appreciation of the arts, I’ve found so much joy in embracing the beauty that humans create – music, theater, literature, etc. – without the need to glorify God as the source of inspiration. I love being able to navigate relationships and shape my life on my own terms, rather than trying to fit into the prescribed narrative that evangelical Christianity boxes people into. I also like sleeping in on Sundays!
My guest this week is Monique. Monique grew up a cultural Christian until the family of her boyfriend “made it known they were Southern Baptists.” She married that boyfriend and had kids. He became abusive. First psychologically, then spiritually and eventually physically. He gaslit her, told her she was not worthy and that she was not following god, and called her purity culture epithets we won’t recount here.
How dare I question him [ex-husband], how dare I question god.
After years of isolation and spiritual abuse, Monique left after executing a cloak and dagger level plan to serve divorce papers and a restraining order simultaneously. Eventually, her kids were taken from her as he had lawyers and she did not. She was estranged from them for years.
Monique went through a deconstruction and deconversion that began to give her some peace. Her youngest son reached out to her to tell her he is gay. She opened up her arms and showed grace, love and respect. She and her daughter attempted to reunite but this was ruined when the daughter took offence to a passing joke about prayer.
I am not going to conform. I will not conform to meet someone else’s standards. I am who I am.
Today, Monique is free and loves learning true things. Her and her new husband (who happens to be a believer) have respect and love for each other. Monique is telling her story to give hope to others so they may know they are not alone.
You are not alone. I am here. I am may not be able to help you, but I am here with you.
My guests this week are Lars, Christie, Teddy, Amy and Eleanor, a whole family who deconverted around the same time. Lars felt a sense of duty to be a Christian all his life because he believed it was true. Christie felt there was “good evidence” for parts of the Bible and accepted on faith that the rest was true. This worked fine until they both came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to continue believing.
During the pandemic with Church on screen rather than in person, both Lars and Christie began to feel freedom from Church. They eventually admitted to each other that they no longer believed. A few months later they asked the kids, “Do you notice anything we are not doing any longer?” To which they responded, “church.” None of them seemed to miss much, other than friends and the snacks!
Lars and Christie also share about Lars’ demi-sexuality and the difficult early conversations around sex when they were first getting married. This highlights the destructive aspects of purity culture on everyone.
Today the whole family is feeling free, intellectually honest and relieved after admitting to themselves they no longer believe and stopped going to church.
My guest this week is Stephanie, the host of the StephUp Podcast where she “delve[s] into different topics to learn more about the world and more about ourselves.” Stephanie had me on her podcast to delve into atheism.
In this episode, Stephanie describes her journey of deconstruction of Christianity, politics and conservative culture. She is focused on caring for people and shedding racism, sexism and abusive behavior within and without the Church.
Stephanie lives up to the honesty contest while describing: the burden of a “relationship with God,” purity culture and being single in the Church, and her disappointments with Church leadership. Ultimately, I believe Stephanie is an important voice of change within the Church.
My guest this week is Jason, the son of a pastor. He grew up in the independent Christian Churches, an offshoot of Church of Christ that allows music. He grew up doing “sword drills” and was a devout teenage believer. He participated in Bible memorization contests. He became a musician and participated in worship bands for years.
In Jason’s young adulthood he began to question his own interpretation of the Bible. Why was bad language bad? Why the limited role of women in the church? How could a loving god send people to Hell? Eventually, the disparity between the idea of a loving god and the reality of the world and the suffering of innocent children led to his deconversion.
Anything you do with the bible is interpretation.
Jason’s wife is still a believer though they both deconstructed from Evangelicalism and started participating in an Episcopal church. They are making an “unequally yoked” relationship work based on love, equality and mutual respect.
My guest this week is Daniel Kelly, the new co-host of When Belief Dies. Daniel began as a Charismatic Christian, moved to an Orthodox Christian church and eventually was at a Bible church that preached through every verse in the bible.
Daniel was a dedicated Christian working in a Christian non-profit helping those with disabilities. His mother had MS when he grew up so he was focused on helping his family through difficult times and did not always get to be a kid.
I believed I had to be perfect and I had to be helpful to everyone in order to be valuable.
Daniel’s feminism and belief in the humanity of the LGBTQ community, led to moral objections to some of the harder Biblical passages that do not uphold the humanity and full autonomy of everyone. His serious investigations into theology and the Bible were some of the early seeds that led to deconversion.
The grief Daniel experienced leaving the faith and the loss were profound. He lost his faith, his community, the health of his relationship and on top of that the pandemic hit. He was isolated and alone. He experienced “Hell Anxiety” and worried he was a “vessel of wrath.” The first year after deconversion was one of the most difficult of his life.
He made it through and today he is the co-host of the When Belief Dies podcast. He is building healthy relationships and restoring family relations. He is experiencing the freedom to love people unconditionally.