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.
If you are interested in producing music for the Graceful Atheist Podcast, the sound I am looking for has a strong baseline and beat with gospel church organ, potentially with R&B or Gospel vocal samples. Here is a playlist to inspire you to Gospel R&B Beats. Get in touch.
My guest this week is Sarah. Sarah says she may have one of the “longest deconstruction stories. She grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church in an area where there were not that many Baptist churches. So she felt different from an early age. She was constantly attempting to live in the “will of God” but struggled to determine what that was. She knew from an early age that she was a doubter which equates to “backslider.”
After listening to deconstruction stories for the last several years, I think I have the longest deconstruction story ever. I suspect there could be longer ones than me, but I have yet to hear one. My deconstruction started in the 1980’s when I was a teenager, and it was very lonely.
Sarah was never comfortable with the limited roles allowed for women in the Church. Fortunately her mother encouraged her to do and become whatever she wanted. Sarah was smart and interested in science. Studying science and biology did not fit the Young Earth Creationism she was taught at church.
Sarah and her husband were the one couple who were egalitarian while the young married couples group were all complementarian. Sarah was vocal about her thoughts on complemntarianism.
Sarah spent a long time outside the United States. When she returned to the United States she was shocked by the Christian Nationalism she heard from the pulpit.
On the days I still believe …
Rachel Held Evans
Rachael Held Evens, Mike McHargue and David Hayward helped Sarah through her deconstruction. Today post-deconstruction she is interested in finding her “deconstructing friends” in real life.
My guest this week is Leah Helbling. Leah is the host of the Women Beyond Faith podcast and an incredibly important voice in the secular community. Leah has a long history of secular community building. Post-deconversion she started a chapter of Women Beyond Belief. She now is a team leader of Bart Campolo‘s Cincinnati Caravan. “Leah is often referred to as ‘The Great Connector‘”
Finding Freedom on the Other Side. One Story at a Time.
Leah and I discuss the gift of being present when someone tells their deconversion story. Leah shares her deconversion story which includes overcoming the purity culture and complementarianism of Evangelicalism. It also includes the unwelcoming atmosphere in the secular community for women and what she is doing about it. We talk about podcasting and what motivates us to do the work. Finally, we talk about building secular community.
CG grew up in strict religious home in Nigeria, where everything was banned except Christian media. His family was heavily influenced by the Pentecostal Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity movement. CG attended a tyrannical, authoritarian, and punitive college in Nigeria.
CG, later on, moved to London, UK. In London, he saw that the world was bigger than the Christian bubble that he had been raised in his whole life. He attended a popular charismatic church where he met people from different cultures, beliefs, and denominations. However, some of his friends challenged his Word-Of-Faith/Prosperity beliefs. He started theological beliefs started changing as a result.
CG, subsequently, moved to the USA to get a graduate degree at a Christian college. He lived in the American south where, as an immigrant, he felt isolated and disconnected from the Christian culture around him. This drove him to a personal intellectual journey, where he spent hours reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos.
After graduating with his master’s degree, CG came to the point where he could not ignore the damage that Christianity was inflicting on his mental health and personal development. He realised that he had to choose between completely losing his sanity & freedom by remaining a slave to religion or abandoning his beliefs and accepting his freedom/autonomy. A few days later, he became an Agnostic, and, subsequently, an Atheist.
CG has been on the path of freedom, healing, and recovery ever since. He is deconstructing sexual shame, self-hatred, misogyny, white supremacy, colonization, and western imperialism (and other forms of injustice). He also seeks to heal the havoc that religion has inflicted in Nigeria (and other African countries) through evangelism, cultural imperialism, and colonization. Religion, significantly, contributes to the apathy and passivity of Nigerians, which prevents them from fighting for their freedom and justice.
CG is very passionate about humanism. He believes humanism is what our generation needs to help make the world (especially Africa) a better place. He is an existential humanist, a cosmopolitan humanist, and a planetary humanist. He believes that humanists need to have freedom (autonomy), humility, compassion, hope, love for learning, curiosity, and open-mindedness.
My returning guest this week is Alice Greczyn. Alice has written a new memoir called Wayward: Spiritual Warfare & Sexual Purity. In it, Alice tells the harrowing story of growing up in an Evangelical family that attempted to live by faith. They moved from place to place believing the “Lord would provide.” Alice describes it as being “homeless.”
Alice came of age under the oppressive sexual and purity mores of the “Kiss Dating Goodbye” era. She tells the story of being shamed while on a YWAM mission trip to India for being “flirty.”
And that’s I think the greatest mind f*** of Christianity as a whole: these awful feelings are called love. They’re done in the name of love. My wires of love and shame and fear and guilt and self hatred were so crossed and it took me years to even see that wiring.
As an adult in her 20s, in a desperate but final act of faith, Alice tests God. God fails. And Alice begins the difficult process of letting go of faith. This is a dark time of panic attacks, depression and self-harm.
When we’re told God is love, and love feels like this horrible, self-hating guilt complex, what is love, how can we recognize good love?
With the help of secular therapy and the discovery of the term, Religious Trauma Syndrome, Alice began her recovery process. She studied the science of faith, neurotheology, and began to understand herself and those around her who still believed. In this new freedom, she rebuilt her life reclaiming her autonomy and discovering what real love feels like.
And again it [understanding neurotheology] alleviated the pressure. God wasn’t ignoring me. There was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t this chronic sinner who was just born defective and unable to feel the love of God because I didn’t have enough faith. It’s simply to be a matter of science and that’s how most things are to me.
On top of being an author, Alice is an advocate for those questioning their faith. Her organization, Dare to Doubt, is a resource for those who are no longer satisfied with their faith tradition’s explanations and demands.
Yet this demographic [millennial “Nones”] is also resilient. We are as brave as the martyrs we were raised to be. We are battling the spiritual war we were trained to fight. We’re just not on the side of religion, and believe us—no one is more surprised by this than ourselves. We are condemned, prayed for, and loathed as much as we are feared. But persecution was once our fuel. Our skin is thick with the courage to fight for truth as we see it, and where we once saw through dogma-colored glasses, we now see through the lenses of relativity, reason, and the validity of our own experiences. It is easy to dismiss us as bitter. It is understandable to write off our deconversions as desperate attempts at individuation and rebellion. It is compassionate to ask us why we left, instead of praying for us to rejoin.