The edge—the brink, the threshold, the end. The edge is where you may, with one false step, plummet to your death. The edge is where uncertainty lies, and that’s terrifying.
When we get to the edge of nearly anything, our limbic system kicks in and screams, “You’re about to die. Stop! Turn back!” We want to run away. And if staying alive is our highest objective, perhaps we should. But is there not more to life than simply surviving?
If I leave christianity, where will I go?
If I keep asking these questions, who will be there to answer them?
If I no longer have faith, what will I have?
The thing is: you don’t know. Everything about standing at the edge is uncertain. But, if you’re honest with yourself, wasn’t life uncertain back living inside the fences?
Still too much outside your control. Now, at least, you can acknowledge that truth and move forward. Do it.
Do it, scared.
Do it, full of doubt.
Do it, seeking help along the way.
But do it, move forward toward the edge. Let yourself be pushed and then fly. You may be pleasantly surprised at the trip.
This week’s guest is Evan Clark. Evan is the Executive Director of Atheists United. Evan grew up in a partially religious home, but at six years old, the idea of a god didn’t make sense to him.
He attended a Christian liberal arts college and was able to start its first atheist group. Since then, he’s gone on to create many humanist communities.
In this episode, Evan explains why atheist spaces in the US differ from spaces in other more progressive countries, why community is not the only thing people need, and he shares some of Atheists United’s upcoming projects.
“‘Why do you need an atheist community?’ It’s not about atheism; it’s about atheists. Atheists are people, and people need community.”
“In the US, we don’t fix homelessness with our government. We don’t fix hunger with our government. We don’t provide healthcare to all of our citizens, and so what is the most powerful, most well-funded institution, outside of government, that then steps up?…religion.”
“There’s something unique about the humanist perspective that we can offer the world.”
“To be a ‘Philosophy Bro’ is abnormal. To sit and ponder literally everything while things burn around me? That is a privilege upon a privilege.”
“There’s so much more value from what I can do…getting atheists together and doing good work and providing transformational spaces for them; rather than being the one who fixes bad ideas of other people.”
“You stay in an organization, and you become active in an organization…when it transforms you, when it’s something that helps you grow as a human being.”
“Humanism starts from the idea that magic isn’t real. It’s a naturalist world…God and gods aren’t things that matter to our universe. We are these small little homo sapiens on a small planet, in a small galaxy, in an unbelievably massive universe.”
“The story of the universe and the idea that you can solve problems…and understand your place in [your community] and figure out moral and ethical problems. I think that’s more beautiful [than religion] because it’ll always improve based on new evidence and experience.”
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.
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (deciphr.ai) 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 email@example.com 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 Atheist@gmail.com 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 podcaster.com.
1:11:20 David Ames: You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links or books on Gracellatheus.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out the website Graceful Atheist.com. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings.
1:12:28 David Ames: This has been the graceful atheist podcast.
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!
“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
This week’s guest is Matthew. Matthew grew up in the Pentacostal tradition and went from being a youth leader in high school to a full-time international missionary as an adult. He had all the right answers to all the important questions.
The missionary life, however, didn’t turn out as he’d expected. He and his team did everything in their power to tell people about Jesus but nothing supernatural was happening. Year after year, “the hiddenness of God” became too much for Matthew.
It hasn’t been easy for Matthew to arrive where he is now—living a freer life, not having to have all the answers, not having to wait for the supernatural to happen. He loves the people closest to him, enjoys his friends and acquaintances without judgment, and those small things are what can slowly change the world.
“For a long time, I was doing mental gymnastics to make things work…”
“I was asking everybody, ‘How do you know?!’ And all of the answers were so unsatisfying.”
“I’m trying really hard [to communicate clearly with my kids] and I’m not able. But God, by definition, is able but doesn’t seem to be trying very hard.”
This week’s guest is Drew. Drew grew up as a Missionary Kid and has traveled to nearly every continent and all across the United States. Drew spent years of his life evangelizing and serving others through construction, farming and carpentry.
Drew has since left mainstream evangelicalism, with its exclusivity and supremacy culture, but he is still using the tools he developed. He and his family serve their local community right in the Bible Belt with a market, concerts, a community center and so much more!
Humans don’t need a supernatural being to come to our rescue. We need one another. We need each other’s abilities and companionship. Drew and his family are changing the future by building intentional community right where they are.
“Everybody who doesn’t know Christ is going to hell? That didn’t sit right with me from a very early age…”
“I was growing more and more uncertain about my certainty.”
“Here was someone I knew…and here they’d had this radical transformation that didn’t involve Jesus at all.”
“I had a lot of hope for this [Christian community], that they were a group of people who had avoided the exclusivist issues within Christianity and were able to do the ‘love your neighbor’ thing.”
“…supremacy thinking is endemic. It’s part of the whole thing.”
“This gigantic ship of Christianity—it’s going down. You can rearrange the deck chairs, but it’s sinking.”
This week’s guest is B. B grew up homeschooled in a large evangelical household and spent nearly thirty years in the church, determined to fit in. He felt like leaving for a while, never having belonged, and then in 2016, he knew it was the end for him. He hit the door running.
One of the most destructive forces within his Christian upbringing was Purity Culture. Since deconverting, he’s learned that he isn’t alone when it comes to loving yourself and exerting your autonomy. B’s story is one of great evolution and freedom.
“…I thought, It’s real to everyone around me. It should be real to me. I need to keep trying. If it’s not real to me, then something’s wrong with me.”
“I had been edging towards the door, and 2016 got me walking full-speed towards the door.”
“…consciously making that choice to say, ‘I’m not going back. I’m done.’…it was the biggest relief.”
“Now I feel free not to care. Is there a god? I don’t know, but more importantly to me, I don’t really care.”
“I sat down and looked at that picture and thought, I really like this picture. That was a whole new feeling. I had never felt that way.”
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.”
This week’s guest is Jeffrey Caldwell. Jeffrey grew up in Lancaster county, PA in a liberal denomination set in a conservative area. As a child, church was “okay,” filled with the usual things—bible crafts in Sunday school and singing in the choir. His family was “quasi-religious,” so no one was ever pressured to believe anything.
Jeffrey doubted whether Christianity was real throughout middle school. Neither his parents nor his siblings took it very seriously, so he left church in high school but was still searching for meaning.
Music, books and movies filled the space that religion often does. Eventually, his interest expanded to include philosophy, politics, social justice, all influenced by the “oldies” his dad played in the car.
“I was fascinated by this idea of just ordinary, everyday people banding together to solve whatever problems they were facing…”
In his twenties, Jeffrey struggled with mental health issues and after a surprise encounter with a church youth group, he knew he was missing community.
“I recognized instantly that that’s what I was looking for in my life, some place where I felt like I belonged, some place where I felt like people valued me for who I was. But at the same time, I realized that I wasn’t a christian.”
He didn’t fit in with the traditional religions, so he tried the UU church. Then he got involved in progressive politics and social justice, and eventually went to seminary and became a chaplain.
“Learning to be a chaplain was learning how to sit with people who are in pain and distress and not be overwhelmed by their pain and distress.”
Now, Jeffrey has a thriving online and in-person community, Connections Humanist Community. Each week, people share stories and conversations. The members belong to a community where they are valued and heard. Jeffrey is living out what it means to be a “graceful atheist.”