This week’s guest is Deb. Deb “asked Jesus into her heart” at six years old and remained a devoted follower of Jesus for decades. She married her high school sweetheart, started a family and found herself living the missionary life on the continent of Africa.
As the years passed, Deb’s faith was tested—praying and watching children die on two continents, her husband pointlessly fired from their church, meeting different types of Christians and the reading of diverse books. Deb had more and more questions about her lifelong faith.
Today, Deb’s spirituality is one that stays curious and open to new thing, no longer holding tightly to any one creed. Her story is a beautiful one filled with compassion and love and a desire to meet people wherever they are. She is truly living out secular grace.
Community manager, Arline, guest hosts. This week’s guests are a couple of fabulous black women who’ve come a long way in their journeys away from white evangelicalism. They’ve known one another for over a decade and their conversation is both information and so much fun.
Marissa grew up in church and loved it as a kid. As a college student, however, she found herself in a ministry that was a little bit “culty.” And then as an adult she watched all the white friends she’d served alongside fall for a new savior, Donald Trump.
Raven grew up in a “culturally Christian” home but dove head-first into campus ministry in college. By 2012, when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, she began to see whiteness, not Jesus, as the true god of people she’d known for years.
Marissa and Raven are currently in different spiritual places but neither can go back to the Christianity they knew as young adults. Their lives are freer and fuller than they’ve ever been before, and they see that it is good.
“Trump was the second Jesus to them.”
“Christians are ‘pro-life,’ and I wasn’t seeing that. I wasn’t seeing the grace and generosity extended to people who looked like me.”
“I feel like I’m on a path to enlightenment…What feels good to the soul? What is good for the soul? What is good for other people?”
I begin every streaming interview with a question, “hi, can you hear me?” Never has an affirmative answer to such a mundane question been so profound as it was with this week’s guest, Caroline Schwabe. Caroline had progressive hearing loss and eventually could no longer speak on the phone even with hearing aids. Almost by accident, she was referred to a Cochlear implant program in Canada during a routine hearing test. January 28, 2018, was her last deaf day. She has been on a three-year journey of rediscovery after receiving a Cochlear implant.
Along with her husband, Andreas, Caroline co-hosts a podcast called My Beautify Cyborg about her Cochlear implant journey. It describes the hopes and fears leading up to surgery and the joy and rediscovery after turning on the implant. Caroline’s gratitude and joy is infectious and comes through in each episode.
Caroline and Andreas had experienced major disappointments and hurts from the Church. At the same time she was going through the implant process, both she and her husband were slowly leaving the Church. If not a full blown deconstruction, they have been asking very hard questions and wrestling with the answers. This episode is unique in that there are two parallel stories: one of regaining hearing and one of questioning one’s faith.
Podcasts have played an out sized role in Caroline’s rediscovery of hearing and language recognition, including this one.
Reality Knows the Truth: The Art and Artifice of Being Human About Rational Spirituality–a way of looking at the world with a balance between ancient wisdom and modern reason. https://michael.ck.page/d36a3d2338
My guest this week is Barrett Evans, author of The Contemplative Skeptic. Barrett wrote the book for those who are skeptical but drawn to spirituality. A former evangelical seminarian and ex-Roman Catholic, Barrett is an agnostic who has retained a fascination with contemplative spirituality. Building on what he learned in his divinity, counseling, and historical studies, he draws on hundreds of religious and secular sources in an effort to combine honest doubt with the best of contemplative experience.
Perhaps ironically, dogmatic religions claims now seem to me to critically undercut two of the most valuable spiritual ideals for fallible people – humility in the face of complexity and honesty in the light of human limitations.
We discuss how honesty and humility lead to doubt. Barrett’s look at comparative religion reveals the reasons for doubt and the wisdom of a contemplative life. We ask what does it mean to be “spiritual.”
And as history of religions and other psychological phenomenon show, delusions can be passed from one person to another with some rapidity, especially if they are in close relationships and it is a time of stress or excitement.
The tremendous range of religious diversity is one of the greatest reasons for skepticism towards any particular religious belief.
My guest this week is Ray Gilford. Ray grew up more of a cultural Christian. His family believed but did not push him. In college, without community and looking for friendship predatory evangelism took advantage of him. Ray worked hard at being a Christian but wanted something deeper. He learned Hebrew and Greek in an effort to find “True Christianity.” He remained a Christian for 32 years.
I was always looking for more. That’s nice but what is beyond that?
Eventually, he deconverted realizing that Christianity did not live up to its promise. Ray now says he practices Pagan, metaphysics and spiritualism. Though this is a different path than most of my guests what is interesting about Ray’s metaphysics is that id does not preclude miracles and yet Ray still found Christianity wanting.
For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.
Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan from Contact
Sasha and the book she has written embodies Secular Grace and carries on the graceful life philosophies of her parents. Sasha has a galaxy spanning perspective on life that only the child of physicist can have. Sasha has an infectious joy about life. Listening to her or reading her work it is hard not to share in this joy.
In her book, Sasha argues that we as human beings need ritual in our lives to mark the passage of time, to celebrate the momentous moments in our lives and to mourn the loss of loved ones.
[Ritual] is really important to us. Sometimes, when people are not religious or were religious, there’s an urge to throw the baby [ritual] out with the bath water. We still need these [rituals] even if we do them in a secular way.
We discuss secular grief in the face of the loss of her father, Carl Sagan, when she was 14 years old. Sasha shares the wise parting words he had for her and the ongoing impact he has had on her and the world.
Seeing life itself as worthy of celebration, For Small Creatures Such as We is part memoir, part guidebook, and part social history, a luminous exploration of all Earth’s marvels that require no faith in order to be believed.
My guest today is Alice Greczyn. Alice runs the Dare to Doubt website dedicated to millennials who are detaching from harmful belief systems.
Alice tells her story growing up with purity culture, Christian Courtship and Alice’s nearly arranged marriage. She describes being an atheist while surrounded by “LA spirituality”. She tells the story of cult-like acting classes.
As a Christian, she felt she had to fake spiritual experiences because others around her seemed to be having them but she never seemed to hear from god. Her honesty stopped her from claiming spiritual experiences she knew were not real. While watching the Jesus camp documentary, she asked herself, “how many of them are faking it?”
Alice recognized that other spiritual paths still required faith. She could not accept them because she could no longer lie to herself. She had grown to recognize when she was trying to lie to herself to “make things real.”
I became not so great at lying to myself, I recognized when I was trying to make something real.
Dare to Doubt walks the tricky line to be welcoming to atheist and those just beginning to dip a toe outside of the belief waters.
I built the site that I wanted and that I needed and that I wished I could have found when I was deconverting.
Alice is interested in studying why there are not more out women atheists and what causes non-believing women to hesitate to identify as atheists.
1% of women identify as atheist, I need to come out of the closet.
Alice recommends the Secular Therapy Project to find a therapist who will not push spirituality on you while you recover from your religious trauma.
I feel so much more love and so much more peace as an atheist than I ever felt as a Christian.
My guest today is Lisa. Lisa runs a YouTube channel where she shares from her life experience, recovery from substance abuse and humanistic values. Shortly after getting into recovery, Lisa also deconverted. We discuss what it was like to go through recovery and deconversion almost simultaneously. Lisa shares about secular alternatives to the 12 steps like SOS and SMART Recovery. We try to draw out the secular humanistic values that are embedded in the 12 steps while jettisoning the religious ones.
In the final thoughts section at the end of the podcast, I share my personal story of being a family member in a drug and alcohol addicted family and how the 12 steps influenced both my Christianity and now my Secular Humanism.