Arline Interviews Treasure

Autonomy, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Musicians, Podcast, Purity Culture, Spirituality
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This week’s guest is Treasure, interviewed by Arline, the Deconversion Anonymous community manager. Treasure grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist tradition. Her whole family was focused on ministry. Treasure is a singer and was continually asked to sing for every church she attended. She was focused on mental health issues and ministering to people in need.

In 2020, Treasure began to quietly question her faith and then began the slow painful process of deconstruction. Though she still loves hymns, even music–once a joy–has become “confusing” due to the obligation to perform for churches and feels like a “job”.

Treasure has found spiritual and community fulfillment in her current spiritual practices of meditation, intentional journaling and yoga, including sound bowl healing. She is also a participant in the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group where she says, “It is safe to vent.”


Does prayer work?

Why am I here?

I am OK with not knowing.

You don’t have to unpack it all.

Once…the mind is stretched, it cannot go back to its original form. It just can’t.


How to be a successful adult


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Secular Grace

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Thom Krystofiak: Tempted to Believe

Agnosticism, Atheism, Authors, Book Review, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, skepticism, Spirituality
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Stay skeptical? This week’s guest is Thom Krystofiak, the author of Tempted to Believe: The Seductive Power of Claims About “The Truth.”

Thom grew up Catholic but as an adult began practicing Transcendental Meditation. He followed gurus and groups for decades but was never quite convinced of the more spectacular claims of TM. 

Thom shares about his experiences in the TM movement and what pushed him out. He also discusses important questions people, regardless of their belief or skepticism, could ask themselves: What do I mean by truth? How do I find the truth? And how much does truth really matter? 


I am, by nature, a skeptical man. My skepticism shows no signs of
mellowing, but grows sharper and deeper with time. And yet I have spent my life surrounded by believers.

[Is it] better to be fooled many times than to be a skeptical man[?]

Am I missing something?

“Why is that I’m not susceptible to any of the beliefs the people around me hold…”

“[Flying] wasn’t happening yet for us as individuals, but maybe if we put three thousand people together in one place…maybe that’ll be something!” 

“…the rise of fake news and alternative facts and the more bizarre conspiracy theories…all of these things are based on beliefs and they’re based on beliefs that do not have evidence…’”

“Some of our greatest societal challenges…resonate with these same principles: How much does the truth matter, what do you mean by the truth and how do you find the truth?”

“It’s not just a matter of, ‘Do you accept evidence at all as a valid way of finding out what’s true?’…it becomes a much more difficult task of sifting through competing versions of evidence.”

“Some people have given—either themselves or others—the license to make things up…”


Thom’s personal site



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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David. And I'm trying to be the case with our community manager Arlene continues to run the Tuesday evening after the podcast drops hangout. If you want to be a part of that, please join the deconversion anonymous Facebook group at Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Thom Krystofiak. Thom has written an amazing book called tempted to believe the seductive power of claims about the truth, quote, unquote. What Thom has done here is really describe what skepticism is, why it's necessary and how to be skeptical without being cynical, and without being a jerk about it. What I think you're going to find interesting is that Thom's religious experience, although he grew up a Catholic is really about his time in the transcendental meditation movement, and more from a new age point of view. So what's interesting is, he's bringing skepticism from that perspective. And he begins the book by asking the question, Am I missing something? And the book is really the answer to that. I loved this book, I this is the book that I wish that I had had when I was going through my own deconversion. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Thom, and I hope you and to help you go out and get the book. tempted to believe. Here is Thom Krystofiak to tell his story.

Thom Krystofiak, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Thom Krystofiak  2:06  
Thank you, David. It's a pleasure.

David Ames  2:08  
Thom, you've written a book called tempted to believe the seductive power of claims about the truth. And as I just mentioned to you offline, this could not be more timely. I said in previous promotion of this particular interview that if I were going to give it a subtitle, I would say it is skepticism without being an asshole. I might have been a little bit more catchy. Yeah. And that is kind of right in the lane of what we're trying to do here on the gristmill atheist podcasts. So you are incredibly welcome. So glad that you're here.

Thom Krystofiak  2:47  
Thank you, thank you so much.

David Ames  2:49  
What I'd like to do is begin with, you know, your personal journey and for lack of a better term, your spiritual journey and what that was like, and then we'll jump into the book after that. Okay.

Thom Krystofiak  2:58  
Yeah, let me try to boil it down. as briefly as I can, you know, I did not go through a difficult deconversion process in my, in my life, I was raised as a standard Catholic, I went to Catholic schools all the way through high school, including Jesuit High School. But, and I of course, absorbed all that as you do as a child. And you're more or less, I'm more or less assume that was just the way things were. But, you know, my my leaving the church or leaving belief of that kind took place quite naturally. For me, it was just the way my mind started asking questions, even when I was, I suppose around 16. And then, strangely enough, one of the Jesuit priests sort of there were some liberal priests in our, in our school, he thought it was a wise thing and what was called theology class, to assign Sigmund Freud's the future of an illusion, which is, which is all about Freud's idea that religious beliefs were illusory. And here's the psychological reasons why. And that really spoke to me. But in addition to that, my own thinking just about how is it that we can possibly know all this really definite stuff about the nature of the universe, so that'll happen. And so it was, it was, it was graceful. For me. It was graceful both for me, and it was, it was treated gracefully by those in my life. You know, luckily for me, I didn't have a problem with my parents, you know, freaking out that, that I had left the fold that they had invested in, you know, in so many different ways, right? There weren't that kind of they were those kinds of people, so I didn't have that issue. Even my teachers at school they knew by the time of my senior year of high school, they knew where I was but they didn't cause trouble either. So I had a graceful exit, it was easy. Okay. Then what happened to me is when I was in college, I started for whatever reason, beginning to have a sense that perhaps there's something more to this reality than what the day to day that we're all in meshed in. Now, whether recreational drugs had anything to do with that, or whether it was just some sort of natural curiosity, I don't know. But I was interested in the possibility. And so when I heard various people in groups talking about ways to open to greater realities, I was intrigued. And I explored a few of them. But the one that got me was Transcendental Meditation. And the reason it got me ultimately, in the beginning, was because they had embraced scientific approach to verifying the benefits. Right. So I mean, the kinds of benefits let's put it this way, a scientific approach to to verifying some changes that happened into people and people who practiced TM. You know, they certainly couldn't verify the broader claims that they may have been interested in. But they, but they had that scientific attitude, they had done some pioneering research that was published in Science Magazine and Scientific American. And, and I will say that, that hooked me I said, okay, if I'm going to try something, this is the one. So that's what I did. I liked it, I liked the way it work, the effects it had on me. And so I, as, as the years of few years unfolded, I got seriously interested and became a trained teacher of Transcendental Meditation, which, you know, this is, as people may know, this is a, a program or a practice that was brought out to the world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In the old days, I mean, some decades ago, a lot of people would recognize that name. These days, not so much, probably. But, you know, he was the guru of the Beatles, etc. That's the way he was always talked about in the press way back then, you know, millions of people learned all around the world, 10s of 1000s of people were teachers, it was a big deal. And as you can imagine, we we'd go, we were in the training was done in Europe, I was in Europe anyway, I was pursuing my own studies, but the trainings were generally in Europe, and they would last, you know, over the course of the entire training might be six months or more. And so you're completely enmeshed in this world of people who are absolutely enthused not just about the practical fruits of meditation, but about these ancillary claims that are more and more extraordinary about, about what the universe was about, and what human life was capable of, and so forth. And being in meshed in math for six months. And having, you know, you naturally have a desire to do well and be part of, you know, to be a good teacher and be part of this whole thing. I naturally was drawn to at least partial acceptance of some really extraordinary things. Now, I don't I don't think I ever became a full on believer in the sense that many people are believers and things about some of these claims. But they certainly enticed me and made me think they were possible. And so I'll just briefly mention a couple of them. So the the biggest thing that happened during the time I was doing that training was an advanced program was cut was brought out, in addition to the regular 20 minutes, twice a day of meditation, which was the whole thing in the beginning, an advanced program was brought out which was basically human levitation, the ability for the human being, to fly, not just some sort of internal thing that felt like you are floating but actually, the claim was, yes, we're talking, floating, flying through the air. And, and I was, you know, some people did it before I decided to try it, because, hey, why not? This is, this would be fantastic. If

David Ames  9:32  
it was. Yeah.

Thom Krystofiak  9:36  
You know, it's a little weird to say that I would even be willing to try it because it's so outrageous. No, that's such an outrageous claim. It flies in the face of just everything we know about physics and science. And that doesn't mean I don't rule things out is completely impossible if they fly in the face of current scientific knowledge. You know, there are things we can learn that we haven't learned yet, but this is pretty cool. pretty far out there. So, but nevertheless, I was far enough into it to say this is worth a shot. And some people had done it that I knew before I did a little bit before I did. And it came back with some, you know, reports that sounded like they were verifying the thing in some way. Anyway, so I jumped in and did it. And it was extraordinary. It was absolutely one of the most extraordinary things I've ever done in my life. And I think a lot of people might say the same, just the way the body reacted to this, essentially just a mental process. That was that was engaged. And it's, it's something that I think would be a great subject of scientific research exactly what is going on there where the body does some things it's never done before, in response to a mental stimulus. And so it was wild. It was incredible. It was energetic, but it wasn't flying by. It wasn't levitation by any match.

A couple of years later, after I had done this, and then come back, and I was teaching meditation, and here in the US, I, marshy put out the word that he wanted to gather 3000 people, this was in Amherst, Massachusetts, to do this technique of skill of yogic flying together for the first time in human history, you know, and I said, okay, at that point, I was willing to entertain the possibility that, okay, it wasn't happening yet for us as individuals, but if we put 3000 people together in one place, and we're all doing it simultaneously, maybe that will be something and something extraordinary. And, as I said, in the book, when I when when I did that, for the first time in that large group, I was expecting something to happen. You know, exactly what, who knows, but something really different from what had happened ever before. Right? And it did. So, you know, that's not to say there were it's not, it's a rich internal experience. It's something that people get value out of, and a number of ways by doing it. Maybe even some integration of brainwaves, and mind and body and all these things have been explored. But certainly it wasn't what the claim was, it didn't happen. Of course, it hasn't happened since. So that's one thing. And then my wife and I moved to a little town in Iowa called Fairfield, Iowa, which had about 9000 people at the time. And again, Maurice, she made up made the call in 1983, to say, let's get 7000 people into this little town of 9000. And all do this together. And that will really crack the world open. It wasn't so much, oh, we're gonna fly. Isn't that really cool? It was more. His focus was always what can we do as individuals that will affect the collective consciousness is the word he would tend to use the collective consciousness of the whole human race? Is there somewhat, and he certainly believed, apparently that, that, that that should be possible. And originally, the idea was, well, let's just get enough people to practice TM just to meditate, and that will change the world. And then as that wasn't happening fast enough, he said, Well, let's get this advanced group. And let's get them together. And then we'll see what can really happen. And so we said, Great, we quit our jobs, we moved down here along with 7000 people, it was an, again, a really amazing experience. And then, many of those people were encouraged later to stay, to form a permanent community to keep doing this together. And they built two large dome structures where the people would come every day and twice a day and do this. So the idea was, well, we'll keep doing this and then we will finally crack it all up. So this group here in Fairfield, that up maybe about 3000, stayed over time, not the first day, but they managed to arrange their lives so that, you know, they could somehow support themselves. Some entrepreneurs came started some businesses brought businesses, people managed to support themselves and got rolling here, and states, so maybe two to 3000. At the peak, we're here. And there's still probably 2000 here. And this group of people that I was now fully enmeshed in because I never lived in a community of two or 3000 people who believed a lot of very extraordinary things I'll just mention a few in a moment. And so all the people around me that I associated with believed a raft of things and these would be The one I already mentioned, you know, possibility of human levitation. Another one would be the fact that certain practices, they're called the Yagi O's, and in Sanskrit or an Indian lore, but these are basically just practices, performances can influence by performing some ritualized event, chanting some stuff in Sanskrit pouring some materials on some objects, you know, whatever the ritual was, that can eliminate problems change the course of, of a person's life accompany even as a society. And of course, the idea that a large group doing something together like this would like, like these practices would utterly transform human human life on a collective level. And belief in astrology, it's called Jyotish. Again, the Indian version is called Jyotish. But it's essentially just astrology, that it's a perfect predictive science. And on and on, so I'm surrounded by a belief in karma, you know, the fact that everything that's happening to us was because of things in past lives, or parent lives, and it's all highly orchestrated. And reincarnation, you go on and on. And this was the assumed coin of the realm among the people I was living with, including my wife. And I was curious about some of these things, but really not not a believer in any of any of them. Yeah. Especially, you know, as the flying, it became clear that wasn't really happening that one drifted, drifted away, even from my consideration that it's any kind of likely event at all.

So this was the origin of the book for me over the book that I wrote, because in my own internal exploration process, which was, why is it that I am not susceptible to these beliefs that everybody around me is holding to one extent or another in the early days, especially? And it was just a fascinating question. It wasn't just a intellectual academic thing, like, Oh, I wonder why it was also it wasn't like I had tension about it, or felt that I was horribly missing something. But I did wonder if I was missing something. Because a lot of a lot of these people were quite admirable, quite intelligent, etc, accomplished. And they managed to believe these things and found some sort of benefit in their lives from believing these things, apparently. And I wasn't. And so I'm going, what, what am I missing here? And so I just tried to dive into that, and exploration on many, many different fronts and different levels to see. Was I missing something? Or were they just applying criteria about reality that I could not subscribe to, due to lacks a lack of evidence, basically. And that, you know, that's essentially what I what I came to, and feel comfortable with. And that, to me, let me say one more thing that a major demarcation or separation that I make in the book is between something that someone chooses to have in their life because they like the way it feels, they just like, like having in their life, and making a definite claim about something about the universe or the world, or how human life works, a claim. So to me, a claim is something about, about an event that will appear in the material world, I claim that astrology will predict this in my life. Well, I want to see that prediction come true. It's a claim or the claim that you can levitate we want to see we need to see the levitation otherwise, let's not talk about it in that in that term. You know, if doing a certain spiritual practice or ritual is supposed to alleviate a problem, let's see does does that actually play out? And so yeah, my focus was on on claims. I'm happy to have people have whatever they want in their life that makes them feel satisfied as long as they're not bending the reality and making claims factual claims about the nature of human life, that really cannot be not only cannot be established, but all the evidence that we do have, seems to contradict it. And as as the years went on here, I mean, we've been here for 39 years. Yeah, so. So it's a long, it's a lifetime, you know. And during that time, many of the people, at least the people that are my closer friends, have had us not the same degree, necessarily, as I am in this journey, but a movement in that direction. And I'm pleased and happy to report that to some small extent, at least, some of the people who've have read my book have had some of that perspective solidified. And it kind of brought together some of the maybe thoughts they started having, but brought together in a more coherent way. That is, how do we want to look at this world? How do we want to evaluate claims about this world to make sure that they're, they're valid, and that they have substance,

David Ames  21:08  
that so many things, I want to respond to their couple things, just just to say that one of the things I've really appreciated about the book is the humility and the kindness with which you describe some of these, in your words, off grid claims. And there's an empathy for the human condition and are and you know, the title of the book, tempted to believe that we are all tempted to believe in things that may or may not have enough evidence for it. Again, very much in line with what we're trying to do here with the podcast that just, you know, we're all human beings, we're all susceptible to these things. And, and yet, we are all after the truth, we're trying to find the truth. So I really appreciated that. One of the things I think, for my listeners is going to be interesting, my listeners tend to be former evangelical Christians, on some part of the spectrum from D convert from deconstruction, you're just doubting to full blown D converted atheists is that this comes at it from an orthogonal an angle, many of those evangelicals, when they were believers would have seen transcendental meditation as evil. And so it's, it kind of sneaks in past some of those defenses. And yet, I was amazed at the parallels, right? This is, again, the human condition. And last thing I'll say is, I also very much appreciated that you acknowledge the difference between the potential positive benefits of the experience and community versus a claim about the way the the universe actually works, and making a really hard bright line between those two. So for example, if you find, you know, performing the ritual of, you know, beneficial to you for your mental health, if you find meditation, or any of these, these kinds of practices, beneficial, more power to that person, not, that's fine. It's when the person begins to claim that this is affecting the world in some way that is beyond the realm of physics, that that's when we start to care about the truth.

Thom Krystofiak  23:09  
Right? Well, that's great. And, you know, I appreciate your noticing what you're calling the humility in the book. And that has been an advantage. I just ran into someone at the grocery store yesterday, he goes, Thom, I love your book. And I didn't know she was reading it. And not not a close friend, but someone I an acquaintance. And she mentioned the same thing that compared to what what you often expect in books that are trying to deconstruct for former beliefs. You often have people like Richard Dawkins would be the extreme example of someone who is often described as caustic, and dismissive and so forth. And yeah, I mean, I didn't want to do that. And I don't feel that so. So that's cool. The one thing I didn't say yet that I want to say, and I think it's germane to what you were just speaking about is that, well, let's let's get into it this way, that the whole idea, the difference that you just summarized between doing something that feels beneficial, or that you'd like to have in your life, versus making a claim about how the universe actually works in observable ways. That's a that's a bright line. You know, that's a clear distinction. Some people many people don't care about the second thing. They don't care if it can be proven if there's evidence for it. They just clearly don't. And, and you go, Okay, well, is that all right? Is that is that just another way of being? And to some extent, I want to sort of go in that direction and be again generous to say, well, that's the way that's the way their life is going. And those are their values, but This is the other area that was not the impetus of my book, but sort of got sprinkled in as the time went on, with the rise of the incredible the rise of fake news and alternative facts and, and really bizarre, more bizarre conspiracy theories and so forth, and the divisive pneus. In our political sphere. All of these things are based on beliefs, and they're based on beliefs that do not have evidence. And these things are not a matter of, oh, well, this is someone's internal life, it's their spiritual life, or whatever it is. And, you know, we shouldn't be too concerned about what they're doing inside their own head.

But when it starts to manifest, as it really seriously has, not just in America, but really around the world, when these kinds of alternate realities, not based on facts start being treated as if they were facts, and building entire, you know, political movements on them. We've got problems. And so this is what started to become more apparent to me even though it wasn't part of my original impetus, that the same kinds of questions that we're talking about here about how you evaluate what's true or not, or whether it's important that you evaluate things in a certain way as to being true or false. Whether you apply the rigors of evidence and rational thinking or not. It it's it's become a matter of really deep societal importance outside the realm of religion or New Age beliefs or, or the kinds of things I was talking about in my background, well, outside of that sphere, as important as all those fears are, we have another big thing on our hands. And it's completely related, just as you said, even though my book is not talking about the typical journey that that a lot of your other guests and people have gone on, you found that it was resonant with some of those same same processes. Well, now we're having, to me, some of our greatest societal challenges outside of those realms, also resonate with the same principles, which is, how much does the truth matter? And what do you mean by the truth? And how do you find the truth? And, to me, the greatest challenge that we face, perhaps, is that people totally disagree about that. What's interesting, though, is there are people who go, especially in the spiritual realm go, I don't, I'm totally not interested in objective means of proving any of this. I have my own internal truth that I am totally solid and clear about, you know, that's one thing where you just sort of deny the applicability of any kind of objective truth you go. That's that's not that's not relevant here to me. And that's, that's a, that's a tough issue. But that's, that's mostly on the subjective or spiritual realm. When you get into these other societal realms, where people are arguing about what's true, or what isn't true. A lot of times the people who are saying really outlandish things,

Unknown Speaker  28:43  
claim to have proof. They're

Thom Krystofiak  28:46  
not saying, oh, proof doesn't matter. This is just the way I feel I have an intimate experience with Jesus Christ or with whatever. Don't talk to me about proving it's irrelevant. They're saying, No, we can prove this. Yeah. So if you, for example, I don't want to offend any particular groups that you have your listeners, but it's an obvious, obvious example, in our society. If, if Donald Trump or some or his fall, so many of his followers are going to say, the election was stolen, they don't say, I have a feeling the election was stolen, or, you know, my, my spiritual guide told me the election was stolen, they say it was stolen, and we have evidence, right, you know, and then they bring it to court. And of course, all the courts so far, have failed to agree that there was any kind of evidence, but nevertheless, the claim is made or a lot of conspiracy theorists will claim that they have evidence certainly the big one is the nine 911 truthers who, you know the idea that it was an inside job and it was totally put up fake thing. They'll put out reams of really impressive looking video discussions with some experts and so forth, proving that there's no way these towers came down in this way from from airplanes. And so this is what gets doubly difficult. Because it's not just a matter of do you accept evidence at all as a valid way of finding out what's true? They'll go, yes, of course we do. And we've got evidence. And then it becomes a much more difficult task of sifting through competing versions, right of evidence, and say, which one of his really holds up. And the problem is that none of us most of us are incapable of doing all of that background, evidential research or checking ourselves. And so we naturally have to ferret out which of the experts or authorities out there in the world are the ones that we have reason to think are reliable. And then we follow those. So this gets really thorny. And that's why the only the only hope I see is in a greater depth of education emphasis, I don't know if this will ever be happening in our educational systems, to the process of doing exactly that. How do you weigh how do you ferret out the the reliability of a piece of evidence of an authority of suppose it expert? You know, how do you weigh these things? You can't just take the one that feels?

David Ames  31:44  
Exactly. And I you do talk about that a lot of just, and within the world of disinformation that basically, we just pick the paradigm that makes us feel the best. And that's no way to do this. I want to jump on this just for a second and say, This is why the book is timely for a number of reasons. You know, I think, you know, even beyond the political and the religious, you know, we're under an onslaught of advertising being thrown at us and with social media, and what have you that we are constantly evaluating claims, whether we know it or not, and being conscious of that, and having a standard is just deeply important. And in particular, and in time of disinformation. And in a time where technology is going to only get make the problem worse for the foreseeable future, that we will have more and more claims that we have to evaluate, having a sense of what the standard is for good or sufficient evidence is just absolutely critical.

Thom Krystofiak  32:44  
That's right, and it's going as you say, it's going to get more and more intense. Speaking about social media, you know, you get, you get the problem of what are called Deep fakes, which are, there's, the better and better ability is of technology to create a video of you saying something that looks exactly like you're saying it even though you would never say that and never did. And so, it's going to go to a completely different level of difficulty, to tell the difference, and to see how any, any sort of authority is going to try to step in, to prevent some of these clearly wrong attempts to fool people. So it's, it's one thing in the old areas, you had stories, you know, if you go back 1000s of years, you had people telling stories about the origin of life, or some savior or some holy man. We, we basically had stories and that worked incredibly well. You know, you have billions of people subscribing to essentially stories that were created 1000s of years ago, or laid down 1000s of years ago, stories passed on were very potent, and they always will be, although, as we've been seeing, at least in in Western societies, for the for large degree, in more industrialized Western societies, that the grip of some of those religious stories has been greatly weakening, you know, in not true all over the world, but certainly true and like in Europe, and, and so forth. And even in the US among, among young, younger people. So some of these stories are not having the same potency that they had before. But but now we're gonna get a whole as you said, a whole onslaught of things, whether it be in advertising or even more, more dangerously, in those parts and those people who use social media to try to change your, your critical beliefs, about about things that really matter. It's one thing to convince you that this is the best bike to buy, you know, Hi, some advertising, you know, it's another thing to convince someone about the reality of some political claim or some or some factual claim, and to do it in a way that that you're completely incapable of, of yourself telling the difference. That is truly alarming. So, yeah, so it's not just a matter of individuals getting better at being able to tell the difference between some someone who's trying to fool him and someone who's giving them a good solid piece of information. It's, again, as I said, the question is going to be to what extent government or society is going to have to try to put some controls over this rampant growth in MIS misinformation that gets more and more sophisticated.

David Ames  35:50  
And again, this is the I don't want to say argument. But the reason why skepticism is necessary. I think skepticism as a word has negative connotations, people think cynicism. And the thing I really related to you, and I think that my listeners will relate to is finding yourself what feels like alone? Why am I the only one who in your words is not susceptible to these these claims like that is the deconstruction deconversion experience, we find ourselves in this hermetically sealed bubble of people saying the same things, reinforcing the same things. We've heard the answers, we understand the answers, but the answers are not satisfying. And the the temptation is to say, maybe there's something wrong with me. And and yet, again, this entire book, and everything you're talking about here is about why skepticism is necessary. And that if the truth matters, you know, we can't we can't make someone value the truth. But if they do value the truth, there has to be some process some way of understanding, again, have good evidence or sufficient evidence, and can therefore be accepted or that need to be discarded.

Thom Krystofiak  37:02  
Yeah, absolutely. It's an interesting process that you and your guests and others go through in terms of that, that we could say, a light a light bulb turning on or something, something inside being activated, to start to wonder about these things. And that that really is the essence, you know, it's like, do we wonder about what's true? I mean, obviously, all scientists have always wondered about what's true. That's that, that sense of, and they do it in a way that is, that is not constrained by necessarily what came before. It's not like, Oh, we've always been told that rocks fall, because it's the nature of things to go towards, you know, the center of the earth. You know, with no idea of gravity, just that it's the nature of things. And someone starts to wonder about that. You just have to wonder, how does, how does this really work? And what's really going on here, that, that light bulb coming on, which doesn't come on for some people? Yeah, it just, it just doesn't, they're, they're happy with, with the world that they're living in, and the beliefs and practices and community that they have, it's working, it's working for them? And it's only when a question comes up internally, to wonder about it and to ask certain questions. And I don't know how that exactly happens. But why it happens for some and not for others. Exactly. Yeah. It may just be that some people are temperamentally more open or ready to ask certain questions than others than others are.

I was on a podcast called Buddha at the Gas Pump, which is a fabulous thing. It's actually it's a friend of my longtime friend of mine, is behind it. He's interviewed like, I don't know, six or 700 people, and they tend to be people from the spiritual world, about all kinds of things. But he, he also had me on, and he was very forthright and discussing the kinds of things that we are. And anyway, as part of that, there was a group that he has, I don't know, maybe 15 People who email around on these questions. And it's fascinating because that group kind of bifurcates and some of them are strongly in the camp of I have had this experience which was so strong, and so opening or was clearly a direct perception of truth. But that's the end of it. That is just the end of it. and it has, there is it's not like they they're incapable of asking questions about all kinds of things, but they're not interested in asking questions about that.

David Ames  40:11  
Right? Protected.

Thom Krystofiak  40:14  
Yeah. And there's a difference between someone who's protected by, by a religious tradition, or the fact that their parents and their schooling and all of the people around them believe it. And it's, it's a whole community thing. And it's just been deeply bred into them. And someone who was absolutely sure, because they had some sort of awakened awakening experience. And, and they don't, and I keep, from now on then trying to get them to think about the idea that it is absolutely true and wonderful that they had this amazing experience. And it had great benefits in their lives, they feel freer, they feel wider, they feel, you know, less anxious, less concern, they feel more connected. These are all great things that anyone would love to have. So there's no question about it happened. You got these fruits. That's wonderful. Yeah. But there's an the tendency to want to claim things about the universe, about the nature of life in general, beyond the experience, and they it's almost always happens, that somewhat someone, even if they have an experiential basis, for some, some wonderful thing, they ended up wanting to make claims about the universe, like everything that consciousness was primary consciousness existed eternally, and it created a matter matter came out of consciousness, sort of like God, sort of like God, God was there eternally. And all this stuff that we see he just created somehow. Similarly with that, so they tend to go in that direction, even though it's that's a claim about things that goes way beyond anything that could ever be established. Right.

David Ames  42:14  
You have some amazing quotes in the book. That's the other thing that I really appreciated about it is like this is well researched. And some of my favorites were from Fineman. The one that I've heard before, but just really struck me was, the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. I feel like that really expresses this. I think Neil deGrasse Tyson said it this way to relate to religion to what you just mentioned, that experience can trump evidence as we have to actually work fairly hard to overcome that feeling of experience that we've we've gained some insights about truth beyond just the the warm and fuzzies. And you know, the sense of awe. Last thing I'll say on this is just that it's the human experience to experience all and all as a good thing. It's when we start to attribute unverifiable or unfalsifiable claims based on that experience at all. Yeah, that's

Thom Krystofiak  43:12  
right. I mean, the quantified men, you know that you're the easiest person to fool. Towards ties directly into the opening, you know, the opening aphorism in my book, you know, whether it's better to be fooled many times, yes, than to be a skeptical man. It's all about the fooling. And whether William James, I get into this a bit as well, William James, who explored spirituality and religion and psychic phenomena, as well as being the founder of American psychology. And philosophy really, is quite an amazing man. But, you know, when he wrote the book, or the essay called the will to believe he started it off with a preface, where he was saying, the person who, let's say, is going to be skeptical about about all these things, is, is is demonstrating that he's, he's afraid to be duped, he doesn't want to be duped. And he's saying he's putting that above some of the fruits that he could get, if you would just let it go. You know, this fear of being duped which is exactly, you know, kind of what, five minutes talking about to you know, the first principle is you must not fool yourself. Why not? Why not? is sort of the interesting question. That's the, the ultimate question, really, why not? And, you know, William James, I think he kind of went off the rails as far as I was concerned, because he was saying things like, Well, if you're always going to be skeptical, you're never going to get married. You're never going to take this new job that might have a risk in it. If you're always doubting everything. You're never going to do anything. In your life, and you go, Yeah, that's true. But that's all very pragmatic stuff. That's Those are choices that you make in your life. You know, whether you doubt whether this investment is going to be rewarding or not, is not the kind of doubt we're talking about. It's not the kind of skepticism we're talking about. We're talking about skepticism about claims about reality and how it actually works, not whether this woman is going to turn out to be the perfect wife for me. Right. So you know, so he ended up being really pragmatic when he was talking about doubt and faith and the will to believe, saying, We have to believe stuff. And of course we do. I believe that it's a good thing that I am, you know, this investment I just got in recently. I believe that's all right. I don't know. But I have a strong feeling that it will be a good idea. I don't hold back and go Well, I just don't know. I just don't know. So we're not talking to some kind of debilitating, absolute skepticism or doubt about everything.

David Ames  46:03  
Right. I'm talking about solipsism. Yeah, exactly. Yeah,

Thom Krystofiak  46:08  
we're only talking about when people make substantive claims about how things are, then make a difference that make a difference to the rest of her life goes. You know, that's where you might want to have some questions. Yeah.

David Ames  46:27  
I wanted to circle back really quick to how some people who who make off grade claims say that they have evidence in my world, in my listeners world, that tends to be apologists. And there's a whole field of evidential apologetics that suggests that there is all of this evidence. And it's clear that it's basically, you know, circumstantial, hearsay, and embellished legend with kind of an objective point of view, when you're talking to that person, they are 100% convinced that they have evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, let's say, you know, there are historical record and, and so one of the, again, one of the experiences of, of deconstruction, deconversion, is when you begin to recognize, I no longer find that, that evidence such as this convincing, that isn't sufficient to the magnitude of the claim, I just want to like, talk about a bit more about the challenge of coping with people who are claiming they have evidence, but that evidence isn't sufficient for the claim.

Thom Krystofiak  47:34  
Yeah. It's a matter of how much yeah, how much leeway you give this the sources of authority in your life. And how much leeway you give to the stories and, and the types of evidence, you know, generally, people who are believing in these, a lot of religious things and other off off grid claims, will give a great deal of leeway, you know, they will give the kind of spaciousness that they would never give, let's say in a court of law, or in some actual proceeding in their own practical life, where they're trying to nail down what really happened or what really is the truth. You know, I mean, Thomas Paine had that story, you know, that. If, if anybody were to come before a magistrate, with the four gospels accounts, which, about the resurrection, which have completely different details, and to some extent, contradictory details about precisely what happened when and who did what, you know, what is this? I mean, you can't possibly accept it, you go. There's something funny going on here. This isn't this isn't this isn't anything like an objective? evidential account? So? So yeah, it's, it's something some term that I use somewhere in the book was some people have granted either themselves or others the license to make things up. You know, you allow things to be declared and accepted as truth. Because of what they the fruits that they give you. And you give a lot of license to the quality of the evidence. Yeah, I've, I've certainly, I, you know, I always like to look at things like, Oh, someone and apologists trying to present the strongest proofs for God or something or for the resurrection. I always think they're going to come up with something really cool, you know, here that I can sink my teeth into. And I'm always I'm always dissatisfied, but I I have there something in me that wants us to, it's not like I want to believe in that sense. It's not like, Please convince me but, but I would, I love to I would love to be blown away. weigh, but the strength of evidence or the strength of an argument. You know, my wife always jokes with me. I don't happen to believe in UFOs, even though that's not that could be a physical reality. I mean, it could be, but I don't think we've got the evidence. I personally don't think we've got the evidence right now. And, but, but she knows that I would love to have a UFO land on my lawn? I would, I would love it. It's not like, no, no, no, I don't want to believe in that stuff. Right. I'd be happy to believe in it. Yeah, if there was good evidence. And so it's not that some people have a desire for belief or to believe certain things, and others don't. I have. I have I don't know about desire, I kind of have a desire to be to be confronted with a, an alien on a UFO. I mean, why not great, or, or a ghost or something? I mean, I don't believe in any of these things. But how cool would that be? Yeah, if it was really something I could sink my teeth into?

David Ames  51:11  
Yeah, a few things about that. Like, I avoid talking to apologists, but when I do I point out that if you really could prove the point you're trying to make you can win a Nobel Prize, right? Like, you know, you discover alien intelligence, you know, you are a million dollar winner. They're like that, you know, all you have to do is have the evidence to back it up. And so I would love to see that kind of evidence for for something that was an amazing claim like that.

Thom Krystofiak  51:37  
Yeah, I mean, you know, there's this guy, what's his name? Greer, the Disclosure Project? You know, that's an example of someone who has assembled huge amounts of military guys or intelligence guys are this that the other thing and all kinds of other fairly obscure evidence, but mounds of it, that it's totally convincing to large numbers of people? It's like this is it. This is evidence this is this is it? Yeah. But as you say, the truly convincing evidence is never forthcoming. Yeah. It's just not.

David Ames  52:22  
You talk about a number of scientists that have, you know, a sense of wonder about the universe. And the immediate person who comes to mind to me is Carl Sagan. And his candle in the dark book, I think, really touches on this, you know, he tells the story of being a young boy, and just really being fascinated with UFOs and extraterrestrials and but his scientific nature took over and even though he would love to be able to have said, there are in fact, extraterrestrials, you know, he could not find the evidence to do so. And what I appreciated about Carl Sagan and I often say like, I'm a more of a Sega nite, atheist than a Dawkins, I guess, in the sense that I have this wonder at the cosmos, this wonder at the universe, and that, and he expressed that so so well, contrast that a bit with you also have a chapter where you talk about people who become dissatisfied, or with the scientific view of the world, and, and basically make a conscious choice to go from a more scientific view of the world to an off grid view of the world.

Thom Krystofiak  53:34  
Yeah, no, that's great. I mean, the example of Sagan who is so great, someone who, as you said, was entranced with with some of these greater possibilities, like aliens and, and so forth, but couldn't go there unless the evidence allowed him you know, he was one of the strong guys involved with SETI, you know, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. And, but if the evidence wasn't there, he couldn't do it. And yeah, I mean, people who get, I mean, one example in the book was, this was a long time ago, but the former president of Columbia, who just came out with this remarkable statement that that where science was going meaning mostly Darwinian theory at that time, was undermining some of his beliefs in the divine origin and so forth of everything. And he just came right out and said that I would, I would rather rest in my satisfying even if they'd be deceitful dreams. Science is is not going to do it for me. And that that's an interesting problem. You know, people will, will wonder whether a view that is based on reason and science Ansan looking for evidence, therefore necessarily putting aside a lot of the things that humanity has taken sustenance for, spiritually for, for millennia, what exactly that's going to do like, some people like Sagan are going to be a brilliant and full of awe and wonder and great people, no matter what other people, if you totally remove these sustaining beliefs that they have, or if somehow they they get weakened, or lost in them. We don't really know what what what that's going, what that's going to do. And so some people do question certainly question whether science, a scientific view, has enough stuff to offer the human psyche. Yeah, those who are enamored by the wonder of the universe and of life and, and evolution and, and at every scale, it's just so remarkable from the, from the farthest reaches of the cosmos down to the tiniest bits of matter, you know, it's all uniformly amazing and wonderful, and those who are susceptible to that kind of joy or or interest are well rewarded by that kind of interest. Some people are not character are not temperamentally or characteristically as susceptible or open to those kinds of joys and those kinds of rewards. And so this is, this is an interesting question that I don't have a solid answer to, you know, those who either tired of science or are not susceptible to the charms of science, whether they just need something else. And so the people I talked about in the book, one was the guy who's known as rom das now, who was Richard Alpert. He was a psychologist at Harvard, with Timothy Leary. And they both did LSD experiments at Harvard, and got thrown out for that reason. And Alpert, when he went to his, his, his dismissal meeting, or his review, or whatever, said, I'm not a scientist anymore. I'm giving up my badge. You know, I'd rather I want to, I'd rather go to India, which he did. Where, where there are these miracles being talked about? And I'd rather believe these miracles, then be a scientist and study, you know, bring out the data anymore. And, you know, there are people with that kind of orientation, that, that they they'd rather have, sort of an extreme example of, of what Barnard Columbia said, where he'd be happy in his deceitful dreams, if they were, if they could sustain him. You know, deceit is as far as being full deceit was not necessarily a problem for some people, if they get the fruits and this is, this is a whole other area of challenge. I mean, I think, I think there's probably, I don't know, what percentage of the people on this planet are, are enthused could be enthused by, and nourished by and by the joys of, of scientific knowledge or true revelation based on evidence about the way this amazing world actually works in our lives and our bodies in the universe. versus those who are, are a little bit cool on that, or cold on that. And once something else, once once some other they want the miracles they want. They want some stories, they want some, some rich, you know, mythology, that's, you know, another person I talked about in the book was Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote, Eat, Pray, Love, that great best seller. And at one point in her life, she says, I'm tired of science, I'm tired of skepticism. I want to feel God in my playing in my bloodstream. And that's exactly what we're talking about here. That especially if she was depressed, your marriage broke, fell apart, whatever she was in a state of pain, and she's going I want the pain to go away. Yeah, I want something that will help get this make the pain go away and replace it with something else. And, you know, science won't necessarily always be able to step in when you have certain kinds of emotional and psychological pain. I mean, forget about pharmaceuticals or whatever. But I mean, in terms of scientific knowledge isn't going to unnecessarily come in and infuse you with all this joy, if you are truly in a needy, needy state emotionally, psychologically, so these are some of the other challenges to this whole.

David Ames  1:00:13  
Yeah, for sure. And I agree with you that I think their new atheist perspective of the end of religion is ridiculous, that's never going to happen. I also found it interesting reading philosophical history that this question has been asked over and over again, what happens if we take the gods away? What, you know, what happens to society, you know, and the attempt to create civil religions and that kind of thing, the way that I, we try to approach it here is to say, you know, that, I think my conjecture is that our relationships with other human beings, is the point is the meaning in life, as it were, not that that the universe has meaning, but that, that we create that between us and that trying to provide some level of community for people to have had a soft place to land as they let go of some of these off grid claims. That's kind of what we're trying to accomplish here.

Thom Krystofiak  1:01:03  
Absolutely. You know, and something I mentioned that people are probably aware of that. There's an interesting example of Scandinavia, which is the least religious least conventionally religious part of Europe, perhaps the world. They have really stepped away from there. They were, of course, Christian, primarily Christian, Jewish, whatever, but primarily Christian in the earlier times. And that has dropped away in Scandinavia to a degree that hasn't been seen in virtually any other society. And if you look at, there are studies that are done of the happiest cultures on Earth, the happiest countries, the the healthiest countries, meaning not just you know, their physical health, but their overall well being. Scandinavian countries are almost always at the top of those of those of those studies. And so, that to me, is now granted, people will say, Yeah, but you know, they're building on this history of Judeo Christian stuff of values. And, and sure they are, but so are all of us. I mean, we're all in Western societies, we're all in mashed in a society that has a lot of roots that way, and we're familiar with all that. And various stories that still resonate with us, you know, the story of the Good Samaritan, or whatever, that's a universal story that is just incredibly moving on an empathetic level. It's not, it's got nothing to do with, who is the god? Or what kind of God is it? Or what's what sort of deal does he have? It's just, here's a human being, how do you treat them, and, you know, but we're all enmeshed in these moral exemplars, whether it be from religious stories, whether it be from other stories, historical stories, you know, we all have plenty of stories, and plenty of examples, even just movies, books, whatever, where there's good people, and that resonates with us, or we know people, you know, we people in our own lives, who were just so touching that they were so loving, or caring or connected, and that resonates with us. And we resonate to with other people's needs and suffering. And so we have that basis. And so in Scandinavia, sure, you can say, yeah, they had Judeo Christian background, well, sure, we've all got all kinds of backgrounds, but what they've managed to do is take the fruits of those some of those stories or feelings and, and myths or whatever, and they're just in the background, they're part of their ethical life, probably. And they move forward without necessarily subscribing to these more outlandish or extraordinary claims about the universe. Without without the gods really without, so the question of what's going to happen without the gods, we don't know if it would always be like Scandinavia, but but Scandinavia being the premier example in the world. Right now. Is, is encouraging. It's encouraging.

David Ames  1:04:23  
And just to wrap this up, one of my favorite definitions of religion is from Anthony Penn. And it doesn't require supernatural claims. It is the collective search for meaning. And so a sense of we are a community and we support each other and we care about each other and we are even pushing each other to good works as it were, you know, like it all of that is good. And it's only when we start to make, in your words, you know, claims about how the universe works, where the story becomes literal in some way. That that's the problem.

Thom Krystofiak  1:04:57  
Yeah. When things sort of solidify I and solidify that way into discrete doctrinal claims, whatever, obviously one of the side effects of that throughout history has been wars fought over these doctrinal differences. I mean, you know, the idea that you have to take these wonderful aspects of human life and, and, and define them and say you must subscribe, or if you don't subscribe any longer, we're going to shun you, you know, these kinds of prac. This kind of adherence to the specificities of these discrete claims, has obviously been harmful in a whole bunch of ways. And if if it were possible to, to have religion in the sense of you just described it, which I think to some extent is what's going on and a lot of Scandinavia and elsewhere, is it would be, I think it would be a wonderful thing, it would be a win win, yeah.

David Ames  1:06:00  
So heading towards wrap up here, you start the book with a couple of questions. Is it better to be fooled many times than to be skeptical? And are you missing something? We'll end with the beginning a bit here. But like how you resolve that for yourself, personally? How do you answer those questions? And again, I appreciate that's the entire book, people will go and buy the book.

Thom Krystofiak  1:06:22  
Well, you know, the book is really a journey that's rather than the book being, I ask a question at the beginning, and then I answer it for the next 300 pitches, you know, it's more, let's, let's look into this. And so it's looking at it from this angle, from this angle from this aspect of history and this aspect of philosophy, this aspect of religion, this aspect of science, it's just looking at it from different facets and illuminating different ways of, of exploring the question. So it's in the book is an exploration rather than a declaration of my of my answer, but but in the last chapter, I think I say So after all that, yeah. Is it better to be fooled? And I admit that it is. It is, for me better to be fooled in certain circumstances. And I talk about that a lot. We don't need to get into it much. But I talked about that, that if if if I was in some horrific situation in the morphine had run out, and they could give me a saline solution, which has been proven to work as a placebo after you've gotten some morphine for a while, and then they give you saline for a while, and it works just about as well as the morphine because the body has that incredible response. Please fool me. Yeah, don't tell me. Sorry, Bob, the morphine is gone. Yeah. You know, I mean, fool me. But I go to some lengths to try to explain why that, to me is an acceptable kind of fooling. And the basic reason is that morphine is real. It's a real thing. It's not like an angel that they're telling me about, which I don't believe in, it's morphine. And that's real. And they're saying, this is morphine, they're fooling me about a specific fact, but not about the fact that morphine works, which is what's working in my brain. So there are ways that I'll be happy to be fooled, but they're more like that. They're more like these technicalities. No, I don't, I don't believe for me. And this is where it comes down to something, David, it's like, who are you? Are you a person who cares about the truth? Who cares to really feel grounded? In what am I doing here? In this world? Who What am I? What is all this? If those are questions that matter to you, then then being fooled about those things is completely off the table. It's completely unacceptable if that's, if that's a high priority for you to feel that here I am in these in these small number of decades on this planet? And do I is it important to me that I make my best efforts to really understand what is true, what is going on what this is, what life is, what all of this is how should I live my life, all of these things? If that's a critical priority, which it is for me, then the idea of being fooled about those fundamentals is completely a non starter. It's just and I you know, I understand that some people in my mind might be fooled about those things, or feeling great about it. Yeah, I'm not trying to take that away from them. I'm not pontificate. I don't go after my friends who are believers and just, you know, assault them with my skepticism. But, but, but for me, for anyone who is has that kind of orientation towards towards a grounding in reality, or grounding and truth, the kind that we're talking about, it's just not it's just not a possibility. And the second question, Am I missing Something I'm not missing something that I that I haven't clearly missing something that they have, you know, they've got some stuff that I don't know. But I mean, that's true all of us have people have stuff that you don't have one way or another. But the question is whether you would really want want that. And no, I'm not missing something that at this point in my life, I wish I had, I wish I had faith or I wish I could believe these claims that I can't find evidence for. Because they'll do something for me. I can't put those two together with the desire to be grounded in truth.

David Ames  1:10:38  
The book is tempted to believe I want to give you just a second to be able to promote that how can people find the book and any anything else that you'd like to promote?

Thom Krystofiak  1:10:46  
Okay, thanks. The book is just simply available on Amazon, both in terms of print, print, book and Kindle. So it's just Amazon, you can just say tempted to believe they will, unfortunately, Amazon always keeps older editions around once they've been published. And I did a preliminary version, mostly because I wanted to have some readers have a book in their hand, as I was finalizing it. Okay, so there was a preliminary version, which is still out there. This is this is the one with the dynamic blue cover with an incredible picture on it. It's not, it's not the one that with text only. And it's the one with, you know, all the reviews and so forth. So it's pretty obvious, tempted to believe on Amazon. And, you know, not necessarily terribly germane to the things we've been discussing here today, but some of my shorter writing over the years on a variety of topics. And other things is in my website, which is simply my last name, which is Krystofiak, which I will spell. It's, it's K, R, Y, S, T O, F, as in Frank, I A K. That's And then there's some things there that also talks about the book.

David Ames  1:12:03  
Fantastic. And we will have those in the show notes. And I will try not to murder your last name again. Thom, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Oh,

Thom Krystofiak  1:12:12  
it's been a great trip. Thank you.

David Ames  1:12:20  
Final thoughts on the episode? I love this book. I loved this conversation with Thom, this is so important topic. Skepticism is it's it touches every area of our lives from the onslaught of advertising that we face every day to the misinformation and disinformation that political entities put out to apologetics. And this comes from all corners. It is not just Christian apologetics that I'm talking about. Thom comes from the Transcendental Meditation perspective, and having new age friends who are making in his words off grid claims. And I identified so much with the I feel impervious to these claims. Why is that? What is there something different about me. And so it's Thom's humility that comes through in the book in the conversation that is so profound. When you hear the word skepticism, the first thing that might leap to mind is really argumentative debate style cynics. And it is actually the exact opposite is humility, of recognizing the human condition and our susceptibility to believing things that we want to believe that we want to be true. And believing things that fit within our in group. And skepticism is actually from humility of recognizing I could be wrong. Therefore, I need some evidence to know whether this thing is true or not. The other thing that I think Thom does really well in the book, I'm not sure we completely got to it in the conversation is acknowledging the reality of the experience. These literally all inspiring experiences. Create in us a sense of having touch to the Divine, having touched the transcendent, having gained secret knowledge. When you have the experience, you can't help but make those connections. And part of skepticism is recognizing that it is our ability to fool ourselves as the Fineman quote says that is the problem. And so we are protecting ourselves by looking for objective evidence. But it is the empathy for the human condition that Thom has in the book that really speaks to secular grace, secular grace for our son elves when we believe things that don't have evidence and secular grace for those people, we'd love to believe things without evidence. The book is tempted to believe by Thom Krystofiak is amazing, you need to get this book you need to read it. It is one of those things that I'm telling you, we'll help you through deconstruction and deconversion. We will, of course have links in the show notes, as well as the link to Thom's personal sites. I want to thank Thom for being on the podcast and even more so for the book. I said to him Off mic that This truly was the book that I wish I had had when I was going through my deconversion. So thank you, Thom, for writing such an empathetic, humble and true book. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about humility, about our own ability to fool ourselves. The Fineman quote is, the first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. If you really absorb that, if you really feel that viscerally. And for those of us who have gone through deconstruction and deconversion that should feel pretty real and present in our lives, you can begin to recognize when you are fooling yourself in lots of different contexts. I'd love a quote from Alice Gretchen when she was on, she said that she stopped being good at fooling herself. And I feel the same way. And if you are like me, and you find yourself skeptical, and you're like Thom and unable to accept claims without evidence, that is okay. It's actually a good thing. And it will protect you from, as we've already said, advertising, politics, disinformation, as well as religion, or supernatural claims. But it ultimately begins with, I could be wrong. And really knowing that and feeling that. So the skepticism that Thom is talking about, the skepticism that I'm talking about is less about saying where someone else is wrong, and more about recognizing where we have been mistaken. We have lots of great interviews coming up. We have got Julia from Germany, who is a doctor and at one point in time in her life, given up her medical career to participate in a healing ministry. And her deconstruction is just powerful and deep. We have Jessica Moore, who is a part of the deconversion anonymous Facebook group, and is now dealing with purity culture, and surviving the aftermath of purity culture, as well as a number of other interviews that are coming up that are gonna be fantastic. Until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links or books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Paul Is Done

Deconstruction, Dones, ExVangelical, Podcast, Spirituality
Click to play episode on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Apple Podcasts

After years in the mission field and in pastoral ministry Paul is done. Paul is Deb’s (last week’s guest) husband.

Deb’s episode


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Deb is Done

Agnosticism, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Dones, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture, Spirituality
Click to play episode on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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. 

Deb’s husband, Paul, tells his story.

Tweet-worthy quotes

“I just knew the more we prayed, the likelihood of God answering was higher.”

“That’s what we needed. We needed to get kicked out of the church to begin being more honest with our doubts and our questions.”

“After sixty years of feeling like I have to go [to church] every time the doors are open, it was just amazing—the release that was!”

“…it’s so important to be curious and to be a lifelong learner. That’s my purpose for living, to just be a learner.”

“I want to be a lifelong learner. I’m seventy-one. I want to learn. I want to be teachable…and curious. That’s really my desire for the last years of my life.”



Tara Brach’s guided meditations


Brian McLaren’s Books


Brian McLaren’s Books


Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

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Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Arline, Marissa and Raven

Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture, Race, Spirituality
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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. 

Tweet-worthy Quotes

“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?”




Join the Deconversion Anonymous Facebook group!


Secular Grace

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Caroline Schwabe: My Beautiful Cyborg

Deconstruction, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace, Spirituality
Click to play episode on
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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.

I’m deaf-not-deaf.

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.


My Beautiful Cyborg

Links for Cochlear implant information



Secular Grace

Support the podcast

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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As always, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on pod or the Apple podcast store, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, at the beginning of every streaming interview that I do I say something along the lines of Hi, can you hear me? Never before has the affirmative answer to that mundane question been more profound than in the case of my guest this week. Caroline's Schwabe. Caroline's progressive hearing loss was expected due to family history, but no less devastating. The expense of hearing aids and testing and all of that work was daunting. And she was beginning to lose her ability to be in a conversation. She couldn't speak on a phone anymore. Until that is she became eligible for a cochlear implant, which transformed her life. Along with her husband on dress, Caroline co hosts a podcast called my beautiful cyborg that is about her journey of hearing loss and the cochlear implant and the regaining of her hearing. Caroline is about to tell us that story. But intermixed with that is devastation about her husband wanting to attend seminary and that falling through, and various church failures that affected them deeply. So in the midst of regaining her hearing, Caroline was also in some forms of deconstruction. The thing I want you to listen for, and the emphasis is on the word Listen, is the joy that Caroline expresses. When I'm trying to talk about secular grace, it is about thriving, not just surviving, and Caroline is thriving. And you can hear the joy for life, the joy for regaining her hearing, the joy for the simple things that she had at one point in time lost and has now regained. Here's my conversation with Caroline Schwabe.

Caroline's Schwabe, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Caroline Schwabe  2:48  
Thank you, David. Thanks for having me.

David Ames  2:51  
I will acknowledge here that we have had previous conversation and we may refer back to that a few times. But Caroline, you have such a very unique story that I'm gonna let you get into in just a second. But what was really kind of tugged at my heart. It was telling me that my podcast and other podcasts that deal with faith deconstruction was such a major part of of your life. So I'm kind of just teasing here. We'll get to why that is. But let's begin with what was your faith tradition.

Caroline Schwabe  3:27  
I was born to German immigrants to Canada, and they raised they baptized us kids into the Lutheran tradition. So I grew up going to Sunday school and got involved with the youth there. My parents weren't really involved in the church, weirdly, but I enjoyed it. I actually, the Sunday school thing was kind of the obligation that my parents wanted to fulfill their baptismal promises that they made during my baptism. But as I got a little bit older and got involved with VBS, it was all me I wandered over to the church by myself and I, and in terms of the youth group stuff, I got involved on my own too. And, you know, I, I just liked it. There was a sense of community and I liked the tradition. I liked the ritual, actually, of church, and just the feeling of being there with people that I knew and just I was kind of a spiritual kid, if that makes sense.

David Ames  4:29  
It makes complete sense. Yeah.

Caroline Schwabe  4:30  
Yeah. I kind of had deep thoughts when I was even just a little girl. And, um, and then just carried on with that through high school and stuff. And when I was 19, I went to like the first national Canadian Lutheran church youth gathering that was in in Thunder Bay. And I had met this guy at the sandwich machine, and I was like, I'm not here to be boys. Yeah, I'm gonna go now and And my friend and I were sitting in the bleachers at Lake had University and we heard this unbelievable beautiful piano music just resonating through the auditorium there. And I was like, Where's that coming from? So we, the two of us ran down to the piano was this guy had just met at the sandwich machine. And he's playing this just gorgeous music. And someone like rang the lunch bell, and everybody disappeared. And it was just me and this guy sitting at the piano. So I, I actually settled up next to him. And I played piano at the time, too, had taken, like the, the more regimented route to playing music. So I read music, and I practiced, and then I would be able to perform a piece but only after several weeks of practicing and learning. And this guy was just playing. He's he says, oh, yeah, it's original. I'm like, What do you mean, it's originally so I wrote it. And he had these beautiful hands, and I couldn't believe he was single. So we fell in love immediately. And Andreas and I got married apart me engaged the very next day. So we were engaged very, very quickly. And, you know, when as, as we have talked about that, it's been really interesting, because the day after we were engaged, so like, the third day of knowing each other. We all just sort of laying it all out and telling each other the things that might be we were trying to be very, very honest. Okay. And, and so he told me some stuff. And I said, Yeah, well, I'm probably going to be deaf one day, too, because my mom's deaf and it's genetic. And it's on her side of the family. And he's like, Oh, by the time that's happening, they will come up with a solution for that. Okay. So he, and and that gives me some comfort, you know, knowing that he was okay with it, and that there would be something for that later.

David Ames  7:04  
Right? Can we just acknowledge that that's a pretty big deal. That's a pretty Yeah, after three days of knowing each other, you're engaged, and you drop the bomb that you have genetic propensity towards deafness.

Caroline Schwabe  7:19  
You know, I agree with you wholeheartedly. And at that moment, because it was such a big part of my life. I mean, my mom was just deaf. So that was just normal for me. Yeah. It's really hard for me to explain. But to me, it didn't seem like the worst thing in the world or a big deal. It was like, when this does come about, you're going to have to learn to deal with that, like, we're going to figure out how to communicate. And I'm going to read lips just like my mom does. And I'm going to probably have hearing aids and all this stuff that, to me was kind of normal, it was just had always been part of my life. Obviously, from the time I was born, so my mum was a little older. She was 36 when she had me and so by then she was already wearing hearing aids. And I didn't know any other way to go through life, but to have someone in my life with hearing impairment. So yeah, I do absolutely acknowledge it now, but at the time, at the time, I didn't think too, too, too much of it. So anyway, he was pretty brave. Yes, in that regard. And he also told me, and we were both very much on the same page in terms of our faith and our approach to life and our outlook on the future and just the things that are important in a marriage. So he told me, he wanted to go to seminary and be a pastor and I was interested in going to university and working towards becoming like a deacon s or what they call it in the Lutheran church at that time was a parish assistant. Okay. So and that was like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was was the the sort of mother organization from which the Lutheran church Canada had been born. So in case anyone's interested, that's the flavor of Lutheran. Yeah,

David Ames  9:20  
no, I think that's important, right? Like the the diversity of faith backgrounds is important. And so there's going to be somebody out there who's, you know, Missouri citizens or candidate literally from Canada. They're going oh, that's my story.

Caroline Schwabe  9:35  
That's exactly right. And you know, it does make a difference in terms of some of the, the understanding of faith and theology and all that stuff. So when I moved out here, the plan was that we would work for a couple years and then Andres would go to seminary and then we would be a pastor and I would be pastor's wife, you know, usually plays piano and teaches Sunday school and helps out in the church. And so I'd basically be a church worker, whether I liked it or not. And I was I was all up for that. So that's, yeah, that's where we came from. But I don't know if you want to go into how we left the church right away, or Yeah, I

David Ames  10:21  
think just because I know a little bit of the story. The plan to do seminary didn't pan out exactly the way you intended. Correct. So you want to tell a little bit about that story?

Caroline Schwabe  10:31  
Yeah, yes. And no. Because it was a pretty, it's a pretty terrible strike. So we saved up all our money, and we made all the necessary arrangements to take that step and go to school. So we moved, and Andreas quit his job. And he was ready. And it was, he was supposed to start right away. And he went in to the seminary for something I don't even know what and they said, Oh, you're just on time, the President just waiting to see you. Or, sorry, the one of the deans, okay. And he's like, I don't have a meeting. And they said, Oh, yeah, you do. You went in. And they. Now I just need to preface this with all of the years that everyone we knew, had encouraged Andreas to go into the ministry. These were people from the Concordia University where he had attended, where he was he had graduated from these were parents and family, friends, these were professors at the seminary itself, anyone within our churches, I mean, it just goes on and on. Every single person encouraged him to go into the seminar. And he goes, he goes into this unexpected meeting. And he's told that his application has been declined. And they and they wouldn't tell him the reason. So I think that a lot of listeners might be able to understand just how devastating that news would be. This is the future that we have been dreaming about for at least five years. We were already married five years by this time. This is the only thing we've ever intended to do with our life together. And now we're being told that that's not going to happen. And not only not only is it impossible, but there's no there's no reason that we're going to tell you Ouch. Yeah. Andreas. I mean, I think it's very understandable that he struggled tremendously. And so did I just kind of went through life like a zombie for the next little while, and he suffered all sorts of physical and emotional difficulties from, you know, anxiety and nausea and sleeplessness, and just suicidal thoughts. And I mean, he was quite devastated.

David Ames  13:13  
Yeah, justifiably so. Yes.

Caroline Schwabe  13:15  
Yeah. And I think for my, I can only really speak to what I was thinking at the time, but I remember, I was angry, but more so I just felt a sense of powerlessness. I was like, you know, there are these powers that be these lead, quote, leaders of the church. And they clearly pull all the strings here. And I'm just a little it's gonna say, peon member, like, I'm just a plebe. And I, you know, I can change things in my household, and I can have an impact on things that happen on my street and in my community. And, you know, maybe even in my congregation, but after that, I just felt a sense of, Wow, I'm just, I'm powerlessness here in this situation. And so I made a decision for myself in order to protect myself that I would no longer get involved in any of the politics of the church. So or, or even really get into any of the committees and leadership. So I did teach Sunday school. I think I sang in the choir a couple times and sort of, I don't want to say a state at the periphery, but I didn't get into the meat, the nitty gritty of church stuff. I kind of I closed my heart a little bit at that point. I was just so injured.

David Ames  14:42  
Understood. Understood. Yeah. So you said explicitly that the the people in your lives were, you know, pushing Andrea not pushing. We're encouraging Andrei is to go to seminary. Did you also both of you have a sense that God was guiding you to do that?

Caroline Schwabe  15:00  
I certainly did for myself, like I, more than anything to be honest, I wanted to be a mom, and, and raise kids. And that didn't work out either, by the way, but that's another story. So I can't speak for Andreas, I know that his faith was very deep and very strong. And he was very committed to not only his, his faith, and his, you know, personal faith life, but also to the church in quotes that the church the you know, we believe that or sorry, it's hard to change your language when you change your thinking about spiritual things. So when I say we, I mean, the tradition in which I grew up the Lutheran tradition, they, yes, believe that all believers are the church. So Right. And that's the quote, but there's also that concept of the institution, so the Lutheran Church in Canada, and then we have sin, it's within. And you know, that there's, there's always going to be church politics. So that's what I'm talking about. Andreas was very, you know, involved and committed to the organization as well.

David Ames  16:19  
Right. I guess the the impetus of my question is, there's an element of feeling rejected, feeling rejected by the organization. But there's this added layer of this is supposed to be something that that God is guiding you to do. And so there might have been, and I'm curious what your experience was a sense of God rejecting you as pastors.

Caroline Schwabe  16:45  
I know that he's most certainly felt rejected by the organization. And I think that we always, to be truthful, I think that we've both of us have always kind of separated in our minds. And in our hearts, there is a difference. There's the organization and the earthly. That's the best word organization of these people that believe the same thing. And then there's, there's your personal faith in what you believe, who you believe God to be. So I didn't personally feel rejected by God, I was like, this world, this earth thing, and these people are Turks. And there's something wrong here. And you know, you talk about, in general, it's I was like, yeah, there's still you're still gonna find problems in the church, because it's made up of people and people are sinful. And that's, you know, that's always jammed on you throw it is how sinful we are. Yes, so it wasn't a huge surprise that oh, there's, it's not perfect. So that I always kind of wrote it off to that. I didn't, like I said, I didn't personally feel the sense of rejection from God. And I don't think Andres did, either. But I can't really answer that question for him. I know, he was devastated. And he was very depressed. And he certainly felt he has had lasting repercussions from that. In fact, he has PTSD from that incident, because of that sense of rejection, like, just shame and self hatred, and lots of really ugly stuff that came out of that. And I suppose that must tie in with his sense of who he is, and his value as a person. But again, I think maybe one day you're gonna be chatting with him as well. And

David Ames  18:38  
yeah, absolutely. And I'm sorry, to it feels like this was a very leading question. And I didn't mean for it to be that way. So I think I read you loud and clear. That was devastating enough as he is. And so Oh, yeah.

So you mentioned earlier, you were kind of feeling like a zombie for that time period after that. Is this the beginning of the hearing loss as well?

Caroline Schwabe  19:10  
Yeah, I'm actually the hearing loss started a little bit before that. So I was only we were only married for a year or so I was 21. By the time I had my first pair of hearing aids, and that hearing loss continued as the years went on. So my hearing just degenerated year after year, I would get tested regularly, and we would spend we spent an awful lot of money on hearing aids which is really important you need to aid your hearing if you if you have a loss. What happens is if you don't aid a hearing loss, your brain kind of forgets to understand to be able to interpret words and so it's a use it or lose it type of situation here. Yeah, and Andres was very encouraging And, in fact, he was most often the one who said, hey, it's time we need to, to upgrade your hearing aids. He convinced me to get my first pair of digital hearing aids all those years ago. And I didn't believe that they would be that different than analog AIDS. But he played a clip online of sound recorded through these new swanky new digital hearing aids. And I said, I said out loud, I call bullshit. And he said, Caroline, let's just, let's just try it. And we're talking about a lot of money we're talking about,

David Ames  20:36  
and you're young, and you'd probably don't have the cash on hand for that kind of thing.

Caroline Schwabe  20:39  
No, it was always a burden. But we that's what I'm saying. He was very, very supportive and always said, like, nothing's really more important than this, Caroline you, you need to be able to hear to function and to have the kind of life that we enjoy. So a social life, and just, you want to give yourself the best chance. So we did we bought those aids, and, um, you know, just to kind of give you an idea, we're talking about $7,000 for a pair aids back then. It's a lot of money. So it was a big decision. But yeah, it was great. And to be truthful, also, that was the last pair of hearing aids, that made a big difference for me, because my loss just continued over the years. And by the time I was 1448, it was time to get a new pair again, and both of us that, like, we're going to spend a lot of money again, and is it really going to help? Because I've already got the best, most powerful aides available right now. And I'm suffering,

David Ames  21:50  
right. And you said, I think specifically 15% speech recognition in ideal conditions, that's kind of where you were at?

Caroline Schwabe  21:59  
Yeah, can you imagine that. So just to give you an idea of how this works. When you go for hearing test, you they put you in a sound booth. So ideal, right, like you should be able to hear a pin drop in there. But as a hearing impaired person, you don't. So you're sitting there and they do the series of beeps, and you just click a clicker every time you hear a beep, and those those tests are fine. But then they do a word recognition test. And they start where you can still see them. Okay, so my word recognition, when I could read lips was actually pretty good. It was like in the 90 percentile. So 94 or something like that. But the minute they covered their mouth, and I could not see the words

David Ames  22:47  

Caroline Schwabe  22:49  
it was, I hated it, it was the most frustrating thing is like failing a test, but you've got no chance of passing it in the first place. So yeah, 15%. And in my left ear and 11% in my right ear, for Yeah, so it was really, really crappy and awful. And I will also mention just that, since since we're talking about faith in the church and all that it was no secret in our congregation that that I had hearing loss. And Julius would advocate for me and try to get them to put a new sound system in and because I mean, I wasn't the only one. There were lots of all these in our congregation, mostly all these people. And, you know, hearing loss is invisible. He can't see it, I look fairly normal somewhere. And there's, there's no visible disability there. And a lot of times, those of us who do you struggle with hearing, it gets embarrassing after you ask two or three times, pardon me. So you, you, you, unfortunately, adopt this bad habit of faking it. So you're not and you smile a lot and you laugh on cube and everybody else laughs even though you didn't get what was said. So the problem is that we make it worse for ourselves because we make it look like we're normal. And we can hear when really, that's not what's happening. And we're being left out of social situations and any conversation and I couldn't hear the sermon. I couldn't hear anything that was going on at church. So the one accommodation that was made for me was that a few pastors would print up the sermon, and I could follow along while they preach. So that was like the only accommodation that ever happened for me in church, for my hearing loss. But we did keep going to church even after the seminary thing and we kept going and we kept going because we were faithful and we wanted to do the right thing. Yes, you know, so yes, the hearing loss just continued and it just go Kept deteriorating. In the meantime, we got really involved with cycling and kayaking. And we had this other group of friends. And yeah, it was great. It was actually a good time of life and a weird time life because I was getting different differ, but our group of circle of friends was getting bigger and bigger. And it was really exciting. And we would go on these beautiful kayaking trips to like Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park, I mean, take a gang with us. And, and, and I did these crazy bike races and endurance. It was like, sort of an interesting time really, to be not able to hear but so physically active and socially, actually engaged, right? So our friends were pretty good. They would try to include me and make sure that I knew what was going on. But it's it's really hard, because like I said, people forget it's invisible.

David Ames  26:01  
Forgive me, sometimes I like to find an analogy of just my own experience. And I don't mean to minimize in any way. My experience trying to learn another language. When I speaking to a native speaker, it isn't so much that I don't know the words, it's that my brain doesn't pick up the sounds they're making. And I wonder if it's analogous. Is it similar?

Caroline Schwabe  26:25  
Well, you mean being deaf? Well,

David Ames  26:28  
I mean, yeah. Again, obviously, this is a totally different thing. Make that 100%? Clear. But But yes, the loss of speech recognition specifically, yeah, you're hearing something. But it isn't translating into words for you.

Caroline Schwabe  26:43  
Yes, it that is a lot what it's like, and it's also there are so many Monty Python sketches and others. Oh, if you think about Charlie Brown's teacher, wah, wah, wah, like you're just you're hearing some sound. But no, consonance. That was my experience. And in fact, in fact, when I took my hearing aids out towards the end of my deafness, which sounds weird, but we'll get to it. I took I took my hearing aids out, and I remember going

I would make all the constants and I got nothing. Oh, wow. There was just silence. And I thought, Wow, I'm so like, How can I be this? And how can I be this Dev? Without even realizing that I'm here that I got this death now?

David Ames  27:51  
Right? It snuck up on you.

Caroline Schwabe  27:54  
It sneaks up on everybody. We're sadly, the person experiencing the hearing loss is always the last one. To know it. It's always a family member or colleagues or somebody who says, you know, something's going on, you know, you're not catching what I'm saying. And I know people try to be gentle about it, but the person with the hearing loss is going to deny it. Left, right and center. Yes, there they will, every time. And so I was no longer in denial. I just didn't realize how little I was catching despite, despite the frustration, and the isolation and the difficulty following any instructions, just as an example. There was so much it was so obvious. And yet when I couldn't even hear continents at all, it was still pretty striking. So to answer your question, it is like another language. It's like just hearing someone with marbles in their mouth or someone brushing their teeth and trying to say something to you. You're like, Oh, I know you're speaking but those sounds aren't making words. Right? Okay, that's what it's like. So you there's no information being transmitted. The only information I got was through lip reading, and body language. And I was pretty good at it. I mean, I was working through this whole entire time. I was serving tables in hotel restaurants. That's what I have been doing. For for my work for all my life. And so to think that I manage that is actually kind of remarkable. I just have found a million coping mechanisms. And just so many people asked me, How did you do that? How did you work as a server while you were Dev? And I tell everybody well, first of all, this the the Clients are sitting. So they're fixed. They're in a fixed spot. One of my pet peeves with certain people get up and walk around and then ask me for stuff. I'm like, you have to face me and speak clearly, we don't understand what you need right now. Anyway, they would, they would be in a seat, and I could move myself around to the place that I could see their lips and understand. And usually people, when they put their order in to their server, they'll point to the item on the menu. So I would you always use that as a clue. And just several other things that I made work for me and my colleagues were always really wonderful and helpful and understanding and compassionate. So that was, that was good, too.

David Ames  30:42  
What I always hear when I hear someone describe the compensating mechanisms that they have to do for whatever they're overcoming, is what a genius you had to be, like, how many other forms of information you are gathering, in order to make, like you say, information out of that data?

Caroline Schwabe  31:00  
Yeah, I received a few compliments from some dear friends before it's like, my one girlfriend in the States. She was in Seattle. And she said, Caroline, I think you're brilliant. I mean, I don't know how you can come up with considering how little information you're getting. You're still able to carry a conversation. I mean, wow. And later on, that wasn't even possible anymore. i One of the things that happened during a hearing test once Andreas came with me, and he sat with the hearing a practitioner who was doing the test at the time. And during the word test. I was you know, bombing Right. And, and this, you're supposed to say, whatever you can hear. So if you only get a portion of a word, say that word. The the practitioner says the word ditch. Okay. And I find your laughing I know what you think. But I heard I just didn't care. I just didn't know what he said. So I hear I said girge. Like, I just was like I heard Gert So ever since that day Andreas and and he just about fell off their chairs laughing at this made up word that I came up with. And so anytime I misheard a word after that, we would say, oh, yeah, Gert, like it was just, you heard something that wasn't actually said. And then sometimes the conversation can go on this tangent. And you start talking about this other subject that you thought you heard, I thought we were talking about this. And so I carry on that conversation, and you're going on in a completely different direction. When really were originally, you're talking about another subject entirely.

David Ames  32:49  
I can relate to this from just family members who were older, who the same thing, you're having a conversation with them. And it veers off some direction. You're like, I don't know how we got here, but I'm going with it. I'm going to wing it. Good for

Caroline Schwabe  33:02  
you. Good for you. Because that is the correct thing to do. Just go with it. Yeah, it's absolutely embarrassing when you when that happens. I recall several incidents when in a social situation, that's what happened and it and just mortified. And I think I just didn't say anything for the rest of the night. Because, you know, you feel so stupid, even though it has nothing to do with intelligence. You're just absolutely buried in this. Being being mortified that you you've made this horrific social error. I'm gonna give you one example because I think it's funny. This is Long time ago, and I was on a Skype call with my mother in law. And we were discussing the this 25th anniversary that we were going to put on a dinner for Jason's sister, and talking about the dinner menu and blah, blah, blah. And I hear mom saying, oh, yeah, because they have they have chickens. And I can just let it go. And we continue talking about the menu in the day and all of that. And at the very end of the conversation, I said, Well, Mom, what about the chickens? Andreas turns very slowly looks at me. And he's like, I'm completely out of my mind. What are you talking about Caroline, and Andreas had this way over the years of being able to sort of memorize everything. Every conversation we're having every every sound in the room, he would just somehow make like a mental record of that of the the audio. And so he after looking at me like I was insane. Went through the conversation with ah, they have tickets, they have tickets for Friday night for a choral performance or something. And same thing I felt like such an idiot like How did I get chicken out of tickets? But we're talking. So one of the things that, you know, I like to say is, hey, context really is important. And especially when you're talking to somebody who cannot hear, if you just say, we're talking about the date now, okay, so we can't do it Friday, because they have tickets, it got it as a hearing impaired person, you just, you're so lost all the time. So just if somebody just takes that one minute, to catch you up, and give you some context, do you have a hope of going forward? Right and being included?

David Ames  35:43  
Okay, I think we've got a bit of a visceral feeling for that hearing loss, obviously, not to the depths that you experienced, but we're starting to get a picture for that. We're going to get to very quickly here how technological solution that has changed your life. But before we get there, a quick question about faith. Obviously, you've had the devastating experience of being rejected by the seminary. But did you associate the loss of hearing as with with your faith in a negative way? Or or was it just not an issue?

Caroline Schwabe  36:20  
It was it had nothing to do with that? I am, to be honest, no, I, it was one of those. So I'm kind of a positive person, just generally, I'm, I'm happy. Just in general, I like to embrace the beautiful things in life. And so I always said, you know, I couldn't have picked a better time in history to be deaf. If I have to be deaf. This is a good, this is the time to do it. I don't have to use a big horn. Right, right. Not only not only do we have sophisticated amplifiers that we put into our ears, these hearing aids and they become they're getting better and better all the time. Technology's advancing, but also, we use email, we use texting, every pretty much anything you want to watch is going to be closed captioned, or you can find a way to get it closed caption. So there are all these tools that we can tap into. And I always just said to myself, Oh, there's worse things in life, you know, and frankly, it blows me away that I didn't even realize the devastation. You know, you, you realize that in hindsight, that oh, man, my life was a disaster, like, maybe not a disaster, but

David Ames  37:46  
it was suffering.

Caroline Schwabe  37:47  
It was suffering. And I do remember at one point, I said, I suggested to Andres, that we go to the Deaf Church, because I was like, I can't. I'm not part of the hearing world anymore. But I'm not really part of the deaf community, either. So I felt really stuck and trapped between two worlds. So at that point, yeah, I felt I felt the devastation, but I would say that I leaned on my faith where I, I, it wasn't a reflection of God or anything. It was just life. It was just the burden I had to bear. And I didn't realize how heavy that burden was until later. Till now. Right?

David Ames  38:43  
So obviously, we're, you're able to hear me this conversation

Caroline Schwabe  38:52  
I have to take every single time I have a video or a phone call now. It I get a charge out of it. It's thrilling to me that I can do this. You get just you know, to highlight how great that is. I also have to just mention, I couldn't make a phone call to make an appointment. Just like I just need a dentist appointment. Andreas, can you please call the dentist so that I can make an appointment? And it's this rigamarole every single time and then also just a little complaint? In general, there are these webs a lot of places will say Oh, you can book online. So you go you click to book online. And you know what the message that comes back is Oh, thank you. Thank you for your appointment request. Someone will phone you shortly to confirm and abort to set up the appointment. I'm like that is now what's called booking online. I was so pissed off every time that happened, including my hearing aid practitioners face I was like, Are you effing kidding me? Seriously. You deal with Deaf people all the time. You This is bullshit So I actually ended up getting the the personal phone number mobile number of the receptionist, the lead receptionist, and she would just she and I would just email or text back and forth. I was like, this is really stupid. This is not catering to your client. Oh, but anyway, so that's just my little pet peeve there that I had to mention. It's just ridiculous.

David Ames  40:36  
So do you want to tell us then about the technological solution and how that changed your life?

Caroline Schwabe  40:41  
Yeah, absolutely. It's the most exciting and it's the thing I love to talk about most. So as I mentioned earlier, and I'm 48, and it's time for a new pair aids, oh, man, here we go again. And this time, we just really didn't have the seven to $8,000 to drop. So we decided that we would pop in at Costco, and they do have a really decent Hearing Center and a lot of Costco locations. So we ran in there to see if maybe they had some less costly solutions. And I booked a hearing test with a really lovely girl, who I did not notice had any hearing impairment, but she did. Okay, her name is Melanie and she is Alberta's second pediatric cochlear implant team 30 years ago, and she made my appointment. And she also is the art She is a certified audiologist. And she is the person who did my testing. And at the end of the testing, she asked me if I would mind whether she did a few more tests. And I said not at all, you know, yes, please. Right. And then she asked me one question. She said, Do you still use the phone? And I started just tears rolling down my face. I'm like, Nope, can't do that anymore. And she very gently said, Caroline, I, I'd like your permission to refer you to the cochlear implant program at the Glenrose hospital. It's called the Glenrose rehabilitation hospital. It's like the only hospital in Alberta devoted to rehabilitation. So I was walking out of there thinking, This feels like hope. Well, I I didn't know I was deaf enough to potentially qualify for a cochlear implant, because anything I'd ever learned up until then was that you had to be completely like, like 99% Zero sound. So the way that hearing is measured is by they call it thresholds. So, you probably need a typical hearing person requires 20 dB of sound to to hear to understand any that that information coming in. As you lose hearing, you require higher DBS. So my audiogram indicated that I required 75 to 80 dB of sound just to perceive it. Which which means, I mean, that's really pretty tough.

David Ames  43:19  
Something to me, like I know that's relatively loud,

Caroline Schwabe  43:23  
at DVS. quite loud. And then if you anyway, so it occurred to us at that moment walking out of Costco, wow, we've arrived at this place where we're that depth. And I say we because Andreas and I have always, he's always shared his hearing with me. You know, he's always been been there to help me as we engage in any social interactions. And he's always just made every effort to help me, as I've continued here, and so that was amazing. That was May 2017. And through the summer, I was invited to the Glenrose. I was, you know, the appointments were just made for me, I just showed up. And there's a series of testing that they do. First, I should say that after my first hearing test at the Glenrose, I was approved to enter the program, meaning now we're going to test you further. It looks like you could benefit from a cochlear implant, but now we're going to find out whether that's true because there's there are several factors that could cause an issue or just problems that might mean that you would not be a good candidate. So they did all that testing through the summer. And by the fall, we received news that I was indeed approved. As a candidate, so now, I'm going to get a cochlear implant. And this news was riveting. I mean, we, we were hopeful, but you, you always kind of hold back that bit of hope. Because you could still be rejected from the program, you could still be, they could find something in the way that your physiology is, or they do. Like they test the way your synapses fire in your brain and says anything, could be something that would mean an implant would not be beneficial for you. So when we got that news that I was actually accepted as a candidate, we were just floored, and I was immediately, profoundly grateful. And I said, we have to do something to express that gratitude. So that night, we started a podcast. And it's just, it's called my beautiful cyborg. And we just started talking about how we were feeling about going into this journey, what the process was, and we were basically doing a play by play about every appointment and every new thing that came up and everything we learned about the journey and, and I was still deaf at the time. So the fact that I got through those podcast discussions is kind of remarkable in itself. I mean, we we recorded, oftentimes, we would record an hour and a half and get maybe 20 minutes out of it maybe. Right, right, because I would just do that thing where you go off on another tangent or I just miss your the question. Yeah, it was, it was challenging, but really exciting to see.

At the same time, that year, all that year, Andreas, had been writing a blog. And it was pretty controversial. And I have to backtrack a little bit to the beginning of 2000. I think it was 17, it might have been 16. So he might have already been writing that blog for some time. But the Lutheran church, Canada, Alberta, British Columbia district, had this church extension fund. And you might be familiar with that type of thing. And some of our listeners might might be familiar with that. So it's where members invest money into this fund, where the churches can access for things like building a new building, or perhaps a church extension, or, you know, those types of projects that banks aren't really happy to lend churches money for. And what happened was this fund in Alberta, British Columbia had been mismanaged. So, so greatly to the point that they had lost $80 million of investors. Wow, yeah. And these are old, faithful Christians who are just giving their money to the church for for God's work. And a lot of people that was, for a lot of investors, this was the retirement fund. This was this was, what they how they were gonna, you know, get to stop working, or whatever. And they had a lot of trust in this thing, in this this organization that was supposedly caring for their cash. And so, Andreas blog was a source of information for the victims of this crisis, this financial crisis, and he was not loved at all, by the leadership in the church. In fact, he received David he received death

David Ames  49:02  
threats, oh, man,

Caroline Schwabe  49:04  
he was cajoled. He was he they, you know, various people tried to get him to stop this blogging and and then on the other side, the victims were calling them and emailing and trying to get more information and really being supportive of him. And this went on for a long time. And we kept going to church. Despite this thing, and this, this, the the, the church did nothing for the victims, you know, they they didn't reach out to them at all. They weren't even they were halfway honest about like the first letter that they received from the Senate was get this that the investment had a sufficient cash shortage. And what does that even mean? Are they even into bankruptcy? Right? So bankruptcy protection. And so, needless to say, we were upset about this. And, and it was a big deal in our something that we talked about a lot at home. And eventually, right around the time that I was receiving more information about my implant, the Lutheran church Canada had its national convention in Kitchener, Ontario, and my family, I grew up in Toronto, in Mississauga, Ontario. So I went to see my family, while Andreas went to the convention. And when he came back to me, from the convention, he was like despondent, he was just, I couldn't believe I've never seen him like this before. And he said, a motion was made to discuss this financial loss. And it wasn't even seconded. They won't talk about it, they won't talk about it. And I looked at Andreas and I said, I wouldn't be part of any organization that treats people this way. Not a community League, not a social club. Not a work organization. I we have we are leaving the church, we have to leave the church. And this wasn't a brand new novel idea. I mean, we had suffered, we had suffered all kinds of just negative situations in the church, even after the seminary incident. So it's not it's not like this was a novel idea that it was time for us to leave.

David Ames  51:36  
But this was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back.

Caroline Schwabe  51:40  
Absolutely. And that's exactly what it has it what it was, and we hadn't yet informed our congregation. So but we knew we were on the way out. So mid December, my surgery was booked for December 12. And shortly before that, like a week before, our then pastor came to do a house visit, and just check in with me do a little prayer before surgery, right? And he said, Well, Caroline, you must be You must be feeling some fear, you must be a little bit afraid, because any surgery, you know, has its risks. And I say, You know what? I'm not really scared. This isn't. This is something that I'm choosing to go into. It's not I don't mean surgery, because I have cancer, I need surgery, because I want the best tool, the best, the very best technology to give me a chance of hearing better, and improving my my life in general. And I'm not really I'm not really afraid, well, he's basically trying to convince me that I should be afraid. And I said, You know what, Pastor, if I, the worst thing happens, and I die on the table, well, then I guess that means I get to go to heaven, and I'm gonna here. And if I make it through the surgery, and my implant is activated, I get to hear so either way, it's like a win win. I'm really excited about this, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. And honestly, he was confused. He just didn't know where to what to do with that. It was it was a short visit. And he took off. And so I had to convince him that there was no no reason to fear here. Which is bizarre to me.

David Ames  53:27  
Sounds like just utterly lacking in empathy to, you know, to read what you were trying to express was your experience in that moment, rather than his his idea of what it might be?

Caroline Schwabe  53:40  
I agree, and at the same time, I think it would be I think that would be a difficult thing for anyone to hear. I think that, you know, if you're a good friend of mine, or if you're, you know, Andreas said that was hard for him to hear too. Because what I was saying was, If I die, I'm willing to take the risk of death to get my hearing. I mean, that's, that's pretty profound. Yeah. That tells you how bad it was.

David Ames  54:11  
I think you're hinting at what a dramatic moment this is for you literally contemplating. Even dying, almost feels worth it to you at that point in time. What was the experience going through the surgery or and even before we turn on, so to speak, the switch? How did that feel?

Caroline Schwabe  54:31  
The surgery is kind of a blip. Like anyone who goes through the experience is terrified of the surgery like you're just you just are your, your body reacts to you. And every single recipient recipient that we've talked to, has had the same story. You usually get sick, like four days, three, four days before surgery, because you're so stressed out and you're and the lead up is is exciting, and you're anticipating what it's going to be like I can of course, you can't imagine, and there are no promises when you go in to receive an implant as to what how much you will benefit from the implants, there's a great variety of outcomes, they're getting better and better and better. And so you the chances of it being an improvement were excellent, really, really good. But there's still no guarantee. So the physical aspect of it, I mean, I could go into the, there was a little bit of pain, but discomfort and some tinnitus, and some, you know, you feel isolated, because you you're as deaf as you you've ever been, right? What happens is through the surgery, you'll typically lose any residual hearing you might have. So now you have zero sound coming into the ear that's implanted. And that was the case for me. So it was a very quiet seven weeks and seven weeks is very long between surgery and activation. But because it was December, Christmas was in there. And the schedules were kind of all over the place. So typically, from surgery, to activation, it's around four weeks, three to four weeks, you know, they let the scar the incision heal up a little bit so that you can put the processor onto this. So there's an internal component, and an external processor that is attached magnetically to your head through so there's a magnet in the head and a magnet on the processor opposite magnets, and they just attach easily. Yeah. So that seven weeks goes by what we tried to keep ourselves busy. With like some crafting projects, Andres bought a 3d printer, which he has used extensively and become really proficient. And so but we pretty much hunkered down. We were at home for the majority of that time. And I did work for part of it too, which was a challenge. I know. Crazy. But anyway, you do what you would you need to do, right? And the lead up to activation is just so exciting. And you're just dreaming. I remember thinking it's like, knowing that you're going to pick up your brother who you haven't seen for 25 years, and you're gonna see him at the airport again, he can't wait to see that dear, beloved person again. And as like, I can't wait to meet my hearing again. What's it going to be like? And how much am I going to get? And what's it going to sound like and oh, you're just full of hope and anticipation. And on the 28th of January 2018. Andreas held up a piece of paper in front of his mouth. And he said, boat, car, dog house a couple of words. And it's Marley doing this. We know I'm gonna get zero. I can. I don't know what you're saying. Yes. And you said it's just we just need to do this just because January 28 2018 was my last Deaf Day. Wow, the 29th They turned on my implants. So now I've got sound coming in. And it was unbelievable. First of all, the sound when you're first activated is not like anything that you've ever, ever ever heard before. It's just completely foreign. And I don't know how to describe it to you. It's, it's, it's like an otherworldly sound. But as time goes on, and your your brain makes an adjustment, and mine did it very, very, very quickly. Within a couple of hours, I was eight I was perceiving words. And in fact, I have some accessories that come with my implant and my processor. So I I'm we're having this conversation right now, using a phone clip that transmits the data via Bluetooth to my processor and that's how I'm hearing so I'm not wearing headphones. And I'm I'm just dreaming to my head.

David Ames  59:31  
So is so amazing.

Caroline Schwabe  59:34  
It really is and and the other thing I have is called a Mini Mic. It's called the mini my to buy cochlear and I can attach it to someone's lapel and they can be quite a distance away and I'm just getting it's a microphone so it's streaming directly to my head also. So Andres took the Mini Mic out into the hallway app activation like at the audiologist at the Glenrose and he In the hallway with the door closed, and I'm hearing him saying random numbers, and I'm getting the numbers. Wow. So he's the day before he's standing right in front of me and I can't get any single word. And after with my implant, I'm hearing random numbers. Without seeing. It's just absolutely incredible. By that evening, I was able to hear every word streamed to my implant that we were, we were watching a YouTube video about sound and hearing and actually concerts for hearing for cochlear implant recipients. And I remember thinking, I'm getting all the words, but I, they're just like, it was just a wash, but they were just kind of, I'm hearing them all, but I'm not getting any meaning. So, so I thought to myself, I'm going to have to just memorize, remember, memorize a sentence so that Andreas believes that I can hear this. So I'm in the kitchen streaming. And I heard the words spectral and temporal resolution. And I run into the living room. I said, Andres, she just said, spectral and temporal resolution. I don't even know what that means. And he just looked at me like, it was just unbelievable. I don't know how else to express that was like a light switch from one day to the next. I was deaf. And then I could hear Yeah. So after that, I had a hard time sleeping. I didn't want to go to bed because I just want to be listened to. Right. Especially having conversations with Andrea's so we would stay up till one in the morning. And I mean, I had to get up at 430 to go to work, you know, the next day. But it didn't faze me. I was I was on adrenaline.

David Ames  1:01:57  
I think a really interesting story you told in our first conversation was, you had the first experience of talking to one another in bed at night with a light off.

Caroline Schwabe  1:02:07  
It was actually in the living room. But yeah, okay. No, that's okay. Yeah, but same thing. Like, can you imagine there's no such thing as pillow talk, and all of a sudden there is Yeah, yeah. Wow. So yeah, we're in the living room. Because we have long conversations. Now. We just can't. So why wouldn't we? Almost like getting to know your spouse again? For the second time, and it was time. Yeah, it was time for me to like, really, I think it was midnight, and he's just turn the light off as a signal like, time to go to bed. It's it. We've been doing this for hours and hours, and you need some sleep. But I could still hear it. Just stayed. And we just kept talking. I think it was another hour and a half before I finally said, Well, how can you believe we just did that? Yeah, we just had a conversation in the dark. Yeah. I mean, maybe for hearing people that sounds ridiculous, because that's just normal. But it's not normal when you're deaf, and you can't talk between rooms. And now we can just think, or just as an example, I'm preparing some food in the kitchen. And I can now I can have a conversation while I do that, where it that was completely impossible before I would have cut my fingers off, for sure. Guaranteed. So it's anything I was doing, I needed to stop and face the speaker and try to understand what they're trying to tell me. Right. So our life has changed in tremendous, beautiful ways. But the other thing that changed was that I did continue to try to listen to music when I couldn't hear. I just cranked up the volume as loud as it would go, whether I was wearing earbuds or if it was like a speaker in the kitchen. I would just it was blaring all the time. And we listened to familiar songs. So that I would just know I would my brain would fill in a lot of the sounds right? But music with music with my CI was a completely new world. In fact, it was a little bit disappointing at first because I couldn't quite I didn't recognize certain songs that were very familiar to me.

David Ames  1:04:21  
Interesting. Yeah.

Caroline Schwabe  1:04:22  
Because I was only able to hear a portion of the song and now I was getting all of it. Right. So just to give you an example, it's like seeing a class picture and, and, and you're zoomed in on one face and then all of a sudden you can see the whole the whole class. Yeah. So that does not look the same. And it takes the brain a little bit of time to be able to put everything in place. And then once I got music, I got a handle on music, which took probably three months. I mean, I got music pretty quickly. Yeah, but it just got better. Better and better to the point where it felt like now I'm just listening to music normally like you do, right? Which is also pretty remarkable for CI recipients a lot of times they never get there. But after that, I started listening to podcasts. Yes. And wow, this was a, it just opened up a whole, completely new world for me. I hadn't listened to the radio for years and years and years. Now I get to listen to the things I'm interested in. And, specifically, you know, ideas about life and impressions of the world and just learning I was voraciously consuming podcasts and loving every second of it. And I would wake up in the morning and wonder what I'm gonna get to listen to today. What can I get me ears? Yeah. So. So I felt like there was this, this huge learning curve happening. And my brain was just opening up. And I felt like I was coming back to life. In fact, I caught myself saying at one point, before I was alive, like it just it was a slip of the tongue, though. Wow. And what I meant was before my implant. So that's the kind of difference that it made to me.

David Ames  1:06:28  
Can we say here that one of the things that the podcast as a podcast as rather than just music is for that speech recognition. And you had gone through that seven weeks being totally deaf as well. And so you were kind of relearning how to understand speech?

Caroline Schwabe  1:06:45  
Yes, I was getting that quite a bit, just from my daily life. Because Andreas and I do talk a lot. And also, I was working. So there was a lot of conversation happening with my guests. And I was so excited, I would talk about my implant to anybody that would listen. But you're absolutely right, that it was excellent practice for a speech comprehension. And in fact, I was struggling with the phone. And listening to podcasts most certainly helped me become more adept with hearing on the phone, through Bluetooth streaming. So after several months of, okay, first of all, after a failed attempt at using the phone, or several failed attempts, I just had a limited understanding. And it was it was very challenging. Then I listened to podcasts for probably three months straight, like every second of the day. And then I tried the Phone Clip again. And it was like almost like magic, almost instantaneous, I was able to make a phone call normally, without any problems. So that was definitely a rehab tool, as well. One of the weird things about CI sound is that often, in the beginning, especially there's no discrimination between male or female voices. So that was something I was working on with podcasts, because often there's two people like to a co hosts talking. And so I was learning how to decipher the informant, the format of the voice, so the character of the voice of the person speaking and yeah, it was, it was a really exciting, beautiful time. Unfortunately, at the beginning, I was looking for Christian podcasts. So I listened to a lot of sermons early on. And, and that was, you know, but it was just all sort of more the same. And as we began to grow in our understanding of the world, and just our take on life. And the further away we got from our active involvement in the church, the more I started feeling liberated, intellectually. So I felt I no longer felt the constraints that the church tends to put on people about what we're permitted to exactly engage in and what we're permitted to learn about. Yeah. So I was like, first of all, the one of the pastors that I was listening to ended up being fired by his congregation. I mean, it was a huge debate. I don't even it was so bad I thought, oh, yeah, just another one of those guys. Wow, why was I listening to his garbage when he's actually just a shitty person? Yeah, he's a shitty person.

David Ames  1:09:44  
Yes. file now free to say that. Yes,

Caroline Schwabe  1:09:48  
completely. Yeah. So in in that liberty in that freedom. I started exploring and I think Andrea suggested, the mind shift. podcasts and you were a guest on their podcast. So that led me to the graceful atheist podcast. And since then I've been listening to several others as well. But one of the things that struck me very deeply and very profoundly was that I felt comforted by so many things that you had said, specifically, one time, in the the anonymous Jeremy episode, I remember you saying, now if you feel foolish for believing this stuff, don't beat yourself up. Like, you know, if you have these regrets, or something, basically, that was what you were saying. And I was just bawling in the backyard listening to this. Because at that moment, I was I was filled with regret about all these years that I had, I don't want to say wasted, but certainly considering constrained myself by continuing in this organization that we cultured, and I realized then that I felt so liberated to just love without any condition, and not feel the necessity weirdly to be judgmental of people. I could just love them as they are, where they are, how they are exactly who they are. Yeah,

David Ames  1:11:30  
I know, I know exactly what you mean. Like, you don't anticipate that that is going to be one of the results of letting go of religious dogma as, Wow, I can just love people, and there's no restraint, there's no guilt, there's no feeling obligated to correct something like, and that is incredibly liberating and freeing.

Caroline Schwabe  1:11:51  
It's, it's wonderful. And you're right, you don't anticipate that you. In fact, it's it's a fearful thing. And that's the other thing that I've benefited by, through through various podcasts and specifically yours, that there's no need to feel that guilt anymore. There's no, you're just sorry, I sort of lost track of what I was gonna say. But what I'm, what I'm really getting at is that sense of freedom and liberty. That's what I was gonna say, actually, you're fearful and you're scared, because you're gonna lose this thing that you clung to, for all these years. Yeah, whatever that thing is, whether it's the ritual or the community, or the other the habit, frankly, of just having this faith tradition, or the practice that you do, you're just used to doing that, and you do it. And that's the way that you live. And that's what you that's how people that's their impression of you that your church going person and all this other stuff this. So it's really actually scary to leave, and to take that big step. But you're right, that liberty and the freedom that comes from that, too, is off the charts. So not only is my life completely brand new in terms of this hunger for every single sound. But also, the shackles have been shattered and reduced and just they're off, right? There's no limits. Ah, and so I was listening just this morning to your most recent episode, and you were talking about the concept of meditation. And I have to say that the kind of attention I'm able to pay to certain sounds that I get just in regular life, that type of thing that you probably or most people would probably just walk by, right? Is is very, very striking. So I'm on my way home one day, walking down the street, and it's spring, probably March after activation, and the snow is melting. And I'm walking by a storm drain and I stop in my tracks. I'm like, Ah,

David Ames  1:14:25  
this is so beautiful. Yes. Just listen to

Caroline Schwabe  1:14:29  
trickling her land to plunk. Yeah. And oh, it was just the most magnificent sound hearing the water running down the storm drain like this ugly thing, this horrible, ugly thing. Or we have these old old doorknobs in our home. They're the crystal doorknobs that we're in old homes, and we just kind of think they're cute, so we kept them. But you know there's a spring in a doorknob. So I get up really early in the morning and I'm I'm just exceeding the bedroom. So I'm trying to not make any sound for Andrea so that he can just keep sleeping. And I'm slowly turning the knob back to close the door. And at the very end, there's this barely audible and yes. Tell somebody that makes it being like it's a beautiful spring sound. So these are the kinds of things that I would almost call that a type of meditation. So I spent all this time just contemplating all the beautiful, magnificent things that that come to us by sound waves. And I want to say, like, it's soul touching. And I know this is an atheist. But But it's interesting, because you guys talked about the soil this morning to on the episode that I listen to this morning. And it was the Depo bit deepest level of experiencing. And I thought to myself, there's something about sound and music. That is, that is soul touching, it is the deepest level of what we can experience in this life. And I can't really emphasize that enough, like, when you don't have it, you don't know you're missing it. But let me tell you, in this situation, when I'm getting back, it's just so striking her moving. Sound is. And I have to think about that more. And, you know, I feel as though I'm at the very early stages of if you want to call it a deconversion there's there's a lot of stuff going on in, in our understanding of who we are as human beings, and part of this beautiful universe. Yeah. And I have a lot more work to do, in terms of, you know, everybody talks about how it takes years and years to get through a D conversion process. And I really believe that wholeheartedly because, yeah, it's already been a couple years. And I feel like we have a long way to go yet.

David Ames  1:17:28  
I think you're at an exciting point in that you have all the questions. And and there's nobody telling you, you have to come to these conclusions. You get to go explore it, just like you've explored the new soundscapes that you're experiencing the music, the podcasts, the intellectual pursuits that you are interested in now, there is nothing that stops you from exploring your curiosity to find out and so I absolutely respect. You know, you don't need to come on the podcast and say I'm a hardcore atheists, you know, wherever you're at, you're asking really important, deep, profound questions. And wherever you land is exciting and up to you. That's the exciting part.

Caroline Schwabe  1:18:11  
It really is. And just that opportunity, I feel as though not only am I finding myself, again, through my hearing, but also I'm finding myself again, in in the context of faith, faith, or whatever you want to call that. Because I know that it's difficult to choose the right words for that journey.

David Ames  1:18:37  
Yes. Well, and the episode you were referring to as Michael Mahvash. And we basically, that's what we were talking about is that like, these words are useful for a reason they express something about the human experience. And even if I personally stripped them of supernatural elements, they still function in some way or another. And so it's hard to express things without them. So

Caroline Schwabe  1:18:59  
I agree. And also, you know, we get, we get in those habits of using lots of words that are associated with the church. And so it's tricky sometimes to just shift them or think about them differently. But But you're right, absolutely. They are useful. And I'm grateful for that.

David Ames  1:19:16  
Yes, Caroline, this has been an amazing story, I have to tell you absolutely unique. One of the most interesting stories that I've heard, and I appreciate, I can't tell you how grateful the I Am, that this podcast has done anything been any part of your discovery of your hearing of the new areas of intellectual pursuit that you can explore in any comfort that that is giving you I just am incredibly grateful for that. I would be remiss if we didn't give you an opportunity to do a bit of a public service announcement announcement about about hearing loss. What would you tell People that is important for them to do.

Caroline Schwabe  1:20:04  
Thank you for that opportunity, I think it's extremely important. So the first thing that I think it's just so important is just get your hearing tested. Even if you don't feel that you experienced any loss at all, it doesn't hurt just to know where you're at, it doesn't physically hurt at all, it doesn't cost a lot of money. And if you find out, you've got great hearing, good for you, go get tested again in a couple years. And just make sure that's still the case, it's really important hearing health affects us in a multitude of ways. It's it's physiological, psychological, social, emotional. Also, as I mentioned, if you don't eat last year, you could run into a lot of trouble, including having a greater propensity to dementia and other cognitive issues in the future. So get your hearing tested, just just be mindful of it. And if you do have any hearing loss, find a way to aid that, find a way to make it happen to get yourself a pair of hearing aids, not only will you appreciate being more connected, but also those around you will appreciate the fact that you can communicate better get your hearing tested. It's an also, if I may two things, I guess when you get your hearing tested, it's very important. But also, if you're ever in a situation, where you think, Oh, that's really loud. Or if your ears are ringing the next day. Please, please don't, don't do that. Again, like learn from that experience. If you're if you're having ringing in your ears, you have put yourself you've traumatized your ears, right. So protect your hearing, make sure that you're going to be wearing earplugs when you're in that kind of environment. If you go to a concert or anything like that. It's more valuable than I can tell you.

David Ames  1:22:05  
Right here. Yeah, I hear that literally. If you the listener are interested in hearing more of Caroline's story, and I think the the wonder and the awe of the process that you went through, you can check that out at my beautiful cyborg, the podcast. And I believe that's just available on all podcasting systems. Yes,

Caroline Schwabe  1:22:29  
it is. And there's also a blog that is available to read, especially if you do have hearing loss and you struggle with podcasts. That's a good way to go. Or I know oftentimes, it's a family member that hears about the podcast or the blog, and then that person refers the hear the person with a hearing impairment to the blog, and then they can read about it that way, because the whole story is pretty much there, too.

David Ames  1:22:55  
That's amazing. And we will of course have links in the show notes for you. So Caroline, thank you so much for sharing your story.

Caroline Schwabe  1:23:02  
Thank you David, too. It was a joy to chat with you today. And I really appreciate our conversation. Thanks.

David Ames  1:23:13  
Final thoughts on the episode? Wow. Caroline's is an amazing story. And Caroline is an amazing person. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose one of my senses. And then to regain it. Imagine the gratitude that you would feel Caroline expresses that gratitude and that joy for life, joy for listening to the creak of a door or the drain of a sewage system. That's the kind of joy I want in my life. And I am inspired by Caroline. I greatly appreciate the honesty with which Caroline tells her story. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with both her and Andreas earlier before the recording of this episode. And the devastation of the rejection from the church leadership Andreas trying to go to seminary and their hopes for going into ministry. The devastation of the financial failure of the church that they were a part of came through so deeply they were crushed by these events. No wonder you begin to ask some questions. I do want to make it clear. Even Karolina and I discussed that maybe the word deconstruction is a bit too strong of word. I think Caroline still believes on some level. And that's okay. As I said near the end of the episode, she's getting to ask those questions and go search for the answers and follow wherever that search leads. That's the exciting thing is that nobody is telling her or you where you need to land. I also find it fascinating that the hearing loss wasn't the real beginning of deconstruction. It was in some ways after she regained her hearing with the cochlear implant, and listening to podcasts. And from Caroline's first email to me through our first conversation and the conversation you've just heard, I am incredibly humbled, and incredibly grateful that this podcast played even the tiniest part in helping Caroline through that process of language re acquisition. I love the story of podcasts being a major part of her life, as she learns to hear again, regain proficiency at language acquisition. Caroline, thank you so much for being on the podcast. This was an amazing conversation, and I have been deeply affected by it. Thank you to both you and Andreas for your honesty, and your willingness to tell your stories. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about gratitude. I love the way that Caroline expresses such great gratitude and joy in these very small things. The creek of adore the click of a knob while it turns the water in a storm drain. These wonderful things surround us all the time, and yet we don't see them or hear them or acknowledge them. I often say that is very difficult sometimes to be grateful for the big things to really feel gratitude for big things like like the privilege that you may have, or the house that you live in or the job that you have. But the little things can have a profound impact on your attitude of gratitude. Being thankful for waking up in a warm bed on a Saturday morning, being thankful for talking to your partner until midnight, being thankful for the rain falling on your face. Being thankful for being out in nature and hearing the wind blow through the trees. These little moments if we can stop and acknowledge them, will greatly impact our attitude of gratitude. I for 1am Grateful for Caroline, I am grateful for you the listener, I am grateful for those of you who write me your stories and who are willing to come on the podcast and tell your stories that I get to be a tiny part in that process for you is incredibly humbling. And I am eternally grateful for that. Thank you. As always, I have some amazing conversations that are coming up. As I've mentioned before, I have Sam and Daniel interviewing me, I've just finished editing that. And I'll be interviewing Sam and just a little bit. And so both of those will be out shortly on our respective podcasts. I've recently interviewed Michael from Reverend bones who has a new album out called Escape from heaven. Michael is an activist focused on the damage that purity culture does to everyone. And that was an amazing conversation. And then I just recently had a conversation with Amy Rath, who runs the nun life podcast, which is a great podcast please check it out. She is amazing and inspiring. And I can't wait to share all of these conversations with you. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application. And you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces and would like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular race. You can send me an email graceful atheist At or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Michael Marvosh: Conversations That Matter

Agnosticism, Atheism, Authors, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, Spirituality
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My guest this week is Michael Marvosh. Michael is the podcast host of Dead Man’s Forest and is working on his book Reality Knows the Truth: The Art and Artifice of Being Human. Michael and I discuss what it means to be human and the human experience of spirituality.

Michael tells us his deconversion story that he no longer sees as deconversion. He describes his rediscovery of a rational spirituality.

I feel simultaneously connected and alone and that is part of being human.

Michael and I hit a broad range of conversation topics including having conversations that matter, models vs reality, A.I., Death Cafes, vision quests, blind spots and podcasting.

It was truly a conversation that mattered.


Contact Michael


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About Rational Spirituality–a way of looking at the world with a balance between ancient wisdom and modern reason.

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Barrett Evans: The Contemplative Skeptic

Atheism, Authors, Book Review, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Naturalism, Philosophy, Podcast, Secular Grace, Spirituality
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It is proper to doubt.

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.


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Ray Gilford: Deconversion not so Anonymous

Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Podcast, Spirituality

This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

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.





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Sasha Sagan: For Small Creatures Such As We

Authors, Book Review, Humanism, Naturalism, Podcast, Religious but not Spiritual, Secular Grace, Spirituality
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My guest this week is Sasha Sagan. Sasha has written a beautiful book called For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals For Finding Meaning In Our Unlikely World. The book title comes from a quote in the book Contact:

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.







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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Well, as usual, I'm going to ask you to go to the Apple podcast store and rate and review the podcast. This really helps other people discover the podcast. If you found value or entertainment in the podcast, please tell somebody about the graceful atheist podcast. On today's show, I spent a fair amount of time talking about deconversion and interviewing people who have gone through the transition of a loss of faith. But actually, my favorite topic is what I call secular grace, or putting humanity into humanism is the answer to what now post deconversion. After you've left your faith, what do you do? That's actually the impetus that drives me to continue to do the podcast. So it is a treat for me when I get to interview somebody who is also a humanist who is concerned with putting humanity into humanism, and that is my guest today. Sasha Sagan. Saucer is a writer, a television producer, a filmmaker and an editor. She is an essayist, she has now written a book called for small creatures, such as we, which is actually a quote from her very famous parents, Andrew Yan and Carl Sagan, in the book contact. The full quote, that the title comes from is for small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love, which may be the most secular Grace quote I've ever heard. Sasha has book incorporates her parents graceful life philosophies. And she focuses on the rituals that we as human beings come back to over and over again, for those of you who may have D converted or deconstructed, the idea of a ritual might be terrifying, actually. And that's okay. But Sasha points out that cultures throughout history and all over the globe tend to come up with rituals around the same time periods. for the same purposes. The obvious examples are births, weddings, and funerals. And so this is not necessarily something to be frightened of. saucers book is beautiful, and beautifully written. And I recommend it to everyone. There'll be links in the show notes. And now I give you my conversation with Sasha saying

Sasha Sagan, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Sasha Sagan  3:02  
Thank you so much for having me. I'm delighted to be here.

David Ames  3:05  
Well, thank you for coming. So Sasha, you are a writer, you've done television production, you're a filmmaker, you're an editor, you've been in major newspapers, you're an essayist. And now you've written a book called for small creatures, such as we rituals for finding meaning in our unlikely world. It also turns out that you have very famous parents. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself about your work and about your book?

Sasha Sagan  3:31  
Yeah, um, I was very lucky to grow up in a household where wonder and awe for the universe, as revealed by science was part of our daily life and dinner table conversation. And part of the way I was raised to see things. So I'm sort of goes hand in hand with that, but maybe not necessarily, is also a secular household. And so what I became really interested in over the course of my life, I lost my dad when I was 14. And then as I grew up, and got married and got ready to start a family of my own, I started thinking about, well, how do we celebrate and mourn and do the daily or weekly rituals that make up life in a way that is a reflection of our modern understanding of where we are in the universe, and how we got here, when the infrastructure for that kind of thing historically has been religion. And, you know, I think that those of us who don't believe are still entitled to mark time and have weddings, and have funerals and we still need those things. So combination of the way I was raised, and then what I experienced and just being generally kind of an outgoing social person who likes parties and celebrations led me to just talk Fact. And I've found that, you know, it's something really relevant to a lot of people, especially when you get to those points in life where you have to really examine these questions, whether it's when you plan a wedding, or you have a little kid who has a lot of questions about why things are the way they are, or when you lose someone, and you have to sort of really examine what that means. If if you don't believe that there's anything beyond what we have evidence to support.

David Ames  5:29  
Exactly. So my podcast, just very briefly, is on the subject of what I call secular grace. And really, that is simply just putting the humanity into humanism. I love that, and focusing on the fact that we still need each other even though we don't have a faith. But yes, it is, in fact, the human interaction our relationships with each other, that is the meaningful thing in life. So. So I have to tell you the just a brief story of the kind of emotional arc that I went through, yes, please, as I discovered you and your work. So I'm on the lookout for authors, writers, bloggers, podcasters, that are on the subject of humanism. And so when you began promoting your book, I just saw that the title, I didn't make the connection. And I thought, Oh, that looks really great. I'm definitely going to get that book and read it. And, you know, a little time passed, and I started following you on Twitter. And then I realized, Oh, you are that Sagan. I did not realize that you were Carl Sagan daughter and and Julian's daughter. And then I read the book. And I've got to tell you, Sasha, I just was really profoundly moved. Oh, thank you. By the time I was, I have the book in hand, I knew that we would eventually have this conversation. And part of what I wanted to do was to say, really focus on you and your work, and not exploit the fact that you're famous parents, but your dad is just in virtually every page. It's in Yeah. And the grief that is present there is just both poignant and beautiful. And so the first thing I just wanted to say to you, I know you speak Spanish is, is Lucia, anto I feel it, I feel it, I like it, just every page, it left it left off the page for me. So your your ability to convey the emotion and depth was just really profound. And I just thank you for writing this book.

Sasha Sagan  7:32  
Thank you so much. That's really kind. And you know, it's funny, because it's like, there's, of course, some part of me that's like, oh, I want to do my own thing or whatever. But like, because of the way my parents raised me and their work, and lots of my job like that, those are the major cornerstones of my identity, you know, yeah. And so I've gotten to a place where I'm like, This is me carrying on what I can have their legacy and their work, right. My mother's work continues. And she's an amazing science communicator, also and writer and producer. But I think that's who I am. And I think if I can sort of extend some of those things that they taught me that really were impactful, and maybe in my own way, continue that on, I'm comfortable with that. You know, it's I don't mind that at all. And I'm very proud to be their daughter, and very lucky.

David Ames  8:31  
Well, I do want to talk about secular grief a bit as we move forward. But first, let's just start with the title of the book actually comes from the book contact. And it turns out that your your mom wrote that line. So tell us about the meaning behind that. Yes.

Sasha Sagan  8:45  
So my parents started out with the idea of the story as a movie. And they worked on screenplays and you know, movies, there's a lot of moving parts, and it takes a lot to get a movie made. And this one took 18 years. And during the time, when they were trying to develop that and trying to get it made, they wrote it as a novel. And I parents collaborated on everything. And the line that the title of my book comes from is for small creatures, such as we the vastness is bearable, only through love. And I think that there's something about that that really sums up what you were just talking about as well. And it's sort of the antidote to the existential crisis. You know, that feeling of like, we're tiny, the Universe is big, we're gonna die. We're here for a second matter, like, you know, all this stuff that you're really concerned you off the deep end quickly. Yeah. And it's like, well, how do you get through to the other side? You know, the existential crisis that's real and sometimes you have to just freak out. But when you get through that part I think that it's like, well, then what do we have? When it's one another, and we're here right now. And this is the moment where we're here. And it's not forever, but at least, we have this moment, and we're in it together. And the farther out we see ourselves in the universe, it's tiny our planet is, the larger the cosmos is, it's makes it all the more precious that we have one another. Otherwise, it would be really, really hard. And so I think I think that there's something to that where you can find some of the comfort that doesn't always get associated with the really scientific worldview. And that perspective?

David Ames  10:42  
Well, I like what you just said that the existential crisis is real, I sometimes feel like I, you know, I hit the genetic lottery, and I have a predisposition to see the wonder, in life, even from a purely naturalistic scientific point of view, it's still totally awe inspiring to me. And I don't work at that. It just happens. And I just wonder how can we bottle this up? What your parents represented what you are carrying on, you know, how can we bottle this up and give it out to other people?

Sasha Sagan  11:12  
It's such a good question. I mean, I think the first step, if we were really doing it on like a grand scale would be to just like, pay public school teachers a lot of money and get people who are really enthusiastic about not just I mean, science, but math and history and all these things. I have the utmost love and respect for public school teachers, but it's really hard job. And it's a really hard job to do for very little money. And I can't imagine not getting jaded at some point. But if you have a couple of great teachers in your life, who are like, This is amazing. Look at this thing. And, you know, we stop sort of maligning facts as like cold and hard. And we have this a way of teaching children that there's beauty in what is real, and like, my daughter is like, almost two and a half. And like when she sees the moon, she freaks out. All excited. It's like, Mardi Gras. And like, we talked about it, and it's orbiting us, and we were at the sun. And it's so amazing. And we like make a really big deal about it when we see the moon. Yeah. I mean, it's easy to be like really blase. Yeah, Simone, congratulations. It's like, that's sort of really natural in a way. But there's something about once you learn something, and once it becomes really matter of fact, it's like you lose some of the stunning astonishment that you felt when you first discovered it as a child. And I think if we can preserve that, I mean, the example that I always want to give, and the thing that I still cannot get over is like, if we told children like, there is a secret code in your blood that connects you to your ancestors, to your relatives, and to everyone on Earth, and everyone who ever lived, and the earliest humans and the first one celled organisms, and like it's in there, and whether you believe in it or not, it, you can send a little bit of your blood or saliva off somewhere, and it will tell you who you are like, that's like out of a fairy tale. And by the time you're like, in middle school, and you have like a worksheet about alleles, and chromosomes, it's like, none of that. Astonishment is there, right. So I think it's really a matter of presentation. And if we could get some of the skill sets and enthusiasm that you so often find in religious settings, you know, as like a really like, a preacher who is just like, totally giving their all to what they're saying. And we could have some more of that in, in the sciences, among other areas of learning. I think we could make a dent.

David Ames  13:59  
Yeah. I'm trying to resist the desire to just quote you back your book. But I loved that quote you just described about, you know, if we taught science and math in the same way that a good preacher does, yeah. The other quote is that somewhere along the line, and I'm probably not recording it well, but that as we get scientific and naturalistic explanations that we've lost the wonder we've lost that. Yeah. And so I think people like yourself, can bring that to the subject, and it's such a vital role.

Sasha Sagan  14:33  
Thank you. I think you I think we have it in there. But it's like, I don't know the feeling of like a thunderstorm or something like that. It's like we innately being sometimes it's our experience of nature is fear, especially like a natural disaster. Oh, yeah. But that feeling of, Wow, this is enormous and majestic. And I think even when you understand it deeply, and I think you do this especially with weather like on the news like the meteorologists like when there's a hurricane like they are, they have a reverence and awe, and they understand it from a totally scientific point of view, right? Right think there are moments where we have this, we just sort of have to extend it a little bit, pull it out a little bit, dry it out a little bit in in society.

David Ames  15:26  
So one of the things that I think I have struggled with quick history I was a was a person of faith for many, many years. And that faith dissipated on me. And here I am today doing this. But one of the things I thought was interesting about your book is you don't shy away from words like spiritual or magic. And I find myself always using scare quotes, when I use those words. How can we recapture those words or redefine them?

Sasha Sagan  15:57  
It's such a good question. I'm like, Adam, logically they do come for me, even magical comes from the Magi. Right? These are like religious words, sacred holy, but I can't help but not use them, because they also illustrate how I feel about Nietzsche. And I think, you know, those words, developed in a language that was majority believers, you know, majority Christians. And so they have that history in that connotation. But words evolve and mutate also. And I think that as our understandings change, I think that those words can change, too. And I, you know, I use quotes too. And like, I've definitely gotten questions in the last few months, as I've been doing press for this book about like, well, how can you describe yourself as spiritual? I wouldn't use that word. But, you know, do you consider yourself spiritual even though you don't believe? And how can that be? And I think it's, you know, there are nuances that are missing in our vocabulary. You know, and that's true. So often, there are words, this thing and our language often, and we have trouble describing things sometimes because of that. But I think that those words are still the closest we can get because it evokes this feeling that I think we all really crave of like the just like the chill in your spine, and like feeling part of something enormous. And whether that is a theological concept, or a scientific concept, that like pit of your stomach, like sparkly feeling is something that I really think that we want, and that we almost can't avoid, because every time we understand something more deeply, or have an experience or you know, something scary happens, or something amazing happens. There is that sense. And I think as time goes on, we'll figure out what to call it. But yeah, just seek it.

David Ames  18:05  
Yes, yes. Really, it was a compliment that you went out ahead on didn't hesitate. I find myself hesitating all the time. Can I use this word? Because when I say often woman for me is soul when I say yes. Oh, it has evocative, profound meaning. And, you know, I mean, the core of my being, I don't write, I don't mean something other than my body. I'm sorry. Anyway, I just think that we need to just redeem those words. There's another religious term.

Sasha Sagan  18:34  
I know I mean, either. So many theistic expressions that I love, and you mean also, like when I like drop something, like I say, like Jesus Christ. Like, oh, my God, I mean, how many times do I say Oh, my God, and I'm like, I can't like I what am I going to do like make up something to explain that's like about, like, trials. Oh, my double helix. Like, I'm totally nervous. Like, it would be way too weird. Like, or like a one of my favorite expressions. And I wish I had a secular version of it is God willing, and like to say, like, oh, well, when we go do this, or whatever. What I really mean is, I hope it works out, right? No, or like, you know, people talking about like, a job or planning for a baby or like, all these things. And it's like that idea that like, well, we don't know how things are gonna shake out. We're terrible at predicting the future. But this is what we're planning at the moment. Yes, it's like, I wish there was a two word way to say that. But I don't have one yet. So sometimes I say that and they're like, what are you what are your whole thing is and I'm like, I know.

David Ames  19:51  
I find it charming. I think that's. So the book is primarily about rituals. So I'd like you to talk about Some of them that you described, but also, why are rituals important to human beings?

Sasha Sagan  20:05  
It's a great question. And it's so amazing because we're so all over the world and disparate cultures that had no contact with one another, we all decided we need some rituals, and a lot of them happen around the same time, same times of year solstices and equinoxes. And same times of life, verse coming of age death, you know, we all like these are really important. And we do them in really different ways. But and it's not every culture doesn't have exactly the same landmarks in terms of when when they but there's a lot of overlap. And I think it's really my mom always says, there's no refuge from change in the cosmos. Yeah. And I think that's really what it's about, we are on this planet, and the seasons change, and it gets cold and hot, or wet and dry, depending where you live. People appear, you know, out of other people's stomachs, and, and they grow up and they're kids, and then they're adults. And that's really weird. And then we go away. And we don't know where or what it is. And there's just so much to wrap our minds around that. We have to process all these changes. And I think the rituals, in the most basic sense, like a funeral, like, Well, why do we have that? Because we're like, Oh, my goodness, this person was just here. And now they're not here. What do we do? Yeah. And I think that, you know, no matter what the rituals are, we're like, Okay, this is the framework. This is what we've been doing for generations. This is how we handle this very difficult thing. Yeah. I mean, sometimes it's how we handle a really wonderful thing, like people getting married or something like that, you know. And I just think that it's, it's really important to us. And I think what happens is sometimes when people are not religious, or were religious, and then veer away from it, really, there's an urge to like, throw the baby out with the bathwater, right? But I, which is understandable, and I get it. But I think that we still need these things, even if we do them in a secular way. And that's what I'm really interested in is how, how we can do that. And sometimes how we can still honor our ancestors and what they did, or something you loved growing up. Without necessarily subscribing to the theology that it came from.

David Ames  22:36  
Definitely, I think that when a person goes through, particularly a faith transition, where they had faith in and then lose that faith, kind of the first thing that you see online is the much harder kind of debate culture or style of that loses all the wonder that loses all the awe and there's a trepidation for being a part of a group being apart. Being part of a community, in even the word ritual might be terrifying to some people. for that. I think I came through that and realize that, you know, it's a very natural explanation to say that human beings need rituals, and that every culture, as you have mentioned, throughout history and time, has had rituals for these life stages, and that we derive something from that we derive some meaning from that. And so on the other side of faith, or if you're secular from birth, you still need these moments, to mark time, as you say,

Sasha Sagan  23:35  
Yeah, and just I think it's like, in many cases, it's to like, increase joy. I mean, you know, when it's cold, and the days are really short. And the weather's really bad. You know, it's like, oh, well, we should make things really nice and like decorate them and make them be more light and have like delicious food and a party. Maybe that's like, seems so natural, and it's such a good call. Yes, that is a really like around the winter solstice is a really good time to try to cheer ourselves up with like, cookies and cookies and presents. Yeah, totally. Oh, yeah, definitely. Let's

David Ames  24:19  
do that some

Sasha Sagan  24:20  
more. Yeah. And I think that that kind of stuff. Once you peel back the specifics of the lore, or the mythology or the theology, you end up with the same throughlines and so much of them are rooted in nature. There are about astronomical Meteor illogical or biological changes, and that doesn't require belief.

David Ames  24:45  
One of my favorite different authors, Jennifer, Michael Hecht, and she talks about a graceful life philosophies, and I definitely feel like that is something that you are conveying here of just a joy in life. But one of the things I was struck By in your book is that you'll be in the description of just a very human event. And then the scientist and you will just jump through there one that just literally made me laugh out loud was you were describing, being in the same the same position around the sun, you know, in a year and then taking the scope out and saying, Yeah, but that sun is actually orbiting the center of the galaxy as well. So we're really not in the same place. And I just, I literally started laughing out loud. This is a scientist as well. So how do you blends that scientific knowledge that scientific exploration with kind of this graceful life philosophy,

Sasha Sagan  25:39  
I think it's like, the more we understand, I mean, if you get pleasure from like, learning, you know, the more we understand, and you know, it's always more amazing reality, when we just like really use the scrutiny of the scientific method, it is always more astonishing and more amusing than our than what we came up with, as human beings. And I think that that is really a source of joy. And think, wow, we couldn't possibly have imagined, you know, the scale of the Universe, or, you know, all these things that are so beautiful, or even like how the solar system works before we have the information to measure it, and all these other things that are so breathtaking. And that brings me a lot of joy. And I think that there's just something about the connectedness, the our desire to feel connected, and then realizing the thing we're connected to, you know, we're part of, it's in us we're in it is so much larger than, you know, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, we imagined it to be and it's like, it kind of just puts a smile on my face this idea that, like, we're so bad at predictions. I mean, it's kind of like the god willing thing. But we have this system, where we can test things and try to figure them out. And we still know very little, but we're on the right track. And we will know a lot more than we used to. And it's like, there's just an endless number of, again, a sort of religious word revelations ahead of us, and we're gonna find out more and more, and, you know, we won't live to find out everything and but there's so much around the corner that will just take our breath away. And we live in a time where there's a lot of new information available, which is just so lucky. I mean, you know, if you're a really curious person who was interested in our place in the universe, and you lived, you know, in the year 1000, it would be like kind of a drag.

David Ames  27:49  
Very much. So yeah, I often wonder how useless I would have been at any other moment in history.

Sasha Sagan  27:58  
Right, where it's like, each of us is a both a product of our time. And we have these like anything's and but ya know, it's so true. It's like, another 1000 years, they'll say, Oh, my goodness, can you imagine if you lived in 2020? It would have been horrible, you know?

David Ames  28:18  
This question kept coming to me as I was reading it, and I want to pose it properly. There are times where I wondered, are there times in your life where you are reluctantly, a skeptic? Are there times where you wish there was something bigger?

Sasha Sagan  28:34  
Oh, that's interesting. Well, I don't feel that way. To me. The secular worldview is bigger. In my view, even though there is not a person like creature looking after us. I think it would be actually harder to try to understand why terrible things happen if there is a very good god who is taking care of everyone, then it is to be like, it is random and chaos. And the fact that anything ever works out is amazing. But, you know, like, that's sort of my do the way in which I am sometimes maybe not reluctant, but I feel that internal conflict is we all have these experiences, like really unlikely coincidences, where it's so hard not to be like, Wait Is race Raizy I write about that a little bit in the book happens all the time. I mean, little, like, cliche, is you think about someone and they call and like, of course when that happens, I'm like, holy

David Ames  29:47  
Yeah, but

Sasha Sagan  29:48  
I think and I have that like innate reaction of like, this is like a clue into the inner workings of everything. But when I really think it is So is that we are really good pattern recognizers, we love patterns. That's why you can understand the random sounds I'm making right now to be words and ideas. It's a huge advantage as far as our species, but we're so good at it that we see patterns where there aren't any. And it would be impossible. Like if you think about how many random thoughts you have in the course of a day, and how many people you run into, or call or get a text from, over the course of your life, it would be impossible that they wouldn't line up once in a while, right? But I still think it's amazing and worthy of like celebration on my big freakout when it does happen, because it's like, Well, someone does win the lottery, you know what I mean? Like, like, the chances are slim, but sometimes it lands and you whenever you get the jackpot or whatever, and you're like, Oh, amazing, you know,

David Ames  30:52  
statistically unlikely things happen all the time.

Sasha Sagan  30:56  
So, so cool, but I don't, even though they have moments where I'm like, you know, the Twilight Zone theme in my head is like, I still I still think that it totally statistical explanation is still like, fantastic.

David Ames  31:15  
Yeah, that's a great answer, though, that the scientific answers are the are the bigger perspective than magic?

Sasha Sagan  31:21  
I think so i That's the way I see it. And they're intrinsically beautiful to me, too. And I think there's like this idea that it's like, oh, this emptiness of space is like, so scary and negative. Whereas I still find it beautiful and comforting in a way that, that in all that we're here, I'm this little evolved perfectly to, like breathe the air and drink the water and feel the light of the star. I mean, that's, that's amazing.

David Ames  31:51  
Yeah, one of the ways that I tried to express this, this is back kind of back to the existential crisis. But that, you know, we learned the Copernican principle that we are not the center of the universe, we're not the center of the solar system that we have no special place in the cosmos. Right. And I would say the flip side of that is as, as far as we know, we are the only sentient creatures in this cosmos. And that makes us incredibly rare and incredibly precious. And the fact that we can communicate with each other, yeah, builds profound meaning and profound comfort. I just watched the movie Ad Astra. Oh, yeah. I don't know if you watch that. But

Sasha Sagan  32:30  
I haven't seen it. I have a toddler. So I don't get Yeah,

David Ames  32:33  
exactly. Sorry. Yeah.

Sasha Sagan  32:36  
Do you have a movie reference from before?

David Ames  32:41  
I feel yeah, I've got teenagers now. So I remember. Very quickly, I won't bore you with this. But the premise is the father has gone out looking for proof of, of extraterrestrial life. And he's obsessed with that to the exclusion of everything else, and that the son grows up and is also an astronaut and goes out to find him. And the son learns the lesson the father didn't, that it's humanity, that we are not alone. We have each other. Right. Anyway, it was just deeply profound. It was very, very slow movie I don't recommend everybody is going to love that movie. But anyway. But I couldn't I couldn't help but walk away. Like what a deeply humanist message.

Sasha Sagan  33:21  
Oh, wow. Yeah.

David Ames  33:24  
So your book from literally the introduction? I think I tweeted this right after I read it. The first tear was shed, you know, in the introduction.

Sasha Sagan  33:34  
Slash sorry.

David Ames  33:35  
Yeah, exactly. And I mean, that is a very high compliment that there's so much pathos, there's so much of yourself vulnerability in the book is deeply profound. Just very quickly, I lost my father when I was three or four, I don't really have a lot of I don't like to have a lot of conscious memories of him. I'm so sorry. Thank you. And then I lost my mother in 2015, shortly after my deconversion, so a lot of Oh, wow, a lot of grief. You know, right, as I was also experiencing the loss of so I, you know, and I think I've spent a lot of time processing that that's not a raw emotion. I'm not trying to elicit anything here.

Sasha Sagan  34:22  
I feel for you. And I'm that's really hard. And it's complicated, I'm sure. Yes. Yeah.

David Ames  34:28  
It's very complicated. But so again, thank you for the book and for the rawness of the grief that comes out on on the pages. And I think one of the topics that I'm most interested in is this idea of how do we grieve in a secular way? Right. I think you mentioned when people come up to you and they don't realize that your father has passed away. And they'll say, Hey, tell them how much his work meant to me. Yeah, you have to be the bearer of bad news. It's like, like, oh, just crushed my heart. Like I couldn't believe that. What You must have to go through. So one of my first questions is having so much of your father be a part of the culture and including things like on audiobook. And early your mom and dad's voice on Voyager that's just left. I mean, it's inescapable Is that does that make that grieving process harder? Or easier?

Sasha Sagan  35:21  
Oh, no, it makes it easier. I mean, I'm so lucky. First of all, because of, and I write about this a little bit, because of the nature of my dad's work. I have like all this footage of him talking in his voice and like audio book on like, his Cosmos, but also, like him on The Tonight Show, and like, all this stuff. And still, I mean, there's like video of him I've never seen that I know is still out there that I can like, look forward to 23 years after his death, so that I feel like so lucky. And that especially because, I mean, now everybody has video of everybody in their family, you know, whatever, opening presents, or whatever. But like, in 1996, it wasn't like that. And just because of the nature of his work, I have this, which is so lucky, and the love that people still feel for him and like, you know, once in a while, like the flip side of the, oh, tell him I love his work. And I have to be like, Oh, actually, he's not here anymore. And it's like, so awkward, partly because people are just generally so uncomfortable with death that like it's like, you know, we don't know how to talk about it. We don't especially and not in a secular way we don't know how to. We don't know what the right thing to say is there's all of that those experiences are really hard. But what I get much more often, which is the flip side is people saying, I just discovered him four years ago, and I've read 10 books, or I was born after he died. And I love him. He's my favorite writer, or you know, that kind of stuff where I'm like, wow, this really is, in a secular way. It's an extension, you know, he lives on a little longer in this non literal way. And I'm so grateful for that. And that makes it so much easier. And like, I feel like, what's really hard about grieving is being alone, um, you know, and isolated. And when I think other people miss him, too. And they still think about him and read his work and talk about him. I'm like, Well, that is extremely comforting. That's what really like, he honestly just like, helps me enormously so. So I feel like the majority of my experiences to do with him and his work and his legacy are extremely positive. But then once in a while, there's ones where I'm like, Oh, this is excruciating. But that's okay, too.

David Ames  37:50  
Well, I again, one of the more touching moments in the in the book is you're describing him apologizing to you near the end, and that he understood what you couldn't at the moment that this would be a life defining moment for you that everything would be affected by it.

Sasha Sagan  38:08  
Yeah, yeah. And I was 14, and I just didn't understand. At the same time, I'm like, What does anyone on Earth, like if I was, you know, 50? What I understand what I mean, like, we don't get it, and it's really hard, but like, I just didn't understand that this would be, in many ways, the defining event in my life. And that he, he understood that, that this would be a lot harder than I think I understood at that time, or for many years afterwards. And it was so but it was it may it was like the kind of the end he was very ill obviously. And so it was like the kind of thing that like made no sense, right? Of course, as the years went on, it became very clear why it was a really loving, thoughtful, true thing to say. And it's like a, almost like a riddle. You know, it's something that takes a long time to unravel to really understand, but it was really loving. And it was really, I mean, it's I still feel love from the last, you know, days and hours, even though more than two decades has gone by.

David Ames  39:25  
Well, that's short, an incredible amount of wisdom on his part. Yeah, there's no one will doubt or two have that kind of foresight to pass that along to you. Yeah. The other thing I think is beautifully told in the book is this idea of that those that we have lost live on in our memories. You refer back to a culture that has a distinction between ancestors and the living dead, that they live on in our memory and you quote your mom is saying she recognized that there's there's almost a second death When the last person who knew you dies, yeah. Can you talk about that? Just

Sasha Sagan  40:05  
yeah, I think about that a lot in the book I talked about someone we knew had a toddler. And they came by the house. They had, you know, my dad had met the toddler many times. And then they came by the house at some point in the months after my dad died. And and when they left me, this little boy was the youngest person, I think my dad, you know, knew, right. And my mom said, after they left, my mom said, you know, it's like, you win you, Oh, will you die again, when the last person knew you dies. And there is something about that there's, it makes me think of there's this. There's this record, somebody heard Abraham Lincoln give a speech, and then ran home and phonetically wrote down how he spoke, like, what his syntax and intonation was. And it was like, of course, this is so changed by technology now, like I was saying about, like having, you know, video of your friends now. And it's like, this idea that like, well, you know, now everybody who ever heard Abraham Lincoln speak is gone, too. And it's like, that's another way in which were done. And some people very, very small handful of people, you know, if your profile is on a coin, or there is a statue to you, or, you know, the most smallest, smallest percentage of people who ever lived, or we just know their name, even if we don't know really anything about them, the century when they lived the part of the world. But other than that, we go away. And that is something that, you know, there's two approaches to that, or three, maybe one is to deny it, you know, and if you say, Okay, well, that's not your belief system. If you believe that we don't go away, we just go somewhere else. And we continue on. Okay, that's one approach. Another approach is to sort of try to fight it with like, you know, I don't know, like cryogenically freezing, like, you know, all the things that we come up with to deny that in another way, and that's okay, too, you know, but the third way is to say, Okay, well, that's how this works. And we'll be gone at some point. And even if we figure out the, you know, whatever technology, you know, the sun's gonna burn out and 5 billion years, the Earth is, you know, maybe we can emigrate to some other planet, maybe. But things that we hold dear and the world, literally and figuratively that we exist, and now is not forever. And so, I think there's really something valuable. The third way way I would approach it is to face that and say, Okay, that's real. But we're here right now. And so let's do what we can to make the world better to find joy, to experience, love, give love, all these things that will make it so that when the time does come, it'll not feel as bad. I think.

David Ames  43:19  
I've described kind of a parallel concept of giving up the idea of the soul. Where there's this psychological need to believe that we go on, I think, as well to believe that our loved ones

Sasha Sagan  43:36  
Yes, I mean, more. So almost. Yeah, almost more so. Yeah, yeah.

David Ames  43:42  
Yeah. And you know, and I would love to believe that I would get to see my mom and my, well, yeah, like, I'd love to be able to believe that. But I recognize that, you know, having again, for me personally haven't gone through that transition. That part of the reason that was so difficult was coming to grips with the finiteness of of life that Yeah. On the other side of it now, and I'm not this is not original in any way. But the idea that it is finite gives everything poignance there's Yeah, every moment with my my family, my loved ones, my daughters, my wife, friends is, is valuable, precisely because it is rare and fleeting.

Sasha Sagan  44:24  
Absolutely, absolutely. If we lived forever, and there was no urgency to anything, it would be, first of all, it would be a totally different existence, people would operate in a totally different way. And there would be nothing unique or valuable or special about each moment. There's no beginning and no end. And I think that it's really easy to see that as a really painful thing, but I think it's also the source of all the positive things,

David Ames  44:55  
right. And then just lastly, a concept that you hint at in That is just being lucky to have lived at all. You just I think you say we were we, you know we existed. That fact that we are alive today is its own profound miracle.

Sasha Sagan  45:13  
Yeah. And I think that that's like a lot of what at the beginning of the book is about is like an all the different things that had to happen for you to be alive right now. And all your different ancestors who had to cross paths, and all this unbelievable plagues and invasions and wars that somebody had to survive, to get to the point where right now in the present, your you know, listening to this podcast, you know, is really astonishing. And I think that maybe there would be some other version of each of us, but we would have different ancestors with different combinations of qualities and idiosyncrasies and allergies, all sorts of other things. And I think the idea that, like you being exactly you at this moment happened, like if we can find a way to celebrate that. And I think the way that we find it the most is when we fall in love, because then you're like, wow, you're you and you're so amazing. And you have all these qualities that are so wonderful. And it's like that we sort of can glean it when it's an another person or when you have a new baby, and you're like, Oh, my goodness, you're this. Oh, I see my great uncle's funny expression. And like all these things, yeah. And so we get it like at the best moments of our lives, we get these little glimpses into that. And I think if we can find a way to to extend that into other parts of our lives, I think it would be really worthwhile.

David Ames  46:48  
Absolutely. Yeah, that's beautiful. I'm sorry. I said Lastly, and really, I've got one another. One more, one more question. Again, on this on this side of faith, or those of us who were believers, church or synagogue or provides this community this built in Yes, community. I really love the story you tell you tell about your your girlfriend's getting together. Yeah, regular basis to talk about how you have built community in your life.

Sasha Sagan  47:15  
Yes, I definitely. I mean, I strongly feel that the hardest part about being secular for me is that you have to like really put an effort to congregate, and I'm very social. And I like being in group situations. And it's just if I was really devout, I would have that in my life and all these different ways built in. And I because I'm not I have to make it. So one of the things that I did, sort of second half of the years, I lived in New York, I lived in New York for a long time, we moved to London for two years, and then came back and all of a sudden, I realized I miss my girlfriends so much. And that like seeing them one or two at a time was not enough. And I that I had all these interesting, amazing women who they would like each other it wasn't you know, and that together, we could really sort of form this like little tribe. And so it wasn't anything. I mean, it's totally doable. You can try this at home, just once a month, we had a dinner, we picked a restaurant, and I would send out an email. And sometimes it would be five or six of us. And sometimes it would be 12 or 13 of us. And the restaurant was extremely accommodating when we were constantly running away and being really loud, and all these things. So that was good. And we would once a month have like dinner and cocktails and talk and what was so for me rewarding was all these other friendships bloomed between women who, you know, someone I grew up with, or someone I went with, to college with, or someone you know, had worked with. And then after a lot of people started to move away from New York, which just happens, you know, and then and then I moved to Boston, and these friendships went on and all these different cities and people started doing ladies don't we call it the ladies dining society in other places. And even though I wasn't doing it anymore, it carried on and I that is something that I feel really grateful for. And I think there's something there is a real like you see it, there is a need in society for this kind of thing. And you see it as like there's, I mean, these things could be co ed or for men or whatever show seemed like these women's workspaces popping up in different cities. And you see like these will, you know, different groups where you're like, people want kind of a home base and like something in their life that's regular and steady and feeds them intellectually, emotionally in some way. Literally, dinner party. And I think that a lot of people crave that and I think if you're secular you know sometimes it's a little bit more of a drag and you got to put it together yourself, but I think it's worth it.

David Ames  49:59  
You I think that the lesson from that chapter in particular is just being intentional about building friendships. And yeah, maybe setting a time and setting a place and making that happen. So yeah, in effect to ritualizing.

Sasha Sagan  50:14  
And having a group to go through the ups and downs with

David Ames  50:18  
absolutely, yeah, somebody there just to hear the good times and the bad. Yeah, exactly. Well, if it's not obvious, I love the book. So much the book is, for small creatures, such as we are rituals for finding meaning in our unlikely world. And the author is Sasha Sagan, Sacha, how can people get in touch with you? How can they find your book?

Sasha Sagan  50:40  
Oh, it's sold wherever, wherever you get your books, you can find it. And I'm on Instagram and Twitter at Sasha Sagan. My website is Sasha And you can email me there. Tell me what you think I'd love to hear from you.

David Ames  50:56  
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and.

Final thoughts on the episode? Wow. All I can say is again, it was a joy to speak with Sasha. I find it wonderfully fulfilling to talk to another person who has the same sense of gratitude, awe and wonder at the world, while also holding purely naturalistic and scientific ideas about the world. And she so beautifully tells those both in the book and in this episode, about how her parents pass those things along to her. And now she's passing them along to us. I loved her answer when I asked about whether she was a reluctant skeptic. And she pointed out that the scientific answers tend to be bigger and more awe inspiring than any magical or theistic answers ever could be. That was a profound answer. I think in my interview, when we discussed her father, Carl Sagan, I often focused on the grief, I want to highlight here as well, the joy that comes across in Sasha's book, and in the podcast episode. Clearly, he has had a tremendous impact on her and the impact on the world continues to reverberate in her life. I just really appreciate Sasha, his willingness to share both the grief and her joy in her relationship with her father. I still can't get over the quote that the book title comes from, for small creatures such as we, the vastness is only bearable through love. And it turns out that it was Andrew Yang, who wrote that particular line that encapsulates so much of secular grace. And another theme that Sasha and I hit in the episode of she quotes her mom is saying there is no refuge from change in the cosmos. And Sasha talks about having to face the reality that everything will cease, including the sun burning out and the heat death of the universe. But we're here now. And let's do what we can to make the world a better place that to encapsulates secular grace. I want to thank Sasha for coming on the program for giving me her time and for sharing with us, her book and her insights and her graceful life philosophies. I will have links in the show notes for finding her online on Twitter and as well as links for her book, I highly encourage you to go out and get the book and read it. As the chaos and randomness of the cosmos would have it. Sacha also did an interview with Bart Campolo on the humanized me podcast. And I think it's a great discussion. And I highly encourage you to go and listen to that as well, especially if you can't get enough of Sasha Sagan. Are you still here? Oh, good. I've got a couple more announcements for you. One is that I have recently done an episode of the relationship podcast from long distance to marriage with Andrea and rich. You might ask why would I do that episode while they were doing a series on secular relationships or inter faith relationships, I went on with my friend Alice Gretchen from dare to doubt, Alice from the perspective of being very choosy about the partners that she chooses and what their faith positions might be in me from the perspective of being in a relationship with my wife, who is a believer, and D converting and middle of marriage, and trying to focus on the love that we have for one another and our shared set of values. Anyway, I highly recommend that you check out from long distance to marriage in the next week or so. I think that was a fascinating conversation. And then the second thing I wanted to bring up is that I occasionally do a call or a Hangout with people who are not interested in publicizing their story, but they need to tell it to somebody. And I generally will do a 15 or 30 minute call with people just to let them tell me their deconversion stories. And a common theme that I hear from them often is, what can I do? How can I give back? I just wanted to highlight that you can do many things, you can start a blog, you can start your own podcast, you can find groups with You can start your own book club, any secular activity of any kind that build some community is a great way to go. But I'm gonna highlight one more thing. I haven't pushed it very often. But I need to reiterate again, how much better I think this podcast could be if I had a bit more community support. So this is a call out to you if you have a talent in any area, graphic design, audio engineering, marketing, social media expertise, website, design, anything that could help make this podcast better, help more people. I'm gonna just put out the call to the community. If you're interested, please get in touch with me. Send me an email at graceful I'm gonna slightly alter my typical sign off and say my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please join me and be graceful in your lives. It's time for some footnotes. The song has a track called waves by mkhaya beats, please check out her music links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to help support the podcast, here are the ways you can go about that. First help promote it. Podcast audience grows it by word of mouth. If you found it useful or just entertaining, please pass it on to your friends and family. post about it on social media so that others can find it. Please rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. This will help raise the visibility of our show. Join me on the podcast. Tell your story. Have you gone through a faith transition? You want to tell that to the world? Let me know and let's have you on? Do you know someone who needs to tell their story? Let them know. Do you have criticisms about atheism or humanism, but you're willing to have an honesty contest with me? Come on the show. If you have a book or a blog that you want to promote, I'd like to hear from you. Also, you can contribute technical support. If you are good at graphic design, sound engineering or marketing? Please let me know and I'll let you know how you can participate. And finally financial support. There will be a link on the show notes to allow contributions which would help defray the cost of producing the show. If you want to get in touch with me you can google graceful atheist where you can send email to graceful You can tweet at me at graceful atheist or you can just check out my website at graceful Get in touch and let me know if you appreciate the podcast. Well this has been the graceful atheist podcast My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheists. Grab somebody you love and tell them how much they mean to you.

This has been the graceful atheist podcast

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