Audrey: Deconversion of an American Christian

Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Podcast, Purity Culture, The Bubble, Unequally yoked
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This week’s guest is Audrey. Audrey spent her childhood and adolescence deep in American Christianity. 

In college, she took a course in “biblical perspectives,” and she had many questions. She would shelve the cognitive dissonance for years, though, pretending that everything was fine. 

After years of experiencing church from the inside and working around more “secular” people, the uncertainty could no longer stay buried. “Something just wasn’t right.”

Audrey is an atheist now, but deconversion is fresh. The past guilt and shame still come up at times. She’s reconnecting with her body and mind, though, and loving the woman she is—the woman she’s always been.

“It’s so incredible how once I stepped away from christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself.”

“All I wanted to do was be a Woman of God. I had my future planned out: I was going to find a husband at college, be the perfect godly woman, and he was going to be the man that was going to lead me in Christ.”


“I was so oblivious to the bubble that I grew up in.”

“Those things I’d buried started to rise up again.”

“There was so much cognitive dissonance that I don’t think I could verbalize to you what doubts I was struggling with. It was just ‘something wasn’t right.’”

“Fuck being equally yoked!”

“To be able to off-load all of the things that I had been dealing and also find solace and comfort in mutual doubts with somebody—and not just somebody—my husband.”

“In my upbringing, from my perspective, being a good Christian was the ultimate for my parents. That was the definition of a good child—a good Christian, so I was like, Okay. That is what I’m going to be.

“I have never felt more free in my whole entire life…I was walking around without feeling guilty for every little decision I made.”

“The last year of my Christianity, I feel like it can be boiled down to: I am just believing this because I’m scared of the alternative.”

“I can be a decent human and it not be connected to a deity.”

“I really, really love the person that’s underneath [all the layers]. The confidence I have found in myself, owning my femininity, owning who I am, taking up space in the world, no longer subscribing to that dialogue…of a ‘sweet Christian woman.’” 

“I have control over the information I care to share. I have control over how I present that information. I have control over my reactions and the words that come out of my mouth. I have zero control over what that person on the other side wants to say…I don’t need to concern myself now with what they think of me because it’s none of my business.”

“Well-being is not ‘your relationship with the lord.’ Well-being is how you’re taking care of your physical body, how you’re taking care of your mental body.”

“It’s so incredible how once I stepped away from Christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself.”


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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 United studios Podcast Network. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider reading and reviewing the podcasts on the Apple podcast store. You can rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Thank you to all my patrons if you too would like an ad free experience become a patron at any level at atheist.

We are trying to create a safe place to land to ask questions to doubt to deconstruct in our private Facebook group deconversion anonymous. Please join us be a part of a community so that you do not have to go through this alone. You can find it at

Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, Arline interviews Our guests today Audrey. Audrey is one of those people who was fully dedicated completely within the bubble. She went to camp every year including becoming a counselor and began to see how the sausage was made. She also participated in ministry and her experience working at the church also caused her to begin to doubt. It turns out that her husband had de converted ahead of her. And there was some tension there. But when she finally told him that she was having doubts, she felt much better. She felt that her and her husband became closer. Audrey talks about telling her parents her mom specifically and how hard that was. I think you're gonna love Audrey story here is our Lean interviewing Audrey.

Arline  2:21  
Welcome Audrey to the graceful atheist podcast.

Audrey  2:24  
Hi, thanks for having me.

Arline  2:27  
Yes, I'm excited. You and I connected shortly after I did my episode on the podcast. Yes, I heard you. Yes, you and I had some some church things related. And you and I were able to talk and so I'm excited to hear your story.

Audrey  2:44  
sYeah, for sure. Yeah, I heard I heard you on the podcast. And when you talked about where you lived and where you came from, I just thought I'm gonna reach out to her because I feel like we have some similarities. And I was just at a point where all of this was just starting to unfold. And I knew that it would be or I thought it would be beneficial for me to just chat with somebody who had been through it because it was all so new. And I just didn't even know I don't know, it was felt kind of like the rug had been pulled out from under me. And I was like grappling for something to hang on to somebody to give me some kind of advice. I was like, I'm gonna reach out to Arline and you were kind enough to immediately respond. So thank you, because that was very, very helpful for me.

Arline  3:30  
Oh, you're too kind. Yes, I, I enjoyed it. It was my first experience. Like I had talked to David during my episode. But there was no deconversion anonymous Facebook group yet. I had maybe found some other podcasts. But I had no idea that other people near where I lived. Were also going through this. So it was it was good for me. It was good to have that conversation. So yes, we usually start tell me about the spiritual environment that you grew up in.

Audrey  3:58  
Yeah. So to your point. The reason why I wanted to reach out is because you were from the old state of Georgia. I was like, I want to talk to a fellow southerner. It's been interesting, born and raised in Georgia, born and raised in just a small suburb north of Atlanta. I guess not small, pretty big, pretty big. Metro Atlanta is pretty big. But I still live here just further north. So not in the same suburb that I grew up in, which I'm very thankful for. Because I am the kind of person that does not like going to the grocery store and see people that I know and I got to a point where, you know, growing up in the summer working in the same area, I worked at a church in the same area. So it's just every single where every single place I went, I saw somebody I knew and I'm so happy that my husband and I are now 20 minutes further north because I don't run into those familiar faces in in the grocery store, um, but yeah, so fake background, I guess. Well, where should we begin? Definitely, I'm born and raised in a Christian household, from the very beginning pretty much popped out a Christian, I guess. I remember, I'm the youngest of. So I guess I'll just start with my family in the background. I'm the youngest of three brothers. So I, there's my family definitely. sort of formed who I am today, by being the only girl. Both my parents are still together. My mom and I grew up really close to just being the only girl in the family but born and raised into a very, very conservative household I was. But I didn't really realize it, you know, because when, in when you're in the bubble, or when you are born into a conservative family, you tend to hang out with other conservative families. And yet, homeschooling is a whole thing in and of itself, which is its own bubble. So you don't really realize this until you get outside of it. But I was homeschooled until about fifth grade. And then my mom put us all into school in the same year. So we're all two years apart. So I was fifth grade, my brother above me with seventh grade, my brother above him was ninth grade. And then my brother above him was 11th grade. So I'm not envious of my eldest brother, who was homeschooled pretty much all the way through. He did a few schools here and there. So wasn't it was definitely split up. And for the majority of his high school, he was at a private Christian school. But for my brother and I are the two youngest kids. So me and my brother, who's two years older than me, we got put into a very small Presbyterian Christian school. So it was basically, if you can the equivalent of like homeschooling, but the church version where you actually go, it was like, the place where other people that were homeschooled, went to school. If that makes sense, the graduation from homeschool. So still very, very sheltered environment. It was a Presbyterian school.

I think the name covenant was in the name.

Yes, very much. So. And I should mention to go back just a second, I went to a sort of a one day a week hybrid program in the third and fourth grade, which was also it was a classical school. And it was also Yep, it was also Christian. So education thus far has been all entirely Christian. And then, in eighth grade, when my brother graduated from the school that we both went to, it was only up it was K through eighth. So he went to a bigger private Christian school down the road, which was, you know, entirely a new experience for him, because going from homeschooling to just to give you an idea, the school that I went to in middle school, fifth through seventh grade was there was about 20 people in my grade. And we were divided into two homeroom classes, you know, 10 and 10. So very, very tiny. Yes. And then, so he, when he was finished with eighth grade, he went on to the bigger private Christian school that had, you know, probably like 8200 people per grade. So that's, even though people listening to this that might have gone to a public school, that seems so tiny, I actually ended up going there. The plan was for me to follow him and go there in high school, but I just, I wasn't having the greatest experience in my middle school environment. So I just went ahead and transferred. And that was a completely new experience for me again, all the while. Christian, Christian, Christian, Christian school, Christian, small school, bigger Christian school, throughout this whole time period of mine developmental years. I was in this bubble, that it was cool to be a Christian. And like, the more the more Christian you were, the cooler that you were. So it was definitely there were incentives outside of just what the Bible said to sort of walk the walk, if that makes sense. And I'm trying not to get too much into the nitty gritty here, but I feel like it's kind of important to bring some con Next up sort of my developmental years, because I'm in my later 20s Now, but that was, you know, elementary, high school, early college, you know, all of that was in this bubble, and it was all it was cool to be a Christian. Right. So, um, anyway, so that's kind of my schooling and into high school. Definitely the, the vibe, I should say, at the bigger Christian high school that I went to was, you know, it's cool to be a Christian. You know, definitely in a group of friends where, you know, the kids that maybe didn't, didn't follow the way if you will, or kind of rebellious work, gossiped about, you know, rumors were started that kind of thing. So, I definitely set myself up in the group of friends that was not rebellious, but also, you know, not super uptight, but just in that comfortable, sort of, I guess, it's hard to bring vocabulary to it. But it was just this element of, we're all Christians, we talk about it, it's cool if you're a Christian. And if you're not, you're going to be gossiped about, or if you choose to do things that are quote, unquote, like against what the right way to do things is, then you're going to be considered rebellious or a black sheep, or you're gonna get a rumor mill started about you. So God forbid, quite literally, you know.

All throughout elementary, middle and high school, my parents, you know, wanted us all to be involved in church wanted us to be involved in the youth group. And I one more aspect, and I think this is probably the most one of the most important aspects of my sort of developmental years for forming my faith was I was a camper. So I went to church camp every single year, and it wasn't affiliated with my church, so to speak, it was can I say the name? Is that okay? That's, I feel like it might, some people listening might even resonate, but I went to camp called Kanak in Missouri, and not super popular in my state of Georgia. But so many people from Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, all the surrounding states were Frequenters there, and this camp was, you know, the best thing that ever happened to me in my elementary school mind, it was just so cool. I remember going there the first year. So I started going there when I was eight years old. Yeah, yeah. So the way that camp works is that it's one you know, the big name, but with the big name, there's several camps spread out in the same area in Missouri, that based on age group, and duration that you want to go and sort of your focus. So I went started out in like the elementary age camp, then went to the middle school age camp, and went to the high school age camp, and then was a counselor. So all in all spent about 13 summers, wow, my life at this camp. And, you know, the more and more and packed that the more and more issues I have with things that I learned at this camp. But I remember going when I was eight, and talk about it was cool to be a Christian, you know, this camp, it was an app like a sports camp, but you know, all under the guise of evangelical Christian ism, I guess, if you will. So the whole goal was you know, how many people can we get in the doors and how many kids can we get to pray the prayer and then like, fire them up to go home and then spread the gospel and all that, you know, whereas now I just, it blows my mind really, and some of the experiences that I had there I quite frankly, look back on it and I'm just like, there was a coat it was it was a cold. It was so secluded, you know, when you go there, you don't have your phone. You can spend I was at Canberra one summer for a whole month. So as a high schooler being at a camp without your phone you know, it's it's weird because you go and you know, it's healthy in a way to you know, but just be out in nature and there was parts of it that I loved. The now looking back back on it. That was so it was like every summer I would go and it would be like a reboot to my fate that reboot to my bit the reboot to my bit. So every year it was, you know, I get reminded of why I believe in this. And this is so incredible. And not to mention, all the while and I'm trying to get to sort of a very vital part of my story was that, you know, my mom, my mom and I, and I had my dad really, I had this incredible desire to please my parents and what they wanted me to be and I knew that my parents loved you know what I learned at camp and I remember my mom saying something to me in high school, just she goes, you're just when you get home from camp, you're just better I don't know how to explain it, but you're just better. You know, I don't really know exactly what she said. But how do you interpret that you know, as a, as a high schooler, she said something along the lines of You just have this better demeanor, you seem just more kind and all of this stuff. And I'm thinking in my head, all right, well, better try to be exactly the way that I am. When I get home from camp all year long. I don't know what that even means, or how to interpret that. But it just kind of became this thing of all wrapped up in I left camp. But I also loved the fact that my parents loved that I went and it was like this, this whole toxic feedback loop, I guess, of just wanting to please them, but also, you know, enjoying the camp in and of itself. But that is sort of where my I would guess people might remember this term, you know, my fire for the Lord was sort of kick knighted, you know, and you see the counselors, the older Christian college girls and how awesome they are. And you're just like, I want to be just like that. And then you know, you get on the other side of it. And I worked at the camp for four summers as well. And it kind of de romanticize it it sighs did a little bit for me. D romanticized it a little bit. For me just being on the other end of things and seeing how things were run by the leadership and seeing the attitudes of people behind the scenes, that kind of thing. So with a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and maybe if I could pinpoint sort of, I don't know how to say it. Where I started maybe asking questions, but but I didn't want to admit that I was just kind of seeing the other side of things, you know, and then, you know, reshelving that not wanting to get into it, it like I could feel something and I don't even know if I knew how to verbalize it. But and I don't even think I could pinpoint when this happened. But maybe towards the last summer so I was probably I guess this would be summer going into my sophomore year of college. Okay, I have no summer going into my junior year of college would have been my last summer working there. And I would say you Yeah, questioning a little bit. I'm just I left with a bad taste in my mouth is what I would say. But if I could really so, you know, I feel like I'm skipping around here but that's my long intro to elementary, middle school high school, then I go to college. You know, still camper Audrey still coming from a Christian high school, all I wanted to do is just, you know, be a woman of God, you know, had my future planned, I was going to find a husband at college and, you know, be the perfect godly woman and he was going to be the man that would lead me in Christ and all the things and didn't really think about like a career much. I know that sounds so cliche, but I knew that my quote unquote, heart's desire was to just be a mother. So that's what I was paying attention to working at a summer camp, working with kids, I was a nanny, you know, it just it makes me angry. And I don't want to be angry. But I think back on it, I'm just like, if I had just had a little bit more of my own opinions that my own drive and I didn't try to morph into what the Christian community wanted me to be. And I'll get into that a little bit, but I'm trying to be concise with my background here. So I feel like if I could pinpoint sort of when the beginning maybe that first thread you know, got pulled from from the stitching I took Biblical perspectives class in my freshman year of college. So I should mention that I went to a Christian college that I was going to. Yeah. So I went to a Christian college called Samford University, you might have heard it in Birmingham just for a year, though, I went for my freshman year. And that was where, you know, my heart was set. It was basically like my high school but bigger.

Basically, like the the college version of where I went to high school and looking back on it, I'm just wondering why in the hell, I wanted to do that. But anyways, did it went and I took a biblical perspective class at Stanford. And you know, still remember where I sat in the class, I remember my professors name, it was just the first time in all of my years of education, that someone took the time to teach me, it wasn't just biblical perspectives of just a Christian perspective of the Bible. But this class taught me perspective, other religions and other people's perspective of the Bible. And that was so eye opening, and I am so appreciative of that professor, because the way that she chose to teach the class was from a completely unbiased place. You know, I think that she is a Christian, and I'm not really sure where she is today. But she was, she had a grace about her. That was never, she never came from a place of condemning or laughing at other people's perspectives. And that was very different for me, because I actually came from in my high school courses, we were required to take Bible classes every year, but also our junior year, we took an apologetics class. And my professor, I guess, teacher, was very, very, very biased and very judgmental, and kind of like, would give the perspectives of other people for the sake of teaching us the arguments. And he was very good, he was very good at teaching us how to argue and do it well, but it's funny, my husband and I were actually just talking about this is a very good app, because we went to the same high school, but we took the same course, actually, I'll get into him, he's also part of my story, but it was just always from a place of look at what these other people believe how silly is this, how ridiculously stupid of them to have this perspective, and of course, as a malleable, you know, 16 year old, and not to mention, that teacher was like, the Cool Teacher, you know, that all the students looked up to, so if it comes from Him, you're gonna kind of if you're a robot that follows what you're told, You're gonna mimic his sort of attitude about other people's worldviews and perspectives, which is so toxic, and there's so many things wrong with that, which I could spend the whole time venting my frustration about that. And my issues with teachers, you know, pushing their own, not teaching but pushing their own opinions on to a very impressionable aged students. But so then to go from him to the professor at Stanford, that was very much so this from an unbiased teaching place, was just very helpful for me. And at the time, I maybe wouldn't have said the word helpful, it was very confusing and very frustrating to sort of deal with that, and not understand what was happening, but the reality of it was my brain was actually starting to work. And I was maybe seeing things from the other side and being frustrated with the fact that, you know, on one hand, this is how I was born and raised. And this is what I was trained to believe in, and this is the stuff that I was robotically, you know, told to spit out when people would ask me what my faith was in the God that I served and whatnot, and then on the other hand, I would see other people's perspectives and be like, that doesn't really seem all that weird or silly to not believe in Christianity or even hearing, you know, people that might be Islamic or Buddhist in coming from their perspectives of the Bible and seeing the core relation between, you know, their religious upbringing and what their perspective is in seeing how there's lots of commonalities in religions across the world and things of that nature. But when you're born and raised in good old Georgia, and there's a church on every corner, of course, the religion that I believe is the right one, right? How could it be any different, right? It's so silly to believe in anything else. Obviously, I'm kidding. But that is just, that was the first the start of it. And then it became one of those things where, so this was probably 1920 year old Audrey, and I just, I shelved it, I was too frustrated, and too confused, and probably a little bit too immature to actually wrestle with it. And it was a lot more comfortable for me to just pretend that I found closure, but I really did it, if that makes sense. So I came to a point in my faith where I told myself, well, look at your life, Audrey, look at all of the things that you have been blessed with, look how fortunate you've been to, you know, grow up in a family that could afford to send you to a school like this, or, you know, afford to send you to a summer camp, that that wasn't even, you know, something that I mentioned, but of course, it was predominantly a white Christian summer camp. So if that is any, and it also was not free. So that's any indication of the camp campers in the families and the kind of people that were there, and the kind of people that ran the camp. So I just, I was so oblivious to the bubble that I grew up in. And I, you know, I used to be embarrassed to admit that, but life is a journey, and I'm, you're learning every day, you know, and I can't help that. I can't help the background that I came from, but I can proceed in a different way. So

Arline  27:24  
we know better, we can do better.

Audrey  27:26  
Exactly. When you know better, you can do better. And so from all that, I just realized that. Okay, look at my life, look at all of the things that I've quote, unquote, been blessed with and how things have quote unquote, worked out like, of course, that's the sovereignty of God. Of course, he exists, of course, you know, how can he not and that sounds very naive, you know, saying that from where I was to where I am now, but that was kind of what I fell back on. It's like, okay, I have a lot of questions. But it seems like God has been utterly faithful in my life. So I'm just going to cling to that. And I'm just going to sort of bury all of the concerns that I have that cognitive dissonance, right. So that went on for a while.

Flash forward, took a little bit of a break from school. My junior year decided that I wanted to pursue songwriting, which is kind of a hobby of mine, but I for a year took just a break and moved out to Nashville and was on my mat. Yeah. During that time, I reconnected with someone who went to my high school and we actually started dating. We were not I actually dated one of his good friends in high school. And then we reconnected later because I transferred from Sanford to Kennesaw, which is a school near close to where I live now. But during that time, started dating Mason, my husband. And then I took a break from school, went to Nashville, highly recommend anyone who is of college age to just take a year and do it completely on their own because I feel like even though at the time still a Christian still trying to pursue my faith with the Lord but just to kind of be on your own it. You know, some of those things I buried started to rise up again. Being a waitress out in Nashville writing songs being in a completely secular world, you know, going from a Christian High School to Christian College, then transferring to a massively secular or university was the best thing that I did, but at the time didn't know. Right? So slowly starting to become way more ingrained in the secular world, and having secular friends and all of that. So maybe those things I buried might start to rise up again. I remember just still dealing with some questions. And I actually when I saw I was in Nashville for a year. And then when I moved back, I decided I wanted to come back to where I'm from. And when I came back, I actually got a job working at a church as a, I guess my title was intern, which I have issues with, because I was paid. But I was, but not that internships can't be paid. But I was an intern, I think it was youth group intern was maybe my technical title on my contract. However, I called myself the student ministry coordinator, because that was, quite frankly, I was the student ministry, there was it it was a very small church in the student ministry, it was very small, and they just needed to hire someone part time to sort of establish a ministry, it really and I, so that was very, I was there. My contract was for two years, it was part time. And the job itself was very administrative. So it was kind of, you know, that typical female church role of, you know, they females work on the staff, well, they work in the children's ministry, and they do admin, you know, or the same thing for the student ministry, I was admin, I was never considered, you know, the pastor or anything like that, because I didn't have those credentials. However, it was required of me to teach lessons every Sunday and leave Bible study, but I was just strictly, you know, the coordinator.

Arline  32:11  
The requirement of having testicles, really does put a damper on things are some of this

Audrey  32:18  
exactly, and unfortunately, I do not have balls. So I was the intern or the coordinator or what have you. Um, but this church is very small. I was. At the time I was working there, there was only four people on staff. So including that. Yeah, so it was a pastor worship, Pastor me, the student ministry, and then another person who was definitely the church wouldn't have run without her. The admin gal that was pretty much the pastor's right hand, everything, you know, fell on her pretty much is what I would say. And I never knew what she was paid, but I bet you wish she was undefeated. But, so that was ultimately very unfulfilling. And I just, I would never have said that, you know, when I was in it, but looking back on it I felt the whole time that I was there, that I wasn't doing a good job. Because I it didn't come natural to me to you know, part of being a student ministry coordinator or leader or what have you is, you know, showing up to things for the students on random weekends and going to their homecoming and sort of being in their life and I'm sure people listening to this can resonate with that, you know, that cool youth group gal or guy that showed up to your homecoming pictures or went to your high school events just to say hey, and you know, be in your life. And I was very much so I would that was not natural for me, you know, going to grab a coffee with a student. It's just it wasn't I didn't love it. And I always felt very conversation felt very forced. I don't think anybody that was on the other side of those coffee dates when we would have said that but it was never I was never I never felt fully comfortable. Doing those kinds of outreach things. It felt forced, it felt in genuine like, the whole purpose in meaning behind me meeting for coffee with you is to really, you know, how's your heart?

Arline  34:48  
It's not I like this person. We're friends. Let's hang out and do a thing it here is part of my job and part of my job is hanging out with these kids but I've checked off this box I did this I went to this soccer game like that, that isn't loving, it doesn't feel loving.

Audrey  35:05  
Absolutely, I couldn't have said it better myself, it just being on the other side of it, having that church paycheck, you know, all the things that you do seem very and genuine. And I use this word before, but just like working at the camp, kind of de romanticized camp, for me, working at the church completely de romanticize the church for me. And that really was where the threads started pulling a little bit more and a little bit more. And I the whole time that I was there, I was wrestling with this, you know, I feel like I'm pouring out and pouring out and pouring out, but no one is pouring into me, I feel completely drained. I'm not really connecting to what I'm doing here, because I feel like it's coming from a place of engine Uranus. Yes, while I did form relationships with some, you know, high school girls and students that I still today, you know, think of in love, I don't reach out to them just because I don't think that that would be appropriate, just for where I am. And I don't have no idea where their worldviews are. And obviously, they're all older, probably college age now. But it's just looking back on it coming from this place of how can I lead you in love and guide you in love if I don't really feel connected to what I'm supposed to believe in? I was just impostor syndrome, like I, this is not. I'm not connecting here to what people are telling me to connect to. And then on top of that, I am required to now teach it to these people that I are young and impressionable. But I'm not really connecting to it. So how am I even supposed to teach it to them? So I got to the end of my contract, and I that was it, I was just like, Okay, I'm gonna leave all the while I had been getting my personal training certification, this was back in 2017 2018, getting certified as a personal trainer. So Little did I know that would completely set off the trajectory of you know, what I do now in my career, but fell in love with that whole industry. So that's kind of what I pivoted to after working at the church. And I had been training part time because the job at the church was also part time. So two part times make a full time. I was a busy gal. But all that today, the contract ended. Right around it. August of the pandemic of 2020. Oh, wow. So yeah, so I did the whole youth group thing from March to August, like virtually, which was a disaster. I was trying to pivot and figure out, you know, how to navigate that. And then of course, came to the end of my contract. And that was it for me, and, to be honest, took quite a long hiatus from going to church. And I knew when I my contract was up that I would I wanted and needed a break for myself almost like my own sabbatical. Because I had been pouring out so much. And I was just like, I don't even want to go to church. I just want to take a break. I'll listen to the podcasts, I'll listen to sermons, what have you, but I don't want to set foot in church for quite a bit

so it was throughout that process, that things kind of changed a little bit foggy for me, I guess is what I would say things became a little bit foggy.

Arline  39:17  
And what do you mean, what does foggy mean?

Audrey  39:20  
I would say I, I feel like a huge frustration and almost like a burden is that I, I always carried around so much Christian guilt. And I hated that, that during that period where I took time off from going to church, I was wracked with guilt for doing that. And dealing with that frustration and feeling like starting to feel disconnected. But not minding. Not good Going to church was a chore for me. And so finally it got to the end of those eight months or what have you. And I was like, okay, Sunday's the day, I'm gonna go, we're gonna go to church, I'm going to try something new, I definitely didn't want to go to the church that I had worked out. So I actually tried to go to the Woodstock City Church, because my husband and I are actually moving close to the church, not for the church. But we were in the process of moving out of our apartment to a, we were building a new construction home. So I knew that we were going to be in this area. So I started just perusing seeing what kind of churches were out here and started going there. My husband actually never went with me, even though, I asked him if he wanted to come, but again, never wanted to pressure him. So again, that was what I was wrestling with kind of like, maybe he doesn't, you know, want to do this anymore. I'm a little bit confused, because I thought, you know, I had this whole idea that we were going to be, you know, the Christian family and our kids in the church and all this stuff. So I was kind of dealing with a little bit of fear that I didn't know where he was. And so you know, months go on, I would infrequently visit the church, but I guess foggy just meant, I started dealing with frustration and doubt and almost jealousy of, you know, he sleeps in on Sunday, and doesn't feel bad about not going to but we weren't really having conversations about it, but I was jealous I want to sleep in but I have this Christian guilt. So I have to drag my ass out of bed, and you know, get up and go and then not really feel anything from what I just heard. You know that that whole you want to emotionally I'm uh, I was very much you know, I'm a singer and, you know, creative. So worship was a big thing for me and you want to feel that Holy Spirit, you know, rush of fire and you know, what have you but just stuff wasn't sitting right for me. And so I eventually, I remember distinctly sitting down with him at dinner. And I keep I keep using the phrase stuff didn't sit right with me and not really getting into the detail. Because at the time, that was all it was I it was so much cognitive dissonance, that I don't even think I could verbalize to you what doubts I was struggling with. It was just something wasn't right. So I feel like once I get past this portion of my story, I'll be able to explain the things that didn't sit right with me. But at that point, it was just like that feeling of something's not right here.

Arline  43:06  
Something's not right.

Audrey  43:08  
Something's not right here. And I don't know what it is. But I remember we were at dinner, my husband and I and we had just come to see our house for like, the last time before we like moved into. It's very, it was definitely like the closing of a chapter the newness it was very timely, but we were at dinner. And I remember going into the dinner with this. This plan to sort of ask him where he was in terms of his fate. And you know, how he was what that has turned into, because I've noticed that you haven't really wanted to come to church with me and that kind of thing. And I don't really know what happened, but it was like, I opened my mouth to start to say that. And then it was it became a conversation of I've actually been really struggling like, is this something that I want to do? And he was like, eyes wide like, Oh, finally like, Oh, yes, talk about this, because he was all the while Little did I know having his own deconversion and didn't want to say it to me, because, you know, every you know how that goes. One person's a Christian one versus not what's that going to do to our relationship? This is something that really matters to her, you know, and I don't want to I think ultimately his heart and I so appreciate and love him for this. But he didn't want to persuade me he didn't want to be the reason why I decided that I wasn't a Christian anymore. My husband

Arline  44:47  
was the same way like he told me we had what we called our one on ones because that was like our like time to talk about the hard stuff happening in you know, marriage, parenting work, whatever. And he told He could not believe anymore. And multiple people have said on the podcast, you don't suddenly decide not to believe you just realize, I don't think I believe the same. And he told me, but yeah, he didn't want to tell me anything more or keep having conversations because he was afraid he didn't want me to go through because it was very important to me to go through what he went through. He didn't want to talk to the boys about it, because they were young and impressionable. And he did. But because he loves us, He cares about us. Now, we did fight, because I was like, if it's not true, then you need to tell us because I was not I did not take it kindly. Whenever he then led me that, you know, that's my own story. But yes, I understand. You don't want the other person to go through what you know, destroy the thing that they love. Yeah,

Audrey  45:49  
exactly. Exactly. And I think I still relate to you in that way of, except for the fact of the matter of I was already kind of unraveling when we had that conversation. So thankfully, I will i am just, I'm very, very, very happy with the timing of that, because I feel like spirit, serendipity right. That we were able to sort of both open up? Well, I don't want to say both of us, because he obviously had been going through silently for a couple of years, which I you know, that that I feel for him in that I can't I don't know what that's like, so I am. I'm so grateful that he's stuck around right? Here. I am like working at a church all the while I'm like, you want to come to church on Sunday? He's probably like, Hell, no, I don't want to go to church. But I love you. So I guess you know, but again, he would, thankfully was not super open at the time. Because I couldn't have handled it, I really don't think that I could have handled it. And he was wise enough to know that it was not the right time. So when I opened my mouth to have a conversation about are you a Christian? Because I am actually turned into a conversation. Are you a Christian? Because I actually am not sure I am either. Which I just I don't know, it was almost like, I think it's kind of interesting to think about. It was like one side of my brain knew the conversation that I was supposed to have with him. And the other side of my brain knew the conversation that I needed to

Arline  47:33  
have with. That's interesting. Yeah.

Audrey  47:36  
My mind knew that something wasn't right. But the Christian side of me, the Audrey, you have to be a dedicated what godly woman like you need to talk to your husband about where he is in his faith, because this is this is going to be an issue in your marriage or whatever. And the fact of the matter. No, it's not, you guys need to just get on the same page here, because both of you are going through it and you're not talking about it. So that just kind of the floodgates opened. And I would say that Mark did a very significant date for me, but also like, my relationship with my husband comes in, completely changed in the best way. Because, yeah, because I no longer was like dealing with this. Oh, we're not, you know, equally yoked or that. I hate that term. Now, just like wool makes my makes me nauseous, really. But like, there was no longer that. Okay, how do I phrase this in the Christian bubble that I was born and raised. And most a lot of people listening to this might relate to this, there's like a standard, there's a way that your marriage should look like and the way that you should portray yourself to other fellow Christians. And if I was looking at our relationship, outside looking in, did not meet that standard. So I was the word is concerned, too, go from a dinner, being concerned and then to leave a restaurant being like, oh, my gosh, I have a peer, a fellow person that I can finally like, unburden all of my doubts to and not feel condemned or judged. And I'm also you know, fuck being equal to whatever that means. Like, I love this man. And there's nothing It was almost like for me there was this like barrier between us. And you know, he's gonna he's probably gonna listen to all of this first time, but there was like this wall that that I was this wall of concern. And that's the only way I know. And then it was like once I was able to eliminate that wall of concern, there was no longer a barrier between us. And I just felt it's so interesting because you didn't have that Bible verse like you. You become one

Arline  50:17  
that you felt that happened,

Audrey  50:19  
right? It was in that moment, that I finally felt like, oh my god, this is my person, and it had nothing to do with a deity. It was just like, Oh, finally, I feel like I can take a deep breath. And that was amazing. And that was like, I would say that conversation was, you know, I've been referencing like a slow thread unraveling. Or people have said, you know, the statue has crumbled, or the foundation starts getting chipped out, shut down, shut down, and then once it crumbles, or once that scarf unravels, there's, it's quite frankly, impossible to put back together. Right? Yes. So, after that night, I would, I would say that was the statue crumbling for me.

I have felt like the past year of my life, I have met myself for the first time. And the Audrey that existed underneath the I am an onion essentially, like referencing Shrek, I feel like my whole entire life, I had been putting on layers of myself to fit a mold that everyone in my Christian bubble wanted me to be, especially my parents. And what are reference? A huge part of my unraveling was the realization that I didn't choose this belief system, this belief system was I was born into it. And it was quite literally force fed to me from the time that I could talk. And then not until I'm 28 years old, or 27, I don't even know how not into my upper, you know, upper 20s had this realization of not only was I forced by this religion, but it was so wrapped up in pleasing the people that were in charge of me, even after they weren't in charge of me anymore. How twisted is that? And obviously, I love my parents and I did the best they could, they really did with with their worldview. They loved me in the best way that they knew how to, and they still do. But I think it's very important. And it was very important for me to recognize and find out through therapy, etc. that a large part of what I was trying to be back to that onion, that those layers, I was trying to appear to be the person that they wanted me to be. Yeah. And because of that, those layers hid the root of who I really am my opinions, what I care about, you know, what I actually think is right, and just, you know, it was almost immediately after having the conversation with my husband, I was like, Okay, no more sermons for me, I immediately started looking up, you know, atheists podcast,

Arline  53:53  
you just jumped like,

Audrey  53:55  
immediately, literally, I have not listened to a worship song or a sermon since that dinner. So I immediately jumped. That's actually how I found this podcast, which I am so thankful for, because that's been a big part of my deconversion as well, but I started listening to it's called Voices of deconstruction by Steve hilliker. I don't know if that name sounds familiar, but I quite literally found the podcast just I think I typed in like deconversion in the search bar, and Spotify is how I find a lot of my podcasts anyway, just like a keyword. But I typed deconversion in my search bar, and found his podcast and I started listening. And I remember the very first girl that he interviewed or the very first podcast that I listen to, um, he interviewed a bisexual girl and she was talking about, you know, just with her sexuality and how she said the phrase, I couldn't subscribe to her religion. That didn't allow me to love all people. Oh, wow. And I was just like, I was running, but I almost stopped. It was just like, holy shit. What have I been doing? Like, just wanted to weep because that's that. That's it for me. Like, if I could boil it all down, I don't want to subscribe to I mean, there's a million other things at this point now that I could say this is it for me this is it for me this is it from that I think we all can relate to that of there's just a slow unraveling of in this in this in this and I, I think I felt shared full transparency before we started that I was like, a little bit unprepared because I feel like there's just so many things that I am gonna forget to mention. And it might take me a while to get to the point of my of my deconversion. But I remember hearing her say that. And, you know, she was sharing how she, you know, had struggled with her sexuality. And then when she, you know, obviously was able to go through the process of de converting and accepting herself for who she was, and being bisexual and all of that. It just was so eye opening for me. And honestly, I doubt a little bit for a while of just feeling horrible for subscribing to a worldview that as much as I said, it didn't matter. At the end of the day, there's that rhetoric, it does depend on what set of religion of Christianity that you belong to. But there's that rhetoric of that I don't even want to say it because it makes me want to throw up but the love the sinner Hate the sin. The phrase, it's like, That doesn't even make sense. Like, if you're hating a part of who someone is at their core, then you're hating them. Like it's not, you can't separate the two. And so I think that was a huge thing. For me. It's like, okay, I immediately know to be a Christian. I just like had this moment of Yeah, that's not who I am anymore. Absolutely not. And I have never felt in the week of like that dinner with my husband and the week following. I felt like I was floating on air. Like I had never felt more free in my whole entire life. To get to a point where I was walking around and not feeling guilty for every little decision that I made or questioning. I think for me, a huge thing was I always wanted to you know, be in the Lord's will and do what he wanted for my life. So every single every damn decision was prayed about, you know, and gosh, that is tiring. It's exhausting.

Arline  58:07  
I remember when I consciously I didn't I didn't know I was deconversion. I didn't know you don't know what's happening. You just, you're just you're just asking questions or whatever. I remember when I was like, I don't think I'm gonna pray about stuff anymore. And I don't remember exactly why I decided that. But it was like my brain like my I have ADHD. So my brains already busy. But it was just like, my brain just slowed down. And I was like, Have I really been causing this this whole time? Like, the just constant hamster wheel inside my mind of I need to pray about this. Is God gonna answer? What's God's answer going to be? Do I need to read in the Bible? Do I need to look for signs? Do I need to ask them? I mean, like, and then it was just like, I'm done. And my brain just slowed down? Absolutely. Yes.

Audrey  58:55  
I feel like when I made that decision of, yeah, this isn't working for me anymore. I felt like I was able to take a deep breath for the first time in my whole entire life. Like to really know, it was like 100 pounds had been on my ribcage and I didn't know the difference. You didn't know. I didn't know what it felt like to walk around without 100 pounds on my ribcage. And so when I was able to take that deep breath, it was like, I was just realizing so many things about my upbringing, so many things about my past so many belief systems and neurological pathways that I had, like, two that started to unravel. That's a huge one. I'm just like, catching yourself in these thought processes of guilt and then being realizing, Oh, I don't need to feel guilty about thinking that, you know, or doing that, you know, and also I think for me, it was at the end For the last kind of year of my Christianity, I feel like it could be boiled down to I'm just believing in this because I'm scared of the alternative. Yeah. And I shared that with my husband. And he said something to me at that dinner. He said, I said, You know what, what happens when we die? That's really scary. What if, you know, I don't want to go to hell. And he was like, what if when you die, you just die. And that's it, you're just dead, you pretty much disintegrate and you lived your life. And there's nothing that happens after. And I was like, that sounds really good actually. Like, I like that. And whereas a year before, that might have terrified me to think God, eternal life doesn't exist. And then to be in a place with where I believe now is that, you know, I don't claim to know everything, I know that there are things that we can explain. And that is, I'm happy to just kind of leave it at that. And I will never say that, like, my belief is the absolute correct belief, because I just don't think that anybody really knows. But I'm happy to believe that when I die, I just die. And I am okay, I'm satisfied with that. And honestly, it's super free, because it just is more motivation to live a life that I really am, I love and enjoy. I agree. It's like now

Arline  1:01:31  
this life is way more important. So let's, you know, whatever the things that we value, let's be sure that we do them. Exactly.

Audrey  1:01:39  
And I think a huge thing for me was that realizing, I, there's this sort of this dialogue, and this way of thinking, as a Christian, at least from my background of like, life is just a drudgery, life is something that you have to kind of get through to get to the good part, which is heaven. Like, we're servants, we're bond servants of Christ. And this is just the, this is like the time we have to surf in order to get that mansion in the sky. And so, first of all, it's a horrible, sad way to approach life my opinion, because then you're just living your, you know, 75 Hopefully yours that you have on this planet in this sort of mindset of I'll just get through it, you know, just get through it. And now it's like, no, I have, I have maybe 55 solid, good more years on this earth, and I'm going to try to milk it for all it's worth.

The other thing that I was, quote unquote, scared about was that argument you always hear of like, what it's making you be a good person, if you're not a Christian, you know, it's like I can, I can be a decent human, and not be connected to a deity. And I can also there are aspects of Christianity that I can value and that I can teach to my kids, not the religious aspect of it. But you know, I think it is a wonderful thing to be a person of integrity. I think it is a wonderful thing to be a person who, you know, is honest in the in in his kind. But I don't have to say, you know, this is the Bible verse that tells you that you need to do that right.

Arline  1:03:43  
Now we we still use the phrase, love your neighbor as yourself. And that's why you have to brush your teeth, children, like you're going to be around your friends and you love them. Please brush your teeth. It's Jesus. Like, this is why we love our neighbor.

Audrey  1:04:04  
Yeah. All right. Um, so all that to say, I'm definitely spent about a year sort of detoxing, I guess, if you will, from the Christian garb. The Christian diet that I had been on for my life, really, honestly, that's the best way of saying it. Like I put my Bible in a box in the attic when we moved in. Haven't gone up there since. Like, I don't maybe I'll get to a place where I want to go, you know, from a different perspective, sort of read and just for information sake, but I have just been, you know, eating up all the podcasts and listening to all the things that I would have felt guilty for listening to before are, you know, really just diving into everyone else's, everything outside of the bubble has been for the past year. And it's just been super enlightening. A bit disturbing. To realize the brainwashing that I went through. I know that sounds that that term is kind of thrown around. And it seems like harsh, but in reality is a little bit brainwashing, you know, to be, you know, put through. And so that sort of crumbling started last October. And I, I knew I wanted to come on this podcast, but I because I had this, this community has meant so much to me. And I felt like, maybe I'll share my story, because I feel like there's a lot of people out there that might have a similar one. And just like a lot of people that have been on this podcast have said the same thing. And I've related to a lot of people. So I was hoping that, you know, maybe someone would hear this and say, Oh, my gosh, I went to summer camp to and that you never know. But I wanted to take a year to just sort of, like I had mentioned earlier, unwrap the onion, D layer myself and figure out who I actually was the center of all of the outer clothing and layers I had put on to fit the mold that people wanted me to be. And I really, really love the person that's underneath all of that. And the confidence that I have found in myself back to how I was saying I needed to take this year to detox. I took a whole year to process because I knew that I want to tell my mom, but I didn't want to tell her as it was happening. I wanted it to be this has happened this is where I am now. So take that and process it how you will because

Arline  1:07:15  
yeah, Audrey, you are not responsible for how they respond, which is something else. So I have had to learn as a full grown adults. Yes, that is my responsibility.

Audrey  1:07:27  
That has been such a huge source of battle for me and realization that I have control over information that I care to share. I have control over the way I present said information, I have control over my own reactions and the words that come out of my mouth, I have Zerbo control over what that person on the other side wants to say how they want to react, also their own thoughts that are in their head that I don't know, I don't need to concern myself of what they now think of me because it's none of my business.

I have had two best friends from the time I was in eighth grade at that private Christian school until now. And I told them as kind of like my prep to tell my mom, I also waited a year to tell them and that was really difficult. At least in my story. That was what I was the most terrified of doing. Because I had grown up in this bubble and every, every my community, everybody was a Christian. So I got to this point of like, what do I do? You know, how do I move forward? I know that the second that I tell my two best friends, it's going to completely change the dynamic of our relationship. Because we are best we have been best friends. But a lot of that friendship has been deep talks about our faith in our Christian unity. And that was sort of the thread that connected us. But telling them I was like, Okay, once I told her, I felt like I could be my authentic self. The reason why that was this is such an important part of my story is because my relationship with my mom, very much so really correlates with my relationship with God because it was like, Oh, wow. We've been very close, but a huge sort of foundation of our closeness in our relationship with our spirituality. And I think she and I connected because my dad's not super outspoken about his faith, and none of my brothers really We're and so for us to have that mutuality and connection there. And then also to see, you know, always hear from her, like, you're just the daughter, I always wanted, and I love you so much. And I'm so happy that you're the person that you are, you know, hearing that my whole life and then sitting down to dinner with my mom and saying to her, you know, how do you tell somebody something that you know, is going to break their heart? Yeah. Without a doubt, it's not like, Oh, I hope this doesn't affect her. It's, this is going to affect her in a major way. And it is going to affect our relationship, it's going to affect the dynamic that I have with my parents right now. So I sat down with dinner with her. Well, I had it all out, laid it on the table. I had, I went into the conversation, trying really hard to not have any expectations of the way that she was going to respond, because I didn't want to sort of set myself up for disappointment and failure. You know, I'm so sat down with dinner, waiting on the table. At first, I remember her saying, you know, it just seems so saddened to me, you're not one to make a rash decision, you know, like, like, Mom. It's been a year. Since I have decided I want to tell you, so it's definitely a year of me mulling this over officially. But it's been about three, four years in the making, I'd say. So this is where I am now. It was probably the most emotionally draining conversation I have ever had in my life. I told her that in this is just all because of the closeness that we shared. And the foundation of our love, I guess. And I remember, there was two pivotal things. One of the things that and maybe someone out there listening to this is struggling with knowing how or when, or if to tell their parents if that's like a difficult thing. And this is true, just for me, it might be true for someone else. But my mom loves me, my dad loves me. I had to come to a realization of, okay, I know my mom. And I know that I know her heart. And I know that once I share this with her, while it will change our dynamic, she's not going to stop loving me. So there's really and you know, if she does it, my business is none of my business. So I kind of had to had that, quote, unquote, come to Jesus meeting with myself, to use that terminology. And I shared it with her. And at the end of the conversation, I'm a big apologizer I understand that I'm learning that to apologize to Yep, that word sorry, has been a battle for me my whole entire life. And something I'm trying really hard to only say when it is appropriate for me to say. And at the end of the conversation, I said, you know, mom, everything in me right now wants to say sorry for something. But I'm not. And I hope that we can move past this. But, you know, I know you're going to need to take your own time to sort of process and it's new for you. Well, it's not new for me. So that's kind of where we left it. I asked her that she would tell my dad, because I didn't really feel like I felt like I owed it to tell my mom because of our relationship. My dad and I had never really had a super close spiritual relationship. So I didn't really feel like I and I also knew that he would not react the way that my mother did. And he is very my dad is very conservative, very, this is the way that you do it. And if you do it differently from this, then you're wrong and you're stupid. Yeah, so So kind of close minded there. I haven't asked her how he responded. Ultimately, my family's pretty conservative and it is interesting to go from being the perfect child to now kind of watching the vibe of I am the black sheep which I've never been in my whole entire life. But then also, I came to the realization that like we had been saying earlier that night after I shared with my mom, I thought that I was going to immediately feel this sense of like, relief. And my drive home, of course, I was bawling, because I just like, it was like a release for me, but a work home and I was like, why do I still feel just kind of icky. And it was because my brain was diverting to those neurological pathways of I want to please her, I want to please her. And also, I caught myself thinking, I hope she doesn't think a BNC about me, I hope she doesn't think this about me, I hope she doesn't think this about me. And then I got eyebrows like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, it doesn't matter. It does not fucking matter what she thinks about me anymore. I'm my own woman. I am really happy with the woman that I have started becoming right. I love my mom. We love her so much. I love my dad, I love my family. And I know that they loved me in the way that the best way that they knew how. But now I have to kind of remove myself, take a step back and accept that their perception of me has now changed. And it's not in my business, and I can still love them. And I can accept the the secret elbow nudges in the side eyes, and what have you, and what might come when we start having kids and the problems that might, you know, ensued from that dynamic. But I'm so happy with

the trajectory of this deconversion. While it has been incredibly challenging. I don't know, I just would encourage other people that if there are things that they're afraid to sort of tap into or unravel because of fear. Just do it bit by bit, you know, go in a little bit. And you might find that, okay, this is scary, but I'm feeling better. I feel like I'm finding clarity. And it's just interesting to I'm trying to wrap up here, but I think a huge part, not only mentioning, you know, the development of self confidence and just becoming sure of who I am, but my whole 2022 I set out to reconnect with my body. Because there's such a disconnect when you're, quote, unquote, living that Christian in that Christian perspective of, you know, that verse like the the adorning of your body or whatever. The you know, there's so much a highlight on you or your soul. And that's it. And I have lived my entire life in my head. And I I should have mentioned this earlier, but I'm a wellness specialist, I'm I said, I'm a trainer. So my my profession is very much so in the body. And I also just recently got my yoga certification. So I would say yoga has been a huge, huge lifesaver.

It's so incredible, how once I stepped away from Christianity, how I was able to gain a better understanding of how to actually take care of myself, because beforehand, taking care of myself just meant working on my relationship with the Lord.

Arline  1:19:14  
Anything more be selfish.

Audrey  1:19:16  
Exactly, exactly. And now that I am in, or self care is selfish, you know, that kind of mindset, that kind of dialogue and now that I'm on the complete opposite spectrum, where I actually tell people all day or on how to take care of themselves and remind them to take care of themselves. It's just been it's been great. What else say and it's just, uh, you know, I am every day, sort of unraveling bits and pieces of my past and dealing with them as they come and taking deep breaths and trying not to be angry you And, you know, learning who I am, and tragically beautiful.

Arline  1:20:10  
It's amazing. And that was 28 years. It's been one year, you know, it's a journey. And there's so much to grieve so much to be angry about too much to move past. So I mean, it just, there's not a here's the timeline. And this is how things will work out.

Audrey  1:20:24  
Exactly, exactly. And I am thankful though, that it, it has happened when it has happened because my husband and I don't have children yet. We might kids. But I'm really happy that I am going to be able to, you know, right from the beginning, not have to deconstruct or not have to teach them something that I don't really, you know, believe in anyway. And also, I'm excited to give them the freedom to decide whatever they want to

Arline  1:20:55  
leave it. We homeschool and it's been fun to see like, I used to be really scared of like, Greek mythology, Roman mythology, indigenous wisdom, you know, these ancient stories, because they were so similar to the ones I was supposed to tell them are true stories. Oh, yeah. So we would just kind of like say, there are other stories, and then we would just move on. And now it's like, we can just read anything and talk about it. And it's so fun. And we can we can, we can love all these stories of how the birds used to talk and the animals used to talk and all you know this, God ate this other god and then spit out humans like it's so fun, like, and we can just enjoy it without having to be afraid of any of it or thinking of it's true. We can just and the boys of course, you know, they're going to like anything that says, you know, one God ate another god and then spit out?

Audrey  1:21:46  
Yes, I mean, absolutely. I can't wait like some of the things that I was sheltered from as a child. I cannot wait. Like one thing. This is kind of silly. But Harry Potter not allowing me. Yep, I so to this day, I'm almost embarrassed to say like, I have never watched a Harry Potter movie, maybe one. And I've never read a Harry Potter book. But the reason now I'm holding out because I want to like read them to my kids and experience that for the first time and like, let them love it. Because obviously, it's a great series from everyone and their mother. But he's like that. And even this is, again, another thing that I'm embarrassed about. But I've learned evolution for the first

Arline  1:22:31  
time. I did to I'm a decade older than you Yes, I

Audrey  1:22:35  
understand. That is how sheltered my education was in I was that made me angry. Because how can you choose what you want to believe in if you're not even taught the other part? So that's huge for me is like I am definitely my kids education is going to be well rounded. It's going to be from a Christian perspective, because I think that'd be some damage. So that is another thing that I'm just like, Okay, I went to the museum. I think it's like the Natural History Museum in Georgia. I can't remember it's in Atlanta, but they have like, a fun Fernbank yes, they had this event called Night at the Fernbank. And it was so fun because it's like, they shut down and they serve alcohol. And so it's like you go and you can walk through the museum and just get a drink at each station. I went with our group of friends but I was there like reading everything like guys, this is amazing. And they're all like yeah, pretty cool stuff. We learned it back and didn't know about this faultline in Georgia. How I know that that is someone who's probably listening to this thinking this girl is completely sheltered. But it's true. Like I I didn't have the opportunity. And nor nor did I have the confidence in myself to go and seek out the other people's perspectives. It was I only knew one way and I was too afraid to veer from the one way that I knew. So yeah, all that to say, teach your kids evolution, folks.

Arline  1:24:24  
Audrey, this has been so lovely. I have enjoyed this so much. Thank you. Thank you for telling us your story. This has been wonderful.

Audrey  1:24:33  
Thank you for letting me I hope that this might be helpful to maybe one soul out there. So I I do appreciate thanks for dealing with my ramblings.

Arline  1:24:44  
There will be lots of people who can relate to to a lot of your story. It's it's wonderful. It's always amazing to me. Everybody's story is unique and so many things overlap. So many things. So, thank you again for being on. Thanks for having In

my final thoughts on the episode, Audrey was an absolute delight to speak with. I know her story is going to resonate with lots of people who she's becoming now, realizing that the person she is now is the person she always was. But she was unable to be that woman able to be that little girl. She had to cover up in layers, like an onion, like an artichoke, but like it's being peeled back. And she's realizing who she is. And the confidence she's gaining, exerting her presence, no longer apologizing for just existing, but being able to be her whole self, her true self like, this is an absolutely beautiful thing. And I know that there are so many men and women, women, especially, but also men, who know what it's like to spend decades of your life being somebody else, because that's what God's will is for your life, or that's what your church says is best for you. That's what someone else has put on you. And being able to have the freedom to change and to I guess, unlearn so many things to reveal your true self. That's a good thing. It's a beautiful thing. And the world needs more of those people. And so, again, Audrey, thank you so much for telling your story and letting me be a part of hearing it.

David Ames  1:26:45  
The secular great start of the week is about radical acceptance. I've been thinking about this from last week's guests, Taylor Yoder, this week's guest Audrey and my discussion on the beyond atheism podcast with Nathan Alexander and Todd Tavares. A lot of the conception of secular grace comes from some of my experience with 12 steps when I was very young, and my mom was in early recovery. And it was about watching someone tell their story. Sometimes horrifying stories, sometimes stories that talked about really, truly hurting people. And then washing that group of people love and accept that person. And what I'm not saying is that they condone it, they weren't saying it was okay. They weren't saying it was right. They were saying that they loved that person. And they were gonna love them through their recovery process in that context. I'd been pulling that out into secular grace, in the recognition that we as human beings need to feel accepted, to feel loved. And a couple of things that Audrey and Taylor said, Taylor last week said, after she d converted, she realized that, you know, there was no one following her around judging her. And Audrey talked about just the guilt that she felt that constant guilt. And it is letting go of the Christian conception of sin and the guilt and the sense of being judged constantly, not just by God up above, but from the community of faith that you belong to. The experience of coming out of that and being authentically yourself. And this doesn't mean that you don't make mistakes, To err is human. To forgive is also human. It is the human experience that we are not perfect, and that's okay, and we can embrace ourselves and our humanity. Everything about this podcast has been about embracing our own humanity and bracing the humanity of others. Once we have come to a wholeness for ourselves, we can give that away we can be the person who hears the story from someone else and loves them through it. We have some great episodes coming up. We've got community members, and as well as Stacey who goes by apostasy, which I just absolutely love. And then in early March, we have Jennifer Michael Hecht, and we're going to have our four year anniversary podcast where we're going to talk about movies we like that talk about secular grace and deconversion. In fact, if you're out there, send us your recommendations on movies and TV shows that have a element about secular grace or deconversion. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings. The beat is called waves by MCI beats Do you want to get in touch with me to be a guest on the show? Email me at graceful for blog posts, quotes, recommendations and full episode transcripts head over to graceful This graceful atheist podcast, a part of the atheist United studios Podcast Network

Transcribed by

Anne: Deconversion Anonymous

Adverse Religious Experiences, Artists, Autonomy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Dones, ExVangelical, Podcast, Religious Abuse, The Bubble
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This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

This week’s guest is Anne. Anne grew up in a loving and happy Christian home in a large city where her father pastored a small reformed church.

“We were cloistered as this little wonderful diverse congregation.”

As a teen, her faith was very real to her, and a few years later, she attended a Christian college, but struggled mentally and physically. 

“I was trying to figure out what made me a christian aside from the fact that…I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t blah blah blah.”

Anne left that school and attended a Bible college, but she quickly realized she would be excluded from most ministry opportunities because of her gender.

“I thought, ‘You know? What is out there for me?’”

After a short and sometimes insulting experience in children’s ministry and then a sickness that went on for man years, Anne felt like God had “benched” her, but she continued praying and hoping.

“I was such a magical thinker…”

Over the next many years, Anne’s family met one obstacle after another—toxic or cult-like churches, physical and mental illnesses, Christians backing Trump and even loved ones passing away. Finally, she couldn’t take any more.

“I couldn’t hear from God…I couldn’t worship. I couldn’t hypnotize myself with the piano. I couldn’t do anything…[I was] done.”

Then during the Pandemic, Anne read a single book that made her stop and think for a moment. Then, her questions started coming and couldn’t be stopped. From the outside, it may seem like Anne’s deconversion was quick, but she had given God plenty of time to reveal himself. 


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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 am trying to be the graceful atheist. Consider telling a friend about the podcast share an episode that you've been in, or an episode that really touched you and that will grow the podcast. This Tuesday nights, we will have another deconversion anonymous hangout that will discuss the podcast and have this week's guests so please join us the Facebook group deconversion anonymous, join that first and then Tuesday night Come and meet many of the people who are part of the community. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's show. On today's show, my guest today is Anne, and has been a part of a number of different faith traditions beginning with Dutch Reformed Calvinists background, she worked with her father in an inner city missions Church in New Jersey, she's been a Baptist, she's been a charismatic in Foursquare and Assemblies of God, and eventually was in an organization called streams. That was very cult like, and the common theme throughout Ann's life is her leadership ability, her desire to do God's will her attempt to live out the Christian ideal, and yet tragedy besets her and she is held back by the role of women and ultimately is a part of a cult where things begin to unravel. And she begins to recognize the flaws in evangelicalism and that it no longer is workable for her. To sum up. Mike T's response to me was when is an going to write a book, it is that kind of story. So without further ado, here is an to tell her story.

And welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Anne  2:13  
Thank you. It's great to be here. David,

David Ames  2:16  
I appreciate you jumping on short notice. You're a part of our community deconversion anonymous, and I put out the call I needed I needed an interview and you are right there. But I am super excited about your story in particular, because I think adult D conversions are much more telling. And just as a quick example, I had a Christian research organization reach out to me and asked me about you know that I have any Gen Z's that I could refer them to which I would have said no anyway, but I pointed out to them that you know, if you're Gen Z, you're supposed to be questioning everything. You should really be looking at adults and why they have changes of heart whether deconstruction or deconversion. So anyway, I don't want to give away thanks. So let's, let's hear your story. And we'll begin with what was your faith tradition? Growing up?

Anne  3:07  
All right. So I am Dutch and I grew up in a Christian Reformed Church. So very Calvinist, yeah, um, I come from my father was a pastor, my grandfather, his dad was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. When we go way back, we even found some Jewish roots that that one of our forefathers was a rabbi. So you know, there's a long line of Bible teachers and scholars in the family. Yeah, I guess. Yeah. So my parents met at Calvin College, and my dad took a took a ministry opportunity in Paterson, New Jersey, which is right outside of New York City called inner city, it was in a mission. And he started a church in this mission. So they were giving out bread and soup to people on the streets. And he came and his job was to make it a church. And he did. And it was a it was a wonderful Inner City Church. It was, it was full of diversity, primarily African American, a little bit of Hispanic, you know, a few people from all over the world. And this was during the 60s. So as a civil rights movement, and all of the, all of the, you know, we shall overcome and all the civil rights movements were going on and we were cloistered as this wonderful, diverse congregation. It was it was fantastic. I mean, my mom and dad were great. My dad was the picture of love and acceptance. No judge mentalism. He helped all who had needs he was he was a fantastic preacher. He was just the real deal and everything. You know, and so it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I felt loved and embraced. And, you know, it was great. It was Yeah, I can't even say it enough. Yeah.

David Ames  4:58  
I think that you know, you You've probably heard me say, but I think it's important to recognize there are so many good things about being a part of a community being, you know, loved by people beyond your parents, you know, all of those things can be quite good. Obviously, we have people in the audience who have had more traumatic experiences when they were young, but it sounds like yours was really positive, got exposed to different cultures as well. And so that sounds really interesting.

Anne  5:25  
Yeah, yeah, we grew up singing all gospel music, black gospel music, you know, um, but at the same time, I went to Christian school, and the Christian School was, again, a bunch of cushy foreign people, all these Dutch immigrant kids who had moved to America, and we're second third generation. And they were more from the suburbs, they were more Republicans, whereas we were Democrats, they were more just, it was just kind of like this culture clash between what I was experiencing at church and what I was experiencing in school. And I had a hard time ever really fitting in anywhere in a way, you know, because the kids in my church, I went to the same schools and the kids in my school, I went to the same churches, and there I was kind of straddling the middle. Right. So I found that kind of hard. In a way, it was a very secular upbringing in the sense that the school didn't act very Christian. You know, we were there were the partiers, and you know, the druggies. And you know, all of that was still going on, you had a few people in there that were the Holy Rollers that I just didn't want to have any part of, because, you know, they were little dresses and carried their Bibles with them and had this weird smile on their face. Like they were in a cult. You know, I'm, I wasn't a partier, but I wasn't a holy roller. I was just kind of one of those middle line, kids, you know, just trying to get through. Yeah. And my family was very, they weren't strict about you know, what we wore, I wear bikinis and two tops, you know, we weren't all caught in the purity culture. This was kind of before that. I didn't have a curfew. You know, my parents didn't care what we watched on TV, I had all the latest records, I listened to meatloaf or everything else, you know, it just it didn't matter. It was all it was all good.

David Ames  7:24  
What time period are you growing up as the 70s or late or

Anne  7:28  
I grew up in? I was born in 61. So this is a 60s and 70s. So you know, I'm a total teenager during the FlowerPower movement and the hippie movement. And you know, like, behind that, and it was a Yeah. It wasn't Yeah. But you know, I, so I wasn't, you know, we had we read the Bible, every meal. We had devotions after every meal. I know, my dad would read the Bible after our dinner. And we don't lay around in the floor and listen to the Bible stories. And you know, talk about I'm going to laugh about things like, maybe God is set aside and Isaiah Isaiah, like, he's on the toilet. And then we thought that was the funniest thing. We want to hear that verse over and over again, crazy things like that. But I do think that the Christian Christianity influenced my growing up in a few ways, because my dad was absent a lot. He had, there were a lot of needs. And he was, you know, one of those pastors that met everybody else's needs and left it to my mom to raise us. And, you know, later on, he had a come to Jesus about that, and, you know, repented, and we had a hug, and you know, but if that was hard, because my dad was kind of more of the, my dad was the My mom was a strict disciplinarian. And my dad was the kind of listener, right, the pastoral care guy. So I was more like my dad. And I was, you know, kind of ADHD a little bit out there. I was emotionally impulsive, and my mom to her to be a Christian, especially a pastor's daughter with strict obedience. And I didn't fit that bill. So I got a lot of, you know, it wasn't easy. Yeah. It wasn't easy on me. And, and, you know, it's not till now that I look back on it, and I go, Oh, ah, you know, but then I just stuck. There was something wrong with me. I wasn't I wasn't good enough. I wasn't perfect enough. I had to be a perfect little Christian, you know. And, wow, I remember this one example. I was five years old. And my little best friend from school came to church with her grandmother, her grandmother was playing the organ. And she was sitting with me in the church pew and they were having communion. And when that communicate by we pretended to take the bread and we pretended to drink the cup, and my mother read me the riot act, she was furious, and I was in such trouble. I was five. Now she looks at it and she says, What was I thinking, you know, but back then it was serious business and I had blasphemed God You know,

David Ames  10:01  
yeah, I think it's so hard because kids take those things so seriously. And, and you know, Christianity in general is saying that, you know, you're a bad person. Like, that is the message and right when a kid starts to internalize that pretty young, that's not very healthy.

Anne  10:17  
Yeah, I didn't, I mean, I did and it wasn't healthy. I did, you know, have my whole Jesus acceptance when I was four, like, everybody else four and five. And, you know, it really came down to my Sunday school teacher who was also my babysitter who was a sweet little old grandma, who just loved Jesus and told us about how much she loved Jesus. And, and she had a little, that little picture of the white, you know, Jesus gave it to me, and I'm like, oh, I want him to come into my heart, you know, and that was it. So, yeah, I had all of that going up. But, but I wasn't, you know, I wasn't, I wasn't a holy roller. You know, I just kind of got by with what I could get by with and did my thing. So that was my growing up years.

David Ames  10:59  
In the Christian school where you mentioned, it was a little more secular. But did you have Bible classes? There was Was there a religious track? But yeah, definitely,

Anne  11:06  
we definitely had Bible classes. We, you know, had chapels. All our songs were Christian songs, you know, it was, you know, it's Christian, but, but it didn't, it didn't feel like beat you over the head Christianity, you know, it's just kind of like Christianity was part of it. And it was more of a, because it was more of a Calvinist kind of thing. It was more world life view. Right. So God was a part of every part of your life, but we didn't have to beat it into everything. You know, like, our history class didn't have to be all about God. And you know, you didn't even talk about God and your history class. So it was it was more of I thought, a balanced kind of environment. Yeah.

David Ames  11:52  
And then, because of five year olds, not really capable of making that kind of decision. When do you identify the time where you you decided for yourself that you wanted to be a Christian?

Anne  12:02  
Um, I think that would probably, well, I did make profession of faith, which was also a CRC thing. You at one point you, you take all your catechism classes and you spit, you know, you spit back all of the doctrine from John Calvin, the Heidelberg Catechism, and then you become a full fledged member. And that's when you can now take communion and not get in trouble for I was about 16 When I did that,

David Ames  12:32  
okay. Okay. And again, I guess what I'm trying to get out is internally, was that real for you? Was that something that was important to you personally? Or were you just kind of following along?

Anne  12:42  
No, it was very real. To me. It was very real to me. Um, I remember crying when my father was asking me questions. And he actually had a picture of me sitting there with all the council members and church people around me. And it was it was very emotional. Yeah. Very real. Yeah. So then I graduated high school, and I wanted to go to decorating school. Because I was an artist, I just really loved decorating. And my mom was like, No, you have to go to Calvin College, because that's where we went. And that's where everybody goes, and that's what's going to be good for you. So I go off to Calvin College, and I wasn't ready. I didn't want to be there. I struggled through college. I was there for two years. And I struggled because I don't know. I mean, there were all kinds of things going through me at that time. But I would go there skinny, I'd meet a lot of guys, you know, that's why I was. And I have all these boyfriends. And then as time went on, I started to gain weight because of the college food. And then my love, life started to shrink. And then I started to get miserable, and I developed an eating disorder. And then I would throw myself under the, you know, the blanket of God. And I would go into the prayer rooms, and I would just pray and pray and pray. God helped me God helped me and they always had two little prayer rooms in the dorm basements, they were all dark, and they put up little Christian posters. And they had like black lights in there. And they had a little bench and most people went in there to make out yeah, not me. I went in there to pray. So half the time I'd be in this little prayer room and then right in the prayer room next door with this thin wall, I'd hear some couple going at it, you know, and I was just praying, oh, God, you know, help me, help me be a better person and blah, blah, blah. So, um, each time like after the first year of college, I went back home, I got into Overeaters Anonymous, I lost all my weight. I went back to college again, all skinny again. All these boyfriends all these friends started to get away. Guy became a compulsive Overeater. Again, I was skipping half my classes that I didn't like, like biology. I was getting A's in my art classes. And I just, you know, I was just unstable. I was just so unstable. But, you know, I'd go out partying on the weekends and then on Wednesday nights out same prayer meeting and I just couldn't get my grounding, you know. Um, so I went back to New Jersey after two years, everyone just wanted me out of college, the professors encouraged. My grandparents, everybody was like, you just go home, you're a mess, you're a hot mess. So, I went home, and started working as a graphic artist got my weight back down, you know, I was now happy because I was back in my church that was loving and wonderful. And but then I realized I didn't have any friends anymore. My age, my friends, were all gone. I needed to meet people. So I ended up in a non denominational church in their young adults group, because that's where you're gonna get to meet people. Right? Right. So that's where I encountered more of the fundamentalist kind of faith. You know, they really drove home having daily devotional time, that was not something we ever really talked about in the CRC. Yeah. I got to see all this wonderful movies like a thief in the night and all those awful things. And I was more fascinated than terrified because we didn't adopt that view. And the CRC were more Amil. So, but at the same time, I thought, What if they're right, and this happens, and it you know, was a little scary. And, um, I was, I was, you know, just kind of getting to know that there were different expressions of faith that were going on.

In the meantime, I met a guy through a friend and he was a non Christian, and I started dating him and I fell in love with him. He was just the nicest guy. He, he was better than any of the Christian boyfriends I had ever had. Yeah, I was much more moral and consider it and wonderful than anybody. Okay. So things were going on. My parents were cool with it. It was all cool. And then one day my grandparents came to visit and this is my dad's parents. My grandpa was a pastor, my grandma was the most influential adult in my life. She loved me and spoiled me and wrote me letters. And, you know, she came and she said, Oh, no, no, no, you can't you can't date a non Christian.

David Ames  17:18  

Anne  17:22  
I was in trouble with grandma. She wrote me a letter, I read it, I, you know, I prayed about it. And that's when I felt God telling me to break up with my boyfriend. And so three days before my 21st birthday, I dumped this poor guy breaking his heart and mind. It was a terrible scene. And all I could say to him was, it's because you're not a Christian, you know, and which, Wow, that really went over big with his mom. And so I started digging deeper into my faith. And I was reading my Bible all the time. I started going through my dad's library and reading like Burke off and all of these bobbing and all of these doctrinal, you know, things, and I was studying doctrine. And I was trying to figure out what made me a Christian, aside from the fact that all I did was, I didn't drink and I didn't smoke, and I didn't wobble, blah, you know, I didn't know section, you know, this kind of thing. So I was trying to figure it all out. And I was really miserable. And my dad said to me, you know, you when I am miserable, I serve, which obviously, he did, because that's all he did. And so he got me involved in the church serving. And so I was running the youth group, and I was always doing the music and all this great stuff in church, but I got more involved. And at that point, the, the youth pastor at that time, and my father and my mother, and one week and all said to me, have you considered going to reformed Bible College? And I was like, ah, that's where all those Holy Rollers. Oh, my God, you know, just the whole thought of it just choked me. Yeah. But three people sent it to me in one weekend, so that must be God, right? I mean, obviously, it's not. So, we happen to be going out to Michigan, for my grandparents wedding anniversary, the same one that made me break up with a non Christian. And RBC was there. So I checked it out. And I sat there the whole time with my arms crossed. And you know, the girl has showed me around was the epitome of a holy roller. And I just, I just was like, God, I can't do this. Yeah. But somewhere during those fundamentalist times in the young adults group, I had decided that God's will and my will were two different things. So God would never want me to do something I wanted to do. So if I didn't want to do it, that must be gods but guess what I went. Here was a choice that I saw I was working as a graphic artist. I could have moved on to New York City and worked at an ad agency and made a lot of money and really been fulfilled. And instead, I went to Bible college, you know, like, get the most worthless degree you can possibly.

David Ames  20:12  
Tell me about it? Yes.

Anne  20:17  
So for three years, it was a four year school, but I could transfer two years from Calvin, I managed to find some of the classes I did fail and transfer them over for credits. And I actually had a really good time in Bible college, I made some really good friends. I excelled in my studies, I had a lot of fun, I loved doctrine and theology, I ate it up it was, it was a really positive experience. And I was really good at what I did. I had three professors pull me aside and talk to me. The first one was my sociology professor who told me I was going to write books, because she loved the way you know, my words were in writing. I was like, wow, cool, you know. And then another professor pulled me aside and said, You're so great at teaching, I'm going to, you're going to be writing curriculum materials. I'm like, well, that's cool. Well, yeah. And then the third woman, she was about ready to retire. She was 65. She was a very, you know, powerful woman. She pulled me aside and she said, I hate to tell you this, but you're a woman. And you're not gonna have any future ministry.

David Ames  21:22  
Wow. spoke the truth out loud there.

Anne  21:29  
She said, It's not right. It's not fair. But you've got nothing. Maybe you should go to Calvin College and get an elementary ed degree, you know, and I was just like, oh, cuz See, my dad always taught that women should be in church office. Yeah, my dad was advocating for that. And so here I am in this environment where there's so many of the guys they're like, No, you're a woman, you should be quiet, you know, and, and they'd be speaking up in class and pontificating. And if a woman talk, they just like not even listen. I mean, they were all so high on their laurels. And I was bound to prove them all wrong, right. But that was kind of a really moment of truth. I thought, you know, what is there out there for me?

David Ames  22:11  
Okay. Wow. Yeah. Yeah, so interesting. I, again, not like I think Bible College was a positive experience for me too. Same thing theology was, I just loved that. And I joke that the professors did too good a job of teaching basically critical thinking, and you know, so it's interesting, but the elements of being a strong leader and a woman that keeps coming up on people that I've been interviewing, and the struggle to know that that's something you're really good at, and that the systemic nature of the culture you're in is not going to allow you to do that. It must be really frustrating.

Anne  22:52  
It was it was frustrating, and I didn't take limitations. Well, you know, I was gonna challenge him every way I could, you know, I still had that youthful zeal. And so, um, yeah.

So after I graduated, I ended up going to Yosemite National Park, as in the Christian ministry, in the national parks movement, and I lead worship in the campgrounds and in the little chapel there for the summer, really fun, you know, met people from all over the world. And at that point, there was a church in Boca Raton, Florida. It was a huge PCA church that contacted me out of the blue, they had seen my picture in the banner, which was the cushy foreign publication. And so I was, you know, in Christian ed, and they said, Would you consider being our director of children's ministries, so I didn't have any job lined up. They flew me out from California to Florida. They they loved on me with the palm trees in the ocean and the pools and the I mean, it was gorgeous. And then the key lime pie and, you know, they just presented their best foot forward to me, this was a huge PCA church that was following Willow creeks model of evangelism. And, you know, we were like really close over there to Coral Ridge, which was, you know, Kennedy's Church and the evangelism movement, and they were all tied in together. And so this was a huge church that had over 1500 people at that time, that was like a mega church, because that was a long time ago, and 500 kids under fifth grade, fifth grade, and under that I would be responsible for all the programs. Wow. And I loved Florida, and they treated me really well. But there was this Clank in my gut that was like, I don't want to do this. So guess what, that must be God's will. Right. Woman and Yeah, they'll let me do children's ministries. So I took the job moved out there. And I was on the pastoral staff, you know, with all the pastors, except that they'd all go out to lunch without me because they were the boys club. And I was just the woman doing the children's ministries. And when I got there, the ministry was it was a hot mess. They had a woman before me was an elementary school teacher, and she didn't know anything about administration and a church kind of setting. So I took all my knowledge from Bible college, and I was good friends with my Christian Ed prof there, and I'd call them all the time and what books do I read. And I went in just revamped that whole program in a couple months, like I had, they couldn't get volunteers. I had 150 volunteers lined up. I had the nurseries running. Well, they were sterilizing all the toys. I had all the children's ministries running like Lego good shit, right? And then I decided, Okay, now that I have this all done, now, I want to really teach these kids to love Jesus, like I learned to love Jesus. So I'm working really hard on that. And I'm, I'm doing I'm using all my creative gifts and getting all this great worship going. And you know, I just thought it was just, I was just getting to get going. And at one point, in one of the pastoral meetings that I was in, I said that to the senior pastor, I said, you know, I really want to see these kids get a little better education. We've been using the same curriculum, long time, I'd like to change that curriculum. I'd like to embellish these programs. And he looked at me and he said, he said, that is not your job. Your job is just to get volunteers. Oh, wow. I was like, whoa, whoa, he goes, I just want you to keep those kids out of the service. That was it. Yeah. And I was, I was just stunned. I mean, my mouth was hanging open. I'm like, I don't get it. I mean, first of all, growing up as a preacher's kid, and my dad the way it was, I could suggest anything. And my dad would say, Hey, that's a great idea. Let's do it. You know, this guy, he just he just just pulled me and one second flat. Well, I was going to on the, I've always been going around denominations, I was going to an Assembly of God church on Wednesday nights for the Wednesday night service. This kickin the Holy Spirit, you know, when I was in college, I should mention this, I was going to a charismatic Christian Reformed Church. So I had gotten, you know, a real full picture of what it was like to, you know, worship and experience the Holy Spirit and pray in tongues, and, you know, all that stuff. So, um, I was going to this Assembly of God church, and this woman was sitting next to me that night, this was just after it happened. And I didn't know I didn't know where I didn't know anyone there. She looks at me. And she says, God tells me that you work with children. And God tells me that the senior pastor just just took the wind out of your sails. And I'm just like, No one knew me there. I was. So I was towns away, you know, and she says this, and I just start crying, you know. And she prays with me, and I thank her. She says, God says, he's on your side. This is you know, and I'm like, okay, you know, good. So I go back feeling a lot better. And the senior pastor calls me in his office, and he says, you know, he says, I've seen you sitting out there with my secretary crying once in a while, I was adjusting to living there and stuff. And it was so different being in this huge white. Oh, like, there was one black woman in there that she was my friend. All like, coming there in this high wealth situation coming from this little inner city place, you know, so, um, he says, I think this isn't the right place for you. Yeah, and I'm looking at him. And he goes, I will. I want you to think about that. And it was time for Christmas vacation. He says, you can stay through June and then we'll find somebody else. We won't mention it to anybody said, Okay. I go home. I'm thinking about and I'm praying about it. I come back after Christmas. And I go into the Sunday school classroom, all these women come up to me, Oh, I hear you're leaving. And I was like, what? First of all, I had the morale so good there that they gave me a money tree for Christmas. They rolled up 20 and $50 bills and put them on this tree for me. They loved me. And they're like, you're you're leaving. And I just I didn't even know what to say. Come to find out the senior pastor had gone to the woman's group of 150 people and announced it.

David Ames  29:35  
Oh, no.

Anne  29:39  
And from that point on, I was lame duck. So from January through June, I was they took away my office. I had an office with all the other pastors with Windows and beauty. They stuck me in the closet behind the sanctuary. Oh Allah. Yeah, yeah, I had I had no voice I had no ability to do anything. The only thing good about being over there was there was a piano. So I just played a piano all day because I had nothing else to do. It was humiliating, and horrible. You know,

David Ames  30:13  
I think what's particularly fascinating about this is that they recruited you. Yes. You know, what were they? I guess they must have thought that they were getting a docile person who would just, you know, do the bare minimum or something. But But clearly, you were ambitious and wanted to make an impact in in the world. And so it seems like, they must have been very threatened once you got on staff, and they saw that you you actually wanted to make real changes and be a leader.

Anne  30:43  
Right? I think so. Yeah. Yeah. But it was, it was really hard on me, because I felt well, God, why did you let this happen? You know, I've done everything to honor you. And how could you let this happen? Yeah, you know, in the meantime, in those last five months, I fell in love with someone who didn't fall in love with me. So I had this hole, and then someone fell in love with me who I didn't fall in love with. I mean, this whole big disaster, right.

So I go home in June with my tail between my legs. I went back to Michigan, actually, I didn't go home to New Jersey and got back with my old roommate and went back into my old charismatic Christian Reformed Church where, you know, I love to them there and just kind of puddled for a while, okay. Then I got a job at RBC, the School of the Holy Rollers where I want to attend, they hired me as admissions coordinator, they made a job for me, they said, Hey, our Director of Admissions needs help. You know, you're here, you're dynamic. I think you could go recruit, you're, you know, you've been to school with all these people, you know, the school. And so I had the dream job. I mean, this was my dream job, I get to fly all over the US and Canada, all on their dime. Stay in these hotels, eat in restaurants. I talked to churches, and pastors and youth groups and schools, Christian schools. I loved it. I loved it. The director of admissions was also working on this whole program called students serving students, which was where you'd get some of the students and you did music and drama and just programs for youth groups, okay. And I was all about that, because I was all into the music and drama and the art and stuff. And so we started leaving a lot of worship in the school, and I was looking for a revival, like I was experiencing at church. And we, we do these great programs out, you know, all over the place. He left after one year, and then I was in charge, but they didn't want to give me the job because I was a woman. Here now I'm acting director of admissions with still the admissions coordinator pay, you know, and, um, but I grew that program, I started I actually made five students serving students programs of five students each, and I sent them out to all kinds of local churches, and then we go on, like trips to Florida for spring break. And you know, it was just, it was so cool. We were in Florida, Colorado, British Columbia, doing these things. And I loved it. I was in my element. I was preaching, you know, in these churches, not their sermon, but I was doing my own style of preaching. And I felt like I was thriving as a woman, and the perfect dream job, you know. So, then, unfortunately, well, at that point, I met the man who was going to become my husband. And he was in seminary because I really thought I had to marry a pastor, you know, because that's what we do. And so he was in seminary, he was working as a youth director at a church. And with my hours during the day and his hours working the evening as a youth director. He wouldn't come over to my house till 11 o'clock at night, half the time, right. But I had to be up at eight o'clock for work the next morning. I burnt the candle at both ends and I got mono, okay. And it never went away. Oh, like it didn't go away. It progressed to a chronic condition. They diagnosed me with chronic epstein barr virus, recurring Epstein Barr Virus. That was right when chronic fatigue syndrome was coming out as the Joby disease. Okay, and I had it, I was sick, I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't do my job. I was just laying there. This was right after we got engaged. And we got married when I was sick, so I just kept hoping I would get better. I'm like my big joke was we spent our whole engagement in bed But it was that way. Yeah. So I had to quit my job. I kept trying to go back to it. And I couldn't do it. I didn't have I didn't have any energy, I used to say was like an 80 year old woman. But now that my mom is in her 80s, I realized I was more like 150 year old under the ground woman, I even push the door open, you know, and we didn't know what was wrong with me. And I was having all these tests. And, you know, we just couldn't get answers. The doctors couldn't do anything. And the meantime, my husband graduated from seminary and became a chaplain, and he was going through CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education program. And he was working in a hospital. So he would go to this hospital all day and be with these sick and dying people. And then he'd come home and look at his wife, who was basically sick and dying. And, you know, we didn't know what to do with me. So that was really stressful. And again, I was like, God, where are you? I was, you know, I was preaching your word. I was out there ministering. I had a great prayer movement going on. I was praying with all kinds of people. I was seeing miracles, I thought, I you know, and and I was just like, why did you bet me? You know, you just benched me. And so I would go up for prayer every week at church where these very astute, amazing prayer warriors would pray over me. I'd go to their prayer thing on Wednesdays and just get prayer and prayer and prayer. And I never get healed. Nothing ever happened. I never felt better. And people started giving me quote words from God, like, the joy of the Lord is your strength. And I was like, I can't even frickin live my flicked my head off the pillow, the joy of the Lord is my strength. But I was like, Okay, I'll try to be more joyful. Maybe that's gonna kill me. And then someone said to me, once you know, your husband, he's behind you, and leadership, because you're so bold and outgoing, and he's quiet. And, you know, I think God is trying to suppress you, so that he can raise your husband up.

David Ames  37:05  
Wow. Wow.

Anne  37:08  
Yeah. And then I'd hear things like, um, God wants you to be a human being not a human doing. You know, you have to learn to just rest in God and not always be doing something. And, you know, that's probably where you're getting your self esteem. And, you know, God doesn't want this. And so people would just throw those things at me. And I took it all. I took it all. Yeah, I go to healing services at different churches, I'd see people supposably get fillings in the shape of a Holy Ghost. And I couldn't get out of bed, you know? And, uh, like, I don't get it. You know, Why, God? Why did you bench me? You know, yeah. We were pretty much starving because my husband and CP wasn't making any money. I was living off my disability. Thank goodness, we had that grant was really cheap back then, in the middle of the inner city of Grand Rapids. But we weren't making ends meet and my husband and I were fighting he was going CP has a way of stirring up everything in your past. So he's got everything stirring up in his past. By the way, he's a preacher's kid, too. And it's all stirred up and everything's just getting out of hand. And we're fighting and I'm sick in bed. And life is just how we can't pay any bills. And he's thinking we can't pay bills, because I'm spending money. And I'm like, Look, we don't have any money coming in. You know, it's bad first year stuff on dope, you know? So he finally decided to take a position in a church as an interim pastor. So there's this church in Michigan, we go over there, he takes it. I don't go to church a whole lot because I was just too sick to go to church. And honestly, I didn't like listening to sermons. I thought they were boring. Boring, but I thought the Holy Ghost will take care of that. You know, as soon as he gets the Holy Ghost, he'll be on fire and I'll be fine. Yeah, I'll just pray it through. This is I was such a magical thinker, David. I mean, when my parents told me Santa Claus didn't exist. I didn't believe them. I used to look for him. I mean, I was that person that knew that God could do anything that I asked, you know, and I was not losing faith in God. Even though I had gone through bad church experiences. I was sick. It was all I could do it you know?

Basically, the upshot of the deal is that were there 14 months they want to call a pastor there, he had he's on what they call a duo, which means that they call him or the other guy and they vote. And there was a family in the church that he had angered because he told the mama in charge to stay out of her kids marriage situation, right. And that whole clan hated him, you know, so they never came to church. urge but they came to church that one Sunday to make sure he didn't get that job voted him right out right at this, but I wasn't that upset because that same Sunday we were going to find out if he also would get a church in Virginia. And they he was on a mono there. So I was like, Well, of course they're gonna call him there's only one person there. Well, by the end of the night, we found out that we were jobless. Homeless had nothing. Here we were. I was sick. We had nothing.

David Ames  40:29  
That's devastating. Yeah, that's amazing.

Anne  40:32  
Yeah, yeah. But I still trusted God. So we had a big white dog packed all our belongings or big white dog into a truck and ended up house sitting in a tiny little house somewhere for some people that were in Florida, put all our stuff in their basement, and lived in that house for a few months, while my husband scrub toilets. For a job, that was what he did. And, um, but still, I you know, knew God was gonna turn around it was gonna be okay. And then it's just that I feel like it's just such a long story. But um, upshot of the deal is he decided to become a prison chaplain. And we were able to get some stability, then get some income. I had two kids, even though I was sick. I had two girls. He went off to be the chaplain, and I was home. And we were just kind of struggling to get through, but we were doing it. You know, it was I bought a house, it was all good. And then he wanted to go back to church. He's like, Oh, I can't get church ministry out of my mind. I want to go back to a church. So he takes this Church in New Jersey. And I was all about it. Because I was like, well, it's in New Jersey, I'll be by all the people I love, this will be cool. And it was a church at war. It was a church that had run out their last seven pastors. It was a church that 150 years ago had caused the first pastor of the church to kill himself because he was treated so poorly. And we walked right into the middle of it. Yeah, it was the worst situation possible. I mean, his preaching got good. But um, it was bad. I right away, took over the worship team, which was the worst idea in the world because worship, of course, was the hot topic. I started a prayer group, we got involved in the river and all the revival movements that were going on, went to Toronto went to light the fire nation, we did everything to bring revival to this church, right. That was the goal. If we bring revival, it's all going to be okay. Yeah. And the main protagonist in that church was out on his yacht all summer. And he came back to find the church of 65 now had grown to 150 people, new young people who were following us and not him. And he blew the church apart. And they started a concerned committee. And they started all these rumors and lies. And I mean, there were things thrown around, like, no amount of prayer is gonna save this church when I get through with it. Or you're gonna be walking over my dead body before I leave this church or I mean, it was not like anything I had ever seen in my whole entire life.

David Ames  43:17  
That's wild. Yeah. That that is not hiding the fact that that's a power trip, you know?

Anne  43:26  
No, there was one experience where one night where my husband was on council, and he called me and he said, Don't let anyone in the door. And I'm like, why? And he goes, we had this big explosion at council meeting, and these people ran out. And, um, he goes, I'm afraid they put a bomb in the car. I mean, that's how bad it was cuz their son lived down the street, and he had bombed the church at one point, and we were like, thinking he was gonna put a bomb in our car. It was bad. It was bad. Yeah, yeah.

During that time, too, I got involved with streams ministries, they were doing courses called hearing God 101. And I was like, we need to go to this because we need to hear God because we're, you know, I mean, I was doing Jericho marches around the church. You know, pastors were dominant blowing their show Fars, every charismatic leader in the community was on board, you know, it was it was crazy. If anyone had, we had gathered the priests and prophets and apostles from the whole area, and they were praying on our behalf, you know, yeah. So, um, yeah, nothing happened. People ran us out. ran us out. My dad, you know, he was so optimistic. We used to call him every day. Guess what happened today? What happened? You know, and he'd be like, what happened today and we tell him to go I can't even I can't even believe it. So, but he always had something positive to pray and then one One Thanksgiving, I was home and he had nothing to say absolutely nothing. And I was like, Whoa,

David Ames  45:07  
bad side.

Anne  45:09  
Bad side, I had this dream that I lost my youngest daughter in the church and I was flying all over looking for. And I went into this bathroom full of kids and this kid snuffed a candle of my nose, you know, burned me, and I heard what I felt like was the audible voice of God say to me, Do not lay your children on the altar for this church. And I was that was it. I was out. Yeah. But I had laid my kids on the altar. I was praying all day and sending them in front of the TV. I was fasting. I was skinny as a rail. I was, you know, like, I was going to save this place in prayer. If it was the last thing I did. Yeah. And at that moment, I just stopped at all I just stopped. My kids became my top priority. Fortunately, they were still very little. And I gathered them and we went to a vineyard church and left my husband at the church to preach and make the money.

David Ames  46:01  

Anne  46:02  
Okay. Okay. And those people were mad. Oh, they were mad that I wasn't there. And what about my tithe? Where was my tithe going? And you know, my husband was like, she doesn't even have any calm. Right? Right. So it was about six months, it took my husband to be able to pull himself away from that. And the meantime, I had gathered a really good group of friends at the vineyard and fit right in, we loved it. Our kids were all friends, we're in this community again. And then Tom just joined me there. And we felt welcome and loved there. And then they asked us to stay and play to church, because we had such a good, you know, community going. And we just said we couldn't we just were tired. We were just beat up, you know, yeah, beat up. I mean, I told you a very abridged version of what happened in that church, but you got to trust me, it was the worst thing ever,

David Ames  46:55  
I believe you.

Anne  46:59  
One guy said to one guy said to my husband, he goes, You know what? They want you on that cross upfront. They're not going to be happy to leave a pound of flesh. Well come to find out years later, the reason they were so persistent on running out all the pastors, and in fact, the pastor after us ended up in the mental institution. And my dad warned him, he said, Don't go to that church, and that guy didn't listen to him. So um, the reason they had done that was because they were sitting on a pot of gold, because it was a church outside New York City on 11 acres of land, right? Yes, what that property was worth. And guess who was gonna get that money? If that church died? They got it. They got millions and millions of dollars. I found this out a few years ago. Yeah, they pocketed all that money. And I was sick. Yeah. I was sick.

David Ames  47:53  
I can imagine.

Anne  47:54  
I mean, I was like, God, you know, what about Ananias and Sapphira? I don't get it. You know, I was waiting for people to drop dead. I was waiting for God to strike people and smite them and you know, make them sick and die. I was waiting for it. I was believing for it. You know, that sounds bad. But you know, it was it was to me, it was all a spiritual warfare. And God had to win, you know? Yeah. But God didn't when we again were unemployed and homeless. Yeah.

So we ended up going to Massachusetts living in a little half a duplex, eating at the food bank had no money freezing eating noodles for every meal. I was homeschooling the kids, they were like three and five at that point. So y'all go. And it was it was kind of horrendous. And then my husband finally got a job and it paid like 18,000 a year and we still didn't have any money. Catholic Charities brought Santa Claus the real Santa Claus this time to our house for Christmas and gave our kids toys and and we got involved in a Foursquare church. So now we're going to Foursquare church.

David Ames  49:14  
Yeah. All the bases here.

Anne  49:17  
I had been to every kind of church right? We've been Baptists for a while everything. So we get to this Foursquare church and the pastor I try out for worship team and the pastor is all about worship, and he doesn't want me in and I'm like, devastated. I'm like, why? And he goes, I don't know. I just didn't feel it was God and I was just like, God now you're not even gonna let me leave worship, you know, or play the keyboard or anything. And and, um, he left to the pastor left a few months later, and they got a new pastor and tryouts were again, and I got on and I was on the great worship team, and we were having so much fun and great community. And that pastor came to visit the church and I was nervous as I'll get out because I'm like, Oh crap, you know, here I just he told me I was no good. And now you know, I'm playing and I was a wreck. Well, apparently I was not the only one on the worship team that felt that way. But that Pastor during worship, kneeled on his face and repented and started crying. And he got up to preach. And he said, there were people I kept from using their gifts. And I was wrong. And that just touched me, you know, that really touched me that he was repented enough and good enough to do that. Right. All right, so long story short, now, I'm going to those streams, ministries, things, you know, they're having now to hearing God to a one, which is understanding dreams and visions, and then another course, and I'm taking these courses, and I always had dreams and visions, and I want to grow in all my charismatic abilities, you know, because I didn't get that in my CRC background. Yeah. And, um, John Paul would pray for us all and give us words and you know, I started having dreams about streams. And lo and behold, someone gave them a mountain in New Hampshire to come to New England, and they were going to form a prayer Mountain, 24 hours of prayer and worship streams is going to come out, John Paul was going to come out and I was like, I got to be a part of the smooth god, I gotta be. And I was having words and dreams. And I started emailing them to the ministry. Pretty soon I was talking to John Paul. Pretty soon he gave me a job. I was like, Oh, my gosh, I got a job. But my husband is like, No, I am not leaving my job for ministry. There is no way we're gonna be homeless unemployed, yet another time, right. And so my husband and I are fighting and I'm like, this is a move of God, I have to be a part of it. I mean, we have to do this. And my husband is like, No, not unless I get a job in New Hampshire with this same company. Well, it took them about eight months, but he got one. And we moved up to New Hampshire, and I was so happy. I was like, Oh, my gosh, we're going to the promised land, and I'm dancing and jumping. And finally, I'm gonna find my spiritual calling. You know, it was really hard for me to be married to a pastor who he didn't have the same leadership abilities as I did. His was his was different. He was more of a team leader. He was he wasn't the dynamic preacher. He was more quiet and subtle. He didn't do things the way I thought they needed to be done. And we clashed over that, because I was frustrated. And he'd be like, You should be the pastor then. And I'd be like, they won't let me I'm a woman. You know, it was hard. He finally gave up his credentials, because our marriage can handle it. You know, it was marriage, her or ministry? Yeah. Wow. So this was my chance he could work and stay at a ministry and I could shine, you know, and I came on that staff and I wanted to be teaching courses. And, you know, and but, you know, I knew that in these charismatic ministries, you have to prove yourself. So the first job they gave me was to work the database in a closet, here I am in a closet again, you know, on these computers, and it was awful. But I just did it with a smile. I was so happy to be there. I was one of the first people up there. And, you know, I was close to John Paul, and everybody that was up there. And you know, and I just felt like a big way. And, um, and one day someone came in that wanted to move there. There were always people that wanted to move there. It was like God was calling everybody in. And these people said, Hey, do you have a realtor? And I said, Oh, yeah, I use this guy, Joe. He was great. And John Paul was in the office, they said, No, everyone in our office uses Vicki. And I thought, well, that's weird. You know, we didn't use Vicki and I said, Oh, but Joe gives really good gifts. And he goes, he gave gifts to and I said, Oh, but But Joe, blah, blah, blah. And he goes, Well, Vicki, blah, blah, blah, blah, and we have this little thing. And I'm just thinking we're just talking right? To that he didn't talk to me for three months, three months, because I challenged his authority. But I didn't know it, because I didn't know the rules. You know, and and I didn't play by those rules. And my dad was certainly not an authoritarian leader. And you know, I was like, I don't get it. So um, it was so weird, because I was trying to figure out what I did to offend him, but I couldn't figure it out. No one ever talked to me about it. And then one day, we were at this fireside chat, he would do these things called fireside chats. We didn't actually have a fireside, but he would sit there in the room with all of us and we would like kind of gather at his feet, so to speak, and listen to his great wisdom from God and all his words from God. And, and, um, he said, You know, God tells me not to speak to people sometimes in order to punish them. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I'm like, I think he's so and about me, hmm. But I still I just didn't get it. Um, and little by little people would come and I train them in their job and I'd worked my way up till now I was running the events not running completely it was on a team of people who ran the events and, and, you know, got the airline tickets and I've started to travel all over again. So here, it's like, I'm getting my old RBC job back. I'm traveling. I'm, you know, speaking in front of people and giving words in front of people. It's just like this really great thing. I feel like Yay, I'm back to the promised land. I am. You know, it's so good. I'm fulfilled again. Now, mind you, I'm still fighting with chronic fatigue at this time, because I was sick. I was sick in bed for the first five years, and then I was sick for another 25. And it's still kind of dogs me, but um, I'm managing and it's all going really well and everything's going great. Okay, so they call David Hayward. Do you know David Hayward?

David Ames  55:58  
Yes. Not personally. But yes.

Anne  56:02  
They call him to be the pastor. And so you know, initially I was leading the worship in the worship services. And then David and I were leading the worship, and then they call Trevor, a worship pastor in. And then I was part of the worship team. And it was just so much fun because it was on the worship team, in the church and in the conferences. So everything's going great. I'm happy as a clam. I love David. You know, he's a good friend of mine, Mitch and Jeanne, you know, or they're, they're good friends. And one day, John Paul calls a meeting for everybody on staff, very important meeting, he sits us all down. And he says, God has revealed to me that the reason I am sick because he was getting a lot of colds. That Let's not mention, he was traveling non stop 24/7, you know, on planes, and you know, never sleeping. God has revealed to me that there's division and conflict in the camp, and that's why he's striking me ill. Oh, yeah. And I was in fairy land. I had no idea the stuff that was going on right now. No idea. And I'm, and I'm just looking at him like, huh, yeah, I know, you're sick as you travel, you know. And all these people start repenting and getting to his feet, and they're piling on his knees, and they're crying at his feet. It's like Mary Magdalene, at the feet of Jesus. And they're just repenting. And oh, we're so sorry. And they're praying for him. And he's just sitting there just taking all this adoration and love. And the next day, David Hayward confronted him and said, that's just not cool. Now, you are setting yourself up as God basically and taking all the adoration and that's that spiritual abuse. You know, he called it well, you can imagine how furious JP was after, you know, see how mad he was at that realtor encounter, right? Yeah, imagine how furious, furious, he was at this. And he he fired. David right on the spot. Mitch, Jeanne were fired. The two other people that worked with me in the in the events thing, Mitch was over the events, they, they quit, they're like, I'm out of here, you know, and then I was like, my world was spinning, what's going on? What's going on? This was going so well, I don't understand it. So come to find out that things were going on, you know, because people were having suggestions. And he felt his authority was challenged, when there was all this stuff going on. But they were keeping me out of it because they knew I needed the job. And you know, they just wanted me to be safe. And, um, but then it all broke out. And I was devastated. Because these were the people I was close to, you know, David was my good friends. And you know, Mitch and Jeanne and them and, and, and I was just like, oh, man, but Mitch said to me, just keep your head down. Don't make any trouble. Just try to get through this and keep your job. But it was really hard because it turned into a place of slander, the talking and the way that they slandered them was just awful, right? And we were basically told to shun them all. Okay, um, but I didn't, I didn't shun them. They were my friends. And when David left, they packed up their car to leave, you know, their truck and everything because they bought a house out there and everything. And we went to help them move. You know, we went there, and Mitch and Jeanne were there but nobody from the church was there. No buddy from the ministry was there. Nobody, and one person drove down the street. And he looked at us and he said, What are you doing here? And we said, we're helping the move, you know, and they were just like, whoa.

So, it wasn't long after that, that John Paul said to me, well, We need a new pastor. Maybe we should look at your husband. In my husband's mind, he's like, there is no way in hell, I'm in the middle of this.

David Ames  1:00:12  
Wise, man wise.

Anne  1:00:15  
No way. But he didn't want to come right now and say that because I was working there and he didn't want to jeopardize my job. So we went out for lunch with all of them. And they kind of got to know Tom and talk to him. And Tom was just not biting. He was biting on nothing. And the two days later, John Paul meets me in the office by the coffee machine, and I'll never forget it. And he said to me, yeah, so that was very interesting going out to lunch with you. He said, Your husband is probably at least one or two years away from being able to be in ministry. God's told me this show, Yes, God has shown me that he, he doesn't know how to lead. He doesn't know how to be a leader. And that's the reason that you're getting fat because I was gaining weight, lifelong struggles. Yeah, this is this is the reason that your husband isn't in ministry. And that your children are damned. Your children are damned.

David Ames  1:01:19  
Yeah. I'm like,

Anne  1:01:20  
hello. You know, I had the best little girls. They were the best little girls in the church, and they were damned about them. Yeah. And I cried, and I said, thank you. And I took it because it must be a word from God, because it's John Paul, you know, I must be God. And I go back and work and I'm crying. And you know, I just can't get myself together. At the end of the day, the President calls me into the office with now the guy who is now my boss, who was the the shipping guy, he made him my boss suddenly, because I couldn't just do it because I was a woman. And they call me in the office. And the President says to me, I understand you got a word from JP today? And I'm like, Yeah, and I start to cry. And then I apologize for crying. I say, I'm sorry. I thought I must be getting my period or something. And he goes, No, it's because it was a true Word of God. He said, we've understood you have a problem with authority. Oh, dear. Ah, and you know what he cited that time, I had the little exchange about the realtor with John Hall in the office at the beginning of time. Yes. And I'm like, there it is.

David Ames  1:02:33  
Super petty, very, very bad.

Anne  1:02:36  
Yes. And then he has some other stupid thing. And then he said to me, so we're gonna let you continue to work the events, but we're gonna not gonna let you go anymore. You're not going to be able to go to the events and I just thought, Oh, the writing's on the wall. You know, because there's, you set up an event and there's always, you know, shooting that you have to do when you get there because something fell through the cracks. They're going to just fire my ass, and that's gonna be the end of it. Yeah. And, and he said, and we want a marriage counselor, you, we went to marriage counseling to teach Tom how to be a leader and how you should be submissive. Wow. Well, now that my whole job is riding on it, all my husband's fault, you know, because he's not a leader, and I'm crying. And, you know, I left there, I went home, I cried the whole way home. And, um, and I said, I'll give you two weeks. I have to think about it. I need to think about it for two weeks. So he said, Okay, so at the end of two weeks, I quit. You know, I was like, I can't do this. But Tom was like, I want to see what happens. I'm curious of what kind of dynamics are gonna happen over there. And so I stayed on the worship team, I stayed doing worship, I stayed being friends with them. And um, this went on for a couple of months, I was miserable. We did a worship seminar at a church. It wasn't a church. It was at one of the conferences, and I was up there leading with other people and worship was a dud, everything was a dud. And I looked at some of the people there and I knew that they were there. Because of me. I knew that they were open to that ministry, because they came there because I was and they knew my background, and they trusted me. And I thought, I can't do this anymore. Yeah, I can't do it. That way. That night, on the way home, we hit a moose. Oh, wow. We hit a moose. It came out of nowhere. It hit the part of the just the actually the mirror the rearview mirror of the car, and and shattered the glass. And so Trevor, the worship leader, and I was sitting here and we were just covered with glass, and he just kept driving. We got back and found out that was just not cool. And the booths hit another car. There was an accident, he might have charges against him. And it was this whole thing that's the bottom line was the next day John Paul went to that conference and said, God came to me in prayer and asked me if I would give up some of my staff to him and let him take them home. But I prayed and said no and and they were saying and they were spared. So now I was alive because he prayed and spirit. Yeah, you know, and I was like, This is bullshit. And I quit. I quit that day. I was like, I don't care what they do. I'm not going back. Okay. And then I was shunned. Yeah, yeah, I was out of there. Nine months is only lasted. I wish it was probably like a cult, you know, I was shunned. And I didn't know why. Nobody was calling me. They even had a concert in our clubhouse where we lived. And I went, because I thought, I'm not going to let anyone keep me out of this concert. And no one would talk to me. They all looked at me with these terrible looks. A year and a half later, a friend of mine from there who had shunned me called me and said they came after her. And she apologized to me. And she said, John Paul had gone to everyone on staff and said things slandered us to death. were horrible. People were sick. We have a bad marriage with Bebo, but he just slandered us and made up all this crap. And everyone believed it. Because I had too much charisma in the office. I had too much control. John Paul said that to me. He said, I see you there's leadership, and you can steer a ship that's sinking. And you know, but you've got to be careful. Well, he had to do damage control. And he came back and just killed me. Yeah. So when I found that out, I wrote him an email. I sent him an email. I said, How dare you and I just never heard from him again. You know, never.

Yeah, so that was the end of that. We ended up moving to North Carolina, my husband started again, in ministry in a church, it was a church plant that had been dying. We just closed down the church, basically, because it wasn't going to work. Then we tried to get involved in other churches, and we were really good friends with the pastor and wife and they got fired from their church, which caused a whole nother thing in us and PTSD from our church experience. And, and, you know, I was like, this is a whole bullshit. So we started we went into another church that was just really big week to slink into the back not know anybody not talk to anyone, I didn't want to know the dynamics in a church because I could see all the crap going on, you know, and, and, you know, the just a biblical sermon, and that's what we did. Ya, um, and that lasted for a little while, and then we went back to New England to be my parents, and I just couldn't go to church anymore. I just stopped. I just, I was like, I can't do it. i There's, I can't do it.

David Ames  1:07:38  
I think that's actually more common than you think that people start to realize that they're having, you know, reaction PTSD, like you mentioned, they're having a reaction and they just can't go in the building anymore. And they don't even know why really, right. But yeah, right.

Anne  1:07:52  
Right. You know, um, yeah, it was just bad. In the meantime, we found out my youngest daughter was autistic. That's why we're having trouble with her. And she was going into depression and maybe bipolar. My husband was falling apart. Our marriage was falling apart. My other daughter went to college. And then my father dropped dead, baby. Oh, no, I'm so sorry. Thank you. He was 77 just dropped in, in a restaurant. Gone. No warning, gone. Man, it rocked my world. I mean, it just killed me. Right, it killed me. And he was the picture of all that was good and true and righteous. And, you know, I still believed in God, I still believed in the goodness of God, I just couldn't go into the church, you know. And then my father was taken away. And then every, I couldn't hear from God anymore. I couldn't worship. I couldn't hypnotize myself with a piano. I couldn't do anything. You know, I just was just, I was just floored. Um, a year after that, I decided to go to art school. And so I was getting my Master's in Fine Arts, and I was learning great critical thinking skills. I mean, if you want great critical thinking skills, you go to art school with a whole bunch of people from different backgrounds and everything. And it was just a fantastic experience. And during that whole thing, I was working on my art, I was working through my dad's grief, you know, grief for my dad, and and all his ministry and all my background and all my church stuff, and I just was working through all that great opportunity to work through it. But a year after my dad died, my aunt, my dad's sister found out she had ovarian cancer. She was like a mom to me. She was the one who took care of me in Michigan, and um, we went through this suffering of watching her just die, so we're still grieving my father. Now we're grieving my aunt. And um, and then my best friend called me and said she had stage four breast cancer. Oh guy, and she was someone that I Got a visit every year in California for three weeks I get out of the winter here. And you know, just I could be myself there and have fun. And so she's dying. And we went through my those two cancers. My aunt died, we later arrest during this time, of course it's 2016. And Trump gets into office and that caused me and a whole lot of like, like, I don't get it. I mean, when he was going for the white evangelical vote, I'm like, they're not going to be fooled. Like God did that just do me and I'm going through all this and I'm just like, spinning and how could this be? And then my sister dropped dead, my little sister 53 dropped dead of a heart attack. And that killed me worse than my father. I mean, plus, my mother was a wreck. She almost died of heartbreak in the first few weeks. And, um, I, I couldn't even buy this time. I'm just spinning. You know, I lost my dad, my aunt, my sister, my friends dying. And I'm just spitting Trump's into office, everything else go ahead basket. I you know, the stupid COVID Comes right? My daughter gets COVID the first week it comes, I'm having headaches, I find out I have high blood pressure, which my right away makes me think I'm gonna die like my sister. I'm in this existential crisis. I can't pray, I can't talk to God, I can't do anything. And then, um, I find out I have a brain tumor. And it's called a pituitary adenoma. And it's a tumor on your pituitary gland. And it's operable, it's usually benign. So they're like, well just watch it. Well, they watched it for six months, just one, one thing, they said it's growing rapidly, you have to have brain surgery. So they go in and give me brain surgery during COVID. Two weeks later, I have a gallbladder attack that puts gall stones in my bile duct. But I don't know it because I don't want to go to the doctor because it's COVID. And I just had brain surgery, crawling around on the floor for four weeks just crying and not eating until my husband says get to that doctor. And I go to the doctor, find out I have to have my gallbladder out. So I've surgery, emergency surgery with that, and then another surgery to remove the gall stones, all of this in seven weeks time. During that time, my best friend died of breast cancer. Oh, man. And I of course couldn't, you know, didn't get to say goodbye really? I sent her flowers. But you know, yeah. And I'm just done, you know, just like done. Can't can't, can't do a thing just done. And I'm not even praying anymore. Because I'm like, What is the use, nothing is happening. I, you know, I don't get it.

So sometime during that time, Christian dummies book, Jesus and John Wayne came out. And my brother had to interview her. And it was just after the book came out, like the first like, it just came out that day. And so I was listening. And it was like, Oh, I like this woman. So my mother bought the book. And we both read the book. And that's when everything started to come into place for me, because I could see almost my whole Evan Jellicle upbringing, right, and all the bookstores and all the conventions and all the stuff and authoritarianism. And all that stuff that was going on was right there on the pages. And I could see how suddenly, all these people from church thought that Trump was their God, you know, and I was like, because I didn't get it. And I saw the whole thing. And I went, Oh, and the light bulb went on. And I started to see that there were so many things built into the system that were destructive and damaging in so many ways, you know, for the, with the racism and everything, you know, down to the very core of everything, the women's issue, everything, misogyny, you know, LGBTQ community, everything. And so I read this book, and the light bulb went on, and that's when I started listening to different podcasts. And

David Ames  1:14:19  
there was your first mistake, that was my mistake, because

Anne  1:14:22  
then I'm like, I started listening to straight white American cheeses. And I was like, Yeah, I'm getting into this, you know, and then somehow I stumbled on board again, again, and they were talking about they were they did one on Noah's Ark. And I'm like, What do you mean Noah's Ark is it was how could that not really, you know, and then they're talking about worship and they're talking about they have no system and I'm like, You're kidding. Because I was addicted to being hypnotized in worship. I was the one on the floors dancing and praising it, you know, and I and honestly, I did it to myself all the time. I just would play the piano and just, I was you err, I was all when and, um, and I was like man, and then someone mentioned Bart ermine. And so I started listening to some of his stuff. And this was what cracked me. It was when he said, The gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John weren't actually written by Matthew, Mark Luke. I, I thought that they were, you know, this was I thought this was God's infallible Word in Aaron, and that these were eyewitness accounts, and they weren't. And then what's to say that anything they say is true. And then I just started listening to everything and all the deconstruction stories that I found you and I found other people and I just gobbled it up. You know, after my sister died, I was listening to podcasts, but they were all about near death experiences. I was listening to that stuff and all these New Age podcasts. And as soon as this happened, I flipped, and I started listening to all deconstruction stuff. And you know, um, yeah, that's where I am now.

David Ames  1:16:02  
Okay. Yeah, that's, that is a lot. Again, just I am very sorry for the grief that you've suffered not. I mean, obviously, in the last several years of all the people that you've lost, but grieving the ministry as well, that that you had, clearly the desire to help people and to, you know, build community and help people thrive. And that opportunity just kept being taken away from you. So that is a grief process of that loss as well.

I'm curious, at this point, how are you finding community? I know, I know, you're part of the deconversion anonymous, but like, do you have friends that have gone through some deconstruction as well? And you know, how are you? How are you at this point handling that?

Anne  1:17:01  
I do? It's kind of amazing, because in art school, I developed a really great community, right. And then when we moved, we moved to this old house, this old homestead, and in this community, and it was very embracing town where everybody has these old primitive homes, you know, and they started having parties. And, you know, I was invited to other parties, and we just became friends with everybody. And then in that party scene, we became friends with this group of musicians. And this group of musicians totally took us in when they realized that I was a musician, too. And he only took us in. And there was a couple in there. In fact, the guy is downstairs helping my husband put a water heater on right now, that had also been raised in the Christian faith and been doing worship leading forever. And they both had deconstructed. Okay, and so we were introduced to each other as pastors kids, and we were looked at each other like, Oh, crap. Yeah, like this person, we ventured through, get to know each other and found out we had this similar deconstruction story. So, you know, we get together with him every three weeks, and we just laugh and talk. And you know, and look at all the ridiculous things we once believed, you know, that we don't anymore. So I actually feel very much like I have community.

David Ames  1:18:20  
That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah. And then you've mentioned a handful of podcasts and the book, Jesus and John Wayne, any any others that I'm not talking about this one. Any other podcasts that you'd recommend for someone who find them finds themselves in a similar situation like, like that has helped you?

Anne  1:18:38  
Um, well, first, let me just say that I was in the lasting supper, David Hayward Scroop forever. And I think David Hayward is a wonderful deconstruction, you know, he's just wonderful. And he's great. And he's the real deal. And he's a good friend of mine. And I love him to bits. And so

David Ames  1:18:52  
well, maybe you can introduce me to David and we can get David on the open welcome.

Anne  1:19:00  
Well, I'll talk to him I already texted him this morning. He said, Is it okay, if I say your name and the story? He's like, Sure, go ahead. So um, yeah, David, you know, I would definitely recommend David. I have been listening to I think deconversion Anonymous was another podcast I was listening to. I listened to on YouTube harmonic atheist because I like to listen to their stories. Sometimes I'm listening to what is myth vision, you know, depending on who he has on there that's helpful anything bar ermine. You know, I've listened to a lot of debates, you know, between Christians and bar and you know, those have been kind of interesting. I love on YouTube Dark Matters 20 What is it 25 or whatever, you know, I love that that all the animation you know, holy Kool Aid. Yeah, I mean, I just kind of search around I think there's one now x well x seven jello coals. And I mean, I always have This crazy list going on, cuz I listen to the podcasts when I go to sleep. And then if I miss something I just read, listen, you know, so some of the podcasts, they have to be not too dynamic. Like, I don't think I could listen to myself going to sleep because, you know. But yeah, there's so much out there on YouTube and podcasts.

David Ames  1:20:20  
Well, that's great. And I really appreciate you telling your story. That was, I think what's really important that people hear is how dedicated you were how often you tried even it wasn't like, I think the evangelical response to deconstruction is these weak people, you know that at the slightest, you know, difficulty there out. And it's like, clearly, that was not the case you struggled through through a lifetime of attempting to do ministry with hurdles putting you in your way the entire time. So I thank you for that honesty. Thank you for being on the podcast. Yeah, my pleasure. Thank

Anne  1:20:59  
you for having me.

David Ames  1:21:04  
Final thoughts on the episode. I can't help but hearing and story as tragedy that she wanted so badly to do God's will. And she felt gifted. And she was trained to be a leader. And yet the role of women in the church consistently limited her and ultimately led to shootings and being kicked out of churches and being rejected by the very people who said that they loved her. And then the physical aspects of her life as well, the chronic fatigue, and ultimately at the end, their brain tumor, and a gallstone and just all of the physical ailments that she's had to go through. But this often is the beauty of deconstruction, as she's describing reading Jesus and John Wayne and recognizing herself and the culture that she'd been bounced to for all of her life within evangelicalism and suddenly recognizing the corruptness of that and how she no longer had to be bound by that that freedom is amazing. And it is wonderful to hear in Anne's voice, where she is now. Last week's guests, Ursula and this week's guest and have a lot in common in that they are very big personalities, very strong leaders, and they happen to be women and being forced to enhance case stay in education. And then even when she got the role that was specific to children's education, she was limited in what she could do there, there was just constant limitation. I can't imagine the level of frustration that that must create for a person who is as gifted as both Ursula and an R. It also astonishes me that the church at large evangelicalism specifically is trying to do things with one hand tied behind their back, they're stopping 50% of the population from truly 100% participating. And that just astonishes me from a logistical and tactical point of view. It's it's dumb, on every single level, and it's horrifying and abusive on many other levels, and I am just brokenhearted, to hear how and had to deal with those limitations. In a story of astonishing things, the most astonishing thing for me was her description of the streams ministry and John Paul, and had the off hand comment of it was cult like, I don't think it was called like it was a cult. That is the definition an overbearing leader who demands loyalty and a level of obedience and subservience that has nothing to do with Christianity has nothing to do with leadership. I'm really glad that and got herself out of that scenario, that that sounded really, really bad. So in any scenario in which you find yourself with a leader who is demanding that level of loyalty, it's time to get out. I want to thank and for telling her story. She has quite the story to tell I agree with Mike t, you should write a book and as soon as you write it, I'll buy it. So and we'll promote it here on the podcast. Thank you, Anne, for telling your story with such truthfulness and passion and your big personality comes straight through and thank you for being on the podcast. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is related to but not directly about and in that I mentioned at the beginning of the interview that I had been reached out to you by a Christian media organization that was doing research about Gen Z's and deconstruction. And I've been struck by this really ever since I went through my own decastro And then deconversion, that the focus has always been on the 20 Somethings who are leaving the church. I don't want to be anti scientific here, of course, the statistics are going to be much, much, much larger for people in their 20s. Because, as I said, when you're in your 20s, you're supposed to be questioning everything. When you're a teenager, you're supposed to be questioning everything that is, by definition, what young adulthood is what I think is much more interesting. And what I think the church has ignored to their peril is what are sometimes called the Dunn's adults 40s 50s 60s, even that have lived an entire lifetime within the Christian frame, and who subsequently deconstruct and de convert, that is a much more telling canary in the coal mine, that seems to me is being utterly ignored. If the statistics that I get about the podcast are to be believed, that would suggest that most of you are at least in your 30s. And most of the listeners here are adults. And so it astonishes me how the statisticians and the church itself has ignored this group of people and berated things like the extra angelical movement. This is the second week in a row that I'm giving some atheist advice to pastors. Talk to the adults who are deconstructing the Brealey. Listen to them, ask them why they've had a change of heart, what kinds of things would make a person change their mind after decades of being a Christian? And then really listen to the answer. And if you are that person who has lived an entire lifetime of Christianity, and you're the one questioning and you're the one where it feels like God's not listening, and tragedy is around you in every direction. I need you to know that there are many of us out here, myself and all of my previous guests community on the Facebook group deconversion anonymous, who have gone through this, we've experienced it, we know what it feels like. And you don't have to be alone. And you are not alone. I just wanted to mention, for those of you who are parents, the the mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day. I know that's kind of saccharine sweet. And it's one of the things I used to really dislike about this particular Sunday in church all the time. But I want to acknowledge you, you do amazing things. You are the foundation of society and you're also leaders and teachers and amazing human beings. So thank you, and Happy Mother's Day. Until next time, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human. 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 risk of 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 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

Derek Webb: The Jesus Hypothesis

Agnosticism, Deconstruction, Deconversion, ExVangelical, Musicians, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, The Bubble
Derek Webb
Click to play episode on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s guest is Derek Webb, musician, song writer and public deconstructor. For 10 years, Derek was a member of the Christian rock band, Caedmon’s Call. He then went on to a solo career where he focused on self reflection in his art. During that time, Derek began to desconstruct. He did so publicly in his music and on social media.

Where I find myself, strangely, being more tolerant, or loving or accepting than god is.
Where I feel like I am making apologies for the god of the universe who is supposedly all love.

For Derek’s Fingers Crossed album, “the tale of two divorces,” Derek made himself available to his audience for criticism. He and his team turned this into the podcast, The Airing of Grief. What could have been a public expression of anger and hostility at Derek’s change of heart, wound up being people describing their own deconstruction. It was a poignant reminder that we are not alone in this process.

Wouldn’t you rather lose all of it if the it that you have currently is not a real thing?

Derek’s next album, Targets, is a joyous and rebellious rock celebration of deconstruction. Derek’s current project, The Jesus Hypothesis, takes a second look at his former theological beliefs. For this project, Derek has made himself even more available to his audience by live streaming the writing and recording process for his Patreon supporters.

Because if it is not real I want to know that,
if it is real I want to know that,
and if something else is real I want to know that
and I feel like I know a little more than I used to know
in terms of what is there and what’s not
at least what rings true to me.

Derek is the perfect guest for the podcast as his art, music and personal style exemplify both having an honesty contest and Secular Grace.

Derek’s Website

The Airing Of Grief




Join the Deconversion Anonymous private Facebook group and become a part of the community!

Is it just that I had the wrong image of god?

The Bubble


Secular Grace

Support the podcast

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast


Transition music by Derek Webb from the Fingers Crossed album

“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.

0:11 David’s goals for this year.
2:09 Introduction to Derek Webb.
5:05 Derek’s work in this deconstruction space is not a thing that you detach from.
8:47 What was your faith tradition as a child?
11:56 What was it like growing up in a church?
15:53 Young Life Camp is a fun deal.
24:56 The pressure of being a professional Christian and representing the church.
28:00 Great failure gives you the opportunity to do an audit of the presumptions that you have about invisible reality and about invisible unknowable things.
30:22 What is real and what is code language?
34:00 I wish I could tell you that your way isn’t ok, but I can not.
38:22 Making yourself vulnerable and owning the change.
46:07 Taking some responsibility for his own story.
50:08 Having your fans be a part of the process through Patreon.
54:11 What it’s like to be a fly on the wall of a record.
57:59 The job of an artist is to look at the world and describe what you see.
1:01:52 Deconstruction of the church from deconstruction of God.
1:09:56 How to break these things apart and not think you’ve done it just because you are not a part of the evangelical political party anymore.
1:13:37 Why you shouldn’t fear deconstruction, the only danger is not questioning.
1:17:21 Would you rather lose all of it if what you have currently is not a real thing?
1:20:56 Final thoughts on the episode.
1:24:53 The connection part of secular grace is the human connection. The church loves the idea of radical confession, but when you start doing it in a literal
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 graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store. And now you can rate the podcast on Spotify.

We made it to 2022. I remember the feeling of intense optimism at the beginning of 2021. And we are in the midst of the Omicron surge. So any of that enthusiasm is slightly tempered. But I do have some goals for the year for the podcast. I'm actually very interested in being on other podcasts. So if you happen to have your own podcast and like to hear me talk about secular grace or humanism, reach out to me. A second goal for the year that I've been thinking about lately is to be slightly more palatable for the Christian. My guest today is Derek Webb. And I think he does an incredibly good job of being a bridge between evangelical Christians and deconstruction. Even the title of the podcast has atheist in it is probably going to frighten away most believers. But one of the goals for this year is to at least engage a bit more, not in a debate style. But as always, in an honesty contest. If you are a believer, and you would like to be on the podcast and talk with me, I'd be very open to that prospect. Please get in touch with me at graceful Special thanks to Mike t for the first round of editing for today. I also did a bit of editing and the mix in with Derek's music. onto today's show. My guest today is Derek Webb. Virtually all of my listeners will probably already know who Derek is. But Derek was the lead singer for Caitlin's call for about 10 years, which was a very successful Christian rock band. And then he went on a solo career. And during that time, he went through his own deconstruction process. What Derek has done that is pretty amazing, is be really open, vulnerable and honest about that process with his audience, not only in his music, but also online and in various other media. Derek is the perfect guest for this show, because almost all of his work is about being brutally self honest about an honesty contest about vulnerability about transparency, showing the world where he's currently at and not hiding any of that. It was The Truman Show episode that Jimmy and Colin were on where Colin shared a story about seeing Caitlin's call when he was 18. A friend of Derek's heard that episode mentioned it Derek and Derek reached out to me, I'm very thankful that Derek reached out to me and I think this is a great conversation. In preparation for this. Both Jimmy and Collin suggested a number of things for me to listen to, obviously much of Derek's music from fingers crossed and targets and various other albums. But the one that had the most impact on me was his podcast, the airing of grief, which I highly recommend, and there will be links in the show notes. Derek's current project is called the Jesus hypothesis. And if you become one of Derek's Patreon supporters, you can actually be a part of that process. Derek will go into detail about that. You can find all of his music and all of his projects that Derek will have those links in the show notes. Here is my conversation with Derek Webb.

Derek Webb, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Derek Webb  4:27  
It's a pleasure. Great to be here with you.

David Ames  4:29  
Hey, I really appreciate you actually reached out to me after hearing an episode where a really good friend of mine Colin talked about what a moment it was for him. He was actually at a Caedmon’s Call concert. And you guys were doing a cover of a secular song and he had this context moment. Like, oh, wait, you know, music is just powerful, just by itself and, and he literally told himself now you know, Colin today, you know, said if I'd only and that the lead singer would someday be post evangelical or whatever term you want to use. Yeah. And have a huge audience for that, that what you know what that would have done for him as an 18 year old kid, so. So thank you so much, Derek, for being willing to come on the show.

Derek Webb  5:16  
Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you responding and being open to it. I mean, I'm, as we were talking just a few minutes ago, like I'm, I really care about the space, I really care about my friends who are still in the evangelical world, I care a lot about my friends who are kind of journeying on the outskirts and in no man's land around it. And it's, it's, as you know, what I'm sure your listeners know, it's like, it's not a thing that you detach your care, you don't you don't stop caring about it. Because it, it's still so much about where, where I've come from, and it's so much of the language that's so familiar to me and so much, and so much of our lives and families and colleagues and co workers and everybody is they're all on some they're on the spectrum somewhere, with some experience of invisible reality and some opinions about it. And so I don't see you don't stop thinking about it. And so it's funny, it's one of those things you just gets really hard to kind of get away from ultimately, you can detach your belief system from it, but you still have an awareness of it, and I still have a care for it. And so I always whenever I find people who are doing good work and holding additional space for people to think about this, I immediately, you know, want to listen, I want to contribute, I want to be part of it. You know, so I, so we when I saw what you were doing, what you're up to, and what great conversations that seemed like you were having, I just immediately reached out, and I'm so glad you responded. So thanks for having me.

David Ames  6:47  
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we're definitely the whole podcast, I think we're started to just say you're not alone. You're not crazy. Like there's plenty of us who have gone through this. You don't have to go through it alone. That's exactly it. Yeah. Yeah. One more piece of context that I think is important is that due to age, and when I became a Christian, when I stopped being a Christian and style, I actually have wasn't familiar with your music, yet very much prior to actually getting in contact with you. But what I am a huge fan of Derek, is your work in this space in this deconstruction space. So Colin, gave me a list and Jimmy to both both the people that were on that episode gave me a list of things to go listen to, oh, I absolutely adored, I listened to the first season of the airing of grief. Yes, man, what a powerful piece of work. That is, I really

Derek Webb  7:42  
appreciate it. Well, it sounds very much like what you're talking about. I mean, it was one of those ones, we want some friends and I determined that like, Oh, we're going through it. We felt like once we started to process our way through and out of a lot of kind of evangelical mindset. And just once we start, you think that what you're going through, everybody's going through and you think that when you discover something everyone just discovered it. And actually that's not true. It's most things you're coming into a moment with and you're kind of suddenly in the stream with it. And but there was just like you're saying that we were realizing how many people felt as though they were doing it by themselves and alone and isolated. And, and because the church is so good at congregating and about congregating themselves around ideas about things. And so once you're detached from that, there's just the lack of congregation. And that is that and you suddenly feel as though it's like all the files on your computer still being there. But all the directories being gone. Like you can't find your way to anybody or anything or any. And so you feel like you're all alone. And that was the main reason that we wanted to do that. Because we thought, because I had just put out this, this fingers crossed record, which was my kind of document of deconstruction that I had just gone through. And when and when people were responding to it, they seemed not to be responding to it so much as they were using it as an opportunity to do the same thing I was doing on the record, which is to tell their stories of what they had been through and where they had landed. And we thought Man, there clearly just needs to be more space for this more safe space for people to be welcomed to tell and bring their stories for the benefit of all the folks who don't feel brave enough to come or strong enough or maybe ready to come and bring and tell their stories. Just an order that everybody knows that they're not alone doing it. So I really resonate. Exactly. That was that was our exact same motivation for doing it. Yeah, I

David Ames  9:37  
always say that. That's the magic, right is somebody's telling their story. And the listener goes, you're telling my story. Yeah,

Derek Webb  9:43  
you hear your story come out of somebody else's mouth. And that's so deeply comforting. Yeah, absolutely.

David Ames  9:47  
I do want to come back to more of your work and we'll focus on sharing a little bit but I'd really like to hear your story. So the way that my guests often we begin with is like What was your faith tradition growing up? What was that? Yeah.

Derek Webb  10:02  
Yeah. So I grew up in the American South my whole life. I've always lived in the South. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. I lived in Texas for a while. And I'm now back in Tennessee in Nashville and have been for about 20 years. And so anybody who knows what that is shorthand for knows that I grew up with immersed in the language of evangelical Christianity. At least that was my expense. I actually, as I'm saying, and I realized that's obviously not everyone's experience, but that was an inevitability in everywhere I grew up was, there was the presumption of at least an understanding of evangelical Christian faith, if not a full practice. So and I grew up going to church my my mom, grew up Baptist. My dad grew up Catholic. Okay. And so they raised me and my brother Methodist, because I feel like they thought that was maybe the compromise. I got so yeah, that yeah, as they both moved to the middle, they they found the the middle points for both in United Methodism, apparently. So anyway, that's how I grew up, I was confirmed that 13 In the Methodist church, we weren't super involved. My parents were not real religious. But they did feel as though like a lot of parents, especially who were having kids in the late 60s and 70s, felt it was important to bring their kids up in church and to at least show up on a Sunday. And, and I was in the part of Memphis where we lived the the really good school, the school that I that I wound up going to was a private Christian school connected to the church where we went, so Okay, so zero to sixth grade, I was in a private school at at a United Methodist Church in Memphis, which is where we also attended. So I mean, I was there, you know, seven days a week. Right? I mean, I really was because I went to school there too. And, you know, grew up going to chapel, at least a few times a week, if, if not more, and, and also walking through the sanctuary to get around to most of the other parts of the school, you know, so really, really, really, into the end of that. And it was mostly for me, I think, well, you don't know how you're experiencing it. When you're that age, you're coming up with it that way, because it's just part of the inevitable framework, it's just part of the context you're in and you don't know your life without it. Even if it means nothing to you from a spiritual discernment standpoint, it's just it's more this is just all part of what it is and what we're doing. And it's the water use women, it is the water swimming. And that's exactly right. And until you get out of it for a second, you have no idea you even in water, you just it's like the oxygen you're in. And so I did. So that's kind of how I grew up. And as I mentioned, I got confirmed as you do when I was 13, and to the end of the church, and they give you a Bible and I don't know if I don't remember if they kind of declare you it's your kind of a full member of the congregation in church. At that point. I don't know what that got me really. I remember being baptized at that time. And then when I was in high school, wound up by that time I was in Houston, and a lot of friends, the Baptists, especially the Southern Baptists are really strategic in the way that they really what they do is they they put a lot of their money and intention into youth programs, because they know that that's how you get families. And so you know, why evangelize one at a time when you can bet evangelize a junior high kid and get six, because you're gonna want to put all their siblings and their parents. And so that's a smart strategy. And so there's just the most kick ass youth programs you can ever imagine going on in the suburb of Houston, where I was and so I was getting pulled into a lot of Baptist churches. I remember like, wow, what's going on with the but like, every other week, and my friends are dragging me into some Baptist Church for some cool and it's legitimate, pretty cool thing, I guess, you know.

And anyway, so there wasn't anything that really seemed to take root for me until the middle of high school when I wound up involved with a high school parachurch organization called Young Life. Oh, yeah. Not church affiliated yet. And that was real big at my high school, their high school parachurch organization. So, or at least at that time, they were mostly just high school. And they and young life, at least in my area did a really good job. Of every one of these organizations or institutions have strategies, they have strategies. They'll have an approach and young lives, at least in my area. It was to kind of go after the cool kids because if because if you get the trendsetters and the tastemakers you're gonna get all the rest because they want to be like those kids. But my particular the particular young life leader in southwest Houston, was also this really quirky, nerdy, kind of intellectual guy and he was is nothing like the cool kids that he was recruiting so to speak. But so I really personally resonated with him and connected with him because I was kind of a quirky or I was not, I was none of those things. I mean, I was not popular or athletic or, or performed academically or anything like that. But I really resonated with his with his mind and how his mind worked. And he was really super smart and fascinating and funny. And so anyways, I got kind of pulled into that deal. And that was, that was kind of the first point where I felt like it was something I was really choosing. And that was where I think I would have said, I had an experience at a young life, summer camp, and their properties are magical, honestly, they're like, they're like the the Disney level of detailed intention. And all of their camps. They're really amazing. I mean, they do just a great job. It's there. It's so much fun. It's such a fun deal. And it's like, an every bit of it is combed over and intentional. And I love that about it actually, I'm so wound up at a between my sophomore and junior year, is that right? I wound up at a young life camp. And I had heard this pitch many times. I mean, it's like, I was so familiar with it, just the whole, like, the four spiritual laws like, Okay, here's how the world works. Here's what God broke. And here's what was done about it. And here's your choice. You know, it was like, here's the deal. And I knew it super well. And I probably felt at that time, like it was something I had already kind of taken a position on, even passively because I knew I had been baptized and gone through my little classes or whatever, in Methodist church when I was when I was younger, but they they take you through in the and they kind of set you up and it's like it. And having worked with young life in in a few for a few years after that I you definitely get a set, you get a pretty good view of how the sausage is made in terms of the intention around like, Hey, we're going to send me this message, and then this one, and then this one, and we're going to leave them with that one until the next night where we're going to offer this one. And it's like, it's, you know, it's good communication. It's well, it's well thought out, you know, and, and to be perfectly frank, I had chased a girl there. It's probably the reason that I was willing to go to that camp in the first place. And, you know, you see everybody making the decision, you see the hands going up, you see the people go into the front. And I was like, You know what, I think I'm, you know, I don't know, like, I'm going to for whatever reason, I mean, I didn't, as I really tried to think back to the experience that I had, it was one of those, okay, we're going to let them sit with. But here's what happened. And here's where you lost connection to God, and here's why it happened. And they kind of leave you with that weight and that heaviness until the whole next night. And the next night, they say but something was done about and here's what you do. And here's the opportunity to come and choose and decide whatever it is and and then they kind of send you out into the beautiful hills of Colorado to think about that and then come back and they're gonna see who made a decision. And they said whatever the one thing though is you don't go back to your cabins we don't want you going back to your cabins just go out and find a space under the stars. So of course, I was such a contrary kid, I was such a discipline case all through that all those years. That of course, I went straight back to my cabin and hid so that counts was coming to make sure there weren't kids hanging out in cabins. And I they came in didn't see me and left but But I went back and decided, you know, I think I'm gonna go ahead and own a decision about this. I think I don't know that I made this anything happened. It was just like, I think it's time I'm just gonna, I'm pretty down with this. I like these people. I like this thing. I kind of feel like I belong here a little bit it. It was giving me some things I really needed. At that time. I didn't have really in a lot of friends. I've been I've been in the music since I was single digits but and I've been in a lot of bands, a lot of bands all through high school and stuff. But I was I was in between bands right then. And that's like the story I'm kind of leaving out. It's not it's not really super relevant. But the band that I'd been in for a lot of years that was a big part of my identity had ended right before that summer. It was a big a big thing. For me personally, music is a big part of young life because they do these young life clubs every like Monday night, during the school year. And they have guys up in the front strumming acoustic guitars. And they immediately wanted me to come and do that because they you know, it's smart, it's good if they find a way to give you kind of a job to do that makes that that kind of goes to your strengths. And that certainly did for me and I it was fun. Like suddenly, I had a place to play music again. That was part of my identity. Again, I liked that friends and a whole like, it's just like, here's like, just the whole package just on a platter. You just kind of come and be part of it. And then you just get to all the benefits of it. It's amazing. And so I was like I liked it. So I was like yeah, I'm gonna I think I'm gonna hang with this. And so I think I'm gonna go ahead and, and give it's, it's funny. I felt like I was kind of giving him something I was giving them as like, I want to show up as a number for these folks. Because I like this. I like this thing and this guy has done a pretty good job and he's a good speaker and I mean, he didn't tell me anything I hadn't heard and it wasn't especially moving you even it was just, I was like, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go up there because I think that would make them feel awesome. Like, you know, like, I want them to know that what they're doing matters. And so I'm going to show you know, and so I'm going to, I'm going to, you know, say that that's where my flag goes in the ground, even though it's probably it probably been years before if that happened at all. And so, so that was my experience came back and then and I was really into that. So the rest of height, so I had two whole years, plus summers to, you know, off at camps and stuff to, to really, for that to really take root. And that was a really important thing. It was a it was a you know, a lot of friends and a lot of memories and a lot of, you know, trips out to Colorado and ski trips and all kinds of stuff after that. And even for a minute for a hot minute considered maybe even working with young life and kind of running want to being like the one of these young life leader guys. And it just looked fun. It looked like a cool thing. You had to have a college degree, any degree in anything to do it. And I knew I wouldn't ever have that because I barely got out of high school. I was not, I was just I did. I didn't have any interest in that. And because music was my life, I started playing guitar when I was like seven or eight years old. And it's the only thing I've ever really been good at. And it was, and it was my whole life. So I blew school off constantly to revert to practice and then eventually in bands and, and that was my whole life. And so I knew I wasn't going to be getting I wasn't gonna be going to college. Okay, but anyway, so I hung with you online for a while even even you know that first summer after my senior year, and I thought, but where it kind of turns is so what would have been my freshman year of college just after that is when I met and connected with the folks who who we started Caitlin's call together. So Caymans was the band that I was in for about 10 years, right out of high school, so met those people. And that's its own story, too, but met those people. And we started playing music together. And we all had a pretty quick sense that this had potential. There was really something here we were really on to something and in a very Malcolm Gladwell, Ian kind of sense, we had a lot of advantages that other other bands weren't having around that time. And the way we were able to record our music and, and sell our music, and we were able to tour a little bit. We were in Texas, there's a bajillion colleges. And that's, and so just a lot of things fell our way made it really easy. And we found a lot of success at that wound up signed to Warner Brothers. And, and suddenly, that was a 10 year career. And what was interesting, it was just, you know, two years previous, that I had had this experience, that really, as I look back I I mean, I'm also kind of a closet intellectual. So I was loving and really falling in love with the, the academic side of all of this. And I loved I realized how much my brain loved the jigsaw puzzling of systematic theology. Tell my story, Derek. Yeah, yeah, so I so I really responded to that. And I think what I really had mostly, during my more mature, I would say, you know, years of belief was kind of a love affair with the language and a love affair with the structure. And with the theology and with making it all make sense. And being able to have answers and being able to kind of figure out some of that stuff, I loved it and loved debating it and loved, you know, honestly, I'm framing it in such a positive light, what I should really say is I loved like, weaponizing it, that's, that's, you know, I really, because I probably had some kind of a chip on my shoulder coming out of an experience where I was never seen as smart at all. And I think I was I just wasn't smart in a way that was being in any way noticed, or measured by any of the schools that I was going to or anything like that,

David Ames  23:37  
I think we can safely say that's true.

Derek Webb  23:39  
Well, but you know, I mean, and so so I so I think I had this kind of insecurity, deep insecurity about my intellect and, and so I was kind of a coming out of my shell a little bit from an intellectual standpoint, and really loving how my mind really wrapped itself around all of the systematic theology side, I was really studying all that studying the history instead. And I loved the idea of knowing a little more about that than the average Christian like, and I really, and I would start to infuse that in the songs I was writing and had a vehicle to do that, because by that time, we were practically professional Christians, because we wound up on a Christian imprint label of Warner Brothers, and then wound up actually skipping to a different record label. The point being, that, you know, we were suddenly generating, you know, Christian media, we were generating the, you know, influential Christian content or something. Although we were we didn't really know what we were doing or talking about it. We were just give you know, and that's kind of what you learn is like the people who are who have those voices. They're not necessarily the people who know anything or know anything more than you do. They're just the people that for whatever reason, I've been given the opportunity to speak loudly and, and volume is not an indicator of anything. Yeah. And so anyways, wound up for 10 Good years writing songs I was half of the songwriting for Caymans. Okay. But then there's also the added weird layer and pressure of being, as I said, kind of a professional Christian at that point. And representing something about that. And, and there's some rules that wind up getting kind of applied to it in terms of what you can and can't write songs about and things like that. So I can imagine that all winds up interesting. And again, I'm wired. So contrary that I wind up really going for most of the things you're not supposed to be writing stuff about. And that's what differentiates, I think, eventually my songwriting in the band, and then around the beginning of the to around 2000 or so is when I went out on my own as a solo artist, and did see myself as something of a disrupter, I think, in the, at least in the space of what was typically being produced and covered from a subject matter standpoint of Christian art, or whatever I, it was a small, it's a small space, but I, I was willing to kind of self sabotage to take on some of the issues I thought that the church didn't want to talk about, or things that I would see is. So I mean, that's really the things that I went after, because I'm wired that way. At least my my early solo career, I made a, I made a career out of really nine on the hand that fed me during all those years and interesting. So, and I think a lot of during a lot of those years, I think folks who were paying attention and listening to the music, seemed to have some suspicion that I was against the church or that I was out to criticize the church, when really the I didn't see that at all. I, I was ultimately in my own crosshairs. And I mean, you only you write about what you know. And what I knew was my own heart and the way that I felt and looked at the world and saw that, that sort of thing. And so that's ultimately what I was writing about. But I did try to broaden it out for the benefit of folks who I thought, you know, maybe needed to be shaken up a little bit like I did, and, but I only mentioned that to say that later, when I did go through, you know, a legitimate deconstruction, deconversion, whatever you want to call it. There are people who said, You see, we always knew because way back then he was so critical of the church and this and that, that we knew that he must be on some road to ruin or something I was like, actually, like I was writing about the church because I loved it so much, because I really wanted to see it thrive and prosper and succeed or whatever, at its mission. And but then then eventually, I guess it would have been around 25th, teen ish, went through some bumps kind of in my personal life, went through a divorce. And just had a moment to kind of take inventory a little to do an audit of all of the presumptions that I had had for many years, many of which went all the way back to that those early years, you know, of being a new Christian high school, and then being in Caymans and some of that, and loving the theology and all that stuff. It gave me an opportunity Anyway, great failure will do this. And it's one of the great, it's one of the great things about failure is it gives you the opportunity to kind of do an audit of the presumptions that you have about invisible reality and about invisible, unknowable things and visible like God unknowable, like the future to really think more critically about those things. And are they providing me a particular comfort right now, as I'm not just practicing Now it's showtime, like, now I'm really needing them to show up and either be meaningful and comforting. Either the ideas, or the actual expression of the ideas, which is going to be the body, the church, the people? How is it all going to? How's it all going to shake out now that the rubber is hitting the road? And it turns out that I'm not just a hypothetical, Senator, I'm an actual one. Interesting, because the church loves when you talk about the church loves the idea of radical confession, and really confessing your sins, one to the other, and to really be open about that and get gritty. And really, they love that in the hypothetical, but when you start doing it in the literal is when they start getting panicked. And when they start backing away and eventually communicating. I mean, it's like the, the it's like they, they really want you doing it, but then they want you doing it on their terms. And they want you doing it in a way that, that no one possibly could at a moment in a moment of crisis. Because you're you're not collected and you're not. You're trying to survive. So you can't help the way it may come out of you at any given time. And that's interestingly the point where the church really leaves a lot of folks. Yeah. Which is so fascinating to me, because it's like, Well, isn't this what we've been practicing for, though? Is this what we open? We've all been rehearsing for this moment. And now that I'm going to come to you with more than just the idea that I'm a center of I'm going to come to you with like, Oh, I I actually am there's no there's no escaping it anymore. And this is the moment like you would think that this would be the thing we've all been waiting for. And this is the thing we're built for. And now we're ready to really, you know, drop me into the machine. then the machine does its thing. And that's not it's like I was a wrench in the gears and the thing and it's like it had to spit me right out and and it's like you ironically you stopped making sense to the congregation when you start doing the one thing that apparently is the thing that everyone supposedly has in common there. It's like going to an AAA meeting and getting kicked out when they find out that you're actually a drinker. Yeah, it's like it. I thought, that's why we were all here. I thought that was the only one thing we had in common. And the reason we were gathering so why are you shocked? I mean, and I was writing songs even about like, one of my best known songs during my early solo career was a song called wedding dress. And the chorus of it is I'm a whore, I do confess, and I put you on like a wedding dress and run down the aisle, it's, you know, I'm a product with no way home, and I put you on like a ring of gold and rundown the, it's like, I wasn't false advertising I wasn't making. I mean, I was trying to tell you, you know, like, you just weren't listening or didn't believe me, or what was it. And so it was around that time. And that big audit that I mentioned, is when I just didn't find any of those things, particularly comforting or even really necessary, and really needed when I was really needed to survive. And as I was going through, you know, the hardest things I've gone through in my life, and really needing some a framework to be able to look at it and have it makes sense. And I needed something beneath me to catch me and I needed something to lean my weight around on. And all the things that I had, that I had brought with me, they just turned out not to be real things, they just they I would lean my weight over and just fall right to the floor. And they just, it wasn't a real thing. It wasn't really there. And so I immediately what I'd spent 35 or 40 years constructing and tweaking and working on like a Harley, as it turns out, was not a real thing. And I needed to, you know, build a quick parachute on during the freefall. And that kind of became the lighting the fuse on kind of where I am now, you know, and trying to make my way into like, Okay, well, what is real then? Or what can I discern as?

What can I find? What can I What can I test and, and find in terms of the way the world works, and, and what's really going on. And it was such a gift to be split up from this language that I was so committed to, and I've worked so hard on for so many years to, because you realize how much of it makes no sense. And how much of it is just kind of some weird code language that you're speaking with a small group of people, many of whom are not really taking it out for a spin to find out what it's really made of, it's like the same way that you can't really get a clear sense of the quality of the boat you're in while you're in it. Because you are in every way incentivized to believe that it can hold your weight, and that it is equal to the waves you're going to hit. It's not to your throne from the boat, and you can get up out of body, you know, vantage point of it, you can say oh my god, like that's what I've been in, like, that's barely a two by four, I mean, how in the world, or you come down and put your feet down and realize that you don't need a boat, because you the waters two feet deep, or whatever it is, it's like, whatever it is, those moments can be a great gift and, and then as you start to pull that thread, you just realize, oh, the whole thing just comes apart. For me, the whole thing really just came apart. And it was so good. Because there were so many things. It's so interesting, I swear to God, I'm going to stop soon. So you can talk to you but But you start to realize that there are so many things that you associate with this view of the world that you deep down you you knew didn't make sense. It's like, it's like when my friends from other religions or faiths or my friends who seemed to have lifestyles that were in contention with my view of the world, my Muslim friends, my might just my general secularist friends, my, my agnostic friends, or my my gay friends, my you know, they would come and we would talk about whatever the dilemma was. And I remember many times saying I think this is common. I wish it was like that I wish I could tell you that your way isn't okay way and that you can get to God and be saved that way. I wish I if it was up to me, I would I wish I could say that that your lifestyle and your behavior and your choices. That all that could just be okay. And that I that. I wish I could say that. Yeah, but unfortunately I can't because I don't have that luxury because here's where it says this is where I find myself strangely being more tolerant or loving or accepting or welcoming than God is right. And that's a strange like when I feel like I'm making apologies for the God of the universe who is supposedly all love. And yet I'm you know, making apologies on his behalf saying I what am I what am I supposed to do? Like? I wish he was as loving as I was but apparently he's not. Yeah, and things like that. So it's like, it gives you a chance to reframe and rethink some of those things. And let me say this, because I can already hear, although I'm suspicious that many of your listeners are, you know, will, will at least relate, I'm sure there are those who I would need to hear me say, and I want them to hear me say that I own 100%, that all those things I'm describing, all of those things could be a result of my wrong view of Evangel Christianity and my bad practice of it, or having being on the wrong side of it, or the wrong brand of it, or the or, you know, constructing a God out of all the wrong things and making it into the one that makes the most sense to me, and then saying, that's the only one I mean, and I even said, There's a song on the fingers crossed record that says, you know, either you're not real or I'm not chosen, you know, and maybe I'll never know. And either way, my hearts broken, you know, because it's like, in other words, I don't know, maybe this quasi reformed, very conservative, theologically conservative God, that it was the only one that made sense to me, is just the wrong one. And maybe I need to be an atheist of that God to find a real one, if there's one to be found. I am permanently uncertain about these things. And I'm not saying that I'm that I'm right. I'm just I just know that I was wrong before. Right. And I'm probably wrong again. But at least I'm detached from my certainty about it. If anyone's saying well, right, but you're the god you're describing. I don't believe in that God either. And I think that you're, and you know what you could be right. And I'm certainly not saying that all, this couldn't be my fault. I'm sure that it is. But for me, it was a good thing to be able to have the opportunity to go through and really pull all those things apart. And I think the only way I was able to do that was to have to land in it. And fine, and to blow right through it like to land in like a net that was supposed to catch me and find out that was air below me, I think was a great thing. Because then I was like, Oh, well, good to know. Yes. Because if it's it, because if it's not real, I want to know that. And if it Israel, I want to know that. And if something else is real, I want to know that. And I feel like I know a little more than I used to know in terms of maybe what's there or what's not, or at least what rings true to me.

David Ames  37:26  
I want to focus on the radical honesty that you mentioned. And specifically that you were mentioning, like isn't that what we're supposed to be doing is to reveal our humanity to one another and to experience grace?

Derek Webb  37:44  
truth will set you free, you know? Yeah, exactly, precisely.

David Ames  37:46  
On the podcast, we talk about secular grace, we talk about doing an honesty contest, rather than intellectual debate and honesty contests, and about trying to connect with each other. And I think you've just very eloquently described all of those things. I want to take that a step further. And just say, one of the things that I admire about your deconstruction work is the radical honesty. So you did the airing of grief and your original intention was to let people just bitch at you right to say, to say, Why did you do this to me directly? It didn't turn out that way. But you made yourself vulnerable, and owned the change that you made you understood the potential hurt that might have been there. And you put yourself out there and I just, I can't commend you enough for that work.

Derek Webb  38:38  
Oh, I really appreciate it. Well, yeah, so that so for for your listeners who don't know that area, grief was a podcast that some friends and I did in the year that that came right after the fingers crossed records. So just because I'm sure that just for people who don't know that it can get confusing. When I during my years, the last 20 something years of making solo music up until 2017 was when fingers crossed came out all of my records up till then we're dealing with not exclusively, I wouldn't have called myself a Christian artist. I don't think there's any such thing. There are Christian people who make art and their art has the fingerprints of their beliefs all over it, you can't avoid that. But I was never I never thought of myself as a vocational minister. I was not. That's not why I was doing it. I'm a professional singer and songwriter. But, but a lot of my work I was very I was always very preoccupied with spirituality and with especially looking in a critical way at the church that I did love and care about and consider myself a part of that's that's a brief, very brief description of kind of what my ethic was over many years. 2017 is where the hard pivot you know that the heart corner were that I took where the fingers crossed record was I kind of called it the the tale of two divorces. It was kind of my both horizontal and vertical divorce. I went through both In one year, and that record is kind of the the soundtrack for that. And so it was a bit of a record scratch moment for people who'd been with me for a long time. And because at that time, there would have been a good 20 years that they might have been with me. And in all likelihood, we're in some similar place to where I was maybe critical of, but ultimately loving and considering themselves part of the evangelical church. And so, and as I mentioned before, we, when I did that record, it seemed that people were using the record as a Rorschach to tell their own, ultimately, their own deconstruction stories, because when people would try to tell me what they thought of the record, they would just wind up telling me their story, right, which I really loved. And that's why my friends, I thought, okay, you know what, let's do this. Like, apparently there are not there. And again, this was back in 2015, or no, no, it was a 2017 2017. Maybe there are already plenty, but for at least these people, they seem to not have a safe place to tell these stories. So they're telling them to me, and I think there are a lot of people would be deeply comforted to hear these stories. And to hear, as you mentioned before, like their story, someone else, someone hearing their own story coming out of the mouth of another person, which means that they're not alone. And they're not crazy. And so our idea was, what if we just set up essentially, like a telephone number, and you can just call it and I'll spend 10 minutes on the phone with you, and you can just tell me your story. And just tell me, what your where you've been and what we'll we'll we'll bleep your name out. And we won't, you know, it'll, it'll be semi anonymous, and you can just kind of air your grief about your spirit, you know, your spiritual journey or whatever. And there were some people who aren't who did use it as a, as a means of evangelizing me or just telling me how generally heartbroken and angry they were at me for providing soundtrack for their lives up until that point, and then departing from that from their story, which I understand and that's fine. But ultimately, we did a handful of seasons of just collecting these deconstruction stories and kind of assembling them back by topic, and then releasing them for people as a means of comfort and feeling welcomed and included. And, and not alone, right. And I learned more than anybody did. I mean, because I was so new to it. And so to hear the stories of some people who had been going through a deconstruction or been through already a deconversion, decades before, and to hear it to hear their wisdom and what was on the other side of it, and to hear what something like reconstruction looked like for them, right, was really helpful. And it was I feel like I got the best end of the deal, hearing getting to hear all those stories, but it was a pretty overwhelming response. And I'm definitely proud of that work. I'm glad it's I'm glad it's there. We don't we're not doing it anymore. But I'm glad it's there for people to find if they find it, especially comforting. Yeah.

David Ames  43:03  
Yeah, and I don't mean to be stuck on the past here.

Derek Webb  43:06  
No, not at all.

David Ames  43:08  
If I were to grossly oversimplify. Fingers crossed, reads to me as I wish I could stay in. I can't. And I'm sorry about that. Targets feels a bit more of I'm out. What now how do I how do I reconstruct what what is life look like now. But that leads us to your current project, which is called the Jesus hypothesis. And I want you to talk about it, but it sounds like you're just revisiting some of the questions with a different perspective. So you want to tell us

Derek Webb  43:39  
about Yes. Yeah. So that's very well said I appreciate it. I appreciate you checking those things out. And yeah, so fingers crossed I mentioned and that's kind of the tail to divorces targets was directed came after and that was kind of like Okay, I think we've I think I've paid my my dues here now. I think I'm done grieving. I don't want that to be the hallmark of I don't want that to be the to be the grid through which I'm having to look at this forever. It's just I'm always pulling that thing apart. I'm always leaving a thing I want to go towards a thing now like I want to, I want to be not just repulsed, but compelled like I don't want to just be repelled I want to be you know, and so targets was more of a kind of defiantly joyous, yes, you know, record about unbelief, and also finding love again, it's about falling in love. And I'm remarried now for several years. And, you know, so it was it was it was I needed some joy and some the sound of joys to finances, rock and roll. So it's a very rock and roll record. Yeah. So Jesus hypothesis is the new project and I and the reason that I came around to, to doing this and what it's kind of about or what I'm trying to accomplish, was realizing that while I did go through a pretty intense kind of audit deconstruction, whatever process and I like the language of audit better because it's like that feels like a thing that's meant to be done. On regularly Yeah, rather than there's this exhausting, reconstruct it now deconstruct again and build it back up and tear back down. It's like my solution or whatever to that potential exhaustion was to just stop constructing why are we constructing like, the term belief is so problematic to me because of all the connotation around it like, I don't have anything anything in my life, I would put the weight of the term belief on anymore, I don't believe anything. Instead, rather than constructing and deconstructing, I'm going to my, the idea that was in the language I like is I'd rather hypothesize in real time, and whatever continues to ring true and work, I will continue to bring with me, but I want to be in a position to come in to new information and abandon it in a second if it stops making any sense that I think is a pretty decent failsafe from what had happened before happening again, like I don't want to become a fundamentalist about agnosticism, right? Or atheism, I don't, I want to remain open, and I want to hear everything, and I want to weigh everything out. And, and so that was part of it. The other big part of it was, as I mentioned, before, trying to take some responsibility, and own some of my own story. And maybe that being the biggest part of why I've gone through what I've gone through, and not even really at being the fault of a particular brand of evangelicalism, or God, or Jesus or the church or whatever, but I want to own it. My initial trip through the china shop, as the deconstructing it was I you know, I went in there with an axe and I chopped some some stuff down and I, it's what I needed to do. I think that's the way a lot of people feel initially about it. But I was taking some pretty broad strokes. And what I realized is that as I would have conversations with my wife, with my friends, inevitably, about invisible reality, about religion, about spirituality, about all of it, when I would shift into that gear, and start to talk about Jesus, God, the Bible, church, whatever, fascinatingly, I would go right back to where I was, in terms of how I thought, what all my opinions about all that stuff, I would fall right back into it and start defending the castle again. And so my friends would joke with me and say, you say you don't have a dog in the fight. But we're in this really, we're in this long conversation about talking about all this stuff. And you're come off like a reformed, agnostic, like, what's your deal? Like? It's like us, you say, you're not part of it. But it's almost like you're still defending this particular view of all this interesting. And I was like, oh, that's awful. Like, that means every time I go back to think about it, I'm revert I'm reverting, I'm going back into previous opinions that are just don't have any up to date thinking around them. And it's like, so maybe the thing that I previously took a, you know, an axe to, I need to go back and take a scalpel to, and I need to get specific and I need to get focused and I what I need to do is put, not just Okay, great theism. Okay, I've put that on trial, I've already come out of that a little bit from from a broad standpoint, now I need to go in and go after Reformed theology. And I need to go after my particular things, and I need to I need to surgically remove all that stuff and get it detached from it, so that I can just go back and even have thoughts about God, Jesus, the Bible, the church, and have them be in any way objective in 2021 2022, without having to only see them through my the narrow view of the way I've always seen them. Yeah, I need to go to look at them fresh, so that I can at least have better thoughts about them, and have some objectivity about them and put them in some kind of context. So that's really what this new record is, it's me going back and revisiting all of those specific presumptions, and putting all that stuff up on trial, working my way through my particular view of all of it, and just hypothesizing about it and saying, Okay, what if I was to allow myself because these are not things that I allowed myself previously. What if I was to and this will sound rude, very rudimentary to many of your listeners, but just just to say it, what if I allowed myself that inerrancy does not have to be part of the fixed system? What does that now allow to happen? What if I go in with a fundamental distrust of the apostle Paul, that's the majority of the New Testament what is that allowed to be possible now? What if I go through and in other words, what if I changed some of my rules and slowly go through and untangle all those things and then just look at all of it shit, there might be a lot of really interesting insightful things to learn and there might be some things I want to bring with me and there might not I don't want to give daddy all the control by being angry at daddy for the rest of my life. It's like so I want to go in and own it and I want to go in and and and look more critically at it. So that's kind of what this new record has is, is me going through and really pulling that stuff apart.

David Ames  50:07  
Yeah, that sounds awesome. And then you're doing one other really interesting thing. And that is that you are having your fans be a part of the process. So you'll actually do a session with your Patreon viewers, and they're able to interact with you on some level and then basically get inside your head as your as your yes.

Derek Webb  50:27  
Because, yes, because I thought that the people who had been with me this long and I do I have the way I kind of manage my relationship to the people who most deeply resonate with the songs and the questions and they've been with me the longest where who who care that much, or we apparently have that much in common where we really deeply resonate, you know, we're connected, is through this community platform called Patreon. And it's just a way for people to support to regularly micro support me, and then just have total access to everything all the time, you know, just and, and so everybody kind of gets what they need out of the deal. And it's a really beautiful thing. And so anyways, and that's been my thing for a handful of years now. And so my patrons, you to me feel like a safe group, because they really know me, I've spent a lot of time with most of them. It's, it's a manageable group, it's like four or 500 people. It's not, it's not 1000s of people, it's and so these are people who many of whom I really legitimately know, some of whom I talk to once a month on Zoom for about 20 minutes. So it's like, and I have for years and like we really know each other. And I do like private online shows for them all the time that we have q&a, and we talk and we have discord discussion groups. And so I feel I felt safer offering this to them. And I've always been a very private processor creatively. And I like nobody, my wife, my best friends don't hear the songs until I have obsessed over every conjunction. But with this, I thought you know what this would be, especially if I'm calling it a hypothesis if I'm experimenting, I think it might be interesting for folks who care and who want to see that, to really go with me through the whole process and really understand literally everything about this record and the songs and the decision making and the content and the themes. And so I started with no songs and I said, Okay, I'm going to live stream the entire process, and archive it to so you can go back and you can catch up. And then you can come with me and you can be live with me and and I've done maybe 18 or 20 songwriting live streams. I started with no songs I've got about 10 songs now that I'm not done writing. And I literally you can go back and you can literally watch me out of out of thin air. Like come up with and commentate my way through every melodic choice, every chord choice, every lyric choice, and just commentate my way through everything. I'm thinking, I've got multiple stereo cameras in my studio. And I just sit here and I just talk my way through it. Yeah, and I'm doing and now that we're in the recording phase, I'm doing that with the recording as well. We got cameras running, I'm actually doing the vocal takes and performing and we're doing it. So when the record is done, it'll come out sometime next year, I don't know exactly what the schedule is coming up, we're done with it yet. But this you'll be able to hear the song finished and then go back and start and watch the whole song appear out of thin air over time. And it just felt like this was a good record to, to offer that if to pull the curtain back for people who cared. And especially for people who might benefit to hear the literal thought progression all the way through. So they could really understand every one of those lines, every one of those lyrics. And so it would just enhance potentially their experience with the songs to wear when they're listening to it. I've been the only person who when I'm performing songs or talking about songs or hearing some of the songs, I have the memories of Oh, I remember where I was I remember that moment. I remember what I was thinking about the book I was writing when I wrote that I remember what like right when that appeared It was now there will be four or 500 other people who will have those memories with me of having been there when that happened. And they'll know exactly where I wasn't what I was thinking about what I was reading and, and it'll, if that helps them going through what they're going through. I thought that would be such a fascinating thing to try. Yeah. And so far, it's been amazing. It's been really fun. It would be very overwhelming for anybody who is not a big fan. But if it is the kind of thing that you're into, I'm just happy to have the document of it. And so that's kind of the way we've been doing it. And it's been pretty interesting. So Well, I

David Ames  54:26  
think you're on the cutting edge. I think that you're blazing a trail here that probably people will follow you.

Derek Webb  54:33  
Oh, well I appreciate it. It feel it makes it makes the creative process, the real time creative process of making the thing, the art just as much as the product of the result of that process, which most of the time, a record by the time somebody hears it. They've really missed all the magic, I mean of the thing appearing and the thing happening and the inspiration and everything that goes into it in the blood, sweat and tears. You get to hear the product of a process, but you don't Get to actually observe the process. And I just think, you know, records that have been important to me over the years, what I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall. And I've gotten to been with the artists when they were when it was happening. And to see the moment when they sang that vocal that I have now obsessed and listened to 1000 times and know every nuance of, and I just thought, I don't presume to be one of those types of artists. But for the handful of folks who connect with what I make, in that way, I would love for them to have that. And and and I'm always just trying to find, especially in the the world of digital art, and where there's no scarcity left in the world of digital music, it's like to create something that you had to kind of be there for and to and ultimate to enhance your experience of something that is that has no scarcity anymore, you can at least have a different experience of it and a heightened experience and enhanced experience of it. Yeah, you know, if you wish to, I liked that idea. And it is it feels like me making it is kind of so for these handful of people, the experience of going through this with me, is going to kind of be the art, it's that the album, so to speak for them is going to be this whole real time experience that we're having together. Right. And them honestly seeing where it's going before I do and knowing what it's about before I will, because they have the objectivity. I'm like right here, I'm like, right against, I don't know, I don't see it, I'll be the last one to see it. They don't take me months, it's always happens once the record comes out months later, when I've detached from the experience of having made it and I can just kind of forget a lot of that process and just listen to it more objectively, is when I get a sense of Oh, shit, like that's really revealing in a way I didn't realize deep, you know, but I don't usually get that till later. But these folks are going to know it long before me. And I also just love I love when art takes risks. I think that art is one of the few places left in culture where you can take real risks, and you can be really, and that can make something really beautiful. And I love artists to take risks. And I'm always looking for ways to take creative risks, I think great things happen. Because it keeps you as a creator on the edge of your seat it keeps it keeps you as a as a viewer listener, supporter at the edge of your seat. So I love the idea of it being something that for me, after 25 years of doing this as my job felt like risk taking and that that I immediately responded to I had the idea of doing it this way and immediately thought this could be awful. Like I could try it and I could literally not be able to do it right? Because I've been so private, what if I'm sitting in front of a camera, and I'm seeing how many people are watching and I'm like, just can't do it. What if I just can't do it. Because you do depend on something external to kind of happen, you know, you, you stand there with the key on the kite, but the lighting doesn't strike. There's nothing, nothing, nothing worth watching. And so luckily, it has worked, which I think is more a testament to the support that I received from these people and my trust in them. Yeah, you know, so anyway, but it has been fascinating. So it's been really fun,

David Ames  58:00  
very, very, very cool.

On the topic of art, or something that Colin was getting at and that an obvious observation as the bleeding of love song in the human secular sense and a worship song to God. In some ways, you're also doing with fingers crossed the divorce and deconversion at the same time, the flip side of that coin that's really interesting to me. Yeah. Is that something intentional?

Derek Webb  58:42  
That's a great question. The only way I know that the only way I know to answer it is to say that like I have always considered it my job and the job of an artist. And this is just a definition I like and you can people can use it if they if they like and they don't have to, is to look at the world and describe it. Look at the world tell us what you see. That's that's the job of an artist, it's really that simple. That is always that's always been the ethic of the mind, that's always been my creative ethic always. And it's interesting to me that sometimes when I have looked at the world to describe it, it has come out like something that would sound like a worship song. Sometimes it will come out as something that sounds critical of a worship song, sometimes it will come out as it comes out so many different ways. And yet it's the same process is producing all of it and, and, and the reason is because everything in that the reason I like that that as a job description is it's all variables. The world is constantly changing, that I am observing, I am constantly changing as I observe it. So I could even stand in the same exact spot look at the same exact thing and describe it a completely different way or not describe it at all not find any particular meaning in it. And I and that so something about really adhering closely to that ethic has kept me Be really honest, and it's kept me or it's proven, it's presented me with the opportunity for honesty, right. And so that has been fascinating to me to to note for me to know that I'm always going at it the same way, I'm always this is the same approach I always take. And yet look at what radically different things are happening over time. And I think I am really committed to that I'm really committed to really boxing out around the creative moments. And I hope this is what my patrons are observing in these sessions or whatever is like, I'm very committed to putting whatever perceived complication or trouble arises from something I may be writing at any given time, what may be coming out of me, vulnerably, I didn't even time putting those, you know, in the mail for the future for me to have to deal with, and really boxing out around the actual creative moment to make sure that at least it comes out vulnerably, honestly, so that by the time it's captured, I just don't want to have projected any kind of insecurity onto it. In the moment of inception, I really work hard to make sure even if if it presents tremendous trouble for me later, I'd rather say You know what, it's not my problem right now, to worry about what the consequence of me saying this is going to be right for my friends, for my family, for my fans, for anybody, I just need to say if this is what's coming out of me, I need to I need to be both bodyguard and midwife to it and really make sure it gets out and it gets out completely and the most the most concentrated pure version of it that I can as quickly as I can, and then just have to deal with that later. And so I just kind of always push consequences create the consequences of creative decisions, just pushing those into the future. Until they're just, there's nothing I can do about it. And it's like, oh, well, here's, here's this song. And I don't know, I don't know how I let myself get away with writing. Now having my marketing business hat on, like, Yeah, this is super problematic. But, you know, I, I can just all I can do is go back and get mad at the artists who wrote it. But I think that's a good tension, especially as a solo artist to create for yourself. Because yeah, there's a point at which I'm gonna have to be concerned about, okay, who is this for? And how do I market it to those people? How do I try to set it up to find the people who I think it's for and who do I, and you know, it's what I do for a living, it's how I make money. So I'm going to have to, I'm going to have to use whatever I've made back here, I've got to use that to separate people from their money, because that's how I eat Yeah. So if I over alienate everybody, I'm just going to work myself right out of the job. And maybe that's, you know, that and I've gotten very comfortable with a cycle of self sabotage where it's like, I feel very comfortable shedding a third of my audience annually, I think that's a pretty healthy thing. And and gaining a new third of people who are more immediately resonant with what I'm making. Now. I think that's a just a probably a very natural, healthy consequence of honesty. In the arts, you know, it's like it you have to, you can't be mad at people who don't like what you're doing now, you have to be grateful they were ever there. And then have them clear those seats. So somebody else can come sit in those seats. But I'm happy having no more fans, just having the number generally that I have had for the handle painful years that I've had them, and some of them clearing out to make room for new folks. And that's kind of the way I rationalize it and do it.

David Ames  1:03:30  
And you're growing as a human being and changing not just from a faith position, but just as you grow as an adult in general. Absolutely. To be able to express those experiences. Yeah.

I have absolutely stolen one of your guests on the airing of grief. It said something that just bowled me over. And if you know who it is, you can tell her thank you for me. Okay. But she disambiguated deconstruction of the church, from deconstruction of God. Yes. And if I were to take it just one step further, I'd say. There's just multiple layers of deconstruction, deconstruction in the Bible, inerrancy, deconstruction, theology, deconstructing the church, and then maybe the last thing to go is deconstructing God. And I'm just curious for you personally. Yeah. Did those happen in any particular order for you?

Derek Webb  1:04:28  
Yeah, I really appreciate you asking. Because I do think that's insanely important. And I feel like what you're describing that more granular deconstruction is essentially what I'm doing now. Like, I thought I was done, you did it, and it happened, and it's done. So now I am deconstructed. But as it turns out, you know, everything must always get more complex there. There you must apply more complexity to everything all the time, and break it down into further smaller pieces and smaller pieces and smaller pieces. And I think that's kind of what I'm allowing myself to do now. It was big picture now it's small picture and you Yeah, that was a great feature of those conversations, especially in that first season. It's something I picked up on and probably learned from the same person that you heard it from. And then it wound up being. For me language, I brought with me in the most conversations with folks who were part of our podcasts. And that was, like, it was interesting, how many times somebody would tell me their story. And then as we start to have a conversation about it, when they were kind of ready to talk about it, rather than ready to tell me, once they were done kind of telling me we were, we would just be discussing it. It's, it's, it was so interesting and ironic to me how many people, I was kind of talking back into faith, because I was like, okay, that's fascinating. I hear all those parts of your story. But for me at the time, I remember quick on my feet at that time, I'm breaking it into kind of three categories. You're not ever deconstructing even broad deconstruction, you're not you're not, there's not one thing you're deconstructing, there's the the idea of the church like the the institution, and the cultural voice of the church that exists kind of in the world, there's that. And your relation to that there is the literal expression of the Church, which is like Christian people, proud of fellow practitioners of Christianity, there's that. And then there's capital god, there's like, the idea of the all good, all powerful Maker of all things to whom you must be reconciled by way of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So there's like, there's these three things, and a lot of people would really have a lot of issues with the first two. But I wouldn't hear a lot about the last one. In their story. I was like, what sounds like, you have basically figured out that you don't belong, you don't resonate with or identify, either socially or politically, with the institution of the church anymore, that's a great thing, it's a great thing to be free of, because that just oversimplifies and reduces everything. And that's no good. And so I even if you were part of it, I would say to not be part of it anymore, because you just you're letting categories, do all your thinking for you. And that's and have all your conversations for you. And that's not healthy, it's not good. And then beyond that, it sounds like maybe you don't particularly identify or have been failed by, or particularly hurt by the individuals, the expression the actual community, the the congregants, that's totally fair, that's just your experience. But I don't know that that necessarily has a lot to do maybe with it, maybe maybe this is where you now get to start, as you said, thinking about how does all that bear or does it at all, on the way you feel about God as an idea, and maybe even your understanding of God, as an idea being uniquely informed by the Bible, maybe that's the thing you need to go pull apart so that you can have a better, bigger, broader, more abstract idea of God in order to determine if that's even a thing that you agree with, or resonate with. Because like, there's a song on the new record on G's hypothesis, that's called some Gods deserve atheists. And that's a, that's a phrase I've had for a super long time way, before I D converted, I had that phrase, because it was like, right, if I'm, the likelihood that the God that any individual is believing in is mostly a construction of their own ideas, is very high. Because Because like we are most likely the majority of God, as we see, it has got to be mostly a construction of it's, it's, it's, it's our own, it's our own ransom letter that we've kind of compiled of a lot of crap that we've cut out of a lot of magazines, it's like, a lot of Bibles, and a lot of experiences and a lot of relationships, like we've kind of pasted this thing together. And if you're rejecting that, and saying, I'm an atheist or an agnostic to that, well, that's fine. And that doesn't really have anything to do with anything other than you learning how you are distinct from everything that's behind you. But it's like, that kind of maybe has nothing to do with whether or not there's some benevolent, creative energy in the universe, and whether or not you can fit it into the skin of the God of the New and Old Testament. I mean, that's an important thing to think about. But that's not the whole conversation. And so that's the beginning of the thing, not the end of the thing, in my opinion, you know, because you immediately call something by a different name and loose it from all of the constraints that you've put on it. And now you're dealing with a whole other thing that needs a whole fresh, you know, exercise of thought around it like oh, well, because, you know, like, for me, the one thing that's come back around as maybe something I think I believe in or something I think is a feature of reality that I can discern that I think I can observe and test and does is cause and effect. Cause and effect I think is an actual thing. I actually do think and you can call that, you know Kismet? You can call that luck. You can even frame that into the law of attraction that what you put out comes back energy that you invest returns manifestation. I all that could be boiled down to cause and effect. And I do think that's a feature of reality. I do beyond that. I don't know. So the point being, I think it's extremely helped Want to break these things apart and not think you've done it? Just because you've decided you're not a part of the American Evangelical Church, political party anymore? Yeah, it's like, that's a great thing to do. It's a great start. But just because I want you to be thorough, and I want you to be healthy, and I ultimately want you to believe whatever rings true to you. And I don't have any problem with that. Maybe don't assume that baby Jesus went out with that particular bathwater, like, maybe you need to now start thinking about those things separate from you feeling like you're beholden to this particular political language, or rigid theological worldview, or whatever it is, it's like, it's important to break those things apart, and to make sure that you thought about them separately, right. And that was a lot of the encouragement we tried to bring to the airing of grief conversations was, like, I hear you really thoroughly doing it with this, but not with these two, right, or maybe with these two, but not with that one, you know, so don't move faster than you're ready to move, like you've really thought a lot about and really have a clear, you've settled with this. But like, maybe that just frees you up to really think more critically about this other one, and don't run so fast. And so far, like, be where you are, and move at your own pace. And, and I think that was, at least for me helpful to say, Oh, I don't have to, because some people won't go all the way there because they're like, oh, but if I do this, I mean, all of it's gotta be it's all or nothing at all has to go or I can't keep any of it's like, no, no, no, God doesn't get everything in the divorce. Like, there's a lot of things you could bring with you that those could be your things, you don't lose all of that stuff. You can bring love of enemy, love of neighbor, you can bring love of creation in the world. And I mean, you can bring all kinds of things with you that you thought belonged or whatever to your previously held worldview. Those can be your things that cannot be part of your own reconstructions scenario, you know, but so I so that's a great point. And I think I learned that from the folks who we were talking to in the podcast and hearing, it was just an observation, hearing them do it. And they realize you know what, that's not all of it, though, right? You're talking about this facet and that facet, but there's at least three if not a dozen, but there are the big three, you know, there's the group of people, the institution, and then like the dude, those all those all deserve their own

David Ames  1:12:16  
deconstruction. Yes. And for sure, you know, I'm doing just that right, this idea of secular grace, bring that with you. Of course, I'm absolutely stealing the intuitive obviousness that former evangelicals will recognize what we're talking about.

Derek Webb  1:12:31  
Yep. And if there's language that's helpful, and that is particularly beautiful, that you that we do find in the pages of the Bible. Well, then let's see if that some of that poetry is helpful. And then let's bring that with us. Absolutely. Let's do that. Yeah. Like, we're not going to allow some particular view of it, deprive us from benefiting from it if there's benefit to be had. And so I don't want to be afraid, I want to fear no information, right? I want to fear no language, there's no such thing as like, we tell our kids all the time, there's no such thing as bad words. They're not good words and bad words, there are only words and the meaning that we assign to them, and the ways that we use them. And so if I need to, if I if I particularly love certain poetic language, or philosophical language in the Bible, I don't want to feel like I don't I no longer suddenly have rights to that or something doesn't belong to somebody else. If I want to bring that with me and make that part of the language that I'm, again, kind of putting together to bring with me that that helps me then then I have every right to do that. And so do you. Yeah, I'm glad. I'm glad to hear that. And I'm glad to hear that that's part of the work that you know, that the community is doing.

David Ames  1:13:49  
As we wrap up here, Derek, one of my observations is that you provide a bridge for the Christian who is in the early part of deconstruction. I've always wanted to be that, but I think my audience has turned out to be the D converted. Yeah, primarily, it's people on the other side, and how do we live and thrive now? Yes, but I really appreciate the voice that you have and how necessary it is, man. And I want you to expand on one quote of yours you have shared in the past that you shouldn't fear deconstruction, The only danger is in not questioning at all. That's exactly right. And I'd like you to expand on that and like and let's assume for a moment that maybe I have a handful of listeners who are still believers who are just beginning those questions.

Derek Webb  1:14:36  
Yeah, that is the quote like that. Because if it turns out to not be true, wouldn't you want to know? And because if it turns out to be true, don't you want to know like, and so rather than to make some big decisions about languages and concepts when you're young, and then just never think about it again, just go on second. Well, you know, that's it, I've done my thinking about that stuff. And so here's my, these are my talking points. And here's the scripture verses that back it up, and I'm kind of done thinking about that, like, that's not a great healthy way to, to go forward and to be, you know, to be a person, here's my, my sweet dog contributing is very strong, very strong feelings about this. But yeah, so the point being that the only real danger is in not pulling the thread, because and I've even heard, you know, like, what's the language like God God is, is bigger than your doubts, or you got it, you know, God, God can handle your questions and your doubts and, and is, you know, arguably arguably bigger than whatever your doubts and questions are. But so either we believe that, so what what I would say is like, don't delay, don't if the stakes are high. And so there's an urgency, I think, that I would like to leave people with, to really fully engaging with yourself and these in these conversations, to really get to the bottom of it. In other words, pull the thread and pull it and one of things I love about John Shelby Spong, who is one of my favorite theologians, he's a, an Episcopal, I think he's a bishop. And he's, I've just gotten into his books in the last few years, and he's really tremendous. I've really loved his writing Jesus for non religious is a fantastic book for the believer or non believer, in my opinion, because he has such tremendous historical treatment of so much of the Bible, and so much I've really enjoyed his work. But in the beginning of that book of JSON religions in the introduction, he says, and I believe it when he does this, that his goal is to pull the thread and follow it and follow it wherever it goes, no matter where it goes. Even if it leads him completely out of all belief and faith and all, then you have to be committed to going all the way there. Yeah. And so I would just Yeah, so pull the thread continue pulling it up, because the only danger is not pulling it in order to somehow keep yourself in a state of Arrested Development to where you don't go on to realize, because maybe there is a better, more beautiful, more believable, more intensely fulfilling version of God or whatever it is, on the other side of pulling that thread just a little, maybe you're underselling, maybe your maybe your view of inversion of God, for those who are believers and fearful of losing all of it? Wouldn't you rather lose all of it? If the issue that you have currently is not a real thing, a thing that you have constructed? That cannot save you that cannot bring a fruitful, abundant life? For you? Wouldn't you rather get past that? Wouldn't? Wouldn't you rather be an atheist to a false god to find a real one? Is it Don't you think that risk is worth taking you, we have to be an atheist to every god that we find until we come up against a real one. Yeah, and and so you have to continue to do that you have to throw every false god under the bus, every false Savior onto the cross until we find ourselves to one that we have to reckon with. And that is the pursuit, that is the pursuit of all theology, that is the pursuit of all zealous believers. And so in my opinion, yeah, that the danger is in not doing it, the danger is in putting your head in the sands of certainty and saying, I will not think about it, because I'm so afraid of losing it. If your mere thought of it, could lose it for you, my invitation to you is that you've already lost it. If your god cannot, can't bear even the weight of the simplest tug at the thread, then it's not a real God who can save you. And so you need to be free of it. And you need to get on the pursuit towards a real God if there's one to be found, and to know God, if there's none to be found. But I would rather see you pursue your way all the way into truth, or, you know, at least feeling intellectually satisfied, then again, to just bury your head in the sand of certainty, and to be free of the preoccupation with certainty, ultimately, because when it comes as again, to invisible things like God, or unknowable things like the future certainty, we're just not going to be trading uncertainty, unfortunately, it's just it's not a thing, we're going to be able to be certain amount there is, no one can claim certainty on any side of this argument. Nobody can. We're finite human beings. That's right. So be free of that. And then pull as hard as you can for as long as you can on that thread. And just see where it takes you. Yeah, that's always been my encouragement in my in my invitation, because I see again, the only real danger is not pulling it. Because then you're just never going to know what can be known. And I don't I personally can't live that way. I need to know what can be known. Yeah. And there's more to know every day. And the further you pull, the more the light shines upon an even greater new questions. Yeah, there's even more thread to pull and so I'll run behind that to the day I'm dead, you know.

David Ames  1:19:54  
Wow, that is so incredible, and a great place for us to wrap up. Derek, how can we People find your music. How can they become a patreon? Let us know how they

Derek Webb  1:20:03  
Yeah, Derek is just the probably the easiest, d e r e k w e BB Derek And I'm just at Derek Webb everywhere you know on social media and wherever you go look. And that's, that's where you'll find me. I would love for people to come and hang with our little motley crew of folks. And you know, we've got 30 year faithful believers, we've got people who never believe in the first place, we've got people who have come in or out of it in the last six months, we've got everything in between. And me never knowing where I'm at, and doing it live in front of everybody. So it's like it's a, it's a pretty warm welcome place. I would love for folks to, if any of the music can provide any soundtrack to any part of your life, I would be honored to be found. So I think that's probably your best bet.

David Ames  1:20:46  
Yeah. And we'll definitely have links in the show notes. So

Derek Webb  1:20:48  
great. Great. Great.

David Ames  1:20:50  
Derek, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Derek Webb  1:20:52  
Yeah, it's a pleasure is great. Thank you again, for answering my email. Already, I really appreciate getting to do this, I hope we can talk get some time Absolutely.

David Ames  1:21:18  
Final thoughts on the episode, I did this interview and the turnaround very quickly within one week, and I feel like I'm still processing this conversation, there was so much to it, it is so dense, I think you can hear that I am holding back a lot as because in my mind, Derek's time was very valuable. And I wanted to get him on mic recorded as much as possible. I have a lot of thoughts, I don't think I will be able to capture them all here. I think Derek is a quote machine. And you should go back and listen to this two or three times to try to capture all of the things that he says, I appreciated the analogy of not being able to discern the quality of the boat while you're in it. This is a lot of what I talked about when I talked about being in the bubble, that you cannot gain perspective on the ideology you are within, until you take at least a half step back. And that is sometimes the biggest challenge. But I also really appreciated him talking about the new project that Jesus hypothesis. In that context, he says I would rather hypothesize in real time, and whatever continues to bring true and work I will continue to bring with me. But I want to be in a position to come into new information and abandon it in a second. If it stops making any sense. That I think is a pretty decent failsafe from what had happened before happening again. Ultimately, holding what we believe to be true lightly as being willing to incorporate new information is the new epistemology the new way of thinking the new way of discovering what is true, that will lead us to closer and closer approximations of the truth. The last quote of darex is definitely my favorite talking about what do you have to lose by asking the questions of deconstruction that you either find out that is true, which would be great. Or you find out it's not true. And then you have learned something? Hate says Wouldn't you rather lose all of it, if the it that you have currently is not a real thing? And I think that really summarizes the question at hand for all of us who have gone through some doubt, who might be in the middle of doubt. For me, this was the question, did I care about truth? Or did I care about defending my faith, and I fell on the side of caring about truth. And being willing, as Derek says, to pull on that thread for as long as it takes as far as it goes. And in my case, it came to the end of theism. It came to the end of my Christianity, it became for me to atheism and humanism. If there was any daylight between Derek and I, it would be that I think he gives too much credit to the concept of the versions of Christianity. So he said an early on in the conversation, it could be a result of him having the wrong view or the wrong practice. This reminds me though, of how many times we as D converts have been told, Well, I wouldn't believe in that God, either. You're believing in the wrong way. If you believe like I did, or the God that I believe in, you would have real faith and it would all be different. And so there really is no winning that battle. I think at some point, it is okay to say I'm open to new proof to new information. But I have closed the book on the versions of Christianity are the versions of theism, and I can move on. So I think Derek gives almost too much credit to them here. I'm thinking of the Christian leaders more than the average A person in the pew because that's just in my mind a manipulation tactic. And I think Derek can be more assertive about where he's actually at on that particular topic. I want to thank Derek for being on the show, he absolutely lived up to the honesty contest. That seems to be the hallmark of all of his work. And I highly suggest that you check out his music, check out the airing of grief, become his Patreon and discover the Jesus hypothesis and participate in that process as well. Derek is his website. And I will have links to all of these things in the show notes. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about the sea of ABCs of secular spirituality, the connection part, the human connection, a quote from this episode from Derek, he says, it turns out that I am not just a hypothetical sinner, I'm an actual one. The church loves the idea of radical confession. They love that in the hypothetical, but when you start doing it in a literal is when they start getting panicked. Now, of course, I don't believe in sin, I think you're not broken, you're human. But what I do believe in is that human connection, and you could potentially use the term confession of connecting and being vulnerable with another human being and in a trusting, loving relationship, sharing those deepest secrets that you have as a cathartic process. I wanted to talk about secular grace so much during this conversation, but again, I didn't want to interrupt Derek much, but to just to say that, as Derek mentioned, we can take what we like from Christianity, and in his words, God doesn't get everything in the divorce. We can take this concept of loving one another agape love, of sacrificial, proactive love for one another, and try to live that out in our lives, without the need for a supernatural belief system. This is the bit that I am trying to bring with me and to share with you. I honestly believe this is what transforms people. Love motivates us on a level that is very, very deep. Our need for being known, being accepted being loved is very, very deep. So if we can be that for one another, we can have a radical impact on the people around us and ultimately, the community and our society. As I mentioned at the top 2022 got a lot of goals, including being on other podcasts, I want to reach out to more Christian believers. We will have people like Matt Oxley who I also think is doing a good job of being that bridge in between. We have Carlene coming up who was on the holiday episode and Judah coming up who I mentioned in the Ask me anything, that I'm reaching out to various other slightly more well known secular humanist thinkers, and hopefully we'll have more of those on the show as well. If you happen to know anyone you'd like to hear on the show, either believer or or humanists, please refer me to them them to me and try to get us in contact. I'd really appreciate that. 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 for books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch. 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 you'd 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

Movie Review: The Truman Show

Atheism, Comedy, Deconversion, Movie Review, Podcast, Purity Culture, Secular Grace, The Bubble
Listen on Apple Podcasts

“Good afternoon. Good evening. And good night.”

Truman Burbank

This week’s episode is a compelling discussion between David and past podcast guests Jimmy and Colin. They take a deep dive into how The Truman Show mirrors the long, painful journey of deconstruction—realizing the story you’ve been told isn’t quite what it seems, pushing back little by little, and then sometimes leaving completely, walking out the door and into the darkness.

“You never had a camera in my head.”

They consider it all:

  • The induced trauma and fears
  • Infantilization
  • The constant gaslighting
  • The creation and controlling of relationships
  • And the lies–a completely fabricated life.

All done to “love him, protect him.”

“He wanted what was real more than was presented to him.”


They each bring their own stories to the table, stories of courage and uncertainty and a desire for truth, stories that resonate with many people. Like Truman, we can lean in when what we’ve believed no longer lines up with what we’re experiencing. We can be curious, ask questions and see where that journey takes us.

“It is a painful process, and it is scary. But also there’s more on the other side that is very fulfilling.”


Where to stream The Truman Show



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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Geoffrey Wallis: A Voice From Inside

Adverse Religious Experiences, Authors, Book Review, Captive Organization, Deconstruction, Deconversion, High Demand Religious Group, Jehovah's Witnesses, Podcast, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma, The Bubble
Click to play episode on
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Geoffrey Wallis, author of A Voice From Inside: Notes on Religious Trauma in a Captive Organization. Geoffrey is Physically In but Mentally Out (PIMO) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After recognizing the religious trauma and the cognitive dissonance he was experiencing he found help through therapy. He remains within the Watchtower organization because it is a “captive organization” which enforces shunning by family members and friends.

Geoffrey’s book, A Voice From Inside: Notes on Religious Trauma in a Captive Organization, is an evenhanded look at life inside a High Demand Religious Group. Geoffrey shows Secular Grace in his documenting his personal experience. It is incredibly well written and interesting to read.


A Voice From Inside: Notes on Religious Trauma in a Captive Organization


I Got Out


Nominate and Vote for the Graceful Atheist Podcast on the Podcast Awards


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Joel Furches: Why Christians Become Atheists

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters, The Bubble
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My guest this week is Joel Furches. Joel is a Christian and a psychologist researching topics of religion. He has a BA in psychology an MA in education, and he is working on his PhD in Behavioral Analysis. He he has focused on conversions and deconversions and has written a well researched article entitled: Why Do Christians Become Atheists? A Case Study.

The people I find most likely to adopt the label atheist and deconvert are the people who tied their identity most importantly to the Church.

Joel and I discuss his research and walk through his model of deconversion. We discuss the “Market place of ideas” and “The Christian Bubble.” We define the terms disaffiliation, deconstruction and deconversion.

I would advise intellectual humility and the ability to say “I don’t know” about things.

Joel’s advice for Christians who are seeing more deconversions:

[What] I would say to Christians in general is that it is not their responsibility to re-covert [the deconvert].
They have not failed because this person deconverted and they will probably not succeed in re-converting them.
It is to respect the person who has deconverted, respect their experience. Give them the right that any other human being would have which is to defend their views. And interact or engage in those views as important.


Joel’s Website:

Switching Sides

Why Do Christians Become Atheists? A Case Study

Perez, S. and Vallières, F., 2019. How Do Religious People Become Atheists? Applying a Grounded Theory Approach to Propose a Model of Deconversion.Secularism and Nonreligion


Deconversion How To

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The Bubble

Atheism, Deconstruction, Deconversion, The Bubble

A recurring theme of this blog is my reflecting back on what it felt like to be a Christian and then go through the deconversion process. The Deconversion How To post was the deepest dive into this topic. The question I continue to ask myself on this side of deconversion is, “why did it take so long?” I imagine secularists who grew up without a god secretly ask the same question and look slightly askance at those of us who once believed.

Why did it take so long?

This is a non-trivial question. I was a skeptical Christian to begin with. I often questioned why Christians believed and behaved as they did as it immediately appeared incongruent with the bible as I understood it.

What kept me from taking that skepticism all the way? On some level, I was aware that there were topics better left uninvestigated, that there were some answers I did not want to find. I did spend time thinking about why I believed and yet many of my colleagues did not. What kept me from exploring those questions to their conclusions?

Why was I so gullible in the first place? Before becoming a Christian I was skeptical of supernatural claims. I easily dismissed other forms of woo: alien abductions, Bigfoot and ESP were obviously false. What was it about Christianity that sucked me in and kept me for 20+ years?

My answer to these questions is a theme that shows up throughout my writing. This post will give it a name: The Bubble.

The Bubble

The bubble is a way of expressing the self reinforcing nature of faith. Everything points towards the center: god. Most of the people a believer comes into contact with are believers. Most of the content believers choose to consume is from other believers. Everything the believer experiences is interpreted in light of the bubble of faith. All of the experiences, people and content that do not reinforce the bubble are cast as sinful, outsiders and “worldly.”

In short, the believer encases themselves into a hermetically sealed bubble. Nothing bad is ever allowed in and everything on the inside reinforces what they already believe.

In case you have never had the experience of faith, there are many secular examples of bubbles. The Washington bubble was certain that a self aggrandizing incompetent racist could never be nominated for a major political party, let alone, win the general election. 2015 through 2018 we have been coming to terms with the fact that middle American voters were not in said bubble. Middle America itself could be considered a bubble. We Americans live in a bubble where we sometimes forget the rest of the world exists. We have but two boarders and oceans that isolate us. The concerns of Europe, Africa and Asia are distant and theoretical. Much digital ink has been deployed in lamenting our “siloed” (read bubble) social media echo chambers. We experience bubbles every day.

I went to a small Christian bible college with around a thousand students and around seven hundred or so living on campus. You basically knew everyone. We were self aware enough to comment to each other on the “bible college bubble.” We were aware that the big wide world out there did not care about our small dramas.

Even Christians are aware to some extent of the bubble they live in. They refer to the language of the church as “Christianese,” in recognition of its incomprehensibility to outsiders. They start “missional” churches focused on being relatable to non-Christians. This generally means a light show and a band, because they have no idea what non-Christians find relatable.

And let’s be clear, there is an atheist bubble as well. Reader beware.

The Trap

Now that we have an idea of what a bubble is, let’s discuss how the bubble tends to keep one from leaving.


I recently read Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics book, Thinking Fast and Slow. In it, he brilliantly describes thought experiment after thought experiment that proves to yourself how we act irrationally as human beings. One of his theses is that coherence has no bearing on validity. As humans we are tricked into assuming that if a story makes sense, if it conforms to our expectations that it, therefore, must be true.

The coherence of a story has no bearing on its validity.

— Daniel Kahneman

The narrative of faith is coherent inside the bubble. It makes sense. It feels and sounds true. Everything is interpreted based on this narrative making it appear to be reinforced from all directions. Any contradictory information is either rejected out right or re-interpreted based on the narrative. This is done reflexively and without critical thought.

My twitter friend, Kathleen B. Shannon, who often counsels those who have experienced religious trauma, puts it this way.

Truth is in many ways contextual. Hence Christians in the bubble believe it to be true. Internal validity, as it were. But the truth wears off after a while.

— Kathleen B. Shannon

Internal validity” is a fantastic way to describe this. From outside the bubble it is plain as day that faith is tautological and not even particularly coherent. But from inside the bubble it is inescapable truth.

If one accepts the premise that the theistic god exists, then anything is possible. And this makes incredible things credible. How did the universe begin? God. Who is responsible for the bible? God breathed it. Did Jesus rise from the dead? God can do that without breaking a sweat. Did god send his son, who is himself, as a sacrifice to himself, to appease his anger at sin he entrapped his first created good people into, and continued to ascribe blame to their decedents through all of history? It seems valid if, and only if, you are inside the Christian bubble because the story is compelling.

This is something I struggle to convey to my secular friends who have never been believers. “How could anyone ever believe these things?” Kahneman’s thesis explains this. It turns out it is natural human behavior. We cannot help but be convinced by a compelling story, particularly one that fits our preexisting beliefs.

And Christianity is compelling. The ideal of laying one’s life down for one’s friends is baked into Western culture. We can argue whether Christianity introduced this idea or inherited it. But if you doubt this is true, watch any movie about war, watch any movie about a dog, watch Will Smith’s Seven Pounds (spoiler alert) and try not to cry. This ideal speaks to the very core of our culture and the story of the crucifixion is the pinnacle of that ideal.

Bubbles Pop

This partly explains the way theists and atheists talk past each other. They are not in the same bubbles, they do not hold the same things as valid and they are speaking different languages. Beating believers over the head with objective facts is ineffective because they are inside their bubble and the story they tell themselves is coherent and internally valid.

It is not easy for a person to realize they are in a bubble, let alone, to view the world from outside it.

It wasn’t until I explicitly set as a goal for myself to find objective reasons to believe, that my perspective grew to include the perspective outside the bubble. That was the beginning of the end. It was obvious to me that other religions were false. As soon as my perspective grew to view Christianity from outside the bubble, it became equally clear it was obviously false as well. The reason? There are no objective reasons to believe.


The picture above of a bubble resting on the tip of a pin is the thousand words depicting the precarious nature of faith. The single premise, “god is,” predicates the vast complexity of religious faith. It makes sense if that one premise is true. Above I said, “if one accepts the premise that the theistic god exists, then anything is possible.” The reverse is also true, if one entertains the idea, even for the briefest of moments, that the theistic god does not exist, the folly of theism is revealed.

If your bubble bursts, as painful as that might be, congratulations! You have gained a new perspective.