Jon Steingard: The Wonder and The Mystery of Being

Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace, YouTubers
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I really did believe and I had questions,
but I was afraid to even ask them alone by myself.
I was afraid to present them to myself.

My guest this week is Jon Steingard, the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. In late spring of 2020, Jon posted a gut-wrenching confession on Instagram that he no longer believed in God. He is one of the more prominent recent high profile deconverts. Jon risked more than most by publicly acknowledging his lack of faith as his career was tied to the Christian music world. This confession and the public discussion of his loss of faith has and will continue to have reverberations throughout the Christian community for some time.

I was ensconced in this culture and my career was a part of that
and questioning it would have meant undermining my career
and so for a long time I just didn’t.

Jon has made himself widely available to honestly and vulnerably tell his story both to the Christian community and to the atheist humanist communities. It is Jon’s honest seeking after truth and his willingness to respectfully engage apologists and other prominent Christians that are having such a large impact. He has become a safe person for others in the Christian world to discuss their doubts.

So often I would say, “You know I am really wondering about this,” and you would just see this look of relief go over their face
and they would be like, “oh, thank you for saying that, I’ve wondered that too.”

I noticed there [were] a lot of people in Christian culture that were my age that had grown up in the church that were beginning to ask the same questions that I was and also similarly intimidated by what it would mean to say [this] out loud.
And so I just found myself being like, “well, I’ll go first!”

In my conversation with Jon, he describes a major turning point in his life when he saw poverty, starvation and abandonment of the Batwa children and community in Uganda. This began a quite reasonable time of questioning: if God is all-powerful, all-knowing and good, why are the Batwa suffering?

{Witnessing poverty starvation and abandoned children in Uganda} And that kind of thing wrecked me

The things that I am seeing here, do not dovetail with the idea of an all powerful and all loving god.
Because when I read scripture, when I listen to what I hear in Christian culture,
I hear about a god who intervenes,
I hear about a god who answers prayer, certainly not always but definitely sometimes.

And so I grew up hearing [answered prayers for parking spots], and then I go to Uganda and I see this [poverty …]
And I go like, “God, maybe answer a few less parking spot prayers and a few more prayers for these children who are literally dying
and suffering unimaginably.

I came back from that trip and I was just like, “There is no way that I can believe in god the way that I used to.”

In January of 2021, Jon started a podcast and YouTube channel called The Wonder and Mystery of Being.

Links

Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/jonsteingard/

The Wonder and The Mystery of Being podcast and YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUjFcPl10_QMxoevHL4jLXg

Jon’s deconstruction story

Twitter
https://twitter.com/jonsteingard

The documentary Jon produced while still a Christian

Interact

Deconversion from Christianity
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: A History
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/jennifer-michael-hecht-doubt-a-history/

Clergy Project
https://clergyproject.org/

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Randal Rauser: Conversation With My Inner Atheist

20 Questions With a Believer, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Naturalism, Podcast
Randal Rauser
Listen on Apple Podcasts

My guest this week is Randal Rauser. Randal is, in his own words, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion.” He is a professor of systematic theology, aplogetics, and worldview at Taylor Seminary.

Randal has written a number of books on apologetics and atheism. I first became aware of Randal’s work around 2017 when I read “Is The Atheist My Neighbor.” At least in the circles I am a a part of, Randal is considered to be a fair and honest apologist and is widely regarded for “steel-manning” atheist arguments before giving his arguments against them.

My own shifting relationship with certainty and doubt, confidence and questioning, is reflected in my history with apologetics.

This week we discuss his new book, “Conversations With My Inner Atheist.” In this book, Randal personifies his doubts as an interlocutor named Mia, My Inner Atheist, who presents the atheist, humanist and naturalistic arguments against his faith. Randal shows real vulnerability in several of these dialogues and often leaves the matter without a satisfactory conclusion by either party (believing Randal or non-believing, Mia).

Instead, I believe that certainty can journey along with doubt, confidence can welcome questioning, and together they can work to create a healthy and balanced Christian community.

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on these matters most of which I express in the Final Thoughts section of the podcast. We also discuss a recent back and forth between Randal and Ian Mills of the New Testament Review Podcast fame on the topic of methodological naturalism.

The truth is, I’d rather accept that there are some questions I may never answer rather than return to the simple days where I thought my answers were beyond question.

Links

Blog
https://randalrauser.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/RandalRauser

YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/user/RDRauser

Books

Discussions on Methodological Naturalism

Randal’s a Miracle isn’t a violation of the laws of nature

Ian Mills (a believer) defending methodological naturalism

Randal’s Respones to Ian
https://randalrauser.com/2020/09/methodological-naturalism-as-a-wet-firecracker-a-response-to-ian-n-mills/

Interact

My Critique of Apologetics
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/critique-of-apologetics/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Joel Furches: Why Christians Become Atheists

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters, The Bubble
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

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.

Links

Joel’s Website:
https://joelfurches.com/

Switching Sides
FB: https://www.facebook.com/Deconversionstudies/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SidesSwitching

Why Do Christians Become Atheists? A Case Study
https://hubpages.com/politics/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
http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.108

Interact

Deconversion How To
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Marriott: A Recipe For Disaster

20 Questions With a Believer, Atheism, Authors, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Podcast
Click to play on anchor.fm

My guest this week is John Marriott. We are talking about deconversion from the Christian perspective. John is the Director of Global Learning and teaches in the department of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Biola University. John did his PhD dissertation focused on deconversion from Christianity to atheism. He has written a book on deconversion called “A Recipe For Disaster,” which is directed to the Church on the ways they are setting up believers to lose their faith.

I define [faith] as having enough reasons for a hope worth acting on.
I think there enough reasons for me to act on this [faith].

I first came across John’s work in an interview he did with Randal Rauser. I was struck by the honesty and clarity that he had in describing deconversion. In particular this quote:

Something similar underwrites a significant percentage of deconversions. The biblical narrative that once easily fit within their childlike understanding of reality began to get squeezed out as they matured in their understanding of reality. The stories in the Bible about miracles, witches, giants, demons, etc. began to feel as out of place as Santa. To resolve the problems they may seek answers that will allow them to continue to believe in such things as adults in the 21st century. This is the experience not just of those who deconvert but all educated, reflective Christians today. I suspect that even for those that do remain Christians, the cognitive dissonance never completely goes away, it just has been reduced to a level that allows them to continue to believe. For deconverts however, the cognitive dissonance is not sufficiently assuaged by apologetics. It grows despite their efforts and reaches a tipping point. As in the case with Santa, the only way to resolve the tension is to admit what they know is true. God does not exist.

John proved to be as honest in person as he is in his writing. He met me in an honesty contest and we found points of agreement on what it is like to deconvert. Even though we disagree on the conclusions we were able to have a vital conversation.

The reason why I believe it is there is enough evidence for me that I find it persuasive. I don’t find the counter-arguments conclusive so there is sufficient and adequate reason for me.
But why do I find it sufficient and adequate? That is the real question.
And to answer that question it is so complicated:
there are personal reasons
there are sociological reasons
there are emotional reasons
of course there are some rational reasons
but at the end of the day we’re are so much more than mere Cartesian thinking machines.
To be able to say well “I am a Christian because its the truth and it is true because the evidence points in that direction so clearly and I have reasoned it out this way.” Is I think naive in how we actually go about forming our beliefs.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. John and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.

Links

Website
https://www.johnmarriott.org/

Randal Rauser interview
https://www.christianpost.com/voice/the-problem-of-christians-becoming-atheists.html

Books

Interact

Deconversion and How to Deconvert
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/deconversion/
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

David Johnson: Skeptics and Seekers

Atheism, Bloggers, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
David Johnson
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is David Johnson, the co-host and creator of the Skeptics and Seekers podcast and blog. David is a former Church of Christ member and a pastor’s kid. He was baptized at 7, leading the church in song at 7, preaching at 12, the youth leader at 15 and assistant minister at 21.

Was I the real thing? Pathologically so.

His deconversion process began as he examined the Church of Christ’s doctrine against musical accompaniment in worship. He says “the little things, were the big things.” And if the little things were wrong, what else might be wrong?

You know, I think we might be wrong about that [instrumental accompaniment].
And that was hard for me.
It was hard in a way that I am not going to be able to express.
For me, if we were wrong about musical instruments, we were wrong about everything.

Deconversion was “like death” for David.

It was so hard for me to say,
not out loud mind you,
“I don’t believe there is a god.”
And then to say it out loud … alone in the woods where no one can hear.

Today David uses an unabashed polemic approach to counter-apologetics to reveal the problems with Christianity and faith in general. You can find him on his Skeptics and Seekers podcast and on his appearances on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? podcast. You can read the book he co-authored in response to Justin Brierley: Still Unbelievable!

The damage I did on the other side [as a believer] keeps me up at night.

Links

Skeptics and Seekers blog
https://skepticsandseekers.squarespace.com/

Skeptics and Seekers podcast
https://anchor.fm/skeptics-and-seekers

Still Unbelievable! book
https://reasonpress.net/SU1E

David Johnson’s appearances on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? podcast
https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Is-the-resurrection-unbelievable-Jonathan-McLatchie-vs-David-Johnson
https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Can-Justin-defend-his-own-book-feat.-David-Johnson-Andrew-Knight-Randal-Rauser

My recent appearance on Skeptics and Seekers
https://skepticsandseekers.squarespace.com/blog/x-tians-part-one-what-christians-who-stay-need-to-know-about-the-christians-who-dont

Interact

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Sam: When Belief Dies

Atheism, Bloggers, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace
When Belief Dies
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Sam, the blogger behind When Belief Dies. Sam is also starting an upcoming podcast of the same name. Which will include his friend Dave who remains a believer with questions. They will tackle the difficult questions about Christianity with mutual respect and curiosity.

Belief was my life.

Sam was a very dedicated to Christ and to his church. He was in the process of becoming an elder when depression and doubt led to deconversion. Sam tried to appease his doubt with apologetics to no avail.

Christianity is a hope giving mechanism …
that doesn’t mean these things are actually true.

Now Sam uses his insights post-deconversion to help others who are doubting and in the process of deconverting.

People matter.

Links

Blog
https://whenbeliefdies.com/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/WhenBeliefDies

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/whenbeliefdiesblog/

Interact

This is the Graceful Atheist Podcast’s one year anniversary episode.

My guest appearance on the Skeptics and Seekers podcast
https://skepticsandseekers.squarespace.com/blog/x-tians-part-one-what-christians-who-stay-need-to-know-about-the-christians-who-dont

Deconversion
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/deconversion-how-to/

Secular Grace
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/secular-grace/

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast
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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Joel Berry: The Petty Prophet

20 Questions With a Believer, Critique of Apologetics, Podcast, Podcasters, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest this week is Joel Berry, the podcast host of the Petty Prophet Podcast. Both hist blog of the same name and the podcast are from the Christian believer and politically conservative perspectives. Joel is very much a believer. He had listened to the Graceful Atheist Podcast and was curious enough to initiate a conversation.

[Due to fundamentalism] I think that I was teetering, when I was 19,
…, and I was deciding which direction to go with my life, teetering in my faith a little bit, and I joined the military, became a Marine Corps infantry man. Within a year I was in Fallujah.
[I was] a sheltered kid, [a] home schooled fundamentalist. I am taken out of the [United] States, out of my Christian bubble, and I spent a year in Iraq.
… I had a little Bible in my flak jacket that I read when I could.

Joel meets me in an honesty contest in which we both push each other but also take the time to listen to one another. I think it makes for a compelling conversation.

What compels me about Christianity? I think the first thing was that, and this is experiential … ,
I was taken out of a Christian world …
and I open my Bible and I read the words of Jesus in the Gospel and the words of Jesus really drew me in, there was something about that man that seemed other worldly and amazing to me.

Joel experienced a deconstruction from a fundamentalist form of Christianity. He left the IFB. He left a fundamentalist Calvinist theology. But he maintains in his words “a childlike faith.”

[I got into] aplogetics, the reasons to believe, the reasons for my faith, but all that stuff it’s all arguments, none of it is completely conclusive, and there is still an element of childlike faith involved.

This is a 20 Questions with a Believer episode. Joel and I take turns asking each other questions and then crucially allowing the other person to answer.

Links

Joel on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/JoelWBerry

The Petty Prophet Blog:
https://thepettyprophet.com/

The Petty Prophet Podcast
https://thepettyprophet.com/homepage/petty-prophet-podcast/

Interact

In the final thoughts section I make reference to this:

Joel brings up several episodes he has listened to. Here are links to those episodes:

Laura Anderson: Adverse Religious Experiences:
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/laura-anderson-religious-abuse-and-religious-trauma/

Matthew Taylor: Confessions of a Young Earth Creationist:
https://gracefulatheist.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/matthew-taylor-confessions-of-a-young-earth-creationist/

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Captain Cassidy: Roll To Disbelieve

Atheism, Bloggers, Communities of Unbelief, Critique of Apologetics, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Secular Grace
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is Captain Cassidy. Cassidy blogs at Roll To Disbelieve on patheos.com. Her focus is on deconversion, counter-apologetics and generally describing the mind-warping nature of religion. Cassidy has an array of metaphors and analogies in her writing that make a vivid picture of what it is like to believe and then not to.

Cassidy’s “Extimony”: She is a former Catholic, was briefly a baptist and then stayed a Pentecostal for a time. Until she realized the context of her faith mattered. While at a prayer group set in a normal university room “out of the context” of a church she realized it was all an act.

And as I look back at my past, I can see all these times when I [rolled to disbelieve] … I didn’t make the roll, I continued to believe.

She now describes herself as “a humanist, a skeptic, a freethinker and a passionate student of science, mythology and history.”

I am becoming more and more convinced that the only way for someone to remain, Christian, is to avoid caring what reality has to say about it.

Join her “Commentariat,” a thriving community of commentators on her blog at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/.

Links

Blog:
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/

The Handbook for the Recently Deconverted
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/the-handbook/

The Unequally Yoked Club
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/the-uyc/

Newbie Guide
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/series-list-and-newbie-guide/

Pool of Faith
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2018/02/18/why-i-rejected-christianity-then-and-now/

Conservation of worship
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2016/06/03/christians-and-the-law-of-conservation-of-worship/

Doctrinal Yardstick
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2019/03/04/the-doctrinal-yardstick-illustrates-a-serious-problem-with-christianity-lsp-81/

Atrocity Apologetics
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2013/12/09/the-christians-guide-to-ex-christians-atrocity-apologetics/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/casmadeherroll

Cat Photos!
https://www.instagram.com/rolltodisbelieve/

Interact

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Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

John Lopilato: Counter Apologist

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, YouTubers
Counter Apologist
Click to play episode on anchor.fm

My guest today is the Counter Apologist AKA John Lopilato. John is active on Twitter as @CounterApologis. He has a YouTube channel called Counter Apologist. He is also one of the new co-hosts of the RealAtheology podcast.

John has taught himself philosophy, apologetics and counter apologetics. In fact, he learned apologetics in a desperate attempt to keep his faith. Ultimately, he found apologetics wanting. He became the Counter Apologist because he wanted there to be sophisticated answers to apologetic arguments that could not be easily dismissed. John can be found online interacting with apologists and discussing the relative merits and flaws of apologetic arguments.

I appreciate John’s approach. He is often more than fair to his interlocutors. In my conversation with him, he is very kind to my naive questioning. We discuss a wide range of topics including: debate culture, the burden of proof, lacktheism, Kalam Cosmological Argument, the rationality of faith, values vs facts and how difficult it is to make a compelling argument when the two sides may have differing values and presuppositions.

I threw myself into apologetics to try and salvage my faith.

Counter Apologist

Links

John’s Blog:
http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/

John on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CounterApologis

John on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/user/CounterApologist

RealAtheology Podcast
https://twitter.com/RealAtheology/
https://www.facebook.com/RealAtheology/

For further study

Kalam Cosmological Argument:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument

Falsifiability:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

A and B Theory of Time:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_series_and_B_series

Interact

Send in a voice message to the podcast:
https://anchor.fm/gracefulatheist/message

Attribution

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Makaih_Beats

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

Alice and Bob Make a Wager

Critique of Apologetics, Thought Experiments

Thought Experiment

Setup

Alice and Bob believe in contradictory theistic gods, Theo and Uja respectively. Both faiths require belief in their mutually exclusive gods or dire consequences are at stake.

Carol does not believe in a god, but she is an open and honest seeker of truth. Carol has separate conversations with both Alice and Bob in which the believers try to convince the non-believer why she should believe.

Independently, Alice and Bob both use variations on Pascal’s Wager to try and convince Carol to believe. However, Alice wants Carol to believe in Theo but Bob wants Carol to believe in Uja.

Alice and Bob’s argument goes something like this:

If you are right about the nonexistence of God and I am wrong,

I lose nothing.

If I am right about the existence of God and you are wrong,

you lose everything.

Questions

  • Why might Carol not be convinced by either?
  • What happens when Alice and Bob talk to each other?

This post is in the series Thought Experiments for Believers.