You’re Worth the Work.

Atheism, Deconversion, Secular Grace, Secular Therapy, Uncategorized

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US and one thing that suffers greatly under religion is our mental health.

I spent years believing that my mind was filled with demons. As soon as I stopped praying, the demons left. Almost like they were never real.

One doesn’t have to believe in demons to be manipulated and harmed by religion. Here are some online resources that have helped me and others. They’re resources for anyone who’s left religion, whether you’re “spiritual but not religious” or an atheist.

Take care of yourself. You’re worth the work. 

Online Resources

Graceful Atheist Podcast Episodes


Personal Experiences

Whether you’re still a believer or you’ve moved far from your fundamentalist roots, mental health is important. When you need help, seek out help. 

Having a community also makes a difference. If you’re in need of community, consider joining the Deconversion Anonymous private Facebook group. It isn’t professional therapy, but knowing you aren’t alone can go a long way.


Useful Terms and “Stupid” Questions

Blog Posts

What is “cognitive bias”? What’s the difference between “deconstruction” and “deconversion”?

Deconstruction has been a “thing” on the internet for several years. Joining a movement after it starts might mean there are terms people use all the time without explaining. Moreover, you may feel that asking what they mean will make you look stupid.

I want to try to define a few terms. These definitions may be incorrect in important ways, but they should be less wrong than not knowing. Knowing them may also get you a meaningful part of the way to fuller understanding.

Here goes!


When I use deconstruction, I mean “digging into the hard questions about your worldview AND being willing to consider doing something different based on your answers.” It doesn’t necessarily result in a complete loss of faith, but it usually does result in some significant change in your beliefs.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word used in a circumstance where somebody became more rigid or conservative. (If you have, please let me know in the comments.)

I have heard it used in place of deconversion. I’m guessing that this mainly has to do with the speed of conversation rather than using a precise definition.


This one is easier to define. It’s a loss of your current faith. Even if lose your faith, you could consider other religions or spiritual paths, not necessarily becoming an atheist or agnostic.

It can happen after a prolonged deconstruction or more quickly after something “clicks,” depending on the person and circumstances.

Cognitive Bias

This term doesn’t show up often, but you may hear the phrase, “confirmation bias.” This is a kind of cognitive bias.

A cognitive bias is a structural flaw in human reason. It has to do with how people think about certain things. Some examples are seeking evidence that supports our beliefs (confirmation bias), seeking evidence that refutes other people’s beliefs (disconfirmation bias), focusing on negative things (negativity bias), assuming that someone’s character is exemplified by a single action (fundamental attribution error), etc.

This is different from liberal or conservative biases, which have more to do with seeing things through our own worldview. Related, but worth keeping distinct.

The important thing is that it’s common to all humans. Super-smart, rational humans are prone to cognitive biases, just like the rest of us. We all have to fight them. Constant vigilance!


You also don’t hear this term often, but you may if you pay attention to counter-apologetics.

A fallacy is a flaw in an argument. For example, saying an argument is wrong because of where the proponent came from or who they are (genetic fallacy) or saying your argument gets to play by special rules that other arguments don’t (special pleading).

It’s definitely helpful to be familiar with the shapes of these fallacies.

“Stupid questions”

No definition… I want to point out that one of the joys of deconstructing is the pursuit of knowledge; knowledge that was once limited or forbidden. In fact, the even greater joy is the pursuit of knowledge in general, which is one of the most human things we can do.

As a result, it’s worth considering: Is sounding stupid for a moment worth cutting yourself off from these joys?

Suppose you ask “obvious” questions. In reality, you usually don’t sound stupid but curious. And you may do others the service of getting answers to these questions. Win-win!

A whole world of terms exist that I haven’t pursued myself–mostly around sexuality, race, and other topics of the day. I don’t know if it’s because I’m scared to ask or I’m afraid to know the answers.

Are there questions you’re afraid to ask? What other terms may be useful to define?


  • RationalWiki on Logical Fallacy—The tone of RationalWiki is less gracious than I’m going for, but it’s a helpful resource
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman—One of the most important popular works on cognitive biases. It’s also relatively easy to read.
  • The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef—A very easy and practical introduction into how cognitive biases show up, and what to do about them.
  • Deconversion—A resource on this site that David has put together.

Three Yous

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Grace, Thought Experiments

Imagine a genie walks (floats? sidles?) up to you and says, “See that guy over there? Yeah, the 80-year-old that looks like he’s having a great time. If you say yes, I’ll make him sad and lonely, riddled with guilt, obsessing over the past. So, shall we?” How would you react?

Assuming you react with disgust or shock, why is that? Seems obvious: It would be awful to do that to someone.

Or try this: someone walks up to you on a playground and says, “See that mom over there? She used to yell at her kids, like super angry stuff. You should go over there and tell her to undo it.”

That’s also inhumane, but why? Again, seems obvious: she can’t do anthing about it. Plus, she’s doing better now. It’ll do a lot of harm, and what good would it do?

Now imagine the 80-year-old guy is your future self, or the mom is your past self. We do those things to ourselves all the time. We beat ourselves up over the past, even though we’re doing better. We shortchange ourselves now, laying the foundation for sadness and loneliness in the future.

For that reason, I like to think of myself as three different people: past Jimmy, Jimmy, and future Jimmy.

With past Jimmy, I try to be kind. An arm-over-the-shoulder, kindly uncle to my past self. Sure, past Jimmy screwed up, but he knows it, and he’s working to do better. Plus, you see how much progress he’s made? Cut him some slack, present Jimmy!

With future Jimmy, I try to be kind. I invest in friendships, knowing that friendship is key to human flourishing. I try to do healthy things, knowing that future Jimmy is the one who’s going to pay for today.

In the end, all we have is right now. The past is unchangeable and the future is unknowable.

I like how James Clear put it, though he’s coming from a self-help perspective:

Be forgiving with your past self.
Be strict with your present self.
Be flexible with your future self.

Being forgiving with your past self sounds pretty healthy to me.

– Jimmy

PS – I literally speak in the third person about past and future Jimmys. (Jimmies?) Try it! it’s weirdly helpful.

You Can’t Change the Past

Blog Posts, Deconversion, Philosophy, Purity Culture

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

Meditations 3.10 (Hays)

One of the hardest things about deconverting is coming to terms with the fact that there’s so much time already spent: time spent doing what now seems like a complete waste; time spent not doing the things that seem to actually make up a life. So frustrating. Such a waste. Why did purity culture have to happen when I had youth and energy? Why did I spend that youth and energy building up hangups and trauma around sex? Why don’t I know how to have friends?

It’s like Plato’s allegory of the cave was somehow tangled up with that urban legend about waking up after a party, missing a kidney. Or does that metaphor only work for me?

And it’s harder the later in life you deconvert.

One of the most helpful things I’ve found is to accept that the past is gone. Nothing I can do about it, nothing I can do to get it back.

Easier said than done.

First, why is it helpful? If I know I can’t do anything about the past, I can shift my focus on the present moment. The present moment is something I can do something about. Sure, I can learn from the past, but when it comes to making choices, what matters is the here and now.

Even better, if I accept the past as unchangeable, I can be kind to myself, cutting myself some slack for the road ahead.

A thought experiment to take away: What if you were dropped into your current situation? What if you were unceremoniously plopped into the body, memories, life, history, and family of someone else in this situation? What if you knew it wasn’t your life? What would you do? Would you do anything differently? Would you feel differently about the past? How?

– Jimmy

PS – I asked one of these new AI programs for a suggested title for this post. My favorite: “From Kidney Theft to Puritan Lessons: Surviving Unappreciated Time.” …success?

It takes time

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Hell Anxiety, Religious Trauma

Say you’ve realized you no longer believe, gone through some of the typical stages of deconversion, and are ready to move on with your life, when, Whammo! You’re blindsided by some old feeling from your previous life.

“Why do I still fear Hell?” “Why am I still afraid of being Left Behind?” “Why do I still feel guilty when I stay home from church?” “Why do I still feel guilt around sex? I’m a grown-up, for crying out loud.”

This is one of the hardest things I’ve found day-to-day about being deconverted. I don’t believe any more, but my body doesn’t seem to have got the message.

There’s a lot I can say on this topic, but number one is this:

It takes time.

It takes time to deprogram what took decades to program in the first place. It takes time to get used to who you are today and who you are becoming. It takes time to figure out how to navigate a world where you don’t have a book (or a publishing industry, church, etc.) telling you how to think. It takes time to find new art, new music, new friends, new habits, and new…everything.

I don’t say these things to be overwhelming, though I know from experience it can be. For now, I hope you can be patient with yourself. Be kind. You’ve been through a lot, and it’ll take time.

It’s been several years since I realized I no longer believed, and I can tell you: it gets better. There’s a wide, wonderful world of truly incredible people, experiences, places, ideas. This whole world is now open to you.

– Jimmy

Come to the Edge

Blog Posts, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Secular Community, Secular Grace

Come to the Edge 

by Christopher Logue

Come to the edge.

We might fall.

Come to the edge.

It’s too high!


And they came,

And he pushed, 

And they flew.

The edge—the brink, the threshold, the end. The edge is where you may, with one false step, plummet to your death. The edge is where uncertainty lies, and that’s terrifying. 

When we get to the edge of nearly anything, our limbic system kicks in and screams, “You’re about to die. Stop! Turn back!” We want to run away. And if staying alive is our highest objective, perhaps we should. But is there not more to life than simply surviving?

If I leave christianity, where will I go? 

If I keep asking these questions, who will be there to answer them? 

If I no longer have faith, what will I have? 

The thing is: you don’t know. Everything about standing at the edge is uncertain. But, if you’re honest with yourself, wasn’t life uncertain back living inside the fences?

Still too much outside your control. Now, at least, you can acknowledge that truth and move forward. Do it.

Do it, scared. 

Do it, full of doubt. 

Do it, seeking help along the way. 

But do it, move forward toward the edge. Let yourself be pushed and then fly. You may be pleasantly surprised at the trip. 


Erin: Religious But Not Spiritual

Agnosticism, Authors, Deconstruction, Deconversion Anonymous, Humanism, Podcast, Religious but not Spiritual
Erin by Haida Draws
Photo by Haida Draws
Click to play episode on
Listen on Apple Podcasts

This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

My guest this week is Erin. Erin is working toward her chaplaincy and her Masters in Practical Theology. She describes herself as “religious, but not spiritual.”

If I had to encapsulate my religious outlook in one sentence, I would invert the oft-cited phrase ‘spiritual, but not religious’ and instead say I am ‘religious, but not spiritual’. I have always had a deep-seated interest in religion, and I love the traditions, community and way of life which Christianity provides. Yet I have always struggled with the supernatural aspects of the faith; I could never grasp the concept of communicating with a God ‘up there’ while humans were ‘down here’.

Erin grew up in Northern Ireland. She was raised to respect all people. But when she was accepted by an Evangelical Presbyterian church she became in her words “the worst kind of fundamentalist.” This included deriding Catholics.

At University she excelled and found herself attracted to more liberal theologies. She says she went from Evangelical to an Open Theist to a functional atheist (agnostic).

Erin also happens to be on the Autism spectrum. This had an impact on her inability to accept things on faith. She needed logical consistency.

But Erin still finds value in the Christian tradition. She plans to do good in the world as chaplain.

Links and recommendations

Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity (Canons Book 104)

Autism Faith Network

Autism Pastor



Humanist Podcast

Secular Grace

Podchaser - Graceful Atheist Podcast

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Support the podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Photo by Haida Draws


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

0:11 Welcome to the show.
2:31 Growing up in the “Bible Belt of Europe”.
5:26 In Ireland, there is a long history of protestants and catholics.
10:40 If God is all powerful, it either means he created evil and allows it because he’s awful, or he’s powerless.
15:34 The best of both worlds at university.
20:28 The transition from open atheism to agnosticism.
25:36 Another reason why autistic people are less likely to be conventionally religious is that they don’t tend to see an overarching meaning.
31:07 How do you interpret the good parts of Christianity without having supernaturalism?
35:32 What is Erin’s idea of what a chaplain does?
41:10 My final thoughts on the episode.
David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. I'm not going to make any comments about the news. I've had to record this intro a few days earlier and who knows the world could be upside down by the time you're hearing this. I do want to thank a new writer and reviewer par job P AR jop. Thank you for rating and reviewing the podcast on Apple podcasts. You can also rate and review the podcast on Apple podcasts or on pod Special thanks to Mike T for editing this episode. On today's show, my guest today is Erin. Erin is working towards her chaplaincy. She describes herself as religious but not spiritual. And she is on the autism spectrum. Erin also has a number of accomplishments already at a young age. She wrote a book during her high school years. She is working on a master's degree in practical theology. And she's working towards chaplaincy. Her joy at life, hers. Raviv is obvious as soon as you hear her. And I think her story is really important. I think her perspective coming from the autism spectrum is really significant. And she is ultimately doing good in the world. Here's my conversation with Eric.

Erin, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Hello, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to have you, you reached out and mentioned that you have a really interesting story to tell. And it's in line with some of the previous guests that we've had where you kind of described yourself as religious but not spiritual, the inversion of the typical spiritual but not religious. You're also amazingly accomplished at very young age, you've written a book, you've got a theology degree, you're working on a master's, if I'm not mistaken. So you've done quite a bit already. But let's start with what was your religious experience growing up?

Erin  2:31  
So as you can possibly tell from my accent, I was born and raised in Northern Ireland, which I like to describe it as the Bible Belt of Europe, because, okay, by demographics, I think it is the most evangelical part, certainly in Western Europe. Although my my parents, they were they were the good sorts of Christians, like, I don't think but good things to say about them in that, you know, we went to church every Sunday. They were decent people. But they didn't shove it down people's throats. So that was fine. Yeah. So in those early days, I have nothing but positive memories attached to the church. It wasn't until I got a bit older, that things started to change. So in Northern Ireland, this gives you an idea of how Evangelica is, whenever you start high school, everybody gets a Bible, you know, even though it's just you know, a government school, everyone gets a Bible Society. I mean, you can refuse it if you want. So we all got our Bibles. And it was also in secondary school, where my life started to go downhill. So I'm autistic, but I, I wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult. So school in general was just awful. Not because it was not because it was a bad school, just because I had no social ability whatsoever. So I was just dreadfully lonely. Oh, no. Okay. And, as I'm sure many people have told you, that is when you are a prime target for religious fundamentalism.

David Ames  4:05  
Yes. Yes, it is. Yeah.

Erin  4:08  
Yeah. Okay. So I have my Bible that would have been handed so I thought, you know, what? May as well read it. It's not like I've got anything else to do.

David Ames  4:15  
Okay. Yeah.

Erin  4:18  
And of course, you autistic. I took it all. Extremely literally. So then I decided, well, I guess I'm gonna have to find a church that takes it as literally as I do. Yes, guess. So. Whereas most teenagers would do. I don't know, sex and drugs or their rebellion. I decided to do fundamentalism. Is that Yes.

David Ames  4:41  
I hear. Yeah. Okay.

Erin  4:42  
So the church I joined. It's called the free Presbyterian Church. Its founder is Ian Paisley. Not sure if you've heard of him. I have not. Don't think he's particularly well known outside of Ireland, but he did have a degree from Bob Jones University. So he's that. Got it out sort of Chris.

David Ames  5:00  
And that tells us listeners exactly what type of Yes, yeah. The church

Erin  5:05  
itself. The people were fine. And they were mostly retirees, and I actually found that easier socially. Okay. So, in that regard, it was actually quite good for me. But unfortunately, as I got more into it, I think the negatives started to outweigh the positives. All right? Yes. I think I just turned into a rather unpleasant person. So, in Ireland, there's a very long, bloody history of Protestants and Catholics hating each other. And, you know, I was raised to not buy into that, until, of course, I started attending this church, where we're told that Catholics are awful, hellbound, false teaching antichrist, etcetera, etcetera. Oh, wow.

David Ames  5:52  
At a distance, you know, I'm aware of some of the history there, but it's really interesting to hear, you describe that just, you know, beginning to go to a Presbyterian Church, which I don't particularly think of usually as super evangelical. So it's really interesting to hear.

Erin  6:09  
I have been to a PCUSA church, and they, other than the fact that they share the same word and their title, they're just totally different. Okay. Yes, my poor parents, you know, they raised me to be a decent person, and then suddenly, what have I become? But at the same time, they were also happy that I finally had something. Okay. Yeah. In my life, that I'm not sure they quite knew what to make of it. There's quite a push in a lot of youth groups that, you know, you should use whatever talents God has given you, and give them back to God. So I was trying to think, well, what am I good art? I like writing. Okay, how can I give this back to God? So, because at school, I didn't have anything to do at break and lunch, because it's not like I was talking to anyone. I just decided to stay in the computer room. And I think, yeah, when I was 13, I wrote my novel.

David Ames  7:07  
Wow. me look bad here, Erin. That's amazing.

Erin  7:15  
Yes. So I voted when I was 13. And then it was published when I was 16. So it takes quite a while to turn a first draft into something that's yeah, readable. So because I loved CS Lewis, on the Chronicles of Narnia, I tried to do something similar. Okay, it's a fantasy story with a Christian message. And interestingly, my first draft was actually quite metaphorical with the religious stuff. It wasn't too heavy handed, but because my publisher was an American Evangelical company, you were very good to me. As part of the editing process, they basically made it much more explicitly Christian. of the American variety.

David Ames  7:59  
This is way too subtle for Americans era. Yes,

Erin  8:05  
yes. Which is why I, you know, obviously, I still advertise the book on my website. I kind of have a love hate relationship with it. Now.

David Ames  8:13  
I can imagine. Yeah.

Erin  8:16  
Same time, I don't want to cancel my former self. So it's still there. And of course, because there's practically no separation of church and state, I was able to go and sell it in primary schools across the country.

David Ames  8:29  
Wow. Okay. You know, you talked about, in your words, becoming a kind of a terrible person. I think that for those of us who take the Bible seriously, just the fact that you read it. And taking it literally, those are the people who take it very seriously. And I find that many times the people who have some kind of deconstruction or deconversion experience later on in life, it's because they took it seriously. It's it wasn't a surface level thing for you. It was it was real. And so I wouldn't say that that makes you a terrible person. I would say that that makes you someone who cares, right. You cared about your religious experience, your and what you were reading?

Erin  9:14  
Yes. And I think like a lot of people I was quite surprised that the Jesus of the New Testament is very different from the fluffy, Lovely Jesus of mainline Protestantism. Yes. Yeah. And I think towards the end of school doubt started creeping in for a few reasons. So Well, firstly, our minister changed. The one that they had when I joined, was relatively moderate for that denomination, okay, but the one who replaced him was very much fire and brimstone. And I just remember thinking every sermon was about what we are not. So we are absolutely not Catholics. We don't like the gays. basically don't like anyone. I just sort of sitting there feeling really frustrated, like, what are you for? We all know what you're against.

David Ames  10:07  
Yeah. That's the exact thing that I'm doing on the other side of the fence, right? Atheism is so much about, wow, we're down with Christianity. But I'm like, well, actually, what's important is what are we? What are we for? We're for loving people actually connecting with one another.

Erin  10:24  
So yes, that definitely frustrated me. Also, the their version of God was extremely Calvinist, I think I began to see some of the logical flaws in that. Okay, because, you know, it's the classic was it, Epicurus? Yes. The Triad. Yes. So if God is all powerful, knowing, as we were taught, It either means he created evil and allows it because he's awful. Or he's powerless to stop it, and therefore, not all powerful. So yeah, I couldn't quite square that circle. Yeah, classical theism.

David Ames  11:01  
It amazed me. I think, as soon as I got my head above the surface, as it were, and began to look at the history of these deep questions. It amazed me that Epicurious had formalized that problem so long ago, and we're still having the same argument today. It just amazes me. Because I mean, you know, it's, it's over, right? I mean, there's logically impossible.

Erin  11:27  
It's such a powerfully simple argument. Yes. And, of course, the standard responses, God's ways are higher than our ways. And we just have to trust the plan. If I actually remember being told that by one of the ministers because he knew I was reading a lot. I think he actually said to me, sometimes it's good, just to trust and stop looking into it.

David Ames  11:50  
You're thinking too much, Erin.

Erin  11:53  
Yeah, I ended up doing the opposite. So I knew my faith was going downhill. So I thought, You know what, I'll go to Theological College, and then I will be super Christian. All my questions will go away, and it will be fine.

David Ames  12:08  
Oh, my God, I feel for you.

Erin  12:11  
Did you go to seminary, or anything like that,

David Ames  12:14  
I went to a very small, very Evangelical, Christian private college, which is to say, not a terribly good education. But I studied church leadership, quote, unquote, which is basically how to be a pastor. However, I really had very lovely professors. I often say that they did too good a job. They taught me critical thinking they taught me, you know, exegesis hermeneutics, you know, actually looking at what the text says, and what the original author and the original hearers understood it to mean. And anyway, a lot of that I still value greatly today, and yet also lead towards really seeking truth wherever it could be found, and ultimately to deconversion.

Erin  13:02  
So it was also at this point, so when I was 18, that I got formally diagnosed as autistic, which was extremely positive for me. Okay, bad things make sense.

David Ames  13:13  
Can you describe a little bit about how that happened? Like, did you go seek out testing? Or did someone suggested,

Erin  13:19  
I mean, I'd been in therapy, basically all of school because we knew something was wrong, but never quite never quite got to the bottom of it. You know, I had various different levels, like anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, which weren't necessarily incorrect. They just didn't get the full picture. And it wasn't until I saw a different psychiatrist. And really within about one session, she she suggested going for an autism assessment, which isn't something that actually crossed my mind before,

David Ames  13:52  
right? Do you find that having the diagnosis was very helpful, or did you feel burdened by that label? I found it

Erin  14:00  
immensely helpful. But unfortunately, in the UK, the waiting list for an autism diagnosis, particularly for an adult is approximately three years. Oh, wow. And if I hadn't waited three years, I would have been graduated by then. I had I'm extremely privileged in that I had relatives rich enough just to buy me a private assessment, which I don't think there's anywhere near as much as it would be in the US like it was about 1000 pounds. But still, that's a lot of money. Sure. Yeah. Yeah, that came back. Well, back then we called it high functioning autism. I don't think we use that term anymore. But I do find it hard to keep keep up with the language because it changes so much.

David Ames  14:44  
We mentioned off Mike the labels or the language sometimes can be complicated.

Erin  14:48  
Yeah. So I am what they used to call Asperger's Syndrome. But we don't use Asperger's Syndrome anymore, because Asperger was a Nazi.

David Ames  14:56  
Okay. That's See, I was even unaware of that fact. So I'm learning something here.

Erin  15:04  
Yeah, I don't know an awful lot about it. But I know he has extremely questionable eugenics history and experimentation on children.

David Ames  15:12  
Wow. Okay. Is there a terminology that you prefer for yourself?

Erin  15:18  
I think just bog standard autism is the easiest thing. Yeah. And when it comes to, you know, is an autistic person or person with autism? I really don't mind. Like, as long as you say it nicely, I really don't mind. Okay.

David Ames  15:41  
So I completely interrupted you. So you, you had your assessment, which it sounds like was a good thing. And then what happens next?

Erin  15:48  
Yeah. So then I went off to university, the University I went to, it was only three miles from my house, but I moved I anyway, because I wanted to try and get that independence. Yeah, it was like the best of both worlds really? Right. So the theological college I went to, it was a funny setup in that it was a Presbyterian, Ron college and all the professors were Presbyterian ministers, but it was sponsored by, you know, the normal state university. Okay. Proper University. Okay. So I do have a proper degree. Yeah. So socially, it was excellent. Because well, I had the support in place. And I think just people are more mature when you get to university. You can find people who match your interests. And so yeah, so socially, it was a very good three years. Our degrees are only three years.

David Ames  16:40  
Okay? That doesn't surprise me. You guys are smarter over there.

Erin  16:45  
Although, in Northern Ireland anyway, we do 14 years at school, whereas I think in America, it's 12. Grades, we, we do four to 18. I think we just succeed anyway. So socially, it was excellent. And, you know, I came out of my shell, I learned more about myself. But I felt like, the more I became confident in myself as a person, the less competent I was, in my faith, as it were.

David Ames  17:13  
Okay. Yeah. The

Erin  17:14  
opposite reason why I went to college. And it was just the same problem I'd had before and that I couldn't just accept it. I had to think, which is the point of university. But yeah, I, I felt like, it's almost like we started with our conclusion, and then worked backwards to try and find the evidence for it. And surely, you're supposed to do the opposite. Yes.

David Ames  17:41  
I think that is a deeply insightful observation. I think that's what you see from apologetics in particular, but yes, and Christian schools as well.

Erin  17:51  
And I remember one thing in particular, that was said in a lecture, where was it? The professor said, the Bible is the Word of God, because it's self attesting, which means the Bible is the Word of God, because it says so. Right. It's just sitting there like, I am paying money for this. I got on a personal level with every professor Barwon because we fell out over disability adjustments, because he was very much of the opinion that pull yourself up by the bootstraps, you don't need any help. And then he said, If you don't come to my class, you won't do well. So I refused on to his class turned up to the final exam and got the highest score just to spite him.

David Ames  18:36  
I love it. I love it. I think had we been at the same university at the same time, we would have been great friends.

Erin  18:44  
Yeah, so yeah, part of it was, you know, the intellectual side, it wasn't quite holding up, there was also undeniably an emotional element. I remember at one point, I didn't know this person, personally, but they're quite well known within like Irish church circles. Okay. Their child had horrific brain tumor. And I remember, practically every church in the country was praying for them week on week. And whenever they showed improvement, it was praise God, whatever they didn't. We just had to pray harder. And the whole thing just made me profoundly uncomfortable. I can imagine. Yeah. And that it just drove me to the classic questions about prayer. You know, the New Testament is really clear. There's a lot of verses that say, Whatever you ask for my name, I will give it to you. And you can do the mental gymnastics to try and explain that away. But, you know, yeah, when there's a kid deteriorating, despite practically an entire country praying for him. Yeah, I just, it almost seemed the most logical explanation was that we were talking to thin hair.

David Ames  19:56  
So again, you were taking it very seriously, huh? The reasonable expectation after reading the New Testament, and then the reality of the world don't match up.

Erin  20:08  
Yeah. And also on a personal level. So I have arthritis as well as autism. I'm a disaster. There's a few rather embarrassing times where people tried to kill me of my arthritis. Guess what? It didn't work? Yeah. And again, that just, it causes you to question why. Yeah. So as often happens, my view of God got more and more liberal, until it practically wasn't there anymore. So I went from Calvinist, to have anyone to open theist to the point where it's like, I'm basically a functionally atheist. Alright, you know, God, for me had lost so many attributes that I eventually got to the point like, what am I even clinging on?

David Ames  20:56  
Did you go through a more of an agnostic phase of just I don't know, or did you really go from open theism to? I don't think God exists?

Erin  21:05  
Well, I think that's where I've landed agnosticism, I think that's just the most honest position, I think. So I don't know if there's a God. And I think the term functional atheist is probably quite fitting.

David Ames  21:19  
That makes sense to me, than it seems honest. And I think that is a perfectly reasonable position to hold.

Erin  21:27  
So then from my final year dissertation, I decided to do my research on autistic adults in the church, for obvious reasons, and also because everything that had been written was about children. So I thought, let's write something about adults, specifically. And how did that go? Yeah, it went really well. I really enjoyed the project. It sort of gave me a taste for independent research, which I quite liked. But my findings were particularly interesting. There's quite a few studies that prove that autistic people are way more likely on average to be atheist or agnostic. Again, probably because we do think so logically, and straightforward. God, I can't bring myself to do the mental gymnastics required. Sorry, that sounds terribly condescending.

David Ames  22:19  
What is interesting, I think about D conversions like so in my case, I very much did believe I very much was doing those mental gymnastics until you have this moment of clarity where you recognize I'm doing math, mental gymnastics. And if I just stopped making those assumptions, what does it look like? Yes, it's the opposite of born again. But the scales fall from your eyes. And you realize, I have been taking things on given or taking things on somebody else's word, without really investigating and really questioning myself.

Erin  22:56  
And you know, emotionally, it was very, very difficult. Because I did live in a Christian bubble. Yeah. And I, it's, I don't think it's overdramatic to say it did feel like my life was falling apart, because I just managed to build a nice social life for myself. Right? And then suddenly, I was worried that that was all gonna go away. So that yeah, it was a very unpleasant time in general. Okay. But the degree itself, it went, it went very well, I was the highest scoring student in the college, which probably annoyed some professors.

David Ames  23:37  
That's awesome.

Erin  23:37  
Because all our work had to be double marked by the proper University. So that's why yes. It also actually, while I was there, that state university decided to sever funding for the theological college, because for a variety of reasons, but I think, basically, their teaching wasn't good enough for them. So those of us who had started, were able to finish with our proper degrees, but I think from now onwards, I don't know what they'll do, but they're certainly not part of that university anymore.

David Ames  24:13  
Okay. Can I ask you one more question about the research? And correct me if this is a simplistic understanding of autism, my observation of Christianity is you just mentioned the word bubble, is that it is kind of socially enforced. You learn what the group what the community believes is true. And you learn where the unwritten boundaries are. And when you cross them, you are corrected, right? You get a sense of, I can question this far, and then that's too much, or I can look at these resources, but outside this, you know, outside of Christianity, those don't quite work. So my question to you is, my simplistic understanding of autism is that it's sometimes Missing social cues or missing the implicit information within a community? And does that correlate to why maybe autistic people are more likely to be agnostic or atheist?

Erin  25:14  
I think that's definitely part of it. I think that's also part of why I ended up doing so well, because I didn't realize this this doctrinal line you're not supposed to cross. I was drawing at all sorts of sources, you know, John Shelby Spong to all these heretics that would not normally be cited in such a college. Another reason that some research suggests is that we don't tend to think Tellier logically, which means we don't tend to see an overarching meaning. So say, for example, that kid with a brain tumor I mentioned, all those tele illogical explanations, like for the glory of God, Satan's doing it, something like that. None of them were satisfying, because I don't think that way, I just think, in the here and now, I was like, the kids cells are multiplying irregularly. He needs chemotherapy. That's it. I don't see any supernatural component to this. Right. Exactly. So yeah, that's another reason why I think autistic people are less likely to be conventionally religious. Which I suppose brings us to why I am still calling myself religious but not spiritual.

David Ames  26:34  
Yeah, so that definitely begs that question. Yes.

Erin  26:37  
Towards the end of college. And this was like the beginning of time, because I graduated online. I think that's when I started to, quote unquote, come out as agnostic slash, whatever I was, okay. In fact, the first time it was even by accident, because I remember, me and my friends, we were talking about existentialism, because good grief, we were nerds,

David Ames  27:03  
as you do as you do.

Erin  27:07  
And I think I was basically just saying how much I loved the idea of existential that things just are on that we just have to make the most of it. There is no meaning other than the meaning that we create for ourselves, etcetera, etcetera. Yeah. And then I think one of my friends was like, but where does God fit into that? I think at that point, I was just like, he doesn't. Yeah, I'm not sorry, to interesting conversation. But compared to what I hear from a lot of people, I'm extremely lucky. I didn't lose any friends over it. Because I think we were friends for the right reasons, not just because we thought the same way. Likewise with my parents. I mean, I think there was a little bit of abusement with them, because you know, I'd been fundamentalist before. Now I'm coming home saying I'm an agnostic. I think they were just like, right, you're being Muslim in two weeks? Yes.

David Ames  28:01  
They sound like wonderful parents, I got it. That's good to hear. I'm really glad to hear that your friends stuck with you. Because I do feel like this process. You learn who your friends are? And who, maybe some people who are not your friends that you thought were

Erin  28:18  
Yeah, and I think what a lot of people said very well meaning is that, you know, doubt is normal. But I think I beyond doubt, I don't think doubt is sufficient.

David Ames  28:30  
Yeah. So I think we've covered the non spiritual part fairly well, what is it about the Christian tradition, then that you find useful or compelling,

Erin  28:41  
I still think Christianity and church communities can still be a useful part of someone's life, they can be seen as part of our culture, or kind of like an art form, without necessarily having to take it. Absolutely, literally. An example I like to give is secular Judaism. So Jews are way ahead of us in this regard. Because I mean, particularly in Europe, quite a high proportion of Jews are functionally atheist, but they keep the rituals and the sense of community. So basically, they keep all the good bits of the religion and managed to dispense with the bad bits. Yeah. people accuse me of cherry picking, and I say, Yes, that is exactly what I am doing.

David Ames  29:27  
Exactly. I'm going to have Matt from two Christians in a Jew, which is their title, not mine. And he's an Orthodox Jewish person, and we're going to chat and one of the questions I'll ask him is about secular Judaism, right? And the secular humanism that I think is very influenced by Judaism. And the reason I bring this up is, I often hear from Christian apologists that humanism gets all of its ideas from Christianity. And I want to say first Well, I think these ideas long predates Christianity. But beyond that, if anything, modern secular humanism is mostly influenced by secular Judaism. Right? Yes. Yeah, this idea of, hey, we're a community, we still need to have rituals in which we connect with one another and find purpose and meaning. And we don't need anything else beyond that.

Erin  30:20  
Yes, so the Bible has some truly horrendous bits. It also has some bits that are quite decent. And it really is just, you know, trying to apply a utilitarian lens. So anything which we can use to create more happiness for the greatest among people should be kept anything else? We can appreciate it in a literary sense or historical sense, without needing to take it. So literally, right. And I think to a lot of Americans in particular, I don't think this form of Christianity is quite as popular as it is in Europe. To give you an idea in, in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, one in six of their pastors are open atheists. Oh, wow. Okay. Because Europe, in Scotland, where I live now, my theological hero is a bishop called Richard Holloway, and he was an agnostic. Okay. So yeah, I'm certainly not the only one who is attempting to keep the traditions and the community of Christianity without the harmful doctrine,

David Ames  31:31  
right. I do want to just say here that I do think the community aspect, that connection between human beings is the good part of Christianity. And if you can salvage that, then wonderful, that's fantastic. I have one question for you. I've often said that the most dangerous word in English is God. Oh, yes. And what I mean by that is that you could ask 1000 Different people what or who God is, and you would get 1000 different answers. Exactly. So how do you interpret the good parts of Christianity that community parts, the ritual parts, without having supernaturalism kind of sneak in accidentally?

Erin  32:15  
Yeah, that there was an Anglican bishop called John Robinson. Last century, he argued that because of what you said that God has been redefined into oblivion, that we should just dispense with the word altogether. Obviously, that's not going to happen. I quite liked his idea. So looking at it from a purely psychological or anthropological point of view. I quite like what Don Cupid says that God is essentially just an anthropomorphize version of our highest ideals. Yeah. So you can tell a lot about a person based on the God they worship. Yeah. So when I talk about God, if I must, yes, it is basically just an anthropomorphized form of my highest ideals, which is things like love to be cliche, kindness, cooperation, beauty, progress, et cetera, et cetera, all of these things. That is what I am thinking of, whenever I say prayers, God, I am well aware that the person sitting next to me in the Pew has a completely different interpretation. And I think that is fine, as long as we both respect each other. And that's actually something I really like about the Scottish church. It's a very broad church in that, you know, you've got everything from evangelicals, to agnostic atheists, all using the same liturgy, but interpreting it very differently. Right. But we're all sharing cups of tea together. Yeah. For the pandemic.

David Ames  33:51  
Yes. Back when we can be fully human. Yeah, yes.

Erin  33:57  
I don't think I could ever go back to an evangelical church. I mean, well, who knows? But certainly at the minute, I don't think I could, but I'm quite happy in the tradition I'm in at the minute because there was room for a very wide variety of opinions.

David Ames  34:17  
And what do you see your role in the church as you see it?

Erin  34:21  
So right now I'm studying a master's degree in chaplaincy, because I really liked chaplaincy. I did a bit art just in a voluntary basis when I was at college, and I feel like a lot of the people who are to theologically left field to be priests end up as chaplains. Okay. I don't know if they'd appreciate me saying that. I think it's a much more practical form of having fear. So it takes the best bits of what Jesus was doing. So he hung out with people who were ostracized from normal society, and that is quite often what a chaplain does, whether they're in a home hospital or prison or wherever. It's almost like a combination between a priest and a social worker. And in terms of the spirituality of it, it's very much driven by the person. So if they have a very strong faith and a supernatural God, then that's what we go with. Because it's all about helping them not imposing my views. Likewise, quite a lot of our clients end up being atheists, and they don't want to talk about God, they just want to talk about I'd know their children. Yeah, yeah, we're here for that.

David Ames  35:32  
I think you've just described, the thing that I found, as a teenager, so compelling about Jesus is that in his time, he was calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. And he was spending time with the people who were rejected, who were isolated. He was actually caring for people, literally, you know, if you take the story, literally feeding people. And it sounds like that is your idea of what a chaplain does, right? Did you do the gospel?

Erin  36:04  
Yeah. So my full degree title is a master of practical theology. It's that practical focus that I really like. Yeah, the way of Christ can still have potential in the modern world. If we can somehow detach it from this idea of Jesus being the second person of the Trinity hypostatic union pre existing eminent the father, blah, blah, blah.

David Ames  36:30  
You got to throw it in hypostatic. Union. Yeah. I love it.

Erin  36:36  
So I would very much love to be a chaplain, but I'm also realistic in that I am well aware of that I might have a chance with, particularly the Scottish church, they may well turn around and say you're a bit too Orthodox, which would be fair enough. Okay. So I think my plan B would probably be just going into secular counseling, because I think you can achieve some of the same aims. But right now, I'm still on the chaplaincy path, and we'll see where it goes.

David Ames  37:06  
I don't want to oversimplify what you do or what you see as kind of mission for you. But have you worked with other people on the autism spectrum?

Erin  37:15  
Not directly, actually. But my most favorite form of chaplaincy ever was maritime chaplaincy? So that is working with, like the crews of cargo ships. Okay. And I found that immensely interesting. Because these people, they live on a confined ship for months of the year, very little company. It's like living in their own world within a world. And that's how I felt like I was prior to my diagnosis, you know, interested trapped in my own world. I know how meaningful it can be if someone breaks into that world, and just makes you feel seen, like an actual person. Yeah. And I feel like that's, that's what we were doing when we visited ships. Okay, it could be something simple, like just bringing phone cards or tacky Irish souvenirs? Yes, you know, it just meant an awful lot to the people that we visited. And I thought this is the gospel, like, yes, I would happily do this for the rest of my life. If I could.

David Ames  38:15  
Yeah, that's awesome. So Erin, let me ask you, what are some resources that you suggest, let's say somebody who is either questioning their faith or someone who has discovered they're on the spectrum? What are some resources that you found useful?

Erin  38:32  
My most favorite theology book is doubts and loves by Richard Holloway. He's an agnostic Bishop I mentioned. Okay, because I just think that it's not a very long book. But I think it does a fantastic job of laying out how some of the tenants of Judaism and Christianity can still be carried forward into a secular world. So I like that a lot. And as for someone who's newly diagnosed, I think one of the great things of the internet years is that there's so many resources out there. And the autism faith network, I will always recommend, I love them. Okay, I interviewed the lady who founded founded it for my dissertation. So yeah, if you're still attending church, and you have got a diagnosis, I definitely recommend getting in touch with them. There's also a guy called Lamar Hardwick. I am probably mispronouncing his name, but he calls himself the autism pastor, because, as the name suggests, he is a pastor with autism. His books are very good.

David Ames  39:38  
Excellent. So we're doing this episode as more of a deconversion anonymous episode, so I'm not going to ask you to give information about how to contact you but if people are interested, is it okay if I forward like emails that come to me to you?

Erin  39:53  
Yes, yes. Okay. I mean, I'm sure if people are able to put the pieces together they could probably find me but yeah,

David Ames  40:00  
Honestly, that's how I am to right. It's like I just yeah, it's 95% Anonymous. Yeah, a dedicated person can figure this out. It's not going yeah.

Erin  40:10  
But no, I love talking to people. And in fact, I've found quite often that people say to me that I'm saying out loud what their voice thought, or too scared to say

David Ames  40:19  
yes. So Erin, I really appreciate what you are about what you are doing in the world, I think, you know, to use my terminology that you are expressing secular Grace within this religious but not spiritual framework. And I wish you all the best, I hope that you become a chaplain and get to do everything that you've described here.

Erin  40:44  
Thank you. And thank you so much for this podcast. I think I've listened to it for a long time. And I think if we had more atheists like you, maybe Christians would realize that they're not the scary monsters that we think.

David Ames  40:58  
Well, thank you for being a listener. I appreciate it. Erin, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode. Like I said, she has an infectious joy about her. Erin is so accomplished at such a young age. She's making us all look bad. But I just love her desire to do good in the world to reach people where they're at regardless of their metaphysical beliefs. Erin has gone the gamut of speaking and publicizing her book within the Christian world, to seminary and exploring liberal theologies, and ultimately to religious but not spiritual, still maintaining the traditions of Christianity without the supernatural beliefs. I was particularly affected by her research into adults with autism, and how that affects matters of faith. What we discussed in the episode, I think, was really important that so much of faith is the community expressing what to believe. And for someone who is less prone to receive those implicit signals, it's harder for them to take that leap. I just found that really interesting to hear from Erin's perspective. Beyond just the autism spectrum, is Erin's obvious intelligence and as a young person in school, not being able to accept pat answers. I think that is a challenge that many bright young people face when they're confronted with things they must accept by faith. When they are looking for evidence or looking for logical reasons, and can't find them. That is a hard place to be. I expect to hear great things about the impact that Erin makes on the world. I want to thank Erin for being on the podcast for sharing her story sharing her joy for life. I wish her all the best in her endeavors. And I hope that someday she can be a chaplain. You may have noticed that we have been doing an episode per week lately. As I have reflected on in previous episodes, I had a number of interviews in the can. Mike T has joined the team and is helping out with editing so we are able to go a little faster. I don't know that this is maintainable for the long run. But for as many weeks as we can do. We'll do one episode per week until either Mike or I runs out of energy or we run out of content one or the other. I have upcoming episodes with Logan, who calls himself beyond belief on Twitter and social media. I have Troy with y'all means all. I have mer Simka who is from the two Christians in a Jew podcast as well as several others. So keep coming back to hear these and other stories. Until then, 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 from Akai 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 If you have audio engineering expertise and you'd be interested in participating in the graceful atheist podcast, 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 human minimum 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 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

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.



The Wonder and The Mystery of Being podcast and YouTube channel:

Jon’s deconstruction story


The documentary Jon produced while still a Christian


Deconversion from Christianity

Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: A History

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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 race for atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. We have finally made it to 2021 I can't say that I am disappointed to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. This doesn't mean that we will miraculously solve all of our problems overnight. But it is a nice mental marker to move forward to have some new hope. I want to begin by giving some thinks I want to thank my ongoing supporters, Libby N. James T. John G. In Job W. I also want to thank new writers and reviewers, GG M. I won't be able to pronounce this user name but begins with J S G. And another user, whom I will call DD. Thank you for the ratings and reviews. Thank you for the support of the podcast. I'm going to talk a little bit about my upcoming plans for the 2021 year for the podcast improvements that I'd like to make. So please hang on in the final thoughts area of the episode and I will go over some of those plans. In the meantime, I will ask that you do in fact rate and review the podcast. And one other request is an ongoing goal is to rise in the Google results for various keywords. The podcast has been number one for the term secular grace for quite some time. And it just recently has started to rise in the ranks for the term deconversion. So if you could do me a favor and just Google deconversion and click on my link, which is probably about the fourth or fifth link in the list that will help rise in those rankings. The podcast is all about secular grace and deconversion. So I'm hoping that people will find the podcast by googling those terms. onto today's show. My guest today is Jon Steingard, the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. Several months ago, Jon posted on Instagram, a heart wrenching revelation that he no longer believed in God, that he could no longer call himself a Christian. As you can imagine, someone who is famous within the Christian music world and famous just in the Christian world. This was a dramatic moment. The number of hot takes that I have read from apologists about Jon's deconversion are innumerable. I've talked about them on the still unbelievable podcast with Matthew Taylor and Andrew Knight. Jon has since gone on what I would call a podcast and YouTube world tour. He has talked to multiple apologists, he's been on multiple humanist and atheist podcasts. And he has such a down to earth way of talking about his seeking for truth because really, this isn't about atheism, or anything else. He wants to know what is true. And so he is honest about that process. Since the recording of this podcast about a month ago, Jon has started his own podcast and YouTube channel called the wonder and the mystery of being. There will be links in the show notes for these and I highly recommend that you go and check that out. Here is my conversation with Jon Steingard.

Jon Steingard, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Jon Steingard  4:03  
David. Thanks for having me, man.

David Ames  4:05  
This is one of those fun times where everyone knows who you are. And nobody knows who I am. So me introducing you is just a ridiculous thing. You are the lead singer and guitarist for Hawk Nelson. Yep. And the reason you're on the show today is that a few months ago, you posted an Instagram post talking about your deconstruction process. That's right. Let's just start with how difficult was it to write that message?

Jon Steingard  4:33  
You know, on one hand, it was like one of the most difficult things I ever feel like I wrote down but on the other hand, it was so liberating to feel like I could finally say, what I was thinking. Yeah. Because it had been it had been such a process of feeling a lot of those things and thinking a lot of those thoughts and learning and processing. You know, things to do with my faith and and having to feel like I couldn't say that stuff out loud. Right. So it was difficult to write down. But it was also liberating. And you know, I'm sure anyone that's gone through that process identifies with that sort of, sort of dualistic experience where it's amazing and horrifying all at the same time.

David Ames  5:21  
Right, right. So I reread it this morning, just in preparation to chat with you. And just the feeling of being torn between being authentic, and honest and straightforward. And also knowing that this was a bomb that was gonna go off in the community. And yeah, you know, people who love you, what was the reaction? What was the main reaction to this? Yeah,

Jon Steingard  5:47  
I mean, for me, anybody that knows me personally, was incredibly kind. Yeah, with almost no exceptions. I mean, I can think of a couple now that I really actually think about it, but

David Ames  6:00  
you definitely find who your friends are? Yes, for sure. It's with virtually,

Jon Steingard  6:03  
with virtually no exceptions, I had people reaching out and saying that they loved me, and that they, you know, that we're still friends, you know, these are all mean, almost, the vast majority of my friends were Christian, and still are, right. And I also for anyone that I was pretty close to, I gave them a heads up. So like that morning, before I posted, I texted probably, you know, 35 people or so saying like, Hey, I just wanted you to hear from me, this is what I'm posting today. Obviously, it's a big deal in my life. And I just want you to know that, like, I love you. I don't want this to change the fact that we're friends, but I recognize it'll also change the dynamic. And I just wanted to, I wanted you to hear it from me and not see it on Instagram. Right. So I did that. And I think that helped. And for the vast majority of people that that know me personally, they were very kind. Of course, then you get strangers on the internet. And the response there was as mixed as you would expect, you know, some people, some people were, were also kind other people were sad, some people were downright hateful. You know, then I had, you know, atheists and Christians fighting in the comments about theology, which was always fun. It was a it was a bit of everything, you know, online.

David Ames  7:30  
So I've been following your story pretty much since you posted that, and one of the things I've been fascinated by is, you've really made yourself available. So you've been on the unbelievable podcast, to Sean McDowell, you're talking to Jonathan McClatchy, you've just really been open. And you've I think you've gone above and beyond honestly, you know, you've you've really made yourself available to answer those questions. What has it been like, talking to professional apologists?

Jon Steingard  8:00  
Oh, well, I mean, first off, I think most of the believers that, you know, like, like Shawn and Jonathan, and Frank Tarik, I did, I did a thing with him as well. They've all been incredibly kind. And they all have their own tone and their own approach to the way they do things publicly. And that's normal and cool. And, but I never felt like any of them came at me in an argumentative or overly aggressive way. Yeah, it was, it was always from the perspective of like, Hey, this is someone who was one of us, and is now you know, saying that he's not an AI would, I just hope that he has all the information before he makes that decision, that's sort of been the approach that most of them have taken. And I appreciate that. And, for me, I've chosen to engage with those people, because I am interested in the truth. And I don't want to, you know, walk away from Christianity, out of ignorance, I don't want to stay in ignorance, and I don't want to walk out of ignorance, you know, so I should be open to truth wherever I find it. And that should include the circles that I come from. So that's been why I've been, you know, making myself available as you say, I actually feel like there's a bit of a lack in my engagement with individuals from other religions. And so that's something I'd like to remedy at some point and maybe do some stuff on my own YouTube channel and maybe have some conversations with, with with Muslims, with Buddhists with Hindu individuals. And so I that's something I'd like to do more in the future.

David Ames  9:42  
Interesting. Okay. I think the reason that I say that you've gone above and beyond is, from my perspective, the work that I'm doing, I feel like adult deconversion like yourself, like me, really says something, right? Like there's a difference between You're 20 years old, you're in college and you know, you're reading Nietzsche and you reject your, you know, I do like nature. Yeah, exactly. You specifically, you know, you had an entire career that was predicated upon your belief system for you to go through the process of deconstruction, and then be willing to let go, at least on some level of some financial security. That's a pretty big deal. And one of the things I find interesting from the apologetic response, and here, I want to I do want to separate the difference between believers, just regular people. Yep. And the professional apologetic class. Sure. But there is almost an assumption like, Well, you probably haven't looked at it from this perspective, or you haven't looked at it from that perspective. Or maybe you you didn't have faith in the right way. Yeah. Did you ever feel kind of being patronized?

Jon Steingard  10:54  
Um, you know, not from, like, the guys that you mentioned, like Shawn and Jonathan and Dr. Tarek, I don't I don't feel like they were ever patronizing. I feel like they're so used to engaging with people that are not believers, that they've learned the skill of, of being respectful and, and non patronizing. Now, there's certainly other people that have been a little bit more patronizing. You know, I remember, you know, at one point, I wrote an Instagram post listing all the crazy things that people have suggested are the cause of my conversion, right? My dude, my deconversion, right. And like one of them, I had forgotten about that post, and someone brought it up to me the other day, and like, one of them was low carb diet. So like, that's one of the more ridiculous ones. But but it's like I said before, it's like any of those kinds of patronizing things. They're all coming from people that don't know me. And, you know, one of the advantages I have, compared to someone who's maybe not used to being in the public sphere, is that I've got 15 years of experience ignoring random people on the internet. So it just, I've gotten a pretty thick skin on that level. And so it doesn't, if someone that knows me, personally, is patronizing, or rude or hateful to me that that actually does hurt my feelings. But if someone you know, a random person online, who doesn't know me personally, it's very easy for me to look at that and go like, well, they just don't know me. You know, that's okay.

David Ames  12:31  
I wanted to mention, I think the thing that made me love you, Brian Houston of Hillsong wrote a tweet.

Jon Steingard  12:40  
And he said, Yeah, that one got under my skin.

David Ames  12:43  
When someone can just walk away from their faith, I would question the strength and validity of their faith in the first place. And your response was just beautiful. Or you could just love them. And I think that encapsulates so much of what I think is wrong in the dialogue between Yeah, D converts and believers is all talk about, you know, if you're a religious humanist, if you in other words, if you care about people, the well being of human beings. And I'm a secular humanist, hey, we can do some stuff together, we can, yeah, we can make an impact on the world. Instead of trying to undermine each other's justifications for why we care about people. That just seems like a ridiculous waste of time. To me.

Jon Steingard  13:28  
Well, it's like if we can agree that we care about people like let's focus on that. Let's Exactly. I'm with you.

David Ames  13:34  
Yeah. Yeah. So I you know, that I think that Post Malone told me quite a bit about your character and your heart. I know part of your story is going to I believe it's Uganda. Yeah. Can you talk about that story a little bit about how that affected you?

Jon Steingard  13:49  
Yeah. So over the years of doing the band, I started well, when you're in a band, first off, you you have, you know, we play shows every night. And when you're on tour, in the spring, in the fall, you typically get on a tour bus, and you go from city to city, and, and you have a lot of time during the day. And so I started using that time learning how to operate cameras and do video production, okay. And, and initially, I did that because the band needed, you know, video content, and I was starting to make it but then that grew into a full on video business. And that's actually what I do full time now. And one of the projects I did a couple of years ago was a documentary in Uganda, about a people group named the Botswana and the Botswana live in southwestern Uganda kind of tucked in that corner right next to Rwanda and the Congo. And they were for, for generations, just a hunter gatherer society, like super old school, undeveloped. It's very, very remote. And they lived in this area of the Virunga mountains, and they just lived off the land. And in the 90s, the Ugandan government decided to create a guerrilla sanction. worry there. And as far as conservation of the environment goes, that's a good thing. And tourism, you know, that's a good thing and business, that's a good thing. But the one problem was they had to clear the bottle out. And when they did that, they, they didn't really offer the bottle, any sort of place to go or any solutions as to you know, we're moving these people from their ancestral homelands and then just kicking them out and not giving them any, any compensation or any options. And so they just became this last people that had nowhere to go, they didn't fit into society at all. They're physically different than the other natives in the area. They're pygmies, so they're less than five feet tall. So it's very easy to distinguish them physically. So it's easy to discriminate against them if you want to, okay, and so the organization I went with basically works with this people group, and there's a lot of orphans, there's a lot of death, a lot of starvation, there's a lot of disease, they're incredibly impoverished, and they're basically just squatting on whatever land they can find. So this organization that I went with they they have an orphanage that houses feeds and clothes, and educates 250 baht with children. And before they got there, over half the, the children born in these little encampments would not make it to the age of five. Anyway, sorry, this is getting to be not the short version of the story. But essentially, I went there to document their story, because that hadn't really been fully done the way that it needed to be for this organization. And so I went and did that. And, and I had recently become a father myself, and so I'm looking at these boxwood children. And I see my son, and I just can't help but think, you know, this, this could be my son, if he was just born here, instead of in, you know, San Diego where we live. And to see children starving to see them not making to the making it to the age of five, to see I mean, the image that actually really well, there's two images that really broke me. One of them was the descriptions of how they would find these children was typically they would find them, because they just find a random child in the forest somewhere naked and starving and alone. Well, because their parent had died while they were just sort of hiding in the forest and the child was left on their own. That's how they found a lot of these kids. And that's horrifying to me. I mean, the description is like, they would find these kids by following the sound of them crying. Like, wreck to me. Yeah. And then the other image that wrecked me was was at one point, I was taking a few shots, but this really long lens, because I was I was trying to not insert myself into the story too much. I was trying to just really like pick off little micro stories that I can see visually happening in these encampments. And at one point, I saw what looked to be about a four year old girl who was caring for a two year old boy. And I realized in that moment, like that four year old is actually responsible for this two year old the way that I am responsible for my son. Wow, yeah. And I'm watching a four year old raise a two year old because that's the only option they have. Yeah. And that kind of stuff just wrecked me. And I was already starting to sort of question a lot of things about my faith. But that put me in a place where I was like, the things that I'm 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. Yeah, I hear about a God who answers prayer. Certainly not always, but definitely sometimes. And, you know, I grew up hearing stories of people that were like, you know, God, just he loves me so much answers, even my tiny little prayers sometimes, like I, like I pulled into church one day, and I was late, and I didn't think I was gonna get a parking spot. And then bam, right up front, there was a parking spot. And I knew just, God loves me so much. He even cares about those little details. And so I grew up hearing that and then I go to Uganda, and I see this. Yeah. 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. Yeah, and suffering unimaginably and in situations where honestly, sometimes dying is the the Most Merciful thing they could experience because they're suffering so much. And I just, I came back from that trip and I was just like, Like, there's no way that I can believe in God the way that I used to, after that. No way. Yeah. And then I started reading about the problem of suffering of the problem of evil in a more philosophical sense, but, but I experienced it in that way, sort of, before I really dug into it intellectually. Yeah.

David Ames  20:21  
Yeah, you know, I want to be careful that we're not exploitive of the story of the bottle as well here. But I've listened to several of your conversations with various people about the problem of evil, and they are definitely trying to answer it from a more philosophical point of view. But when you have experienced, yeah, starving children, those pat answers just aren't adequate. They don't rise to the level of the real world problems that you can see. Yeah,

Jon Steingard  20:51  
the way I describe it to them is I just, I usually say something along the lines of like, I understand the philosophical sort of responses to the problem of evil. But when I'm standing there in Uganda, with these children, those answers are not satisfying. And to their credit, a lot of the apologists that I've spoken with, are quick to say, like, yeah, the problem of evil is probably the biggest issue. It's probably the the biggest argument against the existence of a loving God. And they're usually pretty quick to, you know, to say that that's the case. Yeah,

David Ames  21:28  
we're also kind of dancing around the divine hiddenness problem. Yes. Well,

Jon Steingard  21:32  
and for a long, for a long time, I actually thought that the problem of evil was my main problem. And it wasn't till I thought about it more that divine hiddenness sort of revealed itself to me, divine hiddenness revealed itself to me. But I realized that divine hiddenness was was actually the the big issue for me, right? Yeah.

David Ames  21:53  
One of the things that I tried to get across is that, and again, I want to really separate if there are believers listening, it's not believers that I'm talking about. It's the apologetic perspective. Sure, is that the apologetic perspective has a neutered God, a powerless God that fits nicely in a box? And there are answers for every reason why? The answer is no. Right? Yeah. I believe that your experience of your faith tradition was one of charismatic experience. And yeah, very much, you know, I think your faith was of a powerful interventionist God. And then when you go again, to the real world in Uganda, and God is not intervening. These are reasonable questions to ask.

Jon Steingard  22:39  
Yes. Yeah. I, yeah. It's unreasonable not to ask them in my view, you know, right. Exactly. And I think I spent a lot of years not asking them out of fear of what the answers might be, because I was someone I mean, like you hinted at earlier, my career and my livelihood was wrapped up in my belief. And so in a sense, I was like a professional Christian, right? You know, the same way that a unapologetic author is sort of a professional Christian, right? I was as well. The only difference is, when I was a teenager, and I got into being in bands. I didn't realize that's where I was headed. Like, I just didn't think about it that way. Like, yeah, I accepted my Christianity. It's what I was raised in, I accepted my, you know, my beliefs. I hadn't really studied it the way that I've studied now. But I was ensconced in this 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. And it's not that, you know, sometimes I've been accused of like, oh, we you didn't believe for a long time, and you just lied. And I'm like, Well, no, I really did believe. And I had questions, but I was afraid to even ask them, like alone by myself. I was afraid to present them to myself. Yeah. And I think that was, that's sort of a nuanced thing. And I guess if if someone wants to argue that I was being duplicitous, they can do that. But I don't feel that I was.

David Ames  24:17  
Well, I completely understand what you're saying. Our mutual friends from still unbelievable. Matthew Taylor and Andrew Knight. Matthew has this beautiful way of saying that, you know, his deconversion he was aware of it suddenly, but suddenly didn't describe the deconversion process just described his awareness. Yeah.

Jon Steingard  24:36  
And I would relate to that tremendous. Yeah. Yeah.

David Ames  24:39  
So I feel the same way that you know, it was, you know, years of change going on under the hood, and then a moment of honesty of admitting to myself, I don't believe

Jon Steingard  24:50  
Do you remember where you were when you first said out loud? Like I don't think I believe in God. Yeah.

David Ames  24:57  
I literally said Oh, shit. Oh, Oh, yeah, I don't believe anymore. And because my immediate response was, how am I going to tell my wife? So my wife is very much a believer. And she is she still? Absolutely, she absolutely is. And in fact, we've got an episode that will probably precede yours. She and I talking together and wow, we're working through some of this. So again, back to that idea of, she's a better humanist than I am. She's just a believer and a humanist, right? Like, she loves people, she cares about meeting real world needs in the world. And we share so many values still. And that's kind of what we've been able to focus on. And, and that's

Jon Steingard  25:35  
amazing, because that's a hard journey I've spoken to, I mean, one of the really cool things that I've gotten to do the last eight months or so, is talk with people that that are also on similar journeys to mine, right, who maybe didn't have people to talk to you about it before. Yeah. And so I mean, Instagram, DMS, I've spent obscene amounts of time this year, just talking with people about this stuff, and so many people, like yourself, are in a marriage where there's a difference of, you know, perspective on this stuff. And that is incredibly difficult. So, yeah, the fact that you guys have managed to work through that. I mean, at least to the degree that you have, that's, that's incredible. That's yeah,

David Ames  26:20  
and that's mostly a testament to to my wife. But since you bring it up, you know, your Instagram post mentions your wife. And it sounds like the two of you went through this process kind of together, what was, which one of you admitted it first to the other?

Jon Steingard  26:36  
Definitely, I went first. But we got very, very lucky that we have similar backgrounds. I mean, similar, almost identical. I mean, I grew up in Canada, she grew up here in California. But other than that our backgrounds are, are like, strangely identical. So both of our dads are pastors, both of our dads are pastors of very charismatic churches, both of our dads churches had a history of church splits and disagreements within the church that were the sort of happened at very critical times in our upbringing that caused some baggage for sure. So my wife and I have very similar baggage when it comes to Christianity. And both of us sort of just didn't really want to fully admit that maybe we didn't believe for quite some time. But once I started going down that path, my wife was like, everything you're saying, is confirming stuff that I think I've felt for a really long time. So it's been awesome in the sense that we've been on more or less the same page this whole time, which is, which is really, really fantastic. It's been one less issue

David Ames  27:54  
to deal with. Yeah. Yeah.

Jon Steingard  27:56  
But at the same time, like, there's a sadness there. And maybe I don't know, if maybe you have had this experience. But, you know, for me a lot of this journey, and my wife really feels this a lot is that we used to have this sense of certainty. And, and I now, you know, we both now see that that certainty wasn't necessarily based on truth, right. But it was based, you know, like, it was based on a lot of assumptions. But regardless, we still lost that certainty. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of things about life and death and the future. And, you know, the sort of metaphysical nature of reality that we used to think we understood, and now now we recognize that we might not know the first thing about, right, how we raise our kids, you know, those kinds of things. purpose and meaning. Yeah, purpose and meaning, you know, like, the age old question of like, what is the purpose of our lives? Why are we here? What are we doing here?

David Ames  29:07  
We can talk about this more, but like, for me, I think the recognition that I came to was, there may not be inherent purpose and meaning in the universe. Yeah. But human beings are meaning makers. Yes. And in some ways, we are so good at making meaning that we created gods, right. Like, it's kind of out of that impetus that makes that

Jon Steingard  29:30  
that's a really interesting way to say it. And I think that's, I think that that's bang on. Yeah.

David Ames  29:36  
I've had the opportunity to talk to a few of my kind of humanist heroes, Sasha Sagan wrote a book called for small creatures such as we that talks a lot about this. Lots of good title. Yeah, yeah. It's from Carl Sagan. So his, her dad BarCamp, polo, similar, and I always talk when I'm talking to them. It's like, how can we bottle up this sense of joy and humility from a secular perspective and give it away. And I find that that is the hardest thing to do. Right? Like, I don't know how to. I know how I feel it, and I can talk about it and express it, but I don't know how to give it away yet. Yeah,

Jon Steingard  30:12  
it's difficult because it's like, in a lot of ways, like, think about the word good. You know, or the color yellow? Like, how do you describe the color yellow to someone, it's just like, you have to just say, yellow. And trust that the person you're talking to knows what you're talking about. And I sort of think that finding meaning outside of religion of any kind is something like that. It's yeah, it's it's like, there are things that feel meaningful to me. But I no longer exactly have a way to articulate why and, or I can try, but, but it just sort of like, it's it's not satisfying in the same way that, you know, the apologetic explanations for the problem of evil are not satisfying, like, like, I have some guesses as to why my bond with my children is so strong. And those have to do with evolution, and genetics and sociology and all that stuff. But like explaining it like that doesn't, doesn't seem to do it. Justice. Yeah. So that's one of the areas that I continue to find myself curious. And I continue to find myself wanting to use religious language like, like, when I spend time with my son, something about that feels sacred to me. Yeah. And so it's a done, it's a question of like, well, what does that mean? Right, and like, so? Yeah, it's, it's, I feel you on that, on that stuff?

David Ames  31:43  
I think you're asking all the right questions. Again, I don't want to make this about me. But very quickly, I want to hear more. One of the answers for me is the recognition that, you know, from the apologetic point of view, they are trying to say we have this absolute justification. And in truth, an honest perspective, is that really they are asserting that God exists and everything falls out from that. Yeah. And so I just basically lean into that and say, Okay, I assert that human beings have great value, and that our connection to one another is the greatest meaning in my life. Right, I just assert it. And let what happens out of that fall out of that. Right. And it leads to a really good things, right. I think part of your story was being able to embrace the LGBTQ community, you know, Are you a human being great? Yeah. deserve rights, and dignity and kindness and love and respect? And it just, it just simplifies? Yeah, a lot of things. Right.

Jon Steingard  32:43  
Yeah. It's funny, I, I didn't think that issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community, I did not think that was central to my journey until recently. And I realized that it actually has been, yeah, the feeling of freedom to go like, you know what, I can affirm every buddy everywhere. And it doesn't mean I have to affirm every action every human being takes, but I can affirm them as a human being. Yeah. And it's been an absolute joy to be able to say stuff like that publicly. And in my heart, like, in my gut, I've wanted to be more openly affirming of same sex marriage of, you know, transgender individuals. In this journey of since talking about it publicly, I actually had a dear friend come out to me privately. And he's not out at the moment. But he was comfortable sharing that part of himself with me once I started talking about this publicly, right. And I was just like, What a joy that like, what an honor that I get to be a part of, you know, this person's life who I've known for a long time. And they're being transparent and open with me and wanting to share something about themselves with me, because they know they can trust me, right? And what like, what a joy that's been? Yeah, it's been way more central to my journey than than I thought it was.

David Ames  34:12  
What I find interesting is that, I think what compelled me to Christianity to begin with, I became a Christian in my late teens, okay, was the humanity of Jesus was the compassion, the calling out of hypocrisy, the loving the people who were unlovable, right, yeah, that's what drew me to that. And then it was that same desire to care about people that kind of led me out to recognize that this is actually limiting my ability to care for people rather than expanding upon it. And so that is one of the unexpected surprises of deconstruction. deconversion is that, you know, you're just free to care about people.

Jon Steingard  34:55  
Yeah. And, you know, I've thought about this a lot now. And I really love like, I love thinking about it in that way. Because I do feel like Christianity tracks with humanism, on a lot of levels, right. But there's just a few issues where it feels like it departs. And those issues become a problem. You know, when you're dealing, you know, when you're dealing, you're just walking through life, you find yourself, you know, if you're someone who deeply cares about people, you find yourself like, wanting to love people and affirm people more than your faith really allows you to. And those are the issues like one of the things that I'm sort of that I'm doing this sort of privately with friends, because I don't feel like I'm, I'm like, prepared to do it in a like an organized public way yet, but, but I actually feel like you can make a really good case for for being affirming of the LGBTQ community, even if you are a Bible be believing me, you know, Christian, I think you can make a really good case for it. And so one of the things I've enjoyed doing with my Christian friends is saying, Hey, I've seen how you love people. I know you love people. And I think that you would be open to the idea of being affirming to this community, if you felt like it was consistent with your faith. And here's a way that I think you can do that. Right? And that's been fun for me, because it's like, it's not adversarial, then. Because it's like, I'm going like, Hey, I know that you love people. I've seen you do it. And here's a way that I think you can do it even more. And I think you want to,

David Ames  36:40  
right? Yeah, yes, exactly. So I want to go back to the early moments of kind of admitting to yourself that you no longer believed, who did you tell first, so besides your wife, who was the first person outside of your immediate family that you tell?

Jon Steingard  36:57  
It's kind of hard to say? Because it happened in stages for me? Like I think I gradually disbelieved in things one at a time. So I like I think one of the things that I gave up before I gave up belief in God was biblical inerrancy. And I got to a point where I was just like, there's no way I can continue to believe that the Bible is the perfect word of God, right. And there's a lot of reasons for that. And some of them are simple. Some of them are technical. But you know, I had a lot of those conversations with my dad, who's a pastor, and my wife's dad, who's also a pastor. And then I had a number of close friends that are either friends that I have from Christian music, or friends that I have from the film work that I do. Yeah, I did notice somewhere around my mid 30s, or maybe even early 30s, I noticed that there was 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 right. And also similarly intimidated by what it would mean to say stuff out loud, right. And so I just found myself being like, well, I'll go first. And so I started just sort of putting it out there to friends that I had and discovering that. So often, I would say, you know, I'm really wondering about this, and you just see this look of relief go over their face? Yeah. And they would be like, Ah, thank you for saying that. I've wondered that, too, you know, yeah. And that is part of what motivated me to write the post and do it publicly, too, is that I'm just like, I think there's a lot of people out there wanting to ask these questions, and they just need to see someone go first. Yeah. And I'm willing to do that. And it's not. It's, it's not like I'm the first person to publicly ask these questions like, that's not, but I just mean, within some of the circles that I run in, I was willing to sort of say, like, Hey, I'm thinking this, what do you think?

David Ames  38:59  
We've talked about apologist quite a bit. The other end of that spectrum is kind of the militant atheist side of things. Sure. I'm very critical of the debate culture. And I think we focus so much on the philosophical arguments that we've missed what I think you've just captured there, that just being honest, yeah, just saying, Hey, I have these doubts. If more people were just honest, like that, I think that would have this huge impact. And so right, you were taking a leap by being first by coming out publicly in the circles that you run with, but I'm sure that that's going to have an impact on the people that you're friends with. Well,

Jon Steingard  39:42  
it was sort of interesting, because I think when someone sort of deconstructs or deep converts, there typically is a bit of a, an angry face. Sure. And I think I think that that's pretty normal. So anyone that's listening to this, if that's where you're at, you're very much not alone. Yeah. But I also think that you don't have to live there forever. And so I sort of I went through that phase before I started speaking publicly and actually wasn't until I felt like I could address these issues without feeling angry that I felt ready to be public. And so I had already sort of gone through that phase largely. So when I started talking about it publicly, I, I felt like I had, I'd gotten my feet under myself enough that I was like, I can have these conversations and not get super pissed off mostly right? Most of the time, yes, yeah. There's exceptions. But because of that, I had a lot of engagements with like, both people on the atheistic side and people, you know, on the Christian apologetics side, where I think I got into these conversations where people expected me to be pissed off and angry, right, and weren't entirely sure what to do when I wasn't. Yeah, yes. And, you know, a number of my conversations with with Christian apologists, for instance, I think there was a an expectation ahead of the conversation that it might be somewhat adversarial, and then it just didn't materialize that way. Yeah. And I think that it's been refreshing for me, I think it's for the people I've engaged with, there's a level of appreciation for that approach. And, and that's one of the things I love about how you're doing this. And even the the title graceful atheist, is it saying something that I feel like is really important to say, because as much as our positions are important, and our beliefs are important, I also just think our posture is really important to write, and how we relate to people and how we give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that their motivations are exactly what they say they are, right? And that kind of stuff. And so, for anyone who's listening and is going through this journey, like it's okay to be angry, if you have spiritual, you know, if you have some, some wounds that that are coming as a result of your experiences with Christianity or any other religion, that's not uncommon, right. But you do not have to let those wounds define you for the rest of your life. They can heal, you can find healing, and then you can look for what's good and true in life. And that journey is worth taking.

David Ames  42:31  
Absolutely. I'm still curious about the first people that you were telling, what was it like telling your dad and I understand your your wife's dad is also a pastor. So what was that? Like?

Jon Steingard  42:43  
It was tough. To this day, the hardest part of this journey, for me has been the knowledge that my parents worry about my soul. You know? Yeah. And the idea that, that they might be afraid that I would go to hell. Like, if I was worried about that, for my kids, I would have a hard time sleeping at night. Right. And so knowing that I was that my journey was basically putting them in a position where they might feel that way. That's tough. Yeah. I went through my rebellious teenage years where I was like, Screw you guys. You know, I don't feel that way anymore. I love my parents. They're not perfect. They didn't do everything perfectly. But they things loved me really well. And they still do. And so sometimes I'll you know, I'll publicly say like, if you want to criticize the faith, I come from that. That's fine. I'm doing it. But if you want to criticize my parents, like, I'll come at you absolutely. Because I had some people saying like, Oh, obviously, his parents didn't teach him good theology. I'm just like, I just to that I just want to be like, like, you don't know the first thing about how I was raised, right. So like, that bothers me because I get defensive of my parents because I adore them. Right. So that's, that's been that's been tricky.

David Ames  44:10  
I think this is really, really, really important, what you just said, I've talked to a few apologists who are looking at deconversion specifically, and they'll have these lists of, you know, causes from their perspective. And one of them they'll often talk about is, and I'm being unfair here, but they're basically attacking the way that you were raised or the way that you've been taught Christianity as if that's your fault, anyway, but Right, it seems also to me to be missing the point quite a bit that then what is the perfect way to be raised?

Jon Steingard  44:45  
Well, the insinuation there is that if my parents had just indoctrinated me properly, I went stayed indoctrinated. Exactly, you know, like that's, that's why I sort of have an issue with that whole line of thinking, because I'm like, Look at I'm asking questions, and I'm listening to answers from all kinds of people. I am interested in the truth if Christianity is true, and if I'm genuinely interested in truth, then I'll end up there, right? So you don't have to go after my upbringing. You don't have to go after my parents. It's like, we're here. Now, let's have a conversation about truth now, right? Every time I talk to believers who try to convince me of the truth of Christianity, I generally point out I'm like, You are believing first and rationalizing? Second, right? I'm not saying that I'm not doing the same thing. I'm not saying I'm more objective than they are. But let's not pretend that this is exclusively like, oh, I through the powers of logic and reason. I am completely objectively looking at this stuff. And I have objectively determined that it's true. It's like, that is not how this works. Yeah. And so I engage with Christian apologists a lot. And I and I very often say, like, we're looking at this issue, you're presupposing that it's true, right? I don't feel like I'm presupposing that it's untrue. But I might be somewhat so I got it. I have to grant that. And, you know, it seems that the evidence is inconclusive, because neither of us is drawing the same. You know, we're not drawing the same conclusion here. Right. So what's different, like the facts are the same, what we're bringing to the table is different. And so that's why I think a lot of people's certainty on doctrinal issues or theology is a result of sort of an a priori, interpretive framework for reality that that they're sticking to.

David Ames  46:42  
Absolutely. And again, this is why I think that adult deconversion have so much to say, if I believed in the resurrection wholeheartedly, I believed that Jesus was my savior, I believe with all of my heart, even with any doubts that I had I you know, I that was the core of everything. And then when I began to look for I was I was haunted by the idea that I wanted this to be true. And so could I find an objective reason? And when I went down the road of looking for objective reasons, what I found was special pleading. Yeah, overstating the evidence, I found bad arguments. And when I was just honest about that fact, the, you know, the, the everything began to crumble, right? I was just just recognizing that. It's okay for me to believe this. It's not irrational for a person to believe this. No, but there isn't proof in any way. There is no objective reason to believe

Jon Steingard  47:41  
No, and that's, that's one of the one of the sort of the places that I've landed with regards to Christianity is, I don't think it's unreasonable to be a Christian, right. Even from getting to know the, you know, some of the apologists that we've been discussing, like, they're very sharp individuals. And they've really thought about this. And, and it's not, it's not like they're being irrational for believing what they believed. The only thing that's a little bit irrational to me is the certainty. Yeah. And one of the things I appreciate about Sean McDowell, for instance, is, is we had a conversation where we talked about certainty. And he said, I don't say that I'm certain about these things. I say that I have confidence, meaning, I don't know that this is certain. But I see enough reason to believe it, that I have some confidence in it. And it's an it's been a good thing in my life. And when someone says that to me, I'm like, Hey, fair enough, you know, like, Yeah, that's great.

David Ames  48:43  
Yeah, my response is, you know, if you say you believe by faith, I respect that. I can't follow you there. But I respect it.

Jon Steingard  48:51  
Yeah. So it's an interesting thing, because in my journey, I've sort of gotten to this place where I'm like, okay, at some point, I'm going to have to embrace some mystery here. Because, you know, if I'm going to be truly, if I'm going to be as objective as I, as I can be, knowing that I can't be completely objective, because I'm human, then there's just certain things I can't know. Like, I don't think that I can know what happens to me after death. You know, I can have guesses, but I don't think I can know that. And this is one of the things that I think is a fair criticism of religion is that like, there are things you can reasonably believe but then there's also things that are not reasonable to have certainty about so. So like Christianity claims to know what happens after death, like most religions do, right? I don't think that you can know that. And so that's an issue on which like, like you said earlier, I think we're so uncomfortable with uncertainty that sometimes we invent our own certainty. Yeah. And to allow degree I think that's what religion is. But religion also provides a way of, of looking at the world that adheres groups together in ways that evolutionarily we seem to have needed, right? I mean, I don't think it's any coincidence that basically every society that has ever arisen out of humanity had a religion. Right? I don't think that's a coincidence, it serves a function. The question is, as we become more enlightened, and more rational, and more scientific, what do we do with those religions? You know, and, and, and, you know, we mentioned Nietzsche earlier. And I think when I was a believer, I always assumed Nietzsche was like, you know, he's quoted as saying, you know, God is dead, and we have killed him. And when I thought about that, as a Christian, I always thought he was like, celebrating that. Right, right. But you read Nietzsche, and that is not the case. Right? You know, he's concerned about, we used to derive values from this shared fiction that we had. And now we're going into an era where we no longer, you know, share these these religious beliefs. So how do we determine our values? And he hoped that someday we'd be able to determine our own values in a meaningful way. And he, you know, he described those those individuals as an Uber Metro Superman. Right, right. And so he hoped that we'd be able to do that. And I think to a degree we have, but it's not at all clear that we've been able to do that on a societal level. Right. You know, and I think we see some of the effects of that today and the political landscape. And yes,

David Ames  51:46  
and I find this quite ironic as well, in that I became a Christian in the late 80s. It was kind of the beginning of the Moral Majority. And the specter of post modernism. Yeah, that was the thing that was the death of society, and the what we're living through today, and I don't want to get too political here, but no sure. That group of people has embraced nihilism entirely. Nothing matters. Nothing is true. Willpower is the only thing that matters, right? And I just find the irony of the misunderstanding of the post modernists, who were saying, hey, given the fact that we can no longer accept these as absolute truths. Now, what do we do? Right, it's just the entire point of post modernism?

Jon Steingard  52:33  
Well, I think the postmodern question is a good question the exact right, yeah. And it's so much of the critique of post modernism is not a critique of its truthfulness. It's a critique of its effects. Right. Yeah. And so I share those concerns like I, I wonder what happens to a society when our whole legal system is based on it's predicated on the idea that a we have freewill, which it's possible, we don't, right. It's predicated on the idea that human beings have intrinsic value. It's not easy to ground that claim and naturalism. So there, there are sort of religious ideas that we've built our society on, that I think it's reasonable to be concerned that if you pull that particular Jenga block out of the bottom, can the thing stand up? Yeah. So I think there's some, you know, like Jordan Peterson is a good example of someone who rails against pomoc post modernism. And I think his concerns are, are totally justified. But it doesn't mean that postmodern thinkers are metaphysically wrong. Right. So it kind of comes back to like, the way that that applies to Christianity. For me, it's like, I've had this thought, like, I see Christianity as a good thing, or at least a, you know, more good than bad in a lot of the lives of people that I care about. And so I go, okay, that doesn't mean it's true. Right, but what do you do with something that's good, but not true? Or, and I'm not saying that is even for sure exactly how it is? I'm just like, if that's a good question. That's a great question. So I've wrestled with that a lot. You know, like, my entire family and my wife's entire family there. They're all Christian. They're all plugged into churches and to detach themselves from Christianity would be to detach themselves from careers from social circles from their communities. And it would be really disruptive to their lives and, and I kind of go like, okay, so if I don't believe in this thing that they all believe in encouraging them to come over to my side, quote, unquote, right? Like, what if that's really disruptive? Do their lives and? And if that's the case, like, how do I relate to them? Yeah. And that's, that's a tough question. I don't I don't have. I don't have good answers for that yet.

David Ames  55:13  
Two things I want to say in response. One, I've used the analogy of Dumbo and the magic feather. And I've specifically used it for my experience, like, right when I needed some support. Feeling of somebody's got my back, somebody loves me, is when I became a Christian. Yeah. And then recognizing, decades later that actually, there was no magic and the feather was the people who loved me that that was the magic that people were in the magic. And the reason I bring that up is to say, I recognize that snatching the magic feather out of the people who are still believers who we love, just leads to a crash, right? That there's no good and doing that. That's not going to help anybody. Yeah. And then to everything I know about you thus far is that you're incredibly well read. I've got one more book recommendation for you. Oh, please do Yeah. That is Jennifer Miko, Hex doubt a history, who I don't, I'm gonna write it down early on in my deconversion. I've read this book. And what it did for me was so important was just to ground that these questions are not new. Yes. So Cicero, that Roman philosopher that Greek philosophers the Epicureans, that they were asking this exact question, we don't think there are gods. But if we took that away from the people, what would that do? What would happen? Yes, is an age old question. And what I just personally derived a tremendous amount of comfort in knowing that humanity has been asking both the questions of the existence of supernatural and deities, and what happens when you let go of that. Yeah, for 1000s of years.

Jon Steingard  56:53  
Yeah, in fact, I would actually say that in most religious texts, you see that? Yeah. So like the Bible would, which is the one I'm the most familiar with, obviously, I heard someone say a few months ago, and this sort of blew my mind. So for your, for your audience, when we were talking about the problem of evil, any attempt to sort of solve the problem of evil and talk about God in that way. That's it's known as a theodicy. And I'm sure you're familiar with that. But but someone said, at some point, the Bible is one big theodicy. And, and I thought about that, and I was like, that is true. Because everyone that wrote the Bible, or everyone that wrote a part of the Bible was wrestling with this stuff, you know, look at the book of Job. I mean, that's like the ultimate right. Incidentally, that's probably the oldest book in the Bible. Right? And to think that the oldest writings we have in Christian, or Jewish scripture, is dealing directly with the problem of suffering, right? I mean, that says something. Yeah. Yeah.

David Ames  58:03  
So we've talked a little bit about that your career is in the Christian world, and you were definitely giving something up. When you came out publicly about your lack of faith. I'm curious how your bandmates handle that? What was their response? And then, is there a future for Hawk Nelson?

Jon Steingard  58:25  
Good question. Um, so I should give you a little bit of background. Basically, we were already as a band sort of phasing things out. And that's because right around when I became a father, I recognized that I had been touring full time for 15 plus years, right? Everything that, that within Christian music, most of the things that you can do, or accomplish or experience we had done and accomplished and experienced and, and so, you know, like, I had kind of gotten the sense that like, the best we could hope for is more of what we'd already done. And with the way that I'm wired, I'm so wired to seek out new experiences. So, so I was just like that, you know, like, continuing to do the same thing. The rest of my life does not sound awesome. Plus, I just wanted to be home with my family. And yeah, you know, touring full time when you've got kids, it's just a tough life. Sure. So So I had told the guys, you know, like this a few years, quite a, you know, it is early 17. I think I told them this 2017. And I said, Hey, like, I'm not freaking out. I'm not quitting. But I want to transition my life away from music, and I'm fine for that to take a few years. I don't want to leave anyone because I was the singer at this point. And right, and we had already gone through one lead singer change and we were not anxious to do that again, right. And so so we had already decided as a band to wind things down and it was as we were winding things down gradually, that I started to ask myself these questions about faith and God and stuff like that. And so by the time I started telling my bandmates about my doubts and stuff like that, we were already sort of winding things down. So it didn't feel like it had the same sort of like, Oh, shit. Yeah, exactly. Like it was sort of like, okay, like, they were able to approach it from a more personal place, less of a concern on a band level and more just like they we love each other as friends like, right? Not every band has that, by the way, I bet there's plenty of bands where you see them on stage, and you think they're all cool. But back, you know, they walk off stage, and they hate each other's guts like, that is so common, even in Christian music that's common?

David Ames  1:00:48  
Well, it must be a very high pressure environment to work. Right.

Jon Steingard  1:00:52  
Yeah. I mean, it has its unique challenges for sure. So I know that you know that the all the rest of the guys in the band are still believers. When I posted publicly, I told them that morning that I was going to, but I didn't really prepare them for the fact that I was going public. So they sort of quickly gathered together, you know, with the band's manager and publicist and label and stuff like that. And they put a statement out, which was very, very kind, they actually sent it to me before they released it and asked if I was comfortable with it. And I was like, Well, that's nice of you. I didn't do that for you. But yeah, so they were, you know, super kind. I mean, to this day, we still have a hawk Nelson text thread that, that's fairly active here and there intermittently. And we talked to each other, and we love each other. And there was definitely no love lost there. But I don't I don't see Hawk Nelson, being active in the future. Okay, but but the the way we've sort of approached it is we never really did like a big goodbye announcement or a finale or anything like that. I like to joke around and say like, you know, we're actually still a band, we just don't play shows or make music. Yes. So but I think once I once I sort of came out as a non believer, I think that that probably effectively took that option off the table. So yeah, I doubt that we'll see any more music or or shows from Hawk although, do you just life is weird, man. So who knows? But yeah, I sort of doubt it.

David Ames  1:02:30  
You can do kind of Dixie Chicks recovery from they had the political statement way back. I know. 2004. And, you know, they're, they're back doing things, man. Yeah, yeah.

Jon Steingard  1:02:40  
They just needed, they just needed some time.

David Ames  1:02:44  
So along these lines, and you've specifically said that they are all still believers. So I'm not talking about the band here. But But you've mentioned that you had friends, and maybe other people in professional Christian world who have expressed doubts. I'm curious what their response was, did it make them nervous at all that you came out about this publicly did that? Did you they have to say, Oh, that's great for you. But don't tell anything about me that kind of thing? Did you have that response?

Jon Steingard  1:03:09  
Oh, well, within within Christian music, there's always an understanding that there's things that are private. So for instance, like, uh, for a long time, Christian artists didn't want people to know if they were okay with drinking, for example, right. And I have always, I've never had a moral issue with alcohol. I've never thought it was wrong, right. And I've always been comfortable with it. And I love ending the day with a beer. And that doesn't mean I'm getting shot wasted every night. You know, it's like, it's like, I think you can be an adult about these things. And so but, you know, the Christian music audience as a whole for a long time was very, very uncomfortable with the idea that they're the artists they listened to, you might be okay with alcohol, right? So we'd be on tour, and we, you know, back on our bus after the show, I might go and have a beer on the bus. And right, we usually had a rule that like, once you've had a drink, you just stay on the bus, you just, you know, like, you don't go back into the venue, you don't go talking to people. It's just there's no reason to stir up issues. So just don't but you know, other artists would come on the bus and we'd all have a drink together. And there's this sort of 90% of Christian artists are fine with alcohol. Sure. And, and so there's this sort of understanding that you just sort of like, you keep certain things quiet. Yeah. Not because they're wrong, but just because it's easier to just not go there. Right. So that understanding sort of is is sort of a foundation of my relationships with all these other artists. And so if some of them you know, maybe identified with my journey a little bit like it was always understood that that's a private conversation. Yeah. But I did. I mean, this this was crazy. Like I had multiple Christian artists, who I've known for years, that once I came out publicly and said, I didn't believe in God anymore. Are they? You know, privately said to me, you know, honestly, I haven't believed in years. Wow. And they're like, you know, I just this is my career, I've spent my entire adult life building it. And I don't know how I would feed my family other than this. Right. And like, That is awful to me. And yeah. And, you know, I know of a few pastors who have similar feelings, right. And I would imagine that among, among pastors, that it's actually a lot more common than we think.

David Ames  1:05:34  
I absolutely agree with you, I think just generally, people in the pews there's a lot more doubt and lack of belief, but also, pastors, leaders, Christian singers, what have you, I just think they get stuck, right? Especially if you're, it's the way you feed your children, like you say,

Jon Steingard  1:05:53  
oh, yeah, and like, especially if you have children, like, um, like, I know, so many people that after, after high school, sort of went to Bible college, and, you know, it's like, it was a somewhat natural progression that maybe they didn't think about that much. And they're just like, oh, well, this is, you know, I like my youth group. I like my young adults group. Look, you know, maybe I'll go and be a pastor, and they became a youth pastor for a time, and then they get older, and they become an associate pastor at a church, and then eventually, you know, they become the lead pastor at a church and, you know, their life has taken this progression, and they find themselves eventually, you know, in their 40s 50s 60s. And they've pastored their whole lives, and suddenly they have this crisis of faith. And who are they supposed to talk to about it? Exactly. And so I just feel just tremendous empathy for these pastors. And, you know, people that are visible Christian leaders who just, there's no way that they can explore their doubt without it threatening their livelihood. Right. So how are they supposed to? And I don't have a solution to that problem. I just, I see the problem, and I have tremendous empathy for it.

David Ames  1:06:59  
Yeah. Hey, maybe that's some work you can do.

Jon Steingard  1:07:04  
I would love that's a really good idea. I would, I would love to do that. I mean, I've had I've had very prominent Christian artists call me and ask me to help them walk through a doubt issue. Yeah. It's really strange. And, and also very, like, humbling. But you make a good point. I hadn't thought about that. Maybe. Maybe I should more actively try to make myself available to those people. Not in not in a way to influence them any one way or another, just someone that they can talk to?

David Ames  1:07:44  
It's a soft landing. Yeah. I

Jon Steingard  1:07:46  
mean, that's the thing that I've told my my parents like, I'm actually not interested in pulling anyone away from Christianity, right? What I'm interested in is pulling people away from feeling stuck if they feel stuck, like, if you're someone who feels fulfilled and happy and in Christianity and doesn't want to, you know, doesn't want to leave then great. That's awesome. But there's a lot of people who don't feel like they have the capacity to ask the questions, or the place to ask the questions that are in their heart. And I think that's toxic, right? unexplored doubt and questions. They linger. they fester, they become a source of real anxiety for people. And that's what I want to see people freed from. I'm not trying to free people from religion. I'm trying to free people from unhealthy states. That's something I can spend my life on.

David Ames  1:08:46  
Hey, that's awesome. However, I can support you let me know do I mean, that's what you're doing? Try it. Yeah, I will. I will just say for the people that you do know, that are pastors and maybe even singers as well. The clergy project I highly recommend.

Jon Steingard  1:09:02  
I've heard of this. Yeah. I don't know as much. Maybe you could maybe just explain it for a moment to both your audience and me. Yeah.

David Ames  1:09:09  
Yeah. So yeah, Lindell Escola. And Daniel Dennett started this. And it basically it was just that recognition that there are many, many pastors lay leaders that are financially embedded in the Christian world in such a way that being honest about their doubt would break them financially. And so it is a private group where you can be a member, I'm not actually so I don't actually know the details, but you can join this group and they do a little preview interview with you, and then get you some resources. And it's just a way that a person could express their doubt, or if they're on the other side of deconversion. Just be honest, be authentic. themselves. So it's, I highly recommend it. It's I love the work that they're doing there. But I really want to encourage you, Jon, I think you have a unique position to be able to do some of this work because people know you and trust you. And I think that's, that's great. Which leads me to my last question, which is, what's next for Jon Steingard? What are you doing?

Jon Steingard  1:10:12  
Well, it's been funny because I've, I've been on a number of podcasts and you know, YouTube shows and stuff like that. And typically, you know, it's a kind gesture that people like yourself do, like, Oh, what, what are you up to? What can we point people to? And very often it'll be, you know, someone will say, Oh, well, my new book is blah, blah, blah, or like, you know, if you're, I spent 15 years being like, Oh, well, our new album is blah, blah, blah. But this last six months or so, when I appear on these shows, I haven't had anything to point to. And, you know, I mean, right now, I've been a little bit quieter than the last month or two, I've been a little bit more quiet online, partially, because there's been a lot of really difficult tension in the here in the US with regards to the election and COVID. So I've been trying to resist just giving my hot take on everything. And not saying anything publicly, unless I thought there was something really worth saying. But I have been working on sort of writing my journey. And my my story down. I've considered writing a book about, but I've also been aware that I was living it. So I didn't want to jump there too quickly. But you know, maybe six weeks ago, I started to get that feeling like I I feel like I'm ready. So yeah, I'm actually about 75% of the way through writing a book that I don't know, for sure will ever see the light of day. I mean, I'm definitely gonna finish it. I just, I'm aware that like, its primary purpose has been for me to feel settled in what I believe now and what I'm sure about what I'm not sure about. And there's a lot in that second category. But I do think at some point, it's very likely that I'll be putting that out. Fantastic. I think even even once I finish it, even if it's not public yet or not public at all. I think even once I finish it, I'll want to pivot to talking to people more, because I'll feel a little bit more gathered in my thoughts. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, if anyone's interested in, you know, what I'm up to Instagram and Twitter are the two best places for that. And in both those places, I'm just Jon Steingard, Jon Steingard. And that's all I got right now.

David Ames  1:12:40  
Yeah, we will have links in the show notes. For sure. I think you also have a YouTube channel. Is that correct?

Jon Steingard  1:12:45  
I do. Yeah. And I've flirted with, off and on. I've flirted with putting more stuff there. And that's something I'd like to do at some at some point as well.

David Ames  1:12:55  
Well, I for one will be buying any book that you produce? I think that people, there's probably a great appetite for that. So I hope I hope you very good luck on that. Oh, Jon, thank you so much for the vulnerability and the honesty and telling your story on the show. Thank you.

Final thoughts on the episode? Well, as you could hear, Jon is an amazing communicator and amazing person. I cannot say enough about the humility and integrity and honesty in the way that Jon tells his story. We've talked a lot about high profile D conversions and the reverberations within the Christian community that they cause Jon's deconversion. And again, his humility and honesty in the way that he expresses it will have long lasting reverberations for quite some time. I'm amazed at the availability that he has given both to the apologists community and to the atheist and humanist community. Jon has just made himself available to tell his story. I'm excited for Jon to do his own project. As I mentioned, we recorded this episode about a month ago, but on January 1, Jon began his own project called the wonder and the mystery of being and I will for one be a subscriber. I think, Jon's perspective and process for seeking after truth is something that is worth listening to and emulating. I will have links in the show notes for Jon's projects, including the Instagram posts, the response to Brian Houston of Hillsong, his YouTube channel, the podcast, and various other links. I'll mention here as well that in the show notes, there are a number of quotes Jon was eminently quotable. So I couldn't help myself, but write down quite a few of those. I want to thank Jon for being on the podcast and for telling his story and for making himself available. Jon, I wish you the best of luck with your project. I wanted to spend a little bit of time to talk about the plans for 2021. I made a plea in the December episode with my wife, Michelle, about an audio engineer. I want to first of all, thank all the people and 2020 who helped me. Several people did the editing of their own podcast, Jimmy, who did a deconversion anonymous episode, Colin did some story editing for me. Jon, early on in the year did some editing for me. So there were several people who did editing. And I don't think I've thanked them enough. So thank you so much for that. For 2021, Mike T has joined, he's already done one episode for me. He's working on the next one. And we are building some rapport. The last part of 2020 was jam packed with people who were interested in being on the podcasts. And I actually have a number of interviews already done. In fact, I'm backlogged. And that's why I have reached out for help. I'm looking forward to clearing that backlog. And reaching out to some other humanists, there's been a number of new humanist podcasts that have popped up in the last year. And I'd like to reach out to them both to be on their podcasts and to have them on my podcast. If you are the podcast host of a humanist podcast, reach out to me graceful and I will have you on. I've also had other people reach out to me and how they can participate. There's a new site called verbal VURB And it allows you to do snippets and what I'm interested in looking for people who are willing to create 30 seconds to one or two minute quotes of pieces of the podcast that are really easily shareable that you could share with people to say, Hey, this is what the podcast is like. I'm not on tick tock, I know, that's a big thing there. But if you're on tick tock, maybe you could share something there as well. copy editing would be another way that you could participate. And mostly the thing that everyone can do is just share the podcast with somebody that you know, my goals for the year are to improve the quality, I want to go from just simply editing to producing something, I want to have better audio quality, better transitions, more musical interludes, that kind of thing, going into 2021. Now, you may not hear that in the first quarter or so. But that's my goal. I am using money that has been donated to the podcast to buy audio equipment here in the first quarter or so. So hopefully, we'll begin to hear a bit of an improvement there as well. I can't believe that the podcast has been going for almost two years now. And I am very excited about the next year coming up. But I want to begin the year in gratitude again to you the listener. There's no reason to do this work if you aren't there listening. So I appreciate you and I thank you and I hope that you keep listening. 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 from Akai 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 If you have audio engineering expertise and you'd be interested in participating in the graceful atheist podcast, 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 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 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

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Michelle: A Loving Unequally Yoked Relationship

20 Questions With a Believer, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Secular Grace, Unequally yoked
Sneha ss, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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My guest this week is my wife, Michelle. Though I have deconverted from Christianity, Michelle is very much a dedicated Christian. We still love each other and we are making it work in an “unequally yoked” relationship. We have an honest conversation about how we got to now and how we go forward in the future.

When you told me ….
It was the first time when I felt like “we are real” and I am seeing what is really going on inside of you.
And that felt, in spite of all the bad stuff that was there, that at least felt good.

Michelle does work that is social work adjacent. She is a better practicing humanist than I am. I admire her for who she is as a person. I admire her for the work she does. And, yes, I admire her for her faith.

We sit down at our kitchen table for an honesty contest. You can hear the love, but you can also hear the tension and the hurt. We discuss how we met, how we have “deconstructed” over the years, when I told her I could no longer believe, and how we are making it work “unequally yoked.”

Almost from a week in from the point that you told me,
I was released to have my own relationship and faith and to dig as hard as I wanted to and as deep as I wanted to and not be holding back …
So that significantly changed and I felt free.

In this episode, we respond to listener questions about our loving relationship when one of us believes and the other does not. Send in your questions for a potential future episode with Michelle and me.


Unequally Yoked verse 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 15

Recovery From Religion has a resource page with a section entitled: Spouses/ Partners With Mixed Belief Systems (from a secular perspective)

Unequally Yoked (from the Christian perspective)


Chosen Family Grace

Michelle and I discuss her listening to the Sarah: Believing Spouse of an Atheist Deconvert episode

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Photo: Sneha ss, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Colin: Deconversion Anonymous

Comedy, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Deconversion Anonymous, Podcast, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace
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This week’s show is a Deconversion Anonymous episode.

I have become the person I always wanted to be.

My guest this week is Colin. Colin absorbed his mother’s Evangelical Christianity. He has mostly good memories of the people in church. He bounced from his mother’s to his father’s families never quite fitting in. He hung on to his Christianity long after he recognized it no longer brought him “positive results” out of fear of losing everything: salvation, community and identity.

My first and only real religion is inclusion.

Colin’s doubts began young with a dynamic Sunday school teacher who was not allowed to preach in church and a gay uncle he was not supposed to approve of. Colin recognized that love demands inclusion. He felt it was his moral obligation to be inclusive.

That to me is love, for lack of a better word. I was being totally authentic and I was being totally accepted.

In his late twenties, in therapy, he experienced true acceptance. Even while he was explaining to his therapist he was still a virgin, having been a part of the purity culture of the ’90s.

I found unconditional acceptance immediately outside of religion whereas I often found highly conditional acceptance within it. Imagine my surprise!

Colin’s story takes a dramatic turn of self-discovery. He discovers himself and discovers his voice. He then experienced more acceptance telling his story of recovering from growing up Evangelical to non-christian audiences. Colin tells his story with rawness, honesty and a great deal of humor.



Colin mentions a post I wrote on apologetcis: What If I Grant That

Colin mentions my friend Bryce interviewing me

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats