Suandria Hall: My Choice My Power

Adverse Religious Experiences, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Race, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma, Secular Community, secular grief
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My guest this week is Suandria Hall. Suandria is a trauma informed counselor specializing in faith transitions. Her practice, My Choice My Power, is online and she offers mental health counseling to residents in Colorado and life coaching sessions online, by phone, and email for anyone.

What is more important to me than anything is being honest and being authentic about who I am and who I choose to be in this world.
While pretending for a moment seemed easy.
I really had no concept about how much I was about to unravel.
Once I make this choice to say this out loud that I don’t believe this any more. What does that even mean?
But I took a leap and I started to say out loud that I don’t believe this any more.

Suandria tells her story of being groomed for ministry in a very Charismatic community with rigorous honesty. In her early adulthood she began to question and eventually deconverted. She had a positive experience with a therapist who “held space” for her shifting faith positions. She then went on to become a secular counselor to help others through the same process.

What they are looking for is someone who doesn’t force any type of spirituality in the practice.
They just want to show up and say let me just talk through some stuff.

We talk about the power of parents to influence children. And the damage that can occur when parents pass that responsibility on to an invisible god.

The child learns that the love the adoration the loyalty the devotion
that a mother and a child would share with each other is now shifted.
So now god becomes the number one.

Her approach to counseling is trauma informed and acknowledges Adverse Religious Experiences and religious trauma. She helps people going through the process of deconstruction and deconversion while being open to all faith positions.

Trauma is when our bodies our systems becomes overwhelmed, flooded with emotions, flooded with bodily sensations.
It gets stuck.


Suandria’s Counseling Site



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While these points may be a part of your thinking about religion or harmful religious experiences, they are not the foundation of religious trauma. WE ARE TRAUMATIZED when our central nervous system (movements, bodily sensations, thoughts, speech, memory) is… • overwhelmed, altering the way we process and recall memories (Van Der Kolk) • unresolved or incompleted responses (Levine) • overstimulated repeatedly and cumulatively, usually over a period of time and within specific relationships and contexts (Courtois) In plain terms, religious trauma is when your ability to respond and create or experience safety is interrupted by TOO MUCH ENERGY unable to release or complete within religious context. In even plainer terms, your brain & body says "Hey, it's time to take care of yourself and here's the blood flow, chemicals, and hype to do it", but you don't because your religion has taught you to obey, stay silent, trust others (God, the Word, leaders, the group) instead of yourself. You live over stimulated, ready, and "ON" which can look like anxiety, fear, tension. Compliance dampens the discomfort. Examples and potential effects: I want to meet other people outside of our community/beliefs. NO–they are dangerous, sinful, will lead you astray. Obey. Must tow the line to maintain relationships and community acceptance. Kept away from people, cultures, and beliefs unlike yours. Can perpetuate social issues like racism and inequality based on ignorance. I want another my path, explore my interests. NO–stay in God's will. Doubt your ability to make decisions. Limit education and opportunities. Blocks creativity and exploration. Wait for someone or something else to guide you. Hyper-spiritualized decision making. I'm curious about sex and sexuality and want to have ownership of my body. NO–your body is not your own, submit and obey, in heterosexual marriage only. Struggle with intimacy, sexuality, and sometimes even routine health screenings. —– Even when you KNOW you can make another choice you don't because YOUR BODY reminds you that you can't. This is trauma work. This work isn't anti-religion. This work is pro-human experience. #sundaymorning

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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As always, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast in the Apple podcast store and telling your friends about the podcast. I know a number of you have sent in questions for the episode with my wife and I we have actually now recorded that. I do suspect that it will come out a little bit later, probably in December. It was a compelling conversation for both of us. I think it was intense and pretty raw and honest. So I'm hoping that it comes across when we share this in December. I also have done just a number of interviews that I am excited to share with you. So you can look forward to some really interesting conversations over the next few weeks. onto today's show. My guest today is Suandria Hall. Sindri is a psychologist. She's a nationally certified counselor, a Board Certified tele mental health counselor and also a life coach. She's based out of Denver. Cynthia has a counseling practice called my choice, my power and you can find her at my choice, my she grew up a preacher's kid and went through a deconversion process in her early adulthood. She has just a really powerful story that I think you're going to find compelling. I'll also recommend here, Suandria's Instagram account, my choice, my power counseling. on her Instagram account. She has a number of pearls of wisdom, just things to keep in mind and the craziness of 2020 to keep your mental health and I think it's well worth while checking that out. And without further ado, here's my conversation with Suandria Hall.

Suandria Hall, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Suandria Hall  2:10  
Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

David Ames  2:12  
Thank you for saying yes. And come in and chat with me. Yeah. So I want to go over just a little bit about your credentials, the work that you do. I'll let you fill in the details here. But you are a national certified counselor, you're a board certified tele mental health counselor. And you do a lot of online work as well. But you're you're focused in in Denver, is that correct?

Suandria Hall  2:34  
Yep, I'm home based in Denver. But my practice is virtual. So I see clients actually all over the world. In addition to being a clinical practitioner here in Colorado, I'm also a life coach. So that kind of broadens the scope. And yeah, it makes it makes for a very diverse group of clients, I can imagine.

David Ames  2:56  
Yeah. And the name of your, your practices, my choice, my power. I wonder if you would talk about that just a little bit like that name.

Suandria Hall  3:07  
Sure. So I focused on life transitions, religious trauma, and I do a lot of work with women. So the name of my practice, my choice, my power came from me been a preacher's kid, and experiencing how the power of choice became powerful for me. And I mean, it's a little bit corny, but it's, it's the truth. I couldn't think of anything else that was be fitting and I wanted that to resonate with my clients as much as it does for me.

David Ames  3:40  
Right. So that is a good segue. I want to hear about your story. Let's start with what was your faith experience, like?

Suandria Hall  3:49  
Sure. So I'm a preacher's kid from the south. Huge family. I didn't identify as a black woman. And long line of preachers, my father, uncles, aunts, my mother's like a prayer warrior and my brother. And like, that was life for us. Right? I was. I was introduced as a child actually, my parents. They're from a really small town in Alabama. I'm from a small town. They're from an even smaller town. Okay. And this tent revival came through eons ago, saw does floors and all of that came to their little town and it was led by a black couple. The woman was actually the main preacher. husband was the pastor but she was the main preacher and charismatic, gorgeous, confident strong, and this is like this 60s In the rural south, so can you imagine the impact? Yeah, she had on these at that. My parents were teenagers, right? So she came through preaching the word and it's amazing music and change their lives. When you when you come to a group of people who maybe don't have so much, and you see someone that represents wow, I can be that I can be there financially, I could be that in my level of competence and experience and exposure that was really life changing for my parents, and they were all in right and later married and gave birth to me. And I was raised in that environment myself, my brother and my sister.

David Ames  5:34  
Wow, the first thing that just popped into my head there is that it almost seems like the church and I mean, this in the broad sense has gone backwards. We had some fairly dynamic female preachers, evangelists, thinking of Aimee Semple McPherson of the Foursquare fame. Somebody like you're describing there, it feels like, it's interesting. Where are those preachers and evangelists today?

Suandria Hall  5:59  
That's such a good question. I visited my mom a couple of months ago, and we were talking about just everything that's going on in the world right now, specifically in America, and how the Church used to be like home base for these movements. And it wasn't so much about, you know, getting money and building these huge mega churches and filling up space. But it was, you know, the work of the community. And I asked you that same question like, what's, what's happening? What's going on? I think there's just been, you know, this inward, turn, like, make us better make us grow, but not so much in the community. And it's disheartening. Yeah, sure.

David Ames  6:44  
We're going to talk a bit about community and your work here a little bit, but I want to focus in on again, your personal experience, that you feel like you had a personal relationship with God, that was something that was a phrase it this way, what was your experience of God?

Suandria Hall  7:00  
So like I said, I was born into this Pentecostal Holiness environment. And it was like, I didn't know anything different. Yeah, right. No other ways of thinking and being. But it wasn't until I was about I think, 25 When I got for real estate. I had moved from my small town in Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia. And one of my cousins, like I said, might use our family. We were just about that life. My cousin introduced me to a church there. mega church, a black minister. He and his wife, again, were just amazing. They took the experience that my parents had with that phenomenal, charismatic woman, pastor to the next level. Right, right. And I thought, wow, I can be sold out for Jesus, I can be rich. Yeah, like God's a party that big, too. And they really changed that experience. For me. I like real estate and, you know, just dived into this spirit led environment.

David Ames  8:13  
Yeah. It strikes me again, this was the point you were making with your parents. And now here as well, that just having representatives, somebody that looks like you somebody that you can identify with who is showing some success showing, like you say, confidence, ability, talent there are putting on display, and that must be really profoundly impacting.

Suandria Hall  8:36  
Absolutely. I mean, I was groomed for it. Yeah, sure. For sure. But that was definitely the warmth on the hook, because they looked like me. Yeah. And it was an easy transition to really just dive in and follow that church that that ministry those those leaders, for sure, right.

David Ames  8:58  
Well, you and I wouldn't be talking if that was the end of the story. So describe a little bit about when and how did things start to fall apart? Or was it sudden was it did it take a long time? What were some of the doubts that you experienced?

Suandria Hall  9:13  
So I just started to question things. I've always been a reader, my dad had, you know, tons of books in his reading space, and I would thumb through those. So it was important to read, although with Jesus in the Bible, I didn't read in the way of questioning, right? I just read what was given to me. In any other, you know, author that kind of supported these thoughts. I kind of stayed in there. But I started to read more and more and just question some of the teachings that were given at that church and I, I've always had a little bit of a rebellious streak. Um, so So I will push that envelope and say, you know, this sounds like another way to get money from us, you know, that was a big part of it. Tons of things. There were things around, you know, sexuality. Yeah. Things around who I am as a woman, right that was defined by this book and by these men, and it didn't really sit well with me. And it's just like I said, I started to question I started to read, and it slowly just started to crumble. Okay, what used to be life for me, like I said, something that I could just I was grown for, I could easily step in, just started to crumble fall apart, I started to see the cracks. And then I started to study religion in general. Like, okay, all I know, is pushing me. Let's see what else is out there. And you see this

David Ames  10:50  
thread? Interesting. Yes, I'm

Suandria Hall  10:53  
familiar stories and concepts. It's like, well, who owns this stuff? From? And I tell you read enough books, and you start to expand your circle of influence, right? Because everyone around me was Christian. Whether you live in you know, that super clean Christian or not,

David Ames  11:12  
yes, yes. ostensively. Christian, yes.

Suandria Hall  11:17  
But But that's where we were right. But when you start to introduce other people here, have your thoughts. It's like, oh, wait a minute. I don't, I don't think I believe this anymore. Yeah.

David Ames  11:29  
I did listen to a couple of interviews you've done on podcasts previously. And one statement that you made that really, really struck me was that you had a moment of contemplating pretending kind of staying staying in? Can you expand on that?

Suandria Hall  11:45  
Yeah, um, so you start to question right, you start to doubt. it crumbles even further. And then you get to a place where you have to make that decision. It was I felt like I had to make a decision on is this what I believe? Or is it not? What's more important to me than anything is being honest, and being authentic about who I am and who I choose to be in this world. And while pretending for a moment seemed easy, because I really had no concept of how much I was about to unravel. Right, right. Once I made this choice to really say out loud that I don't believe this anymore. What does that even mean? Right. So so that was the struggle. But I took the leap. And, and I started to say that out loud, that I don't believe this anymore. I didn't know what I believed in that moment. But I knew what was happening right now. Is something very real for me. And I needed to give myself the space and the time and the energy, the courtesy, right, to explore it and figure it out.

David Ames  12:59  
Wow, I relate to so many things you've said there. The first of which is, you know, you read the Bible with a particular filter on. And I talk a lot about in my deconversion story that did another read through of the Bible about a year before I no longer believe. And I was angry. I was like, my wife was pointing out to me, like, why are you why are you angry? Yeah. And I was completely unaware of this, right. But I would, you know, be for at that, you know, after reading. And it was that the rose colored glasses had started to fall. And I was really just reading the text as it is. And then just kind of being fed, how it ought to be interpreted a little bit, and always seeing things within that lens. Let's talk some about your your work. So what led you to decide to pursue psychology and then to what extent is deconstruction, loss of faith a part of your work?

Suandria Hall  13:57  
Sure. So you know, like I said, I raised in a family of ministers, and, you know, I saw them do beautiful things in our community. I watched my mom and dad take people in and just always helping people to this day. That's, that's who my family is. So I think there's just this natural part of me that wants to help people. So so that was an easy part of my decision to become a therapist, but with religion starting to just unravel. I saw a therapist when I was going through this. And I saw a few actually. I finally met one that just held space for me, right? She was a Christian as well. She didn't quite understand what was happening and where I would land and all of that. She just held space. But what I learned in that journey was that wow, what would it have been like to have someone Walk me through that in a very specific way, again, not to tell me who to be how to be. But the right question. So the right context, kind of validate these feelings that I was having. And why can't that be me?

David Ames  15:21  
Absolutely. What I find interesting is there's people like Brian pack, and the religious trauma Institute and those that group of people, but it seems like such a small group of people. And this seems to me like a huge growth opportunity for counselors that, you know, we have the, the era of the nuns, the N O N. E. 's, the people who Mark none of the above. Like, there's a lot of people out there who are going to need to walk through that process.

Suandria Hall  15:51  
Absolutely. Yeah, the religious trauma Institute is doing some really great work. Brian is actually a friend of mine. We Yeah, we do some work together as well. And, you know, I think we share that we know that this is a niche, and but it's needed. You know, the moment I started to say it out loud, that I was a secular therapist, it was on one hand terrifying. But on the other hand, like, this is this is necessary, I need to say that I need that to be distinguished, right? So that people can find me again, I thought about me, and my journey, just wanted to really make that available. So my clients, it's a wide range, I still see believers. So I have believers, and then I have atheists and everything in between. Yeah, you know, what they're looking for is someone that doesn't force any type of spirituality. In practice, they just want to show up and say, let me just talk through some stuff.

David Ames  16:52  
Yeah. You have a an Instagram page, that is just a wealth of wisdom, I recommend everyone go and read your posts. And one of them kind of addresses this, you talked about, initially, after your deconstruction, deconversion process, you had some anger? Yeah, that it's important as a counselor that you do your own work, and you don't bring that to the counseling session? Do you want to expound on that?

Suandria Hall  17:18  
Sure, um, you know, that's, that's part of, you know, our education is we're learning about theories and people and communities and all of that. But you're, you're challenged often to dig within your own heart, your own mind, to see what is happening so that you can show up, healed, it gives you a level of experience that's very personal and very real. asked that empathy that you can have with people. So I start with development, right? When we think about counseling, in general, we know how important development is our caregivers, our parents, this is where we learn love and safety and what it means to be nurtured in connection. These are fundamentals who are growth, right. So to put that in the context of this religious deconversion, or adverse religious experience, so parents are that powerful, right? It's a gift. But then that parent gives that power away to God, to religious, strict religious teachings to charismatic leaders. And so then the child learns that, Oh, okay. So the love the adoration, the loyalty, the devotion, that maybe a mother and a child would share with each other is now shifted. Hmm, interesting. Yeah. So now God becomes the number one. But here's this being that is to be our source of love. Right? But can't be touched. Right, can't be held, can't hold you remains distant, and then has all these requirements, right? requirements to be loved, and to be blessed and to be to be safe and protected. There's a list of requirements. Yeah. And back to me being a therapist that can help clients walk through this. We're in America, where 90% of the population believes in God, some form, and that bleeds over into the counseling world, right? So it really does make a difference when you walk into a room. So while we understand as the counseling community, how important these foundational relationships are, we miss that shift when all of that power, all of that influence is now God's Right,

David Ames  19:54  
right. You have in a way, a deeper insight into the people who you are working with then maybe a religious counselor? They would?

Suandria Hall  20:04  
Yes. Yeah, there are things I'm going to say yes. That a religious counselor might not or might not be able to validate or it may be extremely uncomfortable, right. So in essence, what we're talking about here is, is trauma. And I'll tell you why. So trauma, it's when our bodies our system becomes overwhelmed, flooded with emotions, flooded physically, like in our bodily sensations and things like that. So it gets stuck, right, and we're unable to move through it. Okay. And here's, and someone will say, Well, what does that mean? As it relates to religious trauma? So we have these strict religious teachings, right? And they're given to us. So a natural development, a child is able to explore, to be curious to learn by experience, it's a beautiful thing happening. Yeah. But when these young children are, as soon as they can think, told who they are, who to be, how to be your man, you're this way, you're a woman this way. These are your roles. This is what we do. This is what we believe. That natural process is stolen. Emotions are stifled. Learning is stifled. We don't see it that way. We think we're doing the best. I know, my parents who didn't have much to give this was the best they had to give. It was their way, right? of giving us a better life. So I understand it from that perspective. But having gone through this transformation, it's like, Oh, I miss, I miss some stuff. And I understand why now as an adult, having left religion, I'm struggling with things that are very seemingly very fundamental and and basic, it's like an Arrested Development. Yes.

David Ames  22:02  
And it strikes me like you say, the curiosity that children are incredibly attuned to the reactions from their parents, they want to make their parents smile, they want to have a sense of being proud of them. And so if their curiosity is asking questions that hit those boundaries that are start to be uncomfortable, they get that clear message, you don't get to ask those questions, and that definitely would stifle their their growth.

Suandria Hall  22:28  
No, there's a scripture that says, and, you know, it's been a while, but I'm sure I hear

David Ames  22:36  
I'm a bit rusty, don't worry.

Suandria Hall  22:39  
To pass on thoughts and everything that that exalts itself against the knowledge of the Word of God. Right. Right. Like you're literally taught to not allow any other thought in unless it's, quote unquote, biblical, and then you have all kinds of interpretations. So even that's, you know, muddy. Yeah. But so anything that doesn't fall in line with the Scripture, you can't even receive it. Yeah. Talk about your education, your experience being limited, you have to find a scripture that validates, right? Or invalidates this new information. And that's how you receive there's a constant filter on

David Ames  23:21  
Yeah. You know, I think, as I've done a lot of interviews with people on a by hear stories, as they get to tell them, I've seen a very striking difference between people who grow up in the church, particularly some form of fundamentalist theology, and people who have some conversion experience later in life. So I happen to be in the latter category, I was about 1617 years old. So I always had kind of a slightly external perspective. And so it wasn't maybe as traumatic for me in the process. But man, for the kids that grew up with hell leaning over them, as much as we as the church talks about grace is very clearly communicated that this love that you're describing is, is conditional. If not these requirements, then that love isn't there. And like what what that does to somebody, I just see my heartbreaks for the challenges that people going through that process who grew up in the church have to deal with

Suandria Hall  24:25  
for sure it's, it's now in the scriptures are coming back to me and when I think about our emotions, right, natural part of the human experience, but again, when you when you look at what is for me and my interpretation, and many of my clients, scriptures, like you know, cast down fear, right? Don't even be afraid, right? Like you can't even again you're told to resist, to resist to deny, and these are natural parts of the human experience that we really need. And when people experience traumatic situations, be it child abuse and domestic violence, the tragedy of 911 what we're experiencing right now, yeah, 2020 Yeah, I won't even go down the list 2020 It's, it's psychology one on one, when we treat these people who have had traumatic experiences, the point of it is to be reconnected with what's happening in our bodies, what's happening in our emotions, what we're thinking, like, part of healing from a traumatic experience and coping while we're going through a traumatic experience is being connected with ourselves, allowing ourselves to feel allowing ourselves to let those emotions rise and fall. This is a natural part of, again, the human experience. What religion says is no, you're not going to do that we're going to stifle those emotions, we're going to cut them off. And, you know, I remember, when we do confessions, in the church I was in, I mean, screaming at the top of your lungs. And, you know, again, the casting down, and this is what I want to devil want to do this, like all of this stuff, again, you're pushing down, down, down and away what you're actually experiencing, right. And here's the thing, when we do that, we silenced the parts of our brains that, yeah, tell us about fear, alert us to fear and danger. But we also silence those parts that tell us about joy, and love, and hope. So in in my work with my religious trauma clients, we're trying to bring all those parts back together. And it's it can be very scary and uncomfortable, because with that becomes the fear, rage, the anger. But we have to open that door to receive the love and the joy and the peace and the feel safe. Yeah. within ourselves that get in our emotions again,

David Ames  27:03  
yeah. For me, something I've been focusing on a lot in my description of humanism, something I call secular grace, is a lot about just embracing my own humanity, which includes all that the you know, net real imperfections here, I'm not referring to sin, just you know, we are, we are prone to error, we make mistakes, you know, and just being able to be super honest with myself about when I make a mistake, when I when I do something wrong, right? When I do something good when something is, like you say joyful, something meaningful, and just embracing the humanity for myself and embracing the humanity of others. And it seems like in many ways, that religion Christianity specifically seems to kind of try to wipe away that humanity to, you know, we have to be victorious, or, you know, like, there's almost constant living in a false reality.

Suandria Hall  28:02  
Yeah. And there's so much to learn in our mistakes. Right? And not just having them but being able to truly connect with them. This is what I did. This is what I said, this is how it made me feel. This is how it made another person feel. But when you have that religion, again, that religious filter, the answers are there. People can hold so tightly to their release, and cause you extreme pain. But if they feel like God said, To do this, they don't even care. They're not even connecting to that part of humanity that says I should, I should probably care about how I'm making another human being feel right now. But again, I have this validation from God. Right? I said, it's okay to do this.

David Ames  28:50  
I'm literally on a mission from God. Yes,

Suandria Hall  28:53  
yes. Yeah. I was reading the study. And it looked at the well being of people in religious dominant countries, versus secular dominant countries. And what it found was that religious people in religious dominant countries fared well. They felt happy, and connected and secure. They just they just fared better. Right. And then religious people in secular countries did it. They struggled. So it wasn't about whether or not their faith was giving them the sense of well being. It was about the community, the social structure, it was about what's around that really supported what they believe or did it? Yeah. Right.

David Ames  29:53  
Yeah. I mean, I really want to expound on community here. I think in particular for the black church. arch that seems like is such a central part of the black experience in America is to be connected to a church community. And then to expand beyond that to say that I often say the magic of Christianity or religion is the people is the community and that we can actually acknowledge that it's the people, you know, be able to walk into a room and have 12 People say, Oh, I missed you. I love you. You know, I'd like that we need that we're hardwired for that kind of connectivity. And but there's nothing supernatural going on there. That is, people, humans to humans loving each other. You know?

Suandria Hall  30:37  
Yeah, yeah. We've attributed to supernatural though, right? Right. I remember those high high emotions of being in charge. My dad's a musician, was he passed away a couple years ago.

David Ames  30:50  

Suandria Hall  30:51  
thank you. He's a musician. So music was always in our house. We had it at church. And it was like, magnificent. And any kind of music, if you're into it, your emotions aren't there. Right. But if it's in charge, we call it spiritual, the Holy Spirit, this is why we dance. This is why we do all these things. So that love that force, that energy that we get from just connecting with other human beings, celebrating with other human beings, greeting with other human beings, that's available to us all the time. But we've we've said that that's only in church. And to find it outside of church, I will admit that's, that's a difficult one, because it's just not readily available, where you find a group of people coming together at the same time, every week for this purpose, right? It's a plug and play thing here. But again, as you start to unravel all of this religious doctrine and these rules and start to walk in your own identity, you start to expand social circles and groups, and you start to create those for yourself. And you can find people that you can spend this time with inexperienced, that kind of love. I mean, me and my friends will dance will dance on Marco Polo, it's similar to like, yeah, like, wherever we can find it. We connect that way. So it's available. It's different. Yeah, it's different, but it's available.

David Ames  32:21  
Yeah, I'm not sure if I've told this story on my before but you know, my family are they're still believers. Everybody's a believer still. And just recently, my daughter and I, we were like cleaning the kitchen or seven. We had Snoop Dogg's gospel album. You know, I don't know for listeners if you're into gospel or not, but I mean, it's a beautiful album, just like if you'd like gospel, beautiful, just dancing. You know, like, I was, like, I stopped at one point and said, you know, your atheist dad is dancing. And just kind of the absurdity of the moment and yet, we were having so much joy, we were connecting to each other. And, you know, just was a real moment was really deep, profound moment. Really.

Suandria Hall  33:03  
Yeah, I still listen to some of it. It's beautiful music and it's moving it some of it, it's very uplifting, like I did is nothing wrong with that. No, in in, in healing trauma. You know, one of the things that really helps clients to move through that hung up emotion and that hung up those sensations in our body is to move. Yeah, right. So it you know, I think about these, as I've learned is I just, it really helps me reflect on my experience in a different way. And we were dancers, are you going to a black church and we're going to tear the church and it feels good. Yeah, it feels good to let that go to release that way. And you go home from like, whoa, I'm healed. I got it. Yeah, well, we know that religion acts more like an ointment right just a little something on top of the scar that temporarily keeps it from getting dirty again temporarily keeps it from getting infected but the real work requires that inner deep emotional hard look at what you're really experiencing. And that's the part we miss. So sure, listen to your music dance. Like I said, I have clients that are you know, wide range people are still there. I'm just like how do we get you to a place where you feel more confident in yourself? Right Well, you haven't given away all of your power your ability to critically think your ability to enjoy sex Yeah. To you know, just live

David Ames  34:43  
right. I again from some other interviews view you talked about your you will often do a walk and talk before then the before times. You strike me what you say is very true. Just the motion itself. Have Yes, in some ways allows us to connect to our inner life in a way that maybe just sitting at a desk or sitting across from somebody doesn't do. So how's that a part of your work?

Suandria Hall  35:11  
Yeah. So, you know, talk therapy helps, right? But it's the intent. And it's the words that we use. And it's, it's the focus that we're bringing forward in those sessions. And part of it is the sensations in the body. Again, trauma is all of that being hung up is stuck somewhere. It's almost like it stamps that moment in time your body does. So. It's not just what you think about it. It's not even just what you feel about it, the emotions, happy, sad anger. But it's also how your body is reacting. The headaches, the tense shoulders, the stomach aches like these are also happening as we experience things in life. And through this work with trauma, we're giving language we're giving words to what has been unspeakable. Oh, right. So again, you've been silenced, right? You've been told how to be who to be when to feel what to think all of that. So there's so much silence going on. So as clients start to reconnect, it helps to loosen up the body move around a little bit. What are you feeling? What are you feeling? I'm always asking, What are you feeling? Not just emotion? Where do you feel it in your body? Let's talk about that. When we when we when we talk about that experience with that pastor? And someone kind of gets a, it's okay, where is that right now for you? Where is that we I'm very intentional on helping clients see that. And that helps to release that and you can move forward through it and move forward. Yeah.

David Ames  36:50  
And I think, you know, just some form of exercise as well is important. Like, whether that's yoga. In my case, I'm a runner, and I feel like that is my meditation. I'm working stuff out. You know, I'm like, There's something about those endorphins you get from just moving your body around. And I think it's actually really beneficial.

Suandria Hall  37:12  
Absolutely. For me, it's hiking. Yeah, that's my go to I can go from miles. And I enjoy the movement, the sounds, the trees, the wind, the sun, all of it. Yeah.

David Ames  37:25  
And the experience in nature, just stuff all there is to recognize that, like you said earlier that all isn't that just doesn't happen in church alone. Yes, it happens in many places.

Suandria Hall  37:38  
Oh, I love that the ah, yeah. Yes, that's so real. And to give ourselves the permission to do that, you know, we laugh at people and call, you know, tree huggers. I have some friends who call me a tree arbor. It's like, Yeah, I do. Magnificent. Yes.

David Ames  37:56  
Yeah, I point out, like, you know, I experienced a lot, you know, in the mountains, on the river and the ocean. And it's like, these things are quite literally bigger than ourselves. And there's something very powerful about just recognizing that that is the human experience of being next to something that is more powerful than you are and just literally experiencing humility, and that again, we don't need any supernatural elements for that to be true.

Suandria Hall  38:23  
Absolutely. And I like that you said that experiencing something that's greater than you also experiencing something that's the same as you. Yeah. Because again, in charge, there's so many hierarchies. Yeah. Right. And we're all serving up and worshipping up. I think one of the biggest influences on me being able to go deeper. And love is my daughter, right? She's a tiny little thing. She's four. And I'm in awe of her every day. i I'm humbled by her presence, I'm humbled by, you know, she gets this freedom to explore that I didn't have and just watching that. It's just like, oh my gosh, oh, my gosh, it's beautiful. So yeah, I'm in awe every day. Yeah.

David Ames  39:11  
They're autonomous human beings that I think I was, you know, Mike, my kids are teenagers now. And it's that whole process of just watching them. Each different developmental stage as they took more autonomy on for themselves is just it's it's, it's shocking. It's humbling. It's an amazing process to watch.

Suandria Hall  39:30  
It is. It's nothing like it and, and so be a part of that. Again, again, with all the humility that you're required to walk in inside of religion because nothing can belong to you, right? Yeah. If it's good as Gods if it's bad as the devil you just get to skate through and not having any responsibility. Yes, but yeah, just owning the fact that I had a part in creating her Yeah, it's it's, it's flooring to me. And I don't give that to anyone except for father. But we did that, and I get to feel the weight of that gift, but also to the weight of that responsibility. It's, it's I don't give that away. Right. It's mine, and it helps really guide me on being an intentional parent.

David Ames  40:26  
Yeah, yeah. And I'm certain that your daughter will grow up syncing your ownership of that responsibility and wait.

Suandria Hall  40:34  
It's I sure hope so. I sure hope so. And I give her hers like No, honey, this is yours. You get to make this choice. You feel that?

David Ames  40:43  
Yeah, yeah. So I'm asking this a bit out of order. I probably should have started with this. But you've mentioned a couple of different semi technical terms religious trauma or trauma informed and adverse religious experience. Can you talk about what those are? What do they mean? And then how do they apply to the work that you do?

Suandria Hall  41:02  
So like I said, trauma is it can be a one time experience, it could be something that's happened over the years or things that multiple kinds of experiences that at one time over the years things that are passed down. So we're all of us have probably had some kind of experience that was difficult, but not everyone has trauma. Right. So that's kind of the thing that you're trying to work through and an adverse religious experience. I like that term that came from the religious trauma Institute. Yeah, yeah. I like that. Because I'm not anti religion. Right. You know, in a, again, because my experience, I have beautiful memories of my time in church, specifically, when I was a little girl, just, like I said, the music and my family was there. It was wonderful. It's like no family reunion every week. So I understand what people can get from it. That can be helpful, right. But I also know the realities of adverse religious experience the pain that it can cause the sometimes intentional hurt, and sometimes they didn't know, I know, for a fact, my mother would never intentionally hurt me. Right? Right, that that wasn't her intent, her my father's intent and introducing me to Jesus and Christianity, but it happens. So I think it's important to make that distinguishment between, you know, are you anti religion? Or are you I'm pro people.

David Ames  42:38  
Exactly. This is something I've really been trying to communicate a lot lately, again, this idea of embracing the human beings within humanism and saying, yes, human beings are prone to answers that may not have lots of evidence. If you call yourself an atheist, you can say you, oh, well, they're being illogical or what have you, but we aren't Vulcans. We're human beings. And so embracing that is to care about the whole person, which may include religious beliefs, or what have you, and just being able to talk to that person and actually not see them as dysfunctional in some way or another. Right,

Suandria Hall  43:17  
right. Right. What is what does it do for you? How is it serving you like, those are important questions that I have. With my clients. It's we're not, you know, pulling the rug from under people, like you have to work this stuff out piece by piece, and you want people to feel safe and ready to move through this process. And like I said, for some, they remain just in a different way. Some develop this new sense of spirituality. Some leave it all together, it's you know, that's, I didn't leave, you know, all this knocking on people's doors, proselytizing, for Christianity, to take on a new version of that. Right. I'm not telling you that I have the answer for your life. I believe that you have the answer for your life. Yeah, maybe you're not sure what that is just yet. Because of all of this trauma that's happened, all the silencing that's happened. But it's nothing like you getting there and feeling that and owning that and it walking in power in your life, right?

David Ames  44:19  
Yeah, both the most terrifying aspect and the most joyful freeing aspect is that you suddenly realize that you're responsible for yourself for your own ethics for what you do. It can be scary, but it's also very freeing.

Suandria Hall  44:35  
Oh my gosh, that is that is high on the list, like, Okay, so now that I hold all the cards, what do I do and how do I trust myself? And like I said, it's, it's a bit of Arrested Development. We're now oftentimes, these are adults who are going through this transformation. And they're like, oh my gosh, I've never done this before. I've never had to do this for myself, I have women that have been so committed to their faith into their husbands that they don't know how to live on their own. They don't own their bodies, they don't own their finances. They don't own their thoughts. They barely on their own, but have an influence in their children's like, everything's been given away. Right? So you get here, and it's like, oh, wait, it's up to me. And it's terrifying. Yeah, it's terrifying. It's a, it's a little by little unraveling a little by little build of your, your new value system or an edit that everyone doesn't throw everything away. And competence and seeing yourself and knowing yourself and becoming reacquainted or meeting for the first time, the real Yoo

David Ames  45:49  
hoo, I love that. I wanted to talk a little bit about the process, from your perspective, from a psychology perspective of changing one's mind. So when I describe my deconversion, the immediate aftermath was, you know, this sense of the cognitive dissonance being gone. I was unaware of it. I was oblivious to the fatigue inducing cognitive dissonance. You know, I personally had a fairly sudden admission or recognition, and just this immediate sense of laying some burden down that I didn't know I was carrying. Is that common? Do you do when you when you are working with people? Do they suddenly become aware? Or? Or is it often a very long process? But how do you work with people that, especially when you can recognize they're carrying some cognitive dissonance?

Suandria Hall  46:45  
Yeah, usually, if they come to me, and they reach out to this secular therapy, yeah. Okay. They probably work through. Yeah, quite a bit of that, or at least maybe that top layer, and then it just becomes these pieces, right? Yeah. Thinking for myself or my sexuality. What do I do with my money? What about mortality, like, it becomes like section by section, they're starting to work through these things. And we do some good old fashioned CBT we do some challenging of thoughts. We look at what's reality and what's not, you know, a part of healing trauma, trauma is to be able to see experience, observe the world and yourself and be able to label things as this is real. And this

David Ames  47:32  
isn't interesting. Yes. Yeah. Right.

Suandria Hall  47:35  
And I mean, the mere fact that we're talking about religion and God or gods, yeah, there's there's the struggle, which is, again, why some clinicians who aren't ready for religious trauma work, that can be difficult, because if you believe it's all real, you have someone that's not part of their healing. They need to be able to differentiate, right? what's real and what's not. Yeah.

David Ames  47:58  
It's interesting. I'm sorry, this is a bit tangential. But so I grew up my dad passed away. When I was very young, it was very likely suicide. It was very likely mental health induced part of how that presented was him becoming very, very religious, knocking on doors, that kind of thing. And I remember just growing up, people talking about well, he was probably a part of a cult. Yeah. And not knowing like, how, how is this a cult? And this isn't quite being able to define that. And I find now on this side of the opposite side of faith. That's because it isn't definable. Right? If it's, if you can't point to it and show some evidence, or tangibly touch it or have something real, like you say the difference between things that are real and things that are Yeah, if you can't actually call that out, there is no way to define this as a cult. And this isn't.

Suandria Hall  48:55  
Hmm. And that's the struggle in our field. Right? We are in a like I said it predominantly, God. Culture. Yeah. So it's a very thin line on what people want to say is real and not real. Right? We have people that hear voices and they're told to do things, and depends on whose name that is in Yes. You know, what I'm saying? Like, is, is this okay? You know, or is it not? It's, it's a very touchy subjects, it adds to the work that me and my colleagues are doing to bring awareness to speak truth, to validate these experiences that people are having, and not push them away. Because some people are totally returned to God. Maybe you just experienced God in a different way, a wrong way, a bad way.

David Ames  49:50  
You just have the wrong version of God,

Suandria Hall  49:52  
you have the wrong version and and I feel like the only you know the institutions that encourage people To return to abusers, our religion, and family, right, because these are pillars of our community. And that's when your caregiver is both your source of love and validation, but also pain and abuse, that creates some turmoil inside of a human being.

David Ames  50:21  
Wow, I love that just going through the process of recognizing what is real and what isn't. Because so much of the religious experience is saying, Look at how beautiful the Emperor's clothes are. That's really kind of a daily experience and being able to let that go. Must be Yeah.

Suandria Hall  50:38  
Yeah. I mean, like we talked about a minute ago, just part of the human experience. And we make mistakes, we do bad things, wrong things, painful things. And that's part of it. But when you're an experience that doesn't allow that to be attributed to God, or the belief or the teachings, you're constantly again, you're pushing it down, pushing it down, pushing it down. I remember my condolences to you, Dad.

David Ames  51:06  
Thank you. Yeah.

Suandria Hall  51:08  
When my dad died, he battled cancer for a number of years. And when he finally died, I remember sitting at his funeral. The preacher was saying, we knew God would heal him. Get this, we knew God would heal him on this side or the other. Right. But we can never write we can never be mad at God. Right?

David Ames  51:35  
Yeah, right. Right. When you're probably experiencing rage. Yeah, I don't know if we were bleeding at the time. But yeah, just, you know, the the loss actually, sorry, I'll send you the I lost my mom to about about eight months after my deconversion and I talked about that. That was both very hard, but also super freeing, because I could truly grieve her, there was nothing, I wasn't having to say, I get to see her again, I could experience the full weight of that loss. And say goodbye, and let go. And, you know, again, not an easy process. You know, going through it I was, you know, reminiscent of or nostalgic for a time when I could believe you know, I get to see her again. But I feel like that grief was more thorough. Yes. Was was more real was more raw, more honest. Because I could could recognize reality that she was no longer with me.

Suandria Hall  52:38  
Yeah, I, I totally get that and remind that that I was long gone. was a long guy, okay. But the grief was very, very different. I knew that it was final. Right. And something about that just gave me a real sense of closure. And I really clean to the memories of him in a different way than our experienced grief when I was inside of religion, right? Those memories mean everything to me, I giggle about them. You know what I mean? They just live with you in a different way.

David Ames  53:13  
Yeah. Yeah. And you feel the, my mom lives on and me, right, my job is to tell to my kids, and I'll be like, ah, your grandmother would have loved that, you know, like that lives on because she's in my memory. And, and that is the way that humanity has dealt with death for time immemorial, regardless of how we contextualized it.

Suandria Hall  53:33  
Yes, yeah. You know, I was thinking about so my daughter, and I could talk about her all the time. But you know, her she doesn't have a concept of death, not for real for it's, it's insects and worms die. Right. That's, that's the extent of her concept of death. But you know, as her parent, I know, there's gonna come a day when she's going to ask me about death. Yeah, you know, and what and what that means. And it's, you know, it's probably easier on a parent to be able to say, Oh, you're just gonna go to sleep and go to this beautiful place, and then I'll see you there one day, or you'll see me like, we're gonna all be together. Like, I get why that seems like a good choice.

David Ames  54:18  
Yeah, in the moment, it seems like a totally rational thing to do. Yeah,

Suandria Hall  54:22  
absolutely. But the other side of that is only if you're a good person, because if you're not, yes, yes, one or both of us will be in hell for the rest of our life. And we, we miss the part about how important right now is, yeah, right, because we're living to make it to heaven, escape hell, but we miss the value, the depth, the gifts and connection and now and what we do and how we treat people. You know, again, it's about shirking responsibility. Sometimes it's, I don't have to worry about as long as I do what God said I'm going to have it Yeah, care what you people are doing. But when you don't have that your hope is right here and right now. It changes how you work how you live, how you treat people, your social engagement, all of it you just it reshapes your life.

David Ames  55:16  
And every moment with your daughter is rich with meaning and joy, even in the bad times, even when I'm arguing with my, my teenagers, you know, like, I am able to step back and say this is precious time that I have with them. Because time is the thing that we have no control over.

Suandria Hall  55:35  
Yes, it is the hottest commodity. Yes.

David Ames  55:42  
sundry I don't want to let you go without talking about just the the kind of the moment and time we live in 2020 has been hard. And that is the understatement of the year, just literally before you and I began chatting, my best friend and I were texting each other and he said, Hey, how you doing? And I said, Oh, I'm doing good. And then I texted back about two minutes later. I was like, really? I should just say I'm coping? Because it's been hard. Yeah, I know, this is kind of impossible question. But do you have any advice for those of us who are just trying to survive? Everything that is going on right now?

Suandria Hall  56:14  
Yeah, you know, I wish I had an answer that would fix everything for everybody. But I don't, what I offer, like we said a minute ago, that time is all we have right now and how we treat people and how we treat ourselves and what we're honest about. And I think it's important to lean into that to be truthful, about what we care about what we're scared of, and why it's such a, this time gives us an opportunity. Talk about challenge thinking like, if I feel this way about a person or group of people, or about what I'm hearing from, you know, this politician or that one. What about it makes me hold on to it so quickly, or resistant so quickly? Yeah. Right, because and I think about that, again, in that religious context, we've grown for certain things, we can be grown for horrible things, right. And like I said, I think this is a time that we can really dig out some of that and really see some real healing in our individual lives and our families, our communities and in our nation. But it doesn't happen without pain. And I think we're just smack dab in the middle of it. But again, opportunity for healing opportunity for connection and care and love for one another that we otherwise wouldn't experience. So I try to look at it that way doesn't make it less painful and heavy. But I find purpose. Not necessarily in it. But in this moment.

David Ames  57:56  
Yeah. Thank you for that. I appreciate that. Yeah, we have each other. That's what we have. Yes. And let's make a plug here too. For, you know, people, you need a little more help contacting Cynthia or someone else that are like the secular therapy project or the religious drama Institute, getting somebody who is going to dedicate time to just listen to you be able to tell what you're feeling is super valuable. And that was looked down upon in some churches looked down upon as like, you know, maybe you're weak or your faith isn't strong enough. But on this side of faith, we can say, hey, I need some help.

Suandria Hall  58:36  
Yeah, absolutely. I in this is just real quickly, I did part of my internship at a church. Oh, wow. Okay, I did. And I was intentional about that, because I wanted to work with everybody. You know, I'm not about this exclusion stuff on any level. So. So I was intentional about working at a church, it happened to be a church that they believe Jesus saved you. But you have to do some work to get cleaned up, and I was like, alright, so they had a program there for therapists. Okay. And it was interesting. So I had people from the church and people from the community, and it was just a magnificent experience. So yeah, like, if you want help, it's available, and it's available in different ways. But this work is very specific. And you know, I'm intentional about what I say what I share, because I want that to be clear about the work I'm doing Yeah.

David Ames  59:37  
Well, that's a good segue. How can people get in touch with you and your work?

Suandria Hall  59:41  
Website is my choice, my and you can follow me on Instagram at my choice, my power counseling.

David Ames  59:51  
Excellent. And I highly recommend the Instagram is just like an oasis of hope and 2020 Thank you. I will have links in the show notes for those So, Suandria, thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom here. Oh, you're welcome.

Suandria Hall  1:00:04  
Thank you for having me.

David Ames  1:00:12  
Final thoughts on the episode? Wow, I need to send a check to Suandria for that counseling session that got deepened a number of times. I really appreciate Suandria for talking about grief in such a real way allowing me to talk about grief in a real way. It's something that I don't think we address very often. So Suandria has such a very real way of communicating the process that she's gone through, you can tell that she would be completely fair, for people who are still believers who would engage with her. I want to make just a plug in general for secular counseling and sundry specifically that so many I think, have been in a church environment where counseling was off limits, and especially during 2020. If you need someone to reach out to, I definitely can recommend centria, her counseling practices at my choice, my And you can find her there also, again, I'll recommend her Instagram account, my choice, my power counseling. I want to thanks, Suandria, for being so honest and so raw and telling her story. I particularly was moved by the discussion of representation, as well as her acknowledgement of being groomed for ministry, and realizing later in life that that wasn't for her. She had too many questions. I appreciate her kindness in the way she sees her former faith community. I really appreciated our conversation about all talking about being parents and being in awe of our children. So thank you again, Xandria. For being on the show. I'm going to hint just a bit about the upcoming episodes that I have. I have had the opportunity to talk with Ian Mills, who we discussed in my conversation with Randall rouser on the topic of metaphysical naturalism, but also his expertise is in second century New Testament and the way that the New Testament was put together. It's an incredibly honest conversation been incredibly well informed, and to be totally honest, academic discussion, where Ian was talking way over my head a whole lot, but I still think it's a really valuable conversation. I'm also about to do an interview with Barrett Evans, the author of the contemplative skeptic. Barrett is very much a naturalist. He may call himself an agnostic. I'm not exactly sure, I'll have to interview him on that point. But he has written a book that is kind of a devotional that looks at kind of the deep questions of life and the answers that various philosophers and religious thinkers and secularists have come up with over the years. And anyway, it's an incredibly fair and balanced look very nuanced. Look at what it means to be secularly spiritual, however you want to define that. So that's upcoming. And then the most exciting thing for me to say is that Michelle and I did in fact, record the episode for our discussion about being unequally yoked. It was an intense conversation, I think it will be incredibly valuable. Look for that to come in December. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings. Time for some footnotes. The song is a track called waves by mkhaya beats, please check out her music links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to help support the podcast, here are the ways you can go about that. First help promote it. Podcast audience grows by word of mouth. If you found it useful, or just entertaining, please pass it on to your friends and family. post about it on social media so that others can find it. Please rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. This will help raise the visibility of our show. Join me on the podcast. Tell your story. Have you gone through a faith transition? You want to tell that to the world? Let me know and let's have you on? Do you know someone who needs to tell their story? Let them know. Do you have criticisms about atheism or humanism, but you're willing to have an honesty contest with me? Come on the show. If you have a book or blog that you want to promote, I'd like to hear from you. Also, you can contribute technical support. If you are good at graphic design, sound engineering or marketing? Please let me know and I'll let you know how you can participate. And finally financial support. There will be a link on the show notes to allow contributions which would help defray the cost of producing the show. If you want to get in touch with me you can google graceful atheist or you can send email to graceful You can Tweet at me at graceful atheist or you can just check out my website at graceful Get in touch and let me know if you appreciate the podcast. Well, this has been the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheists. Grab somebody you love and tell them how much they mean to you

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

Transcribed by

Dr. Clint Heacock: Reconstruction after Deconstruction

Communities of Unbelief, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma, Secular Community
Clint Heacock
Click to play episode on

My guest this week is Dr. Clint Heacock. Clint is the host of the Mindshift Podcast that focuses on reconstruction after deconstruction. Clint grew up in the Church of Christ with parents who followed the Bill Gothard method of child rearing. Clint now describes this as cultic practices.

What I need to do is discover the authentic Christianity
… and then I wasn’t able to do it.

After pursuing a PhD in Theology in the U.K. while teaching Clint began to recolonize the disparity between what he believed and what he was teaching. The problems with the bible became too much. At the time Clint was hosting a podcast called “Preacher’s Forum.” The content had become too radical for its audience. He then changed the podcast into Mindshift and as his listeners have told him, he began deconstructing in public.

Only when you physically remove yourself and
psychologically remove yourself,
that’s when you start to think critically.

Clint has has had a focus on cult studies, Christian Dominionism and Christian reconstruction where politics and religion meet. He has had various experts in these fields on his podcast.

Best advice: Get yourself educated

Most important Clint has a heart for people. Just because we no longer are religious does not mean we lose our sense of pastoral care.


Mindshift Podcast



Deconversion How To

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


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

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As always, if you like what you hear, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast and the apple podcast store or wherever you get your podcasts that makes the gristle atheist podcast visible to more people. Please also consider letting a friend or family member know about the podcast. I've recently had very fun stories of people introducing the podcast to others. And that is really, really exciting. I hope you're doing well in your social distancing. And hopefully the isolation is not too much reach out to each other and connect with people intentionally during this time of isolation. onto today's show, my guest today is Dr. Clint Heacock. Clint is the podcast host of the mind shift podcast that focuses on reconstruction after deconstruction, post religion. I love this conversation with Clint, you're going to hear both of us talk about a pastoral perspective that we are now using in the secular community. I love the tone of the mind shift podcast and what Clint is doing there. He has specifically focused on cults and dominion theology and the way that politics and religion have come together in the western world today. We also discuss if there's any daylight between the concepts of deconstruction and deconversion. All in all, we have a really good time, and I hope you'll enjoy my conversation with Dr. Clint Heacock. Here's our conversation.

Dr Clint Heacock welcome to the Graceful atheist podcast.

Clint Heacock  2:08  
Thank you for having me, David.

David Ames  2:09  
Hey, I appreciate it. I've been following your work for some time. Now. I've listened to your podcast, you're the host of the mind shift podcast, I know you're doing a lot of blogging on medium these days. Give us just the five minute overview of the work you're doing there.

Clint Heacock  2:25  
Oh, man, we only have five minutes. So

David Ames  2:29  
we'll have some time at the end to keep

Clint Heacock  2:30  
it short. My podcast is really about helping people to reconstruct after they've deconstructed their religious beliefs. So they've left their faith. And that has led me into a lot of areas. I started out exclusively focusing on kind of the X Evangelical, and which is my backstory, coming out of evangelicalism. But it's led me into all sorts of other fields like cult psychology, Christian reconstructionism, dominion theology, the Christian right Christian nationalism, because that's, that's part of my story, too. So it's part of my reconstruction to understand the way it works, I guess. And it all sort of ties together. So I'm a former Bible college teacher, I was I was in academics for years. So for me, I love to research things. And so as a teacher, I just have to share them. So that's really the heart of what I do. I just want to be a kind of a teacher. It's my outlet, my creative outlet. And you know, if it helps one person, happy days,

David Ames  3:34  
I hear you know, I feel the same way about this podcast. This is as much for me as it is anyone else. Like I have to have some expression of all this some way to get this off my chest because otherwise you go insane. So you have to. So you've already hinted at it, but part of what I wanted to have you on is to give you a chance as well, to tell your story. You mentioned evangelicalism, but I'm not sure I know exactly. The factors and you grew up in and what that trajectory looked like.

Clint Heacock  4:02  
Well, I was raised in Seattle, Washington. I live here in the UK. Now we've been here about 14 and a half years actually came over here to do a PhD. Yeah. And that's what that's what brought us over here. We luckily we've been able to stay on. So we've this is going to be our home now. You know, we're expatriates and all the rest of it. Right? But I grew up in Seattle, Washington in a really now I would I would say it's a fundamentalist cult, because it was the church was a church of Christ. That was the denomination, okay, but they subscribe to the Bill Gothard which at the time was called the Institute in basic youth conflicts. And so, everybody, not everybody, but our church strongly encouraged everybody, let's say, to attend his seminars, which we did. My family did. I remember going as a kid, 1314 years old, taking notes. And my parents raised us we had a very large family. They raised us according to his teachings, which now I see why me that they're very toxic If I say it's a cult, it is a fundamentalist Bible cults. And so I've done that's kind of part of the cult psychology interest in of mine is I started researching the inner workings of the Gotthard Empire, and quickly came to see that it was a cult to then I realized I was raised in a cult. Yeah. Okay, what does that do? You've got a an the best advice I've heard from many, many ex cultists, and cult experts and psychiatrists is to get yourself educated, educate yourself on what the essentially what they did to you. And so that's kind of where I'm at with this journey. And so yeah, I think I was raised in a very toxic theology. Right? It was the teaching that you had to be baptized in order to be saved as a Christian. So I was baptized ended up getting baptized three times.

David Ames  5:52  
Yeah, yeah. That'll make it work. Yeah,

Clint Heacock  5:55  
the first time I was about 10, or 11. I'd seen that movie a thief in the night, back in the late 70s. And it terrified me that I was going to be left behind in the rapture, as a many, many, many, many people have reported that experience as young children being absolutely traumatized. And so I went to the pastor, and I said, I need to I need to become a Christian. He said, let's get you baptized. And that was the first you know, so every time I'd get baptized, because I was failing, in my view, as a Christian, so I'd get baptized again. And again, because I was so desperate to make sure that I had it right. Yeah, no, I didn't want to be left behind in the rapture.

David Ames  6:35  
I really find this interesting that it's the people who care about it the most. someone like yourself, you really honestly wanted to make sure that you were doing everything properly and correct. Hmm, maybe it was based out of some fear, but it was still a lot of desire to do the right thing. Absolutely. And then that tends to be the people who experience the most trauma at the back end of this. It's true people who

Clint Heacock  7:01  
care the most we really wanted to get it right. And besides the theology taught that if you didn't believe the absolute correct, right things, you were one of those people that stood a good chance of being left behind in the rapture. Wow. So in our case, I would say now, what they call the good news of the gospel was not good news at all. Because that opened me up into a world of absolute anxiety, stress, pressure, what they call religious group velocity, which is constantly monitoring ever, it's an obsessive compulsive type thing. But it's instead of OCD, washing your hands 1000 times a day. You're you're watching every thought that you think and every action that you do, and everything, you know, because God's always watching you. And anything that you do might, you know, make you a candidate for being left behind, or not being a Christian? So I probably pray the sinners prayer, you know, 1000s of times, because I just was every night I'd lay there in bed and think, Oh, my God, you know what, if the rapture happens tonight, I better make sure that I'm covered, because I read it again. And that's what led me to keep getting baptized because I was convinced that I wasn't a Christian. And, you know, the formula hadn't worked the first time. And then the second time, and then the third time. Just keep trying. Yeah, definitely. Crazy.

David Ames  8:24  
Sounds like you were very dedicated as well, you ultimately went on to seek an education in theology as well. Yeah. All right.

Clint Heacock  8:31  
And now I see it, I went to Bible college, I did two masters degrees, and I did a PhD. And I realized now a lot of my motivation, at the time, I didn't see it that way, then. But I was it was to genuinely help people avoid the same kind of pitfalls that I had fallen into. Growing up in church, I was determined, I was going to go to Bible college, then I was gonna go to seminary, I was going to study the Greek study the Hebrew, really take a deep dive into the Bible and theology so that I could explain it to other people in a clear and helpful way. Right, which led me into becoming a pastor and then a Bible college teacher. Because I mean, I am a teacher at heart, I can't help but that's how I'm wired. It's true. And so for me, it was a natural fit, you know, what better thing to teach than the Bible, preach it. And if I could help somebody by my explanation of a particular passage, or Old Testament, New Testament book or whatever, then I was doing my job as a pastor as a spiritual leader. And I see that now that's that was my drive to be a pastor, which, ironically, is a lot of the same drive that I have now. I'm still kind of pastoring people. Weirdly, there's a lot of ex ex pastors out there that say the same thing that we still feel like we're doing pastoral work, it's just we're not we're not preaching the Bible or leading people to Christ anymore.

David Ames  9:54  
Yeah, you know, I often say that, you know, when we when we lose our faith, that doesn't mean that we don't need Eat, connection and belonging and in some cases pastoral care, right? community, it's a human need that we have. And that's the best of religion is how it can bring people together. Obviously, we're talking about the darker side of things. But I'm very fascinated. And we'll maybe talk about this a little bit later of how we recreate the best parts of that in a, a more secularized environment.

Clint Heacock  10:28  
Absolutely, it's true that one thing that church, on some levels they do well, and that is offer community. Yeah, you know, someone Someone said once that it's, it's a ready made community, you just have to slot into it. It's all there. It's all the pieces are there. Once you do the right thing, say the right things, whatever the denomination, or tradition has you do get baptized or get confirmation or you know, Bar Mitzvah, or whatever your rite of passage is? Yeah, then you're accepted. And it's a wonderful thing to be part of a community of people that believe the same things you do more or less, and you're accepted. And you're you do have community I mean, I have I had, and still do have some wonderful friendships and relationships from the church. When I was a pastor, and before I was a pastor, you know, so I don't take that lightly. But like you said, we as humans, we need it. Yeah, exactly. The church is offering it, so why not just slot into become a Christian?

David Ames  11:28  
You know, just briefly my story, you know, I was at a really a cultural, Christian, my, my family were, they were believers, but it was very passive. And when my mom got clean and sober, and she had a kind of an epiphany experience, then we got very, very religious, very fundamentalist. And, you know, I sometimes point out the difference between the people who were raised in it, like if you were raising as a child, the trauma inducing nature of their fear of the rapture, or the fear of going to hell, if you know, as a child, how do you grapple with that, versus even just being a teenager when I converted? You know, I had some sense of who I was as a person and some ability to this is all hindsight, you know, but some ability to separate that and to recognize, that was a little less trauma experience. For me personally, I know, you've talked to lots of people on your podcast. Have you noticed that at all? Have you talked to people that converted at different ages? Yes, in

Clint Heacock  12:28  
fact, I have a bunch of recordings, I haven't had time to edit them down into a complete episode. But I was going to do a study on the differences between first and second generation, religious people, not just limited to Christianity, but cults as well, wherever religions that they were a part of, as you say, there's there is a massive difference between first what they call first and second generation religions or cults. And the biggest difference that I found is that for people who come into it later in life, they develop a process. It's where Robert lifts, and he's a psychologist that did a lot of seminal work on cults and brainwashing. He describes it as this process called doubling, where you almost create a second self, and you have to fit into the group. And you have your authentic self, which is the real you. And then you have the religious self that you almost have to create. They live side by side in a way to fit into the group and, you know, be accepted in that wonderful community. We were talking about the difference between first generation or people second generation who were raised in it, they only ever had the religious identity. That's all we had. So I never experienced doubling, because I never had any other personality other than the religious one. So that's a whole different journey out because it was my whole worldview was I believed it. My parents said it was true. The pastor said it was true. These are authority figures that I trusted, I believed them. Why would they lie to me? They weren't lying to me. They were they believed it. Right. They were convinced. Yeah, they were committed. They I'm not I'm not saying they misled us intentionally. But the damage was done nonetheless. And so disentangling from that is, in some ways, a lot more difficult than someone who? Well, it's a different journey, I should say. It's not not about ease of transition. Some people have a much harder time on either path.

David Ames  14:20  
Yeah. You know, the thing that I'm relating to the most here so for me, I recognize that doubling and my life I've, I was convinced that the church didn't understand grace. As you can see, I've carried over some of those ideas into the secular world. But ironically, when I became a Christian, I thought, you know, I read particularly the the Gospels, and I thought, Man, this concept of grace is so amazing, and it's just that the people who have been in church for so long they forgotten. I just don't remember how powerful this is. And I thought, and I again, I relate to the teacher thing, if I just teach them if I just have the right words, you know, they're gonna get it, things are going to be different. And one of the things I recognize eyes was that people were not their authentic selves, there was the need to present an image. Because if they were honest, they would be judged. And it wasn't possible to be your authentic self. And my theory was that that's what we're where we needed to get to was the ability to have enough acceptance and grace that we could be our authentic selves with each other sorted out, that wasn't going to work. But

Clint Heacock  15:27  
it was a horrible failure. I can Yeah, that was, yeah, I can resonate with that, because that was kind of my philosophy of ministry, as a pastor. And then later, when I taught, I taught for about eight years in a Bible college, over here in the UK. And that was really my driving focus for my students, because they were all heading into ministry. And so I was always teaching them that they need to be raising up men and women to be the person God made them to be. That was my kind of thing, you know, and to be your authentic self. And I didn't see the irony is, of course at the time, but I was on that same trajectory, of trying to encourage people to be real to be themselves, blah, blah, blah. But as you say, most churches are not safe. Yeah, they're not a safe space. So you can't afford to be real. Because as you say, you could be judged, you can be ostracized, that's the dark side of that lovely community, we were talking about, where one minute you're in it, and then you enter into the cult psychology, which again, lifted calls the dispensing of existence, you don't have the right to exist, because you've questioned things or you've bucked the status quo. So you're gone. You're out of here, right? And that's how it works. You're shunned.

David Ames  16:36  
Yeah, and that shunning that that's the loss of that community that is devastating to people? Absolutely. I think the reason that people stay in for so long, even when they begin to have doubts is the idea of walking away from that community is a huge mountain to climb.

Clint Heacock  16:54  
Well, and part of that is to the sub, the sunk cost fallacy. There's I think that's operative as well, as well as the cognitive dissonance. You get to that point where you've put so much into the thing that you can't you can't envision envision any other options other than to stay in right now. Maybe it's gonna get better. Yeah, it has its downsides. And there's people that gossip and backstab and some horrible things happen. And I got burned here and there, but look at the money I've spent, look at the time I've invested. Yeah. And that's part of the deconstruction and reconstruction piece for people that spent, you know, I mean, look at me, I spent decades spending money and spending incredible amounts of time going into schools, and studying and teaching and writing and doing all this stuff for what, you know, for what, yeah, the only thing I have to show for it, someone said to me the other day that the one good thing about all the background that you've got is that it allows you to speak knowledgeably about theology and Bible and you can, you know, talk about this stuff from from an informed perspective. I'm not an insider, and outside or looking in, we were part of the system. So we know what we're talking about. Yeah,

David Ames  18:06  
if only that respect were given, I think. Yeah, I think we're often seen as the, you know, wolves in sheep's clothing. And so anything you say is just dismissed.

Clint Heacock  18:17  
Well, and we're, uh, we're like, ironically, we're in the midst of this Coronavirus, but it were seen as like a contagious virus. I think people that leave the church, especially that were high profile leaders, and I talked to Tim sledge, he wrote the book, goodbye Jesus and all that. But he was a megachurch pastor out of Houston, Texas, I mean, guys that were profile high profile like him. They have vilified him left, right and center, because they kind of have to, you know, when of high profile person stuff like Josh Harris, the guy who wrote I kiss dating goodbye, he repudiated it all. And then they ripped him to shreds. You know, there's been several high profile people that have left recently and you read the articles in the Facebook posts, man. They have to say there they were never a Christian in the first place. And you know, all that.

David Ames  19:08  
It's it. Yeah, it's definitely terrible. I wonder what you would say to those people like what does any deconversion or any deconstruction, those high profile ones, in particular, say to the people who are still in the bubble?

Clint Heacock  19:23  
That's a hard one because it's it's part of that cult psychology. I don't think evangelicalism as a whole is a cult. It's too broad. It's too diverse. It's not a monolith. But there are many, many, many cultic tactics and psychological mind control things that go on within churches. So you have to realize that you're talking to people who, to some extent, are in a bubble. That something that Rick Ross says he's a cult expert. He said that when you're in the bubble, and you're receiving their downloads, it's very very hard to think critically. Only when you physically remove yourself and psychologically remove yourself and unplug as it were from the system and stop receiving their downloads. That's when you start to think critically. But if you're in the midst of the what million what liftin calls milieu control, you're in the milieu that's being controlled by the people at the top. You know, you're literally under their control. Yeah, we never saw it that way. I'm sure you know, when we were part of the system.

David Ames  20:29  
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I've heard what you've just said there in different terms before that did an interview with Cassidy who's the blogger behind roll to disbelieve. And part of her deconversion story was prayer group that they were trying to start. And they only had three people and they were in some closet and a college and you know, didn't have the context. She realized in that moment that she was trying to create the feeling of God's presence, and that it wasn't there. That snap for her. That was the thing that broke her out of the bubble where she could see, oh, it depends on the context. Or in your words, the Milu. You know that? Yeah, it's an environment that you're in whether this makes sense or not.

Clint Heacock  21:14  
Absolutely. And the next, these are all what Robert liftin, he has these eight markers of cults. milieu controls, the first one, the second one is mystical manipulation, which is exactly what you were just describing. When you go into, let's say, a church, you don't realize that you're entering into a milieu or a context that is being you're being manipulated. And it's creating an environment with music and the lighting and the ambiance. And the preacher, and the whole context is manipulated in such a way to make you feel and to you, you are literally on a genuine emotional journey. You really are. There's no question about it. The music is unbelievable, especially in some of these churches where they've got fantastic worship bands. I mean, yeah, like Hillsong, or Yeah, I mean, it's a full on professional concert, you're you're going to see a band that's every bit as good as any professional band is going to be on stage in a major stadium. Yeah, musically, professionally, and they are at the top of their game and they can play the crowd and move you from fast, upbeat tempo songs to slower, more introspective songs, the lighting comes down. Yeah, man, it's it is it is genuinely moving. There's no question about it. But what they do is they ascribe that to God, as you said, and then here comes the sermon. And here's 3040 minutes of rah rah Jesus indoctrination. Few more songs, and you're pumped up. And but it's a religious addiction, because you have to go back the next week to experience the same high, you know, you're always chasing that experience. And so you've got to come back to church and get it again.

David Ames  22:50  
Yeah, definitely. And I think music is such a human connection. For us. It is, when we participate in a shared musical experience. That is a really bonding moment, right now, as we're recording, you know, we know that COVID-19 is an epidemic, a pandemic. And the things that we see that go viral are people out on their verandas, you know, singing with each other,

Clint Heacock  23:12  
right, like the Italians singing across to each other.

David Ames  23:15  
Exactly. It's like that is just something that we need to do. It really is, in a way the religion has kind of hijacked that and taken over,

Clint Heacock  23:24  
that made use of it. And absolutely, I mean, I played in worship bands for years, I'm a drummer, and I felt that emotional, you get that connection with the audience. If, if you hit the pocket, kind of like a thing, where you know how it is, if you're playing live, whether you're playing rock and roll, or blues or worship music, if you hit in the right, the notes with the crowd, as it were, they get into it. And there's this symbiotic relationship between you and the audience. And I mean, I can remember many times where the worship leader would turn and, you know, let's go around again, let's go around it because yeah, there's something happened in here. You can see the audience really getting moved emotionally. And so let's play another bar. Let's play another verse. Let's, you know, keep the chorus going. And we would just flow with it. And we would say at the time, well, we were flowing with the Spirit, man. That's what it was all about. We were just, you know, the Holy Spirit took over and we were just riding the wave and I play in a rock and blues band. I felt the same thing playing AC DC songs. Yeah.

David Ames  24:25  

Clint Heacock  24:26  
We used to end our set with the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show, the time warp, you know, and that always went down just as big as any worship song in a church, you know? Yeah. Nothing like seeing like 400 Bikers doing the time warp dance. At a biker rally. Yeah, totally. It's amazing. And it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.

David Ames  24:46  
Right? It literally is resonance. Right? It's that like people their emotions are feeding on one another and there's a resonant quality to that and it's feeding back to the musicians and theatre just it's a positive feedback loop. You

Clint Heacock  25:00  
This, and it's a wonderful thing. You know, if you're a musician, you know how it feels. There's a high from playing on stage live. And there's a high from being in a crowd. That's where the band is really killing it. We've all been to concerts, secular concerts, I'm sure where we've seen bands that just blew our minds. Yeah, you know, and it was an emotional experience to see that, especially when you have a band that you've really loved for years, and then they come to town, and you've never seen them live before. Like, oh, man, I got tickets to see these guys. They just exceeded your expectations, you know, and you're on a high. Yeah, and it absolutely is. So you can replicate that in the church? Absolutely.

David Ames  25:39  
I realized that we've kind of gone way out of order here. And I do want to return to some of these subjects. But I want to just real quick, don't want to lose track of what for you personally. klant were the cracks that started to form the doubts that ultimately lead to deconstruction for you. Well, I

Clint Heacock  25:56  
see it now. I didn't see it at the time I see it now as the cognitive dissonance was surfacing. And maybe that was my authentic self somehow in there, even though I was mostly that religious, still was the real me going, Hey, this doesn't add up. And I can remember, even in Bible college, I felt like a hypocrite because I was preparing for ministry. And I had doubts. But I didn't want to stand up in front of an audience or a classroom of students, teaching them something that I felt that I didn't believe in or wasn't working for me personally. And I really wrestled with that problem. For years. I remember going to mentors at Bible College and Seminary and talking to pastors and saying, What's going on here? Because I don't I'm not sure I'm buying this product that I'm supposed to be selling. And I can see that now was it wasn't because it wasn't working. Right. But I could never admit that to myself. I just thought it's something wrong with me. It's always the problem, isn't it? Where doubt gets thrown back onto the doubt or something's wrong with you. It's never God's fault. Obviously, it's not the fault of the Bible, you're just not interpreting it correctly, or whatever your theology isn't right? Or maybe you've got hidden sin your life. There's 1,000,001 reasons why it might not be working. But it's never God's fault. Going back to what you said, I really wanted to get it right. I do not want to feel like I'm a hypocrite standing in front of a crowd, telling them to believe something and that it should change your life. When I myself wasn't doing half the stuff I was telling my congregation to do.

David Ames  27:27  
Yeah. And I've had people on who tell the story where they wanted God to change them they wanted, they were asking, you know, change me I live recognize that this isn't the best I can do help me. And then it was the recognition of that not happening, that there was no assistance, there was no helper available to assist them in changing.

Clint Heacock  27:49  
Yeah, going back to my experiences I was talking about as a kid kept why kept getting baptized because I was begging and pleading God to help me as you just described, and no help was forthcoming. For example, I was I was in the purity culture. That was another part of the toxicity of the doctrine. And I've realized this now a lot of kids raised in the purity culture, they have to suppress their sexuality. So they turned to pornography as an outlet. So I became addicted to pornography. And of course, I knew that was wrong. I felt horrible about that. At least I knew I wasn't having actual physical sex, which was slightly better. But then I was, you know, turning to porn. Yeah. And that was a sin. So I mean, I begged and pleaded, and I've heard many stories of kids like me who did the same thing, asking God to take it away to help me nothing. And why isn't he interested in helping you to become that perfect Christian or perfect kid who doesn't sin? Why? Why not? Give me some help? Throw me a bone. Yeah, nothing.

David Ames  28:53  
I totally get you. I think that on all levels, the repression of normal human sexual desire is destructive, right? It doesn't matter. You know, how you wind up dealing with that, whether that's porn, and I think the church would be so much better if they just said, Yeah, masturbation is normal. You should you should do that. If you want. There'll be a whole lot fewer problems, you know, like, but they can't, there's no way they can. They can't say that.

Clint Heacock  29:20  
I mean, I remember going to pastors conferences, we used to go to the Oregon coast that go to these weekend long pastors conferences. And by about the end of the Sunday evening session, it was 40 or 50. Pastors in a room, and they were broken down. And most of them were confessing all kinds of sins. And the biggest one is pornography. And, you know, masturbation, yeah, asters who could never ever admit that to their own wives for one thing, or certainly not to their congregation. Can you imagine that? High profile pastor went up and said, Look, people I've been watching porn for years. I'm addicted to it. I got a real problem and they'd be out in most cases Yeah. So fast.

David Ames  30:02  
I was fascinated by it when I was in the middle of, you know, I went to a Bible college purity culture was very much part of that. I was just honest with myself, I was, you know, like, I'm going to master. And I would definitely be, you know, I'd feel guilty and I would confess, and that whole cycle, but something the back of my mind was like, this is normal, the statistics on men in particular, but but women to just well over 50% of the whole population, this is just a normal thing. Some tiny part of me recognize that it was just ludicrous to beat myself up over something that was just a normal human thing.

Clint Heacock  30:40  
Absolutely. And you could analyze it, from what we talked about the perspective of doubling your religious self is at war with your authentic self, your authentic self saying, Hey, this is normal, religious selves go, No, it's a sin. It's wrong. You need to confess and repent and get right and stop doing it. Throw away the magazine, stop getting online, stop looking at porn, you know, you've got to get it right and stop and suppress that sexuality until you get married. And you're supposed to be a virgin on your wedding day bla bla bla, that's the culture.

David Ames  31:12  
I know that lots of the listeners will be very familiar with that. I know how destructive that is.

Clint Heacock  31:18  
It is I just wrote an article on Medium about that, because we did a bunch of talking on it years ago with some people in a Facebook group. And I kind of stumbled across a bunch of these comments that I had archived. And I was reading through him about, you know, I asked the question in this group, what damage has the purity culture done to you this x evangelical group, and I got a shocking array of responses. I just started cutting and pasting them anonymously and putting them in a Word document. And it was like 10 or 12 pages long. And I thought, Oh, my God, I gotta do something with this. So I put this article together talking about specific instances of damage that the purity culture does to us sexually, psychologically, etc, etc. It's quite shocking. When you actually stand back and look at what it does. Yeah. And that's all part of the church's toxicity. No, yeah. Wow.

David Ames  32:07  
To again, circle back just a little bit to the personal. So you recognize that there was a disparity between what you were teaching and what you were acting out or what you believe? What did that result in? Did you walk away from that teaching gig? How did that look?

Clint Heacock  32:22  
I got made redundant. As they say, in this country, I got laid off from the teaching gig. Through no fault of my own. It was a case of the college that I was teaching for. I'd been there about seven or eight years, they ran into huge debt. And so they laid a bunch of us off, most of us lost our jobs without any warning, we just were gone. Just like that. I got home from my last day of teaching, just before Christmas, ironically, to get a letter on my table, saying your services are no longer. Merry Christmas. Oh, and by the way, they said, Do you know the college is in financial trouble, you wouldn't mind donating your final month's pay. Oh, my goodness, help us get through this shortfall. After we've just laid you off. I could not believe that. They actually said that. Yeah, I'll give you my last month's salary when I don't have a job to go to now. Thank you very much. I see now that did me a favor. But that was quite shocking. I mean, I cannot imagine a company doing something like that to an employee. Yeah, you lay somebody off and then turn around and say, Oh, you wouldn't mind donating your final month's pay to help us out here. But it was a Bible college.

David Ames  33:32  
That is incredibly tone deaf, very tone deaf.

Clint Heacock  33:36  
And I wrote a I wrote an email to the head of the college saying, I cannot believe you know that you've done this. And you've you're asking me to give you my last month's pay. And I said, I've been there eight years. And that's how I found out I don't even have a job anymore. And his response was equally tone deaf. He said, Well, actually, you shouldn't be upset. You were never actually an employee. You were a contract. lecturer. What's the problem? We just didn't renew your contract? What are you so upset about?

David Ames  34:03  
Man? That's insane. So

Clint Heacock  34:06  
deafness? Unbelievable. What do you see? You're never an employee here. What are you so pissed off about? What just you know? You're not coming back. And that's it. Period. What's the problem? Wow, I don't know. Eight years of teaching for nothing. That's terrible. Yeah, it really is.

David Ames  34:23  
So what made you decide to start to go to the dark side a bit, to start expressing your deconstruction out loud to blog about it and whatever your first steps were? Well, what happened that

Clint Heacock  34:35  
it was the actually the podcast that I started, I've changed the name now it's mine ship podcast, but originally, four years ago, it was called the preachers Forum Podcast. Okay. That was my last gasp of trying to reform the church. So I had gone through this cycle of reading progressive Christians, jettisoning a lot of my fundamentalist evangelical conservative dogma. As, and that was the journey I was on, I was like, Okay, I'm gonna help the church get relevant kind of like you said, your, your path of Let's help the church discover grace. I was that's what I was teaching my students, I was having them question things, and exposing them to a lot of progressive ideas and pushing the limits a little bit. But then I see now that was my journey. I'm way out. Because as I was jettisoning the pieces, eventually there was nothing left. But that journey was to really one last push to kind of reform the church. What I realized is, they didn't want to hear it. Nobody wanted to hear they were not listening. You know, I was just an angry ranting ex pastor who was still a Christian though. And then as I went down the line further and further and further, I realized, I've got nothing left. So that's when I realized that the idea of the preachers forum totally doesn't fit. The name doesn't fit. The brand name doesn't work. It's nothing about what I am standing for. So I changed it to the mind shift podcast. And that's where I guess someone said to me, you're basically you've deconstructed in front of an audience, right? Over the three or four years, that's kind of what I've done. I've entered the name, the preachers form reflects my own journey out. That was the last straw. But the last thing for me was actually the 2016. Evangelical Trump support. Yeah, when I saw that, I said to myself, I'm no longer ever going to call myself a Christian. I don't want to have anything to do with it. That was the final straw. I was done. I said, I don't want to have anything to do with that movement. evangelicalism. Yeah, maybe that's an overreaction. But to me, events have borne out the fact that it's a completely bankrupt system in many ways. I mean, there's some great Christians out there, no doubt, I'm not throwing all the baby out with the bathwater. But for a lot of people, that was their last straw.

David Ames  36:57  
Like my wife is still very much a believer. And she was just crushed by, by that and continues to be crushed every time we see an evangelical who, then is not just a political thing here, but blindly supports Trump. So I know that that has affected the numbers of people huge numbers, that led them to deconstruction. I want to segue here just briefly and ask you your motto of the podcast as reconstruction after deconstruction, can I get your definitions of both of those words? What are those mean to you?

Clint Heacock  37:30  
I would say that the deconstruction part is when people question their deeply held beliefs, you know, on a very worldview level type of thing. And it's very traumatic, it's very scary. There's a lot of emotions associated with it, because it was something that we believe wholeheartedly, like we've been talking about. If we were in the system, especially people that were in any form of leadership in the church or in a religion, it's really hard to question those things. Yeah. What what it's a case I think a lot of people's story is when that cognitive dissonance, that dissonance becomes too much. Yeah, like you said, the cracks, you cannot paper over the cracks anymore. Eventually, the walls are falling down. 50 layers of wallpaper won't, won't hide the structural flaws in the building.

David Ames  38:20  
Yeah. So I've got an article that's similar to one that you've written, but that talks about this process. And I begin with unexpected events happen, something makes you think about this. But then as you go along, there stack up and you hit some critical mass point at which just what you've described, you can no longer pretend anymore, that there isn't a problem.

Clint Heacock  38:41  
You can't do it. And going back to the cult psychology, that's a lot of people. There's a lot of ways to quell the cognitive dissonance. Christianese is a good one. And that's what we use in the church, you know, sort of pithy statements, platitudes, Bible verses that cover and those are sort of that wallpaper covering the cognitive dissonance. We don't understand why things happen. You see in it right now, with the Coronavirus, the COVID-19. Look at the various Christian responses to it. They are scrambling to try to come up with some answers, because there isn't any. Why is this happening? Because they are holding to the presupposition that God is all powerful. God's in control of everything. What the hell is going on here? I mean, seriously, is it a judgment? Is it a satanic attack? Is it they've got to come up with something? And so you see all sorts of people that are walking around quoting Psalm 91, Faith conquers fear and I don't have to wear a mask, I can disregard it all because God's gonna protect me. That's straight, loaded languages. liftin calls it it's thought terminating cliches, and that's what it is. And that's what I did for a long time. As you say the weight finally though, got too much. And I can see now that the progressive Christians was part of that journey. You guys like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell and Donald Miller, because they helped me to see that I was part of a formulaic religion. And once I saw that, I thought, my God, I have been practicing a religion that's been reduced to a formula, what I need to do is discover the authentic Christianity, and then I wasn't able to do it. Okay. It's sort of like Easy Rider, you know, the two guys that go off on their Harley's to try to rediscover the real America, and they can't find it. It's not there, right, it ain't there. And then the end, they end up getting killed, you know, so it doesn't end well.

David Ames  40:38  
This is really where I wanted to go. This is a really interesting thing that you've just said, trying to find the authentic Christianity and then not being able to find it. And I want to preface this by saying that I try to avoid falling into the angry atheist, the New Atheists perspective, there's part of me that gets pulled that direction to just say, you know, just the story you just told, you know, you will have someone standing in front of a tornado strewn Street and their houses destroyed, but they survived. And they'll be like, well, thank God,

Clint Heacock  41:08  
the Bible is untouched, sitting on the nightstand.

David Ames  41:11  
100 people are dead in this massive destruction. But you know, I made it out. So that's great. The ability to miss all of that. But my point is, I want to be this idea of secular grace to be graceful to recognize where people are at, which includes various levels of progressive Christianity, various levels of deconstruction. And I'm confessing my faults to you that I times I can be critical and to try to overcome that. But what you just said is just really fascinating to me in that we have lots of progressive friends who are who are trying to live that out. I'm trying to find that authentic Christianity. What would you say to them?

Clint Heacock  41:49  
That's a good question. Because I had a conversation recently with Dan Koch, who's a progressive Christian. And we went around and around, we had a really good, respectful dialogue. It wasn't an argument. And I come from the same perspective as you I'm not trying to talk anybody out of their thing or into anything, I will have a respectful dialogue, as long as anyone wants to talk with me. Absolutely. And the question that I posed at the end of it all, I mean, we there's no question, but that the church, and I'm generalizing, but you know, including Catholicism, and sure, there's so many abuses, there's no question about it. There's sexual abuse, there's pedophilia, there's spiritual abuse and religious trauma syndrome, and you can have a laundry list, hell induced PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc, etc, etc. And that's caused by the church. So I said to Dan, whose fault is it? Because is it God's fault that all this is so messed up? Or is it the fault of humanity who took something that was pure, and then corrupted it? What we need to do is get back to that pure faith? You know, and I think that was my, my journey, as you said, for a long time. I was hoping to find that sort of X Chapter Two church. Yeah. Oh, community. And that was what I taught my students to aim for. And now I realized that I think I never found it, you know, but for the progressive Christian, I have a hard time supporting some of that I get where they're coming from, I think, because I was on that same pasture. Sure. But I couldn't reconcile it with all the damage that was being done by the church. And I thought, you know, after four or five years of trying to get people to see my point of view, and nobody wanted to listen. I'm done. I'm not I'm not beating my head against the wall here. Yeah.

David Ames  43:37  
I guess the reason I bring this up is, there's definitely part of me that still just wants to say, let it go. You're hurting yourself by trying to make this work. And my argument is this, that if, like, if you do the Thomas Jefferson thing, you rip all the miracles out of the Bible. If you take one more step and take all the archaic morality out of the Bible, you're left with a pamphlet that says you ought to be good to people. Right? And that's about it. And that the baggage that comes with traditional Christianity actually holds people back. And again, I'm recognizing that maybe that's being too critical. And people meet people where they're at and what their needs are. But there's part of me that definitely just wants to say, you can be free from this. And we can recognize what we need from one another as human beings. We still need to have community we still need to have a sense of awe. We need to have a sense of beauty of something even bigger than ourselves, if you will, but that doesn't need to be supernatural. But nature and humanity provides all of those needs. And this is ultimately my argument that even in the church, it was still just humanity that was providing those needs, right with musicians like yourself. It's the pastor's doing. You know, they're at the bedside. I'd have somebody who's dying, feeding the hungry, actually sure the action on the ground was the miracle. It's the people that are the magic.

Clint Heacock  45:09  
One, as you said, look at the examples from church history, what you just were articulating the difference between you go back 100 years, the difference between classic liberal theology and the fundamentalist background, the end of the 19th century up till about 1940s 50s, into the 60s, even where the Liberals tried to accommodate their Christian faith with modern science. And they were saying kind of the same thing. Let's take biblical criticism as an example. You know, all this stuff that was questioning the authorship of the Bible and the Pentateuch, did Moses write it and on and on and on? And they said, Yeah, we believe what these scholars are finding in the text, we don't think it's every word was written by an inspired Prophet and all the rest of it, whereas the fundamentalists, they doubled down. And so we see those two streams, where the liberals, a lot of them did end up as atheists because they finally said, There's nothing left.

David Ames  46:02  
There's nowhere to go. Yeah. Yeah. That ultimately leads me to the next question. I talked to you before we got on Mike about, is there a daylight between the concept of deconstruction, and deconversion. And usually, when I use the term deconversion, I mean, the letting go of faith of any kind of recognizing that it's basically the natural world is what we have. And I guess the point for me was the last two things I held on to the bitter end, where the concept of a soul and the resurrection, and when I realized that I had no reason no evidences no reliable reasons to hold on to those any longer. That was the thing that I was just done. At that point. I wasn't interested in going and exploring other religious traditions, I wasn't looking at other sects of Christianity. I was just done. And I'm curious if you think that most people deconstruct at some point and then fall off a cliff, or is it possible to just keep keep deconstruction going indefinitely? Sure.

Clint Heacock  47:02  
Well, looking at my example, you know, when I was talking about reading progressive Christians, I was deconstructing I was questioning a lot of things I was my mind was being blown. Like I said, when I when I discovered that Christianity that I was falling was a formulaic religion, that blew my mind. But I was still very much a Christian. However, I jettisoned a tremendous amount of stuff from my past, that I thought was absolutely indispensable. And then I realized was not only not indispensable, it was actually quite damaging, and harmful to my own mental health and the way I lived my life and treated other people, but I was still very much a Christian. So like you said, that's, you could say, That's deconstruction, you're questioning, questioning, questioning. A lot of people do that, and then never leave Christianity, or whatever religion they're a part of. They question things. They jettison things. They don't believe certain things anymore. They might believe different things now, but they still consider themselves a Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, whatever. But like you say that if you're going to define deconversion, as the point where you say, I am no longer a Christian or whatever, I walk away, I'd repudiate the whole thing. I'm not trying to salvage anything. I'm not trying to save anything. Yeah, I am done. That's that's best must be the difference between deconstructing and de converting. And maybe one doesn't always inevitably lead to the other, but it certainly can. For a lot of people that has

David Ames  48:30  
sure I definitely recognize very similar to you. You can say liberalizing, but I'm also fascinated by the Mere Christianity, Christians who say, wow, you know, these little minor doctrinal differences, they don't really matter. You know, it's really about, it's about the cross about the resurrection. But I feel like I did that I went to that edge where I was just hanging on to the resurrection has to be real the way it stated or I agree with Paul, that this is all worthless. We're the most to be pitied. Right. And, and it was when I fell off that cliff where I realized, yeah, that it wasn't true. I thought it was and I was mistaken.

Clint Heacock  49:09  
Well, and one thing we haven't really touched on, it kind of mentioned it with the liberals. But the question of what Bible are you talking about? Because that's a whole huge problem. Yeah, that I'm sure we could get into somewhere else. But, you know, that's one thing that I was struggling with increasingly, because the more I studied the Bible as a scholar, and I finally I did my PhD on the book of Ezekiel. And one of the things I discovered about Ezekiel was, of course, there was the big debates as to the scholarship of Ezekiel that you need to write the book, blah, blah, blah. And I realized no, it was it was compiled from a bunch of different sources, and that that's the consensus of most scholarship, but certainly in the Old Testament, and there's a lot of questions about the New Testament. And that led me to think, Okay, this fundamentalist conservative view of the Bible, and therefore the interpretations that are drawn from that view of the Bible. Will cannot possibly be consistent, because the text doesn't support that it really doesn't. Scholarship has shown definitively, that is not the case. And there's a lot of questions around the Gospels and the historicity of Jesus. You know, so if you can argue about who Jesus was and what Jesus taught, and we need to recover the true Jesus, which Jesus, right, which gospel? Yes, you know, there's significant discrepancies. One of the things I used to have my students do when I was teaching New Testament, but I would make them study three different passages from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that were parallel passages giving the same account of an event. And I would have them list all the similarities and all the differences between the three. And there was a huge list of discrepancies. And that blew their minds, because they were like, know that they all have to agree they cannot possibly disagree. And I'd say, Well, what do you do with that? Right? Which account is right? Which account is historical? And it's all historically true, but it cannot be because they contradict each other in key details. So who's right which one's correct? You know, there's cognitive dissonance for you. Yeah. So, after that class session, a lady came up to me and said, Are you a Christian? And I said, What do you Why would you say that? The Bible college, just because you're having this question the Bible, and that Christians don't do that. Yeah. So that was her go to answer.

David Ames  51:25  
You know, I often say that my Bible college teachers did their job too well. Hmm. In that, you know, my college experience, at least in the classroom was really good. It was critical thinking it was a bit of textual criticism, it was they didn't take it too far, but a little bit, but they know they would recognize that, yep, the Gospels are anonymous, they are hagiographies, you know, they were acknowledged that much, right. And then the new hand wave about well, it's still authoritative and similar enough. But my point is that they, you know, they conveyed the idea of good exegesis of good study of good hermeneutics interpretation of good, recognizing, you know, what it meant to the off the original author and the original hearers. And when you start to go down that road, and you recognize, as you've said, many books of the Bible are compilations that have multiple authors that have multiple time periods represented, that have multiple theological perspectives that are trying to be a service, you know that when you get to that point where you're just kind of honest with the text itself, that that's what it is, it's very, very hard to then maintain that this is some kind of supernatural developed product as it were

Clint Heacock  52:39  
inspired product. That's the inerrant mistake, free, error free. Look at for example, if you just take a straight reading of the text, you end up with a God in the Old Testament, who commands genocide. Yeah. And he commands laws in the Book of Leviticus and Exodus and other places that are absolutely horrific. We would repudiate them today as human rights violations on all kinds of levels. And so you go wait a minute, if that's the same god of the New Testament, that you're worshipping in a church every Sunday? What about that? Yeah, how can you worship a God who commanded genocide on multiple occasions? And that's the same guy you're singing about and worshiping on a Sunday? What? This doesn't make any sense. And that's just a straight reading of the text. Now, of course, there's a million answers. I studied it myself, the Odyssey, the problem of evil, you know, there's a million reasons why Gods let off the hook. And it's not his fault and blah, blah, blah. But that's bullshit. Yeah, he commanded His people to kill men, women, children, animals, slaughter him without mercy. Yeah, we would condemn that as a war crime today, we sent the Nazis to the gallows for that, for killing millions of Jews in World War Two. And that's just the same scale, maybe not as industrialized the course. But same principle.

David Ames  53:59  
Yeah, for sure. You know, about two years before my deconversion I read through the Bible. And my wife, you know, she'd say, you're angry, why are you angry? At the time, I had no idea why. Now, with hindsight, I recognize I was reading it straight through it all, including the boring parts, including Ezekiel, including the prophets including, and it's horrifying, what it actually says, you know, so if you I always recommend, you know, if you're a believer, read the Bible. Read it. That will make an atheist study. Yeah. The only thing I request is that you see it for what it actually says rather than that's what most people do is they interpret it in light of it for my case, I previously have interpreted all in light of grace, right? Well, God was judgmental because he was bringing the Hebrew people together, you know, needed to keep purity and what have you, but, but when I started to let go of that I took the rose colored glasses off and just I read the text, what does it say? That was devastating. It was absolutely devastating.

Clint Heacock  55:05  
It is. And that was part of my, the shocking journey going through Ezekiel, you know, reading the book from a theological point of view, then I started reading it as a narrative text. That's what blew my mind. It's actually a story about this prophet who's in us in Babylon with these exiles. And he's trying to get through to them and all this. And at one point, God comes to Ezekiel and says, according to text, tomorrow, your wife's going to die, I'm going to kill your wife, and you will not be allowed to mourn for her as a some sort of object lesson to your fellow exiles here in Babylon. And God killed Ezekiel, his wife, and he wasn't allowed to shed a single tear. And that's horrifying. Yeah, if that's true, you know, narrative of historical, whatever. But I mean, that's what the text says, man. What the hell as equal, he was the good guy. That's exactly what he was doing. was obeying. He was doing everything got all the ridiculous things God was telling them to do. And God kills his wife. What kind of a monster is that? The same guy who destroys Job's life or allow Satan to over a cosmic bet with the devil. That job never finds out about? I mean, if that's the God of the Bible, I don't want to have anything to do with that. God, that's what did it for me? Yeah, no way.

David Ames  56:29  
I can definitely relate. I feel like we've done a pretty good job of bashing the Bible and says, I want to turn the corner just a little bit and talk about first of all, like, do you consider yourself an atheist? You pick a term that you identify with? Is there agnostic?

Clint Heacock  56:44  
I'd say I'm more of an agnostic, I think, definitely D converted. Okay, I'm not a Christian. There's no question about that. I don't call myself a Christian. But I'm not sure I have a lot of problems with that. God, like I've been saying, it seems pretty clear. I get passionate when I was talking about Yeah, because I have a lot of questions. If that God exists, the one of the Bible, there's some serious problems, right? I want some answers to those questions, you know, and I'm not getting them. I ain't getting them, you know? And so, I'm not sure if there is a God out there. If the if he does exist, wow, we've got some serious issues to deal with. So I could see the appeal of saying, Yeah, that's probably better off saying it's all made up. And if there's no God, right, I'm an atheist and sack the whole thing off.

David Ames  57:36  
So then I want to use you know, the most generic term that I you know, I often use the word secular to be very generic. I don't necessarily mean atheistic, right, but just not religious. In your life and your quote, unquote, secular life now, how do you find community? What do you find meaningful? How do you experience all?

Clint Heacock  57:58  
I find community Yeah, wherever you can really. It's around shared interests. Ironically, a lot of the things that we did in the church, yeah, music, motorcycles, American football in this country, it was what we call it. I played American football for eight seasons. I coach now, for about the last five years, I've been a coach. So my fellow coaches, the players, the team, that is my I used to say, That's my church. You know, we were we live in North Wales here. We're part of a community of it's a biker club. So we play music, and we have hundreds of people come we do rallies here where I live with bikers from all over the country. I mean, that's community, but it's around shared interests and passions, and, you know, things like that. So that's where I find it. Next, and I, my students, where I teach at the college here in England, I teach carpentry and multi skills to military veterans. And I always end up with some amazing friendships that come out of that, out of the classes that I teach. I keep in touch with people, you know, so it's things that I'm passionate about, I guess.

David Ames  59:05  
Yeah, that's awesome. Can you give me the top three ish books that have been the most meaningful to you through this process or after this process?

Clint Heacock  59:14  
The top one would have to be Robert Lipton's thought reform in the psychology of totalism, which opened my eyes to the whole cult psychology, and then I started relating that to evangelicalism. The second one I think would be take back your life by Janya law college and Madeline Tobias. Okay, which is a very good book about exactly what it says on the tin, you know, yeah, take that's the reconstruction piece, which we never actually talked about, but it's where you start to take back everything that was lost, stolen, smash destroyed from your old self, right? How did how do you do that? The next book, I would have to say now I'm reading with holy terror, Conway and Siegelman. which opened me up to studying the religious right, the rise of the religious right in America, which then led me into studying dominion theology, and which is part of my backstory coming out of Christian education, which is Christian reconstructionism. So those are three of the top books I would recommend.

David Ames  1:00:19  
Excellent. I do recognize we missed a lot of the reconstruction stuff. Do you want to talk about that briefly? Like, what what for you was reconstruction? What do you what would you recommend for people that they're looking for when they are in the process of reconstruction?

Clint Heacock  1:00:34  
The biggest piece of advice, and I've heard this, I asked the same question every time to someone who's Yeah. X religious person, they always say the same thing. They say education is the number one thing, educate yourself. And that's what I've been doing. That's why those books I recommended, were all books that changed my life from a reconstruction point of view, because they helped me to identify areas in my life where I had been controlled and manipulated and was part of that cult psychology. And I was a pawn in a bigger game in a way. And I wasn't seeing it at the time. But now I can look back and actually identify the various tactics that were used on me and many other people in the system. And I know it's true, because I've heard I've heard it from many, many, many, many, many people that say, that's what happened to me. You're describing my experience, right. And that helps me to start to disempower what they did to us and say, Okay, if I can name if I can point my finger to the actual tactic, then I can start to figure out how it affected me psychologically, then I can start to rebuild. And that's the journey I'm really on.

David Ames  1:01:47  
Man, one of the things you just said, there really resonates with me as well. One of the purposes of me doing the podcast is for me, that recognition, when Clint you're telling your story, and I'm just like, Ah, I totally, I totally loved the resume. And like, and, you know, I have guests on that just happens consistently. And then I hear from people who are listeners, and they say, Oh, that person was telling my story. And they all are unique, every story is unique. But there's these brines that just everyone recognizes this. I went through that phase, and that was part of my story.

Clint Heacock  1:02:22  
That's, and that's why the community is a huge piece. So the education is one, finding a supportive community, wherever that is, what we've been saying is that it's critically important, we need community as humans. And it's important if you're coming out of your faith, your religion or a cult, to find a group of supportive people that are, they don't have to be from the same story that you had. But we find that typically, like ex Jehovah's Witnesses, ex Mormons, ex evangelicals, they tend to band together because yeah, they all they all get it. Yeah, you know, they came out of the same destructive cult or whatever. And so yeah, they resonate. And there, they can offer the support that only a person coming out of that particular context can give. And so that's what's really important is to find that community.

David Ames  1:03:13  
Absolutely. I wanted to give you just a minute to plug the work that you're doing, I understand, you've been doing a lot of blog posts on medium, one of which we discussed on seekers and skeptics a bit about the number of different ways that people go through deconstruction, tell us about the work that you're doing these days.

Clint Heacock  1:03:32  
That's true. I've been doing a lot of work, as I was saying, on cult psychology, as well as Christian reconstructionism, dominion theology, the religious rights, so I tend to seek out people on the show that are experts in the field or authors. I've just got an episode coming out with Katherine Stewart, who wrote the book, The Power worshipers just came out in March. And she talks about the rise of Christian nationalism in America and the world really, and I'm chasing down other people to have on the show that are experts in Christian reconstructionism dominion theology, because I find a lot of people don't know much about that. Right? And they're very under informed as to what's actually going on. Again, not just in America, that's the most clear example but we're seeing it in Brazil and other places, where there's alliances with evangelicalism from a political point of view, and their agenda is really quite chilling. They want to establish a theocracy. And it's gonna become like a Handmaid's Tale type thing. And that's really not it's not an overstatement. Actually, quite scary.

David Ames  1:04:39  
You know, and I live in the state so I see Betsy DeVos and you know, that like everything is moving that direction, then what's fascinating to me, it's it's absolutely special pleading. Christianity gets all these perks and but if you were to say, well, mosques should also get money rebuilding or something like no way that's not going to happen. So we have a couple completely abandoned separation of church and state. Exactly.

Clint Heacock  1:05:02  
We have Bible studies led by Ralph drove injured in the White House in Congress weekly. The Congress, they're fine with that Mike Pence drops in absolutely fine. Trump has an evangelical advisory board. And someone said, Well, why doesn't he have a Muslim advisory board? Right? Why does he have a Scientology advisory board? Yeah, they should be in accordance with the terms of religious freedom and religious tolerance in America. Every religion should be equally represented. But why is it only these particular evangelical Dominionists that get to get these Bible studies and all these influences in the Trump administration? So that is affecting legislation right now? Today? They have a vision and they are working to make it happen.

David Ames  1:05:48  
Yeah. And your mind shift podcast? I know. There's a few podcasts out there. They have that name. How do they find your podcast? If they're looking for it?

Clint Heacock  1:05:58  
That's true. Because it's funny. I my wife actually suggest that name. And I kind of didn't realize at the time, there's about three or four. I changed the name, I did all the work. And then I went on there to iTunes, about Oh, my God, there's like four miles. Yeah. What have I done? Then for a minute there? I thought I might be in trouble. That's like copyright issue. Nobody said anything. So I'm kind of playing it safe. But yeah, if you look for my name, basically, I'm the only one that has Dr. Clint, hey, click on it. You'll find me there. That's me. The other ones tend to be like education podcasts, and there's one from a church. So I thought that was kind of interesting. Maybe they'll end up listening to a sermon, and think that it's me. Don't get the wrong mindset podcast. That's your head. You think what's this guy's he's preaching a sermon all of a sudden?

David Ames  1:06:54  
Well, I just wanted to thank you for being on the podcast. And we talked briefly about still having kind of a pastor's heart and really, still acting that out. I hear that in you, I hear that in your work. It's very clear that you care about people. That's what this podcast is all about is how do we care about people more? I think the work that you're doing helping people to recognize the cultic nature of their previous faith is really, really important. Thank you so much for being on the show and sharing all that wisdom with us.

Clint Heacock  1:07:25  
Yeah, thank you so much, David, for being a great host. I want to have you as a guest on mine ship podcast. So we need to talk about how we can make that happen to

David Ames  1:07:34  
that sounds great.

Final thoughts on the episode, there were so much resonance between Clinton I think we have very similar experiences and very similar perspectives on the post religious life and how we connect with one another how we maintain the human needs in community was just a great conversation to have with him. I thought the conversation about the potential difference between deconstruction and deconversion was really interesting. I know I sometimes come across as the stronger atheist. And it's important for me to remember that deconstruction is definitely a part of that process. I'm very much interested in meeting people where they are at, and not necessarily having them conform to what I think they should be thinking. So wherever you are in your deconstruction or reconstruction, I hope you'll listen to the podcast and enjoy it. I'm also fascinated by the work that Clint is doing and specifically the people that he has interviewed in the expertise of cults, the overlap of evangelicalism and cultic, like practices is fascinating. And as Clint himself said, it's not to say that all of evangelicalism is a cult, but there are practices which can be more or less cultic, and manipulative. recognizing those manipulations is important. I highly recommend that you check out the mind shift podcast and in particular, some of those episodes that focus on the ways in which cults manipulate people and see if you recognize some of those things from your faith tradition. Clint really touched on something when you remove yourself from the context, he said psychologically and physically. That's when you're able to get some space to start critically thinking, and that critical thinking may lead to deconstruction. And finally, I think his best advice was get yourself educated. Knowledge is really the key when we are in the bubble. And depending on how high demand the religious tradition you were a part of, there may be many resources or sources of information that were not allowed that were verboten, and now there are no restrictions. I highly recommend that you read everything read the Bible read apology. As I read atheists read everyone and come to your own conclusions, the entire point is that now, you are free to seek information and interpret it in light of reality, rather than in light of a body of dogmatic tradition. I want to thank Clint for being on the podcast and for sharing his heart for people. Again, I resonated so much with him being kind of a former ex pastor or ex teacher, at least of wanting so badly to convey the right things. And then ultimately, that being a part of what led to our own deconstructions in my case, full blown deconversion. Thank you, Clint, for the work that you do, and I hope that everyone will go out and listen to the mind shift podcast, I will have links in the show notes for that. I hope you will stay tuned. I have a number of exciting episodes coming up. I've already done the interviews. I'm really excited about them. One is Amy Logan of the ex Mormon ology podcast. Another is Richard Swan, who is the director of the London City voices. If you haven't heard of them, you got to check this out on YouTube. It is amazing the community that he has built, they sing pop songs and choir. And then they go out to the pub afterwards and hang out with each other. It's amazing the community that he's building there, stay tuned for those episodes coming up shortly. And as Clint hinted at the end of the episode, I will be joining him on his podcast we've already done that interview, and that will be released in the next few weeks. Until then, as always, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me in being graceful human beings. Time for some footnotes. The song has a track called waves by mkhaya beats, please check out her music links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to help support the podcast, here are the ways you can go about that. First help promote it. Podcast audience grows it by word of mouth. If you found it useful or just entertaining, please pass it on to your friends and family. post about it on social media so that others can find it. Please rate and review the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. This will help raise the visibility of our show. Join me on the podcast. Tell your story. Have you gone through a faith transition? You want to tell that to the world? Let me know and let's have you on? Do you know someone who needs to tell their story? Let them know. Do you have criticisms about atheism or humanism, but you're willing to have an honesty contest with me? Come on the show. If you have a book or a blog that you want to promote, I'd like to hear from you. Also, you can contribute technical support. If you are good at graphic design, sound engineering or marketing? Please let me know and I'll let you know how you can participate. And finally financial support. There will be a link on the show notes to allow contributions which would help defray the cost of producing the show. If you want to get in touch with me you can google graceful atheist where you can send email to graceful You can tweet at me at graceful atheist or you can just check out my website at graceful Get in touch and let me know if you appreciate the podcast. Well this has been the graceful atheist podcast My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheists. Grab somebody you love and tell them how much they mean to you.

This has been the graceful atheist podcast

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Janice Selbie: Divorcing Religion

Adverse Religious Experiences, Atheism, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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My guest this week is Janice Selbie. Janice is a Registered Professional Counselor (RPC) in Canada helping people through religious trauma syndrome. Janice is the director of the Conference on Religious Trauma. Janice’s personal story of fundamentalism, tragedy and eventual freedom is inspiringly and honestly told on the episode.

Was it possible that everything I had believed had been wrong?

CORT2020 is sponsored by the Secular Therapy Project (a division of Recovering from Religion) and by Journey Free, which is Dr. Marlene Winell’s organization.

Use the discount code GA036  for $60 off a standard ticket.

Janice also provides a workshop called “Divorcing Religion” using the analogy of divorce to help people out of fundamentalist religion.

It might take a tragedy (or more than one) to shake you loose from your cognitive dissonance.

This episode is another in the series of mental health professionals who specialize in religious trauma, religious abuse and the emerging term Adverse Religious Experiences.

Book Recommendations

Janice’s “extimony” has recently been featured in a compilation book called Daring to Share: Deception to Truth:


Conference on Religious Trauma


Secular Therapy Project

Journey Free


Series on Adverse Religious Experiences

Send in a voice message

Support the podcast


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Brian Peck: Room To Thrive

Adverse Religious Experiences, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Post Theism, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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My guest today is Brian Peck. He is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who specializes in religious-based trauma in his private practice and who helps guide individuals through their deconversions with evidence-based practices online. His practice is called Room to thrive and Brian describes it as “secular therapy for human well being.” It is trauma-informed therapy and coaching.

Brian has had a huge impact on me and my thinking. It was a great pleasure to get to pick his brain. You can hear me learning in real-time during our discussion.

If you have survived trauma (of any sort), your nervous system did exactly what it needed to do to survive.

This episode is another in an ongoing series of mental health professionals who specialize in religious trauma, religious abuse and the emerging term Adverse Religious Experiences.

We humans need community to survive.


Room To Thrive



Viral “Trauma is not your fault (period)” post

How and Why We Believe


I quote Brian in my article on the Steps of Deconversion

Adverse Religious Experiences series

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Laura Anderson: Adverse Religious Experiences and Religious Trauma

Adverse Religious Experiences, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Podcast, Religious Abuse, Religious Trauma
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My guest is Laura Anderson. We discuss religious abuse, religious trauma and the difference between them.

Abuse is the thing that happened to you.
Trauma is the experience that your body or nervous system has as a response to the thing that happened to you.

Laura is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Tennessee, a Professor of Psychology and an Approved Supervisor through the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). She has a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and is in the final stages of completing my completing her Ph.D. in Mind-BodyMedicine at Saybrook University. Laura specializes in complex trauma, religious trauma, religious abuse, and purity culture.

Laura has developed a manual for mental health professionals on Adverse Religious Experiences and Religious Trauma which is available on her website. This is a resource for both mental health professionals and those who have experienced adverse religious experiences themselves. Use the discount code: RELIGIOUSTRAUMA15 for $15 off the price of the manual.

This episode is another in an on going series of mental health professionals who specialize in religious trauma, religious abuse and the emerging term Adverse Religious Experiences.






On the show, I mention my writing on the steps of deconversion and “doubling down” that can be found here:

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Brady Hardin: The Life After

Atheism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, Deconversion, Humanism, LGBTQ+, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma
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My guest today is Brady Hardin. Brady is the co-host and creator of the Life After Podcast. Brady’s story of deconstruction is a painful one. He dedicated his life to ministry at 14. He discovered he was gay, was honest about it and committed to never acting on it. He got married to a woman. He was doing everything “right,” everything that was expected of him.

My biggest “sin” was to believe that the Holy Spirit actually changes people from the inside out and makes them more like God.

Then he got divorced (you have to listen to understand why), was kicked out of ministry, lost his best friend and had his son taken away. He described himself as “God’s only forgotten son.” This was where his deconstruction started.

Why am I the only one trying to do the Holy Spirit’s work for the Holy Spirit? He needs to do something. The ball is in his court.

Today Brady is an openly gay man, a humanist and a deconstruction super star. You can find him on the Life After podcast, on Twitter and Facebook helping others through the deconstruction and deconversion process. Brady is dedicated to raising awareness of Spiritual Abuse, Religious Trauma, and Indoctrination.

I can gaslight myself to be even more indoctrinated or I can take a second, get my head above water and realize: my logic has been drowning this whole time because I have been putting conclusions before evidence and trying to shove these narratives into real life instead of observing what is actually there and working off of that.

In the episode, Brady breaks down how narratives affect our lives. The Evangelical narrative is restrictive and repressive. But we can choose our narratives: a narrative of freedom, self-expression and inspiration.

[Narratives are] what we are using now, with honesty, as atheists and with responsibility to tell our own stories.




Community group:

The Life After


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Karen: Deconversion Therapy

Atheism, Deconversion, Podcast, Podcasters, Religious Trauma
Click to play on

My guest today is Karen, the co-host and creator of the Deconversion Therapy Podcast. Karen is a comedian, a writer, and now a podcast host. She grew up attending Evangelical schools from grade school to Bible college.

Everyone is good at something. I was good at being a Christian.

Karen was so dedicated to Christianity she became a missionary with YWAM. After attending DTS, she and her husband moved to Thailand.

With hindsight what I got called to was adventure, meaning, purpose, travel and helping people.

Honest laughter from the Thai women she was working with shook Karen up enough to recognize maybe they were fine without her Western Jesus after all. Later after reading Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, Karen further deconstructed when she discovered the premise of her missionary work, Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” was not in the original manuscripts.

Karen’s best advice to Christians:

Don’t research. It is bad for your faith.

Along, with her co-host Bonnie, Karen uses humor, sarcasm, self-deprecation and occasional snark to eviscerate the silliness of Evangelicalism. Their podcast is Deconversion Therapy.

We can laugh at this stuff. We are OK.
You can laugh at this. You are going to be OK.


Deconversion Therapy Link Tree:
Facebook Community Group:

Book Recommendation


How To Deconvert In 10ish Easy Steps

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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

Kathleen B. Shannon: Religious Trauma

Adverse Religious Experiences, Podcast, Religious Trauma, Secular Grace, Spirituality
Kathleen B. Shannon on Religious Trauma
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We throw around the term religious trauma but what exactly does the term actually mean?

On today’s show, my guest is Kathleen B. Shannon. Kathleen is a physiotherapist. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington state and a Listened Professional Counselor in North Carolina. I asked Kathleen to be on the show to talk about religious trauma from an expert’s perspective.

What does psychology have to say on the subject and what does she sees in her practice?

We discuss Kathleen’s experience at bible college, religious trauma, outrage exhaustion and what Kathleen calls equanimity.

Kathleen’s advice for those deconstructing:

Find a space that is safe to ask the questions, preferably one where they will not give you the answers.

— Kathleen B. Shannon


Connect with Kathleen B. Shannon:

Shout outs:

I want to give Mandy Nicole (@ThatMandyNicole) credit for coining the term “Prayer Reflex.” Mandy coined the term after the recording of the show but it eloquently describes a feeling I was attempting to articulate in the episode.

Ryan Bell (@ryanjbell) for pointing me to A Great Big World’s song, “Say Something,” as perfectly describing the deconversion experience.


The intro points out that we recorded the conversation with today’s guest, Kathleen B. Shannon, before the passing of Rachel Held Evans on May 4th, 2019. The absence of mention of Rachel and her work would have felt awkward. So, I make a few statements about Rachel’s impact on the world of progressive Christianity and I read a statement from Kathleen about Rachel’s impact on her.

Rachel Held Evans’ family’s Go Fund Me page:


“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

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Kimberly Stover: Losing Religion Recovery

Bloggers, Deconversion, Podcast, Secular Grace, Spirituality
Kimberly Stover
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On today’s episode my guest is Kimberly Stover. Kimberly works in the space of losing religion recovery. She describes this process as having three phases:

Reflect, Recover then Rise

Kimberly and I discuss religious trauma syndrome, the #EmptyThePews movement, how narcissism relates to Evangelicalism and rising up out of recovery. On Kimberly’s site she has resources for those in the process of losing their religion. If you are in the process of losing your religion, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to Kimberly and the resources she has available.


Kimberly’s book recommendation:

Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion by Dr. Marlene Winell

“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats

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