057 Firing God author Cheryl Abram. Family of Ministers & Church 6 Days a Week. Tells God to F*** Off

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“It’s in that state of openness, of willingness to learn something else that really amazing things can happen. If I would’ve stayed Christian I never would’ve experienced that”

-Cheryl Abram

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl Abram. 

She's author of the book Firing God. Check it out on her website: https://www.cherylabram.com/about

So many great stories in this episode! We hear how her southern Louisiana family is chalk full of deacons and ministers. She attended Church 6-days a week! As things get more difficult later in life, she finds herself giving God one-last go. Her pastor gives her a book to read. What she reads in that book causes her to tell God to F*** Off.

On a lighter note, she cracked me up with her story of watching Christopher Hitchens debates secretly in her room. So awesome & so hilarious! 

At the end of our conversation she elaborates on the meaning behind the title, Firing God. I loved her explanation so much. It was such an empowering idea. I trust you'll love it too.

056 Joy Unspeakable: Toxic Faith and Rose-Colored Glasses. Joy Hopper's Memoir

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“I got my own agency back. I can make decisions not based on what I think God wants or needs from me, but what is it that I want and need”

-Joy Hopper

What a Journey!

Joy was 3 when separated from her siblings and family of origin. It happened without warning. Her foster family were fundamentalist Christians in Idaho. 

She grew up in the church and had mostly a positive experience. She got lots of attention and love in church. As a child her feet get run over by a lawnmower. She believes God can heal her and goes in front of the church to be healed.

Later in life she marries, becomes a missionary in Taiwan and raises 6 kids in the church. When one of her daughters returns from a trip to Europe her views have changed, and Joy noticed!

As a Christian mother, Joy is very unsettled by her daughter's new views. However, down the road when Joy begins to research and question her own beliefs, her daughter is excited to hear about it!

Joy eventually sits down with all her children to share her new views. Her message to her children is unconditional love and support, no matter what they choose to believe for themselves.

Joy Hopper's memoir is called Joy Unspeakable: Toxic Faith and Rose-Colored Glasses. You can find it in paperback or Kindle. 

https://www.amazon.com/Joy-Unspeakable-Hopper/dp/1640824456

055 Cass Midgley: Everyone's Agnostic Podcast Host/Oklahoma Born/Christianity Gave Purpose & Hope/Earns Masters in Theology at Vanderbilt as an Atheist

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“My pursuit of love took me to Christianity and it took me past it. Most people would admit that one of the most powerful things about Christianity is not God, it’s community”

-Cass Midgley, creator of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast.

Today I finally had the privilege to meet Cass Midgley!

His podcast (Everyone's Agnostic) was the first podcast I found that shared deconversion stories. This has been so encouraging to me through the years and played a big role in helping me process my deconversion.

He's an open book and a straight shooter. The longer you listen to Cass, the more you'll discover an incredibly insightful, compassionate and generous human being. 

Cass Midgley earned his Masters in Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University in 2013…as an atheist. Cass started the Everyone's Agnostic podcast in 2014 with friend and former co-host Bob Pondillo. Everyone's Agnostic podcast now has over half a million downloads! 

As a boy, Cass knew there was a God; the two were close, personal friends.  Born and raised in Oklahoma, Cass walked right into Christianity. Christianity gave him a great life: purpose, friends, community, hope, etc.  

In 2004, at age 38, he left the church and began thinking and reading things he would not allow himself to while a Christian. 

When not uniting the deconvert community, Cass also enjoys his daily crossword puzzle, watching college basketball, and drinking cheap gin & tonic with lots of lime. Cass is also a Humanist Chaplain who officiates non-religious weddings and funerals for all genders and orientations. 

http://www.everyonesagnostic.com/home.html

054 April Choi: Korean Immigrant/Seminary Student/Teacher in Georgia Public Schools/Eyes Opened by Church History.

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“A belief can hurt other people. When you establish that you are right and then you don’t have any boundaries, that’s when you start hurting other people”

-April Choi

Loved this conversation! 

What a fascinating and unique experience. April has so many wonderful stories to share.

Some highlights: Her parents immigration from Korea, the origin of their Christianity, Korean superstitions and what it was like to be raised Presbyterian. She's forced to speak in tongues as a child. She later decides to go to Seminary and is a youth pastor for several years.

She experiences regular stress, sickness and depression as a Christian. Church history opens her eyes. When she stops going to church, her sickness stops and her liberation begins!

She taught in Georgia Public Schools for 24 years. She loves to travel and also spends time helping new immigrants to America get registered to vote (so awesome!)

053 Stars from Streetlights: Musicians Austrian & Steve Discuss Deconversion & Their New Song "Heathen"

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“What if we live for today. What if we stop searching for the only way”

-Stars from Streetlights, “Heathen”

Today we hear from Austrian Graf and Steve Birss of Lethbridge, Alberta. They discuss their new song "Heathen" and share their diverse journeys out of charismatic Christianity. 

Each was raised by a single mom. However, their mothers influenced them in very unique ways. 

We talk about the Jesus movement, leg lengthening, calvinism and Christian tattoos. We hear about the impact of drug dealing and jail, overcoming an eating disorder and healing from trauma. 

A wonderful and positive takeaway-learning that we have the power within ourselves to overcome life's difficulties. Another great takeaway- learning to repurpose and redefine our experience. Last but not least-being gracious to ourselves.

https://www.facebook.com/starsfromstreetlights/

https://www.spotify.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFCgvHkALH_ek1cnoEe--Bg



052 Dr. Dauv Evans: Emancipation of a Black Atheist. Author D.K. Evans Shares His Journey out of Christianity

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“It’s your personal journey and you are the authority of that. Take it by the reigns. Do what you gotta do. Do all the research and do it fearlessly”

-Dauv Evans

Today I have the privilege of speaking with author Dauv Evans. Dauv shares his journey out of Christianity and we discuss his book "Emancipation of a Black Atheist". 

2012 was a decisive year for Dauv. He got married, had a child and moved from North Carolina to Tennessee. This is also when Dauv started seriously questioning why he believed in God.  

His mother always taught him to think critically when he was growing up. This value instilled in childhood became pivotal to his journey. When Dauv tells his mother he's not a Christian, she initially responds predictably. It's only later that he discovers her feelings were much more complicated. 

Dauv's wife becomes an ex-Christian too (still considering herself spiritual). They decide to share the news with her family. Dauv's family and his wife's family have various intriguing responses. Their experience will resonate with anyone who has come-out ex-Christian to Christian family members.  

Instagram:
blacknoneson

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/blacknoneson

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/emancipationofablackatheist/

Email:
blacknoneson@gmail.com

051 Leah Nitcher: Fundamentalist to Atheist-Back & Forth. Mental Health Battle (she's a fighter). Giving God an Ultimatum.

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“Even when it seems like you’re losing everyone. There are other people out there that are going to support you. Church is not the only place that has a life for you.”

-Leah Nitcher

This is an incredible story! 

Leah's life reaches a turning point in April 2018. Raised in fundamentalist Christianity, she is intensely aware of the threat of hell and the rapture as a little girl. At one point, she thought her family was raptured and she was left behind! This terrified her.

As she moves into high school she begins to ask some unwelcome questions and makes some controversial statements in church. (She compares Osama Bin-Laden and Jesus!) This leads to her first bout of atheism. 

Although her theology becomes more progressive, she finds herself sucked back into a very fundamentalist church group. At this point, mental health struggles reach a critical point. 

*Trigger warning re: abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) and suicide from about the 50 min. mark to 1hr. 5min.

I loved hearing how Leah eventually turned a corner. As she put it, "I started to get better the moment I stepped away from Christianity".

Hearing about her experience was powerful and inspiring.

Instagram: olive.poetry

lmnitcher@gmail.com

https://www.marlenewinell.net

050 Andrew Jasko: Minister Prepping for Missions to India/Bible Caused Mental Distress/Quits Ministry/Starts Over as an Atheist.

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“View religion from the perspective of psychological well being. Is this good for people? Is this good for me? Or does it promote things that are toxic to my psychological welfare”

-Andrew Jasko

Studying for a doctorate in clinical psychology, Andrew is now an atheist. Not long ago, he was a Pentecostal minister (Master of Divinity from Princeton Seminary) with a certain calling to be a missionary in India. What changed?

In graduate school, Andrew realizes he must address some mental health issues. The Bible's teachings were causing psychological distress. His experience of religion as trauma is very common and such important an important issue!

His journey takes him from minister and missionary-to-be, to psychedelics and Burning Man. His dream is to help people heal from religion and dogmatic ideologies.

He offers private coaching, speaks at events, facilitates workshops and blogs at http://lifeafterdogma.org



049 Gary Hogue: Endures Homelessness, Jail and Tragedy. An Ex-Mormon's Inspiring Story!

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“It’s going to not feel good for a while, but it gets so much better on the other side”

-Gary Hogue

Gary was born in Utah and raised a Mormon. He even dreamt of Joseph Smith at 4 years old! Gary had a strict upbringing. He also moved around the country a lot growing up.

Just after High School he ends up married and has a son. Soon Gary finds himself homeless, then in jail and later he endures a heart wrenching tragedy.  

Gary's story is truly inspirational! He has endured some incredibly difficult circumstances in life. He is now an atheist ex-Mormon and doing great!

gary@garyhogue.com

Instagram: 
little_gary_comic 

Resources:

No Man Knows My Herstory, Two women examining the way the church controls aspects of sexuality, individualism and other areas of our lives: https://www.nomanknowsmyherstory.com/

Year of Polygamy, Stories from the perspectiveof the wives in Mormon polygamy from the beginning through the present: https://www.yearofpolygamy.com/

Mormon Stories, Interviews with people from all stages of mormonism, believing, questioning, progressive, non-believing... and their stories: https://www.mormonstories.org/

Celestial Sex, Two guys with a goal of normalizing talking about sex, specifically from a mormon perspective: http://celestialsex.libsyn.com/

Infants on Thrones: http://infantsonthrones.com/

Mormon Expressions: http://johnlarsen.org/mormon-expression/

Radio Free Mormon: https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/tag/radio-free-mormon/

048 Richard of Tales from the Church: Satanic Panic, Indoctrinating Kids and Being Raised Southern Baptist with a Pentecostal Twist

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“Religious indoctrination hurts kids. You really should leave your kid a blank slate and let them write on that whatever they need to. You should let your children be free to be themselves”

-Richard

Richard describes his deconversion as more of a realization. I loved that description.

We get into so many awesome topics in this interview. We discuss everything from the Satanic Panic of the 1980's to the harm done when children are indoctrinated. 

Richard has always loved music. He talks about growing up listening to artists like Marilyn Manson & Nine Inch Nails and how this clashed with his mother's views. We talk about travel, teaching special education and mental health too. 

Check out Richard's new YouTube channel: Tales from the Church https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiqHic5KZlTZHLxnySukujQ

Twitter: @ChurchTales https://twitter.com/ChurchTales

talesfromthechurch@gmail.com

047 Objectively Dan: Methodist Raised, He Loved Camp Ministry. Wanted Good Reasons to Believe. He Encounters Street Epistemology!

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"I didn't jump into atheism head first. I came kicking and screaming"

-Objectively Dan

Dan has a fascinating story!

Here's a video of Dan when he was a Christian and his faith is challenged through street epistemology: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpwxM2wNChE

Dan is from Texas and was raised Methodist growing up (later attending a Baptist church). Dan loved the church community and really lived out his faith. Camp ministry was particularly enjoyable for him. 

Dan sought out good reasons to back up his faith. It's this journey that leads to atheism. When he tells his parents of these new views, things go over much worse than anticipated.

Dan is now part of the Secular Student Alliance at Baylor University. He also has a great Youtube channel, which you can subscribe to here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCabcNd5rdI-FlHW6ecXQvLQ/featured

He is now host of the show, Truth Wanted. This is a call-in show about getting to the bottom of beliefs. Be sure to follow the show on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/229569754409166/

Twitter: @ObjectivelyDan

046 Nicki: Grew up Charismatic & Loved It! Learns to Read People. She Rebels, Then Returns. Her Mom's a Prophet. Doubts Persist, Atheism Follows.

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"Vulnerability is the key to life"

-Nicki

Nicki's story has so many twists and turns, I absolutely loved it! This episode flies by.

Her Dad saw Jesus in the passenger seat of his truck. Her mom became a prophet. Nicki learns to read people, crack eggs on their heads and help women become pregnant through prayer.

She goes to beauty school and rebels, then become's the prodigal child. She meets the perfect Christian husband and starts a family. 

When doubts persist, she seeks out life-changing counseling. The fallout is significant. As an ex-Christian, Nicki finds her friendships are incredibly important.

045 Christine Goodrich: Forsaking Faith Co-Host. Raised Charismatic is Now Atheist. She Sought God and Felt Guilt. Her Mom was an Evangelist.

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"My guilt as a Christian came from the feeling that I didn't know like everybody else knew. I didn't feel that faith like everybody else did"

-Christine Goodrich

What a great conversation!

At a young age Christine's family moved from New York to Oklahoma, so her mom could train to be an evangelist at Oral Roberts University. Her childhood memories include, nearly memorizing the movie Jesus of Nazareth and road trips to see evangelists Benny Hinn and R.W. Schambach!

Despite being saturated in charismatic Christianity, Christine struggled with guilt from, as she put it "not feeling it, like other Christians felt it". Nevertheless, Christine sought God with all her heart.

She is now an atheist and started the brand new podcast, Forsaking Faith with her friend Heather Bailey (hear Heather's story in episode 041) 

http://voicesofdeconversion.com/home/2018/5/26/041-heather-bailey-forsaking-faith-podcast-co-host-from-dancing-charismatic-to-agnostic). 

The theme of friendship, specifically genuine friendship with Christians, is an important part of Christine's story. This kindness expressed by both Christine and Heather carries over into their podcast. 

Forsaking Faith is a much needed podcast, so check it out and tell a friend :)

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/forsaking-faith

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/forsakingfaith/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SecularHangouts @SecularHangouts

https://twitter.com/ForsakingFaith @forsakingfaith

The Happiness Hypothesis:

https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Hypothesis-Finding-Modern-Ancient/dp/0465028020

 

044 Eva Quinones: President of Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico who Sued the Government for Separation of Church and State. She's a Humanist Agnostic-Atheist

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"The United States is bigger than its Presidents"

-Eva Quinones

I had such a great time talking with Eva!

Our interview has a different flow than most episodes, but it's a nice change of pace. We discuss a variety of topics: How people on the island are still recovering from hurricane Maria, politics in Puerto Rico and some awesome work being done by Secular Humanists of Puerto Rico. 

Additionally, she shares some exciting news about freethinkers in South America! There was a first ever conference and Dan Barker (you'll remember him from episode 001 of the podcast) was one of the featured speakers.

We touch on Eva's path to Humanist Agnostic-Atheism about halfway through. Eva tells some great stories and has a great sense of humor. 

http://www.humanistaspr.org

https://twitter.com/HumanistasPR

@EvaSecularista

043 Ric Caliolio: Baptized Roman Catholic. Loves Science. Trades Fatalism for Self-Determination as an Agnostic-Atheist

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"It's not religion that's bad, it's religious thinking "

-Ric Caliolio

Ric was born and raised in the Philippines. He was baptized as an infant into the Roman Catholic church. Ric teaches me about Anticipated Mass and how malls in the Philippines host Catholic Mass! 

Ric loved biology and evolution from a young age. We discuss the different ways catholics and evangelicals view science. A big life lesson that Ric gained in deconversion was leaving the fatalistic thinking of a christian and learning self-determination. This is a HUGE part of so many of our deconversions, mine included! It's an amazing moment when you realize that you're in control and don't need to have "Jesus take the wheel" (as Ric jokingly noted).

https://www.riccalioliojr.com

http://filipinofreethinkers.org

http://iheu.org

VICE Article: 
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3k7jx8/too-many-atheists-are-veering-dangerously-toward-the-alt-right

 

042 LA & T: Pastor of 26 Yrs. Deconverts & Church Leaders Follow! His Radio Contract Gets Torn Up. He's a Top 300 Minister. Change Begins in India.

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"Do the best you can do. Be nice and use breath mints"

-LA

This is such a remarkable story...

He's only been out from behind the pulpit for 6 months! He served as a minister for 26 years. This story has so many twists and turns, ups and downs.  

I can't begin to tell you all the fascinating moments LA shares with me today. He's joined by his wife T. They decided to use their nicknames for today's interview.

From a radio contract that seemed promising, to a tearful proclamation that he's been called to be a pastor.

Later in life LA and T experience a terrible loss, but their faith is strong. They encounter the fraudulent leaders of Evangelical America, but their faith persists. LA is even named a top 300 minister in America.

A chance trip to India changes everything! 

You can reach LA & T: Lemrich@mac.com 

Check out LA's blog! www.freshla.me

LA & T were also recently interviewed by Vice News on HBO, December 20, 2018. So exciting! 

041 Heather Bailey: Forsaking Faith Podcast Co-Host. From Dancing Charismatic to Agnostic.

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"Don't be afraid to reach out to people. It really helped me and continues to help me, that I have friends who have deconverted" 

 

-Heather Bailey

Heather is co-host of the upcoming podcast, Forsaking Faith.

She does a wonderful job describing what life was like growing up in a non-denominational church. From being on the church dance team to being taught that her relationship with Christ should be intimate, like a romantic relationship. These things make a big impression on her growing up and make deconversion that much harder down the road.

A succession of events in her life build up. Her final straw is a seemingly average conversation with a woman at her church over lunch. That conversation has an immense impact on Heather. I loved hearing this story because to me, it makes the contrast between Heather's two potential futures so clear. You can sense the power that moment had for Heather, as she shares this story.

She  also shares her feelings on difficult topics, such as death, the concept of a just world and what happened (or didn't) when she stopped praying. 

Feel free to connect with Heather or her co-host Christine:

Twitter:

@ForsakingFaith

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/forsakingfaith/

Email:

forsakingfaith@gmail.com

040 Black Nonbelievers Inc. Founder & President Mandisa Thomas

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"There are others who have been where you are and what you're feeling is ok"

-Mandisa Thomas

Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York, is founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Although never formally raised Christian, she was definitely impacted by the Christianity around her. Her parents were both Black Nationalists, which had a significant impact on her growing up. Mandisa has a unique and fascinating upbringing.

We also get to hear what motivated Mandisa to start Blacknonbelievers and how it became the organization it is today. She shares some thought-provoking statistics about the increasing religiousness amongst black Americans. Finally, she has some wonderful advice for the atheist community at the end of our discussion.

038 Vilmarie Perez: Raised Evangelical. Becoming Less for God Leads to a Serious Problem. Came Out to Her Mother & Was Forced to Move

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"I just remember kind of losing the fear little by little. As I lost the fear I realized I didn't have to be a Christian if I didn't want to, if it wasn't working for me"

Vilmarie Perez

My guest today is Vilmarie Perez.

Her father was a preacher, her step-father a pastor and her aunt had her own church. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she begins to experience some real difficulties in adolescence. 

Her Christian upbringing leads to a desire to become "less" for God and family. She develops an eating disorder. In the next year or two she comes out to her mother and also becomes an atheist. Her mother forces her to move from the States back to Puerto Rico with her father. This is traumatic for Vilmarie, as she leaves behind her friends and the life she knows. 

I was inspired by her story and you will be too!

Jesus Camp (movie) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486358/

Tumblr: ExChristian https://www.tumblr.com/search/exchristian

Secular Student Alliance https://secularstudents.org