028 Forest Lipford - Part 2: Forced to Leave Ireland. Comes Out Atheist to His Parents on Skype. He's Given an Ultimatum. Life Opens Up!

Forest 2.jpg

"If our morality comes from God, if our moral compass comes from a benevolent God, then why when I read the Bible do I have so many problems with the way he behaves" 

Forest Lipford

In talking with Forest, it struck me how much he endured.

He gets kicked out of the mission trip group he was with and sent home from Ireland. He was battling mental health issues and subsequently would lose his faith. His ability to continue in college depended on his parents, who were paying for it. Forest makes the brave decision to tell his parents that he's no longer Christian.  His dad gives him an ultimatum.

Forest's life opens up. He's enriched and becomes his true self.


Forest-Silvus Stanley Lipford

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028 Forest Lipford - Part 1: Childhood Prophecy, a Cult-like Pastor & the Murder of a Family Friend. He Chooses Intellectual Dishonesty and Endures Mental Health Issues.


"This is the reality that's been taught to me my whole life. You question that, you question everything you think you know. It was hard to do, it was hard to even process"

Forest Lipford

Forest grew up in North Carolina going to a charismatic church. A leadership change in his home church brings a new pastor who begins to express some cult-like tendencies.

When Forest's parents became interested in missionary work, the family moved to Iraq where he attended school around age 12. A friend close to Forest's family is murdered.

Forest comes to a point where he says he "chose intellectual dishonesty". This choice results in some big behavior changes in Forest. Family and friends start to take notice.

When Forest is in Ireland for a mission, it's revealed to those in leadership that he has been showing signs of self harm and an eating disorder.

I want to thank Forest for being willing to be so open about an experience in his life that was incredibly difficult.

Forest's story is fascinating and he was so articulate and reflective about his journey. He was a wonderful guest! 

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027 David Ames - Part 2: Tells His Christian Wife He's Not a Christian. A History of Doubt. The Basis for Atheist Morality. Forming Community.


"The humanist part of me recognizes now that life is finite. It is that much more precious. My relationship with my wife and my daughters is of the greatest importance in the cosmos. There is nothing more important to me than she is and my daughters are"

David Ames
Graceful Atheist

In Part 2 of my conversation with David, he shares the moment he realized he was no longer a Christian. He also shares the painstaking process of telling his wife (who is still a Christian today) that he was no longer a Christian. 

David discusses finding comfort in the history of doubt and secular thinking throughout history. He also explains his thoughts on the basis of morality as an atheist.

It was a wonderful conversation!

Twitter: @GracefulAtheist



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027 David Ames - Part 1: Jesus Tells His Mother to Stop Drinking. Her Dramatic Conversion Impacts David. Grace Was Foundational as a Christian. Became a Youth Minister. He's Now the Graceful Atheist.



"What do I believe in? I believe in people. I believe in people over ideology".

David Ames
Graceful Atheist

Jesus tells David's mother to stop drinking. Her struggles with addiction ended when she dramatically converted to Christianity. This had a major influence on David's faith.  

He approached his faith with authenticity, but soon found he was in the minority amongst friends. He learned that others approached their Christianity in different ways.

David eventually enters the ministry, before burning out and distancing himself from church activities. 

When David reads something from Greta Christina, it's the final straw. 
After 20 years of Christianity his faith broke down in 2015. 

He respects and cares for those who remain in their faith. David is interested in finding evidence based truth. He want's to discover and communicate the subtleties of why some believe, some do not and some change their minds.




@GracefulAtheist on Twitter

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026 Dr. Irene Haralabatos - Greek Orthodox Dad & German Lutheran Mom. Rational from a Young Age. A Childhood Search for Chocolate Leads to a Discovery that Unravels Two Big Mysteries


"There are other people who feel the way you do. There are thousands and thousands and thousands. Even if you live in a religious community. There's no reason to feel like you're alone...at all"

Dr. Irene Haralabatos

Dr. Haralabatos considers herself an atheist and a secular humanist.

Her mom was Lutheran and her dad was Greek Orthodox. However, while she was growing up her family attended a Methodist church every Sunday.

She was very rational from a young age and remembers questioning stories in the Bible like Noah's Ark. 

One day, as a young girl she was searching for some chocolate. What she ended up discovering would unravel some big mysteries.

Dr. Haralabatos had some great advice on how to respond and relate to Christians when they ask us to pray for them. As a physician, she's occasionally been asked to pray when delivering difficult news to her patients. 

Dr. Haralabatos received her MD from Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine and served her residency in internal medicine at Parkland Memorial Hospital. She completed her fellowship training in Allergy and Immunology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She is Board Certified in Allergy and Immunology. 


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025 Gerardo Romero - Part 2: Surprises His Catholic Parents-Tells Them He's Agnostic. They Respond in an Unexpected Way. Catholic Gerardo vs. Skeptic Gerardo. It's Awesome Raising Kids as a Skeptic!

"Religion is a ball-and-chain for your mind. Being able to actually get out is something that deserves a great deal of respect"

Gerardo Romero

In part 2 of my interview with Gerardo, he tells his parents he's agnostic. He was not expecting their surprising response. 

I absolutely love his quote (which I used at the beginning of the episode) where he talks about something he experiences now, that he would not have as a catholic. His answer is the experience of raising his kid. Awaking his child's mind. Love that!

He makes some great references to Interstellar and The Matrix in our conversation. He also compares his catholic-self with his skeptic-self. 

He's got a great personality and was a lively and entertaining guest. I had a great time interviewing him.

Support Masa Critica Here!






Atheists of Columbia:







Dan Barker's Book - Losing Faith in Faith:



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025 Gerardo Romero - Part 1: Raised a Liberal Catholic and Now a Libertarian Atheist. He Discusses His Journey and the Changing Religious Landscape of Mexico. He Hosts the Masa Critica Podcast.

Gerardo Romero.jpg

"When I started deconverting. I didn't think my parents were going to be very against it. Oh man, I was in for a surprise"

Gerardo Romero

Gerardo was a lot of fun to talk with and an outgoing, friendly guy. He's energetic and a straight shooter.

Raised a liberal catholic, he made the transition to libertarian atheist later in life. A unique deconversion journey for sure. He shared with me his unique journey and his thoughts on politics and the changing religious landscape in Mexico.

He was part of Ateos Mexicanos, but the group has been less active of late. He currently has a weekly podcast, Masa Critica. It airs on Spreaker every Tuesday at 10:30pm, Central Standard Time. For our Spanish speaking listeners, definitely give it a listen!  

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024 Naked Pastor-David Hayward - Part 2


"I appreciate the fact that I was where I was at the time. It's helped make me who I am today. It's part of my shadow past. I'm going to embrace that because it's a part of my story"

David Hayward

The second half of my conversation with David is just as good as the first!

David describes how the events in his life all came together in what felt to him like a perfect storm. He was a mess, numb and in shock after leaving his ministry of 30 years!

He talks about what got him in trouble with the church before he left. He has some great insight into the sense of purpose a minister feels in church, then how difficult it is to find that same purpose outside the church. 

Another insight I loved were his comments on having compassion for our former Christian selves. The result of this is extending that compassion to those around us. A positive and wonderful message!

This journey, although difficult, was exciting. It was like being a pioneer who's finding his own way.





Lawrence O'Donnell Losing His Mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYqsY50tUv4

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024 Naked Pastor-David Hayward - Part 1


"It was kinda like a Jenga block tower. The block at the very bottom for me was the Bible. When that book started removing that Jenga block, everything came down"

David Hayward

Naked Pastor.jpg

David Hayward of nakedpastor.com has a wonderful story!

He's turned his difficult experience into a way of helping others who are going through a similar struggle (e.g. helping ex-clergy re-do their resume after leaving ministry).

He was baptized Anglican as a baby, came to faith in a Baptist church when he was a teenager, changed to Pentecostal in his late teens, married another Pentecostal named Lisa, was ordained Presbyterian, pastored a Vineyard church, went Independent, and planted others.

He has a Masters in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as a Diploma in Religious Studies and Ministry from McGill University in Montreal.

In 2010 he left the professional paid clergy after almost 30 years of ministry. 

He started the blog called nakedpastor in 2006, and initiated his public undressing of religion, religious community and spirituality through writings, art and cartoons. Thousands of people are challenged and entertained by nakedpastor every day.

In 2012, he launched The Lasting Supper, an online resource site and community for spiritually independent people to help themselves find companionship and support for their spiritual journeys. 

His art, cartoons, writings, and books have found their way all around the world.

He lives with his wife Lisa on the beautiful Kennebecasis River near Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. They have 3 grown children. And a dog, Sophie.


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023 Darren Garvin - Part 2


"Find a way to be who you are as an atheist and not some preconceived notion of what an atheist is"

Darren Garvin

Darren picks up the story where we left off in Part 1. He is invited to preach a sermon at a Christian church! The response of the congregation is unexpected. 

As Darren continues to reach out to various religious leaders in his area, he finds that doing this changes him.

This interview has a very positive message and is a great example of how to keep dialogue and civility alive between groups of people with opposing points of view.  

Darren's Sermon:

Darren's Resource:



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023 Darren Garvin - Part 1


"I didn't want to lose my faith. I didn't want anyone to talk me out of it. Part of me was ashamed I was even having these thoughts"

Darren Garvin

Darren's family would sing in front of his Assemblies of God church in a Partridge Family-style singing group. When Darren got into his twenties, he enjoyed them and made a conscious effort to delay a serious commitment to Christ until later.

As planned, he commits to Christ in his late twenties. He starts teaching at a Christian school. When doubts begin, he feels ashamed. The turning point is when he publicly chooses to NOT help lead his students to Christ.

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022 Anthos of The Brighter Light Podcast


"There are great people in all walks of life. I met some of the best people, that I never would've met if I was under the strict thumb of the Jehovah's Witnesses"


Anthos is a laid-back guy with a great sense of humor, but he's also brutally honest about the teachings of his former cult, Jehovah's Witnesses.

As a young child he knocked on doors to spread the good news about Jehovah and paradise (spoiler alert...you get a pet Lion!). 

In adulthood he's disfellowshipped, but this drives him back to the faith and getting his life back together. Later in life, when his kids are grown he decides to research his church's teachings. He finds that it's B.S., but now what does he believe in?

We also discuss petting Pandas, short haired Jesus and The System! 

He's a great guy with insightful answers and some great takeaways at the end.

The Brighter Light Podcast:
#BLP or just look up Brighter Light Podcast

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021 Krissy Hilliker - Part 2


"Once I was able to let it go, the world made a lot more sense"

Krissy Hilliker

In Part 2 of Krissy's story, she explains what made her re-think her family planning decision. She begins to question our marriage and thinks she may have married the wrong man. 

Krissy's empathy is ultimately what led her away from Christianity. She discusses the issues that troubled her most and how she became an atheist.



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021 Krissy Hilliker - Part 1



 "I had so much guilt and shame I really did believe that if I had behaved differently it wouldn't have happened to me. I really started to think, I have to turn my life over to God"



Krissy Hilliker

Krissy and I became close friends in our early teen years. That was over 20 years ago! We've now been married for 16 years. In this episode, Krissy shares how as a child she felt quite vulnerable, lonely and afraid. When problems came up in her life, she responded by trying to be a better Christian. She trusted God in every area of her life. She looked to God to find purpose in her suffering. She is now an atheist.

020 Gerardo Rivera


"Speak out for the people who cannot speak out. So if you can come out as an atheist or if you're able to be more open about it, do so"

Gerardo Rivera

Gerardo Rivera is an atheist undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, where he pursues a B.A. in Chemistry. He is the founder and current President of Secular Humanist Association UPRM, a student group for young atheists, agnostics and all the secular community at the university. The group is the only one of its kind in all of Puerto Rico's public university system and it works closely with Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico, the leading secular organization on the island. Gerardo's activism focuses mostly in bringing attention to the increasing amount of violations to the Separation of Church and State in the island's government and guiding the development of more secular student groups in other Puerto Rico universities. He has a passion for science and philosophy, and believes deeply in equal rights for all under law. 



Hemant Mehta: 


Pascal's Wager:


Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, by David Hume:

God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins &
God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens:


Secular Humanist Association UPRM:


Humanistas Seculares de Puerto Rico:

Atheists of Puerto Rico:

Gerardo Miguel Rivera:


019 Sarah Brennan - Part 2


"The church teaches that your heart is where evil desires come from. I think that's just a lie. Sometimes we do have to follow our hearts and sometimes we do have to be true to ourselves. It doesn't mean that it's wrong"

Sarah Brennan

In part 2 of my conversation with Sarah, she discusses rebuilding her community and her life. She had lived with her husband for 10 years and it was everything she'd ever known.

Her mom and a close friend have strong reactions when she comes out. 

Finally, Sarah goes before a panel of pastors at her church where she served as a pastor. She uses the Bible to argue in favor of living an openly gay lifestyle.

Such a wonderful story!

Sarah's Resource: Dear John, I Love Jane

Skype: sarahmbrennan13

Email: sarahmbrennan13@gmail.com

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019 Sarah Brennan - Part 1


"In life there isn't always an answer, there isn't always something to explain. Sometimes you just sit there and it's hard, and things are broken and you just have to kind of sit-in-there and wait for time to heal it."

-Sarah Brennan

Sarah has such a moving story!  Growing up she knew she was gay. Her parents and church discouraged her feelings, so Sarah grew to hate it in herself. She believed it was a choice and eventually married a man.

Years later her feelings are awakened again. Her father leaves the church and encourages Sarah to accept herself. Sarah begins to fall in love with a woman. Sarah's best friend also offers encouragement. Simultaneously she leaves the church and her straight lifestyle behind. 

Sarah has so many wonderful things to say, but this quote (above) from her interview is really touching and one of my favorites.

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018 Stephen Barry - Part 2


"Keep asking questions. It's ok to ask yourself what you want out of life, out of your experience. It's ok to not know, to not have all the answers or know exactly where you stand"


-Stephen Barry 

This is the second half of my conversation with Stephen Barry. We pick up after he had an argument with his mother and decided to run away from home. Later in the episode Stephen discusses how he grew frustrated with God and when he prayed his last prayer. Stephen also tells the story of coming out atheist to his mom. He shares his thoughts on coming out to his mom a second time and one of his favorite quotes about "owning your truth". His song "Live for Life", which I share in the introduction, can be found along with his other music at https://barryorchestra.bandcamp.com

Stephen's Resources:

Everyone's Agnostic Podcast
with Cass Midgley and Dr. Bob Pondillo

Angels and Airwaves: The Revelator

@barryorchestra https://twitter.com/barryorchestra




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018 Stephen Barry - Part 1

"It was legit. I accepted it. I believed it. I would pray to God and I tried to see God as my friend"

-Stephen Barry

Stephen is from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was raised by a hardworking and devout Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) mother. His father was military, which meant he moved a lot growing up. He was mostly homeschooled and around the age of 12 his parents divorced.

He was a committed Christian even as a young child. As young as 8 years old he was waking up at 4 and 5 in the morning to pray and read his Bible!!

He eventually goes to study theology at a SDA college. He subsequently experiences some difficulties with his mother at home and decides to run away.

Stephen grew to love music and has now created some fantastic music of his own! It's unique and a lot of fun to listen to. Check it out:


Don't miss part 2 of my interview with Stephen. He explains his deconversion and discusses coming-out in more ways than one.  

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017 Steve Hilliker - Part 2: Re-Thinking the Bible, My Denial Ends & Identity Crisis Begins. I Tell My Devout Christian Mother I'm an Atheist


"This was my plan B and now this was gone, in an instant. The moment you said that was the moment I realized my faith had ended"

-Steve Hilliker

In part two of my story, I learn of different ways Christians interpret the Bible. Discussing these views with my wife results in a comment she makes, snapping me out of denial. 

My identity crisis begins and I struggle to come to terms with my new reality. I eventually decide I'm an atheist, but everyone else thinks I'm a strong Christian still planning to be a pastor.

I can't live a lie any longer and decide to tell my devout Christian mother I'm an atheist.




https://twitter.com/vodpodcast (@vodpodcast)

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