Today, we bring you two guests: One is a follow-up interview with former guest of the show on episode 108, Marie. But before that Dave Warnock and Cass Midgley talk with Mark Russell about his book, “God is Disappointed in You.”
Marie was a hard-core YWAMmer, an extremely devout Christian and her deconversion was long and difficult. It was around 10 years ago and she’s still recovering. Her deconversion came about because she started asking why certain things were true. Well, if you keep asking why we do things, you’re liable to unearth some social norms that are just not very grounded in logic, but rather tradition, or even fear, or just deeply ingrained social patterns. My talk with Marie is primarily about her and husband’s exploration into what she calls Ethical Non-monogamy. also known as Polyamory. She is extremely honest and transparent and cusses like a sailor. This is good talk. But, before Marie, we’re going to feature Mark Russell, author of the comedic slightly sardonic book about the Bible titled, God is Disappointed in You. He also writes the comic book series Prez and The Flintstones for DC Comics. I start with a presentation Mark gives at Comicon where he summarizes the entire Bible, alpha to omega, in 15 minutes. He’s in front of a live audience and uses a Powerpoint presentation so some of the humor is lost on us, in this audio medium, but it’s still a lot of fun. Then Dave Warnock and I interview Mark in Portland, OR via Skype for about 30 minutes. Then we get into Marie’s open marriage. My beloved cohost Bob Pondillo was not involved in either of these interviews, but he’s back for next week’s episode in which we interview Corinna Nicolau, who’s kind of the opposite of our typical guest. She was raised completely secular but wondered what she’d missed out on and set out to search for meaning the top 4 world religions. Her experience is expressed in her book, “A None’s Story: Searching for Meaning Inside Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.” That’s next week’s episode.
I want to talk about compartmentalization and love. Compartmentalization is a subconscious psychological defense mechanism used for the purpose of avoiding cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. I’m going to borrowing some of the thoughts I found in an article called, “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of a Man’s Ability to Compartmentalize,” on a blog called SGM for Single Black Male. But I’m also talking about how people raised in Christianity have some highly developed compartmentalization skills. One of the purposes that religions serve is to help people not think about scary things–to compartmentalize such thoughts. Death being the most daunting thought known to humankind, Christianity creates a narrative that literally enables a person to say, “death, where is your sting?” Everlasting life. Immortality. Done. Christians also have to compartmentalize eternal torture of their fellow humans. Those who concede that they believe in a literal hell have to compartmentalize that entire concept in order to not spend every minute of every day running around warning people. After that’s what a good, moral person would do if they were conscious of its reality. This is why hell-fire preachers on the street are good people–they’re deceived, but at least they’re acting on those deceptions. They are loving you. As our the Westboro Baptist people. They just aren’t as good as compartmentalizing as Christians who aren’t warning you about Hell. I think it was Penn Jillette who said, “How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Eternal bliss and eternal torment hang in the balance. If compartmentalization requires some mental maneuvering, imagine how much mental contorting is going on in the brain of one of your loved ones who believe in eternal life, know you’re going to the bad end of it, and have to sit through lunch with you? It’s no wonder that relationships are broken when we deconvert. It’s just too much for our believing friends and family to deal with. They may even take your photos down in their house, because just seeing you makes their hearts and minds wince in pain.
Okay, now some completely secular thoughts on compartmentalization. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a good thing to use for work environments. Say for example, your going through something difficult in your personal life. You would do well to compartmentalize that stuff as you walk into work. It’s just not the place for it. If you’re a car salesman, you need to be upbeat, positive, energetic in order to sell cars. If you’re personal life sucks, you better figure out how to flip that switch. In fact, we all know that if you are unable to gather your composure, in other words, the thing you should be compartmentalizing is just too big for your mind to fit into that compartment, you should just stay at home. The inverse of this is true: if work is stressing you out, you should not take that out on your partner and/or your children or friends. Compartmentalize that shit. It stinks. It kinda comes down to knowing the appropriate time and place for things.
Which brings us to some ways in which compartmentalization can be a bad thing. Think back to Shanna’s episode, #174. She pointed out that humans have two needs that are often in conflict: the need to be genuine and the need to belong to the tribe. If forced to choose between the two, survivors will always choose the tribe, even if it means sacrificing their authenticity. They’re forced to Compartmentalize their true self and put on whatever mask or persona they know will keep their fellow tribespeople accepting them into the tribe. This is where Compartmentalization is utilized to make you into a disingenuous person. If you do this long enough, you can forget who you are. Your true self is miles and years in your rear view mirror and if and when you ever decide to get real, it can feel like a long way back. However, it’s really not. It’s hard to believe, but you can begin being true, genuine, honest, and authentic at the drop of a hat. What makes it feel difficult or even impossible is when we try to know ourselves by going within–by introspection. I recommend last week’s monologue on episode 179 to better understand this paradox. Anyway, the solution to not having to choose b/w authenticity and belonging is find a tribe that accepts you just as you are, so you can have both. In fact, true friends and lovers will know when you’re using your car salesman skills on them rather than just letting your down and will likely be hurt by your distrust of their open acceptance. They’ve created a safe space for you to be true and you’re still putting on airs. That’s rough. That’s painful…for everyone, and can ruin otherwise good, healthy relationships if your Compartmentalization habits are on auto-pilot and you are emotionally unavailable to those really need you, it’s going to strain those relationships. Those grooves in your brain can grow deep. Good thing neuroplasticity can change those old habits.
Another example of bad compartmentalization is if you’re watching TV knowing that you’ve got a paper due tomorrow (and you’re able to enjoy yourself) then you’re compartmentalizing. Procrastinating is easy when you can put what you’re supposed to be doing in a box that you don’t have to look at.
Without going into it, the ugliest manifestations of toxic compartmentalization are infidelity and sociopathy. You can probably imagine how that happens.
In summary, bad Compartmentalization is when it’s coming from a place of fear. Good Compartmentalize is coming from love. Love for that couple buying a car, the family waiting for you at home, and the community of friends that love you enough to call you if you bring that car salesman posing into that intimate space. A healthy adult is in control of their life in ways that uses Compartmentalization appropriately when it is to their advantage while still operating in love for their fellow humans. As I’ve said for years, “be who you is, cause if you is who you ain’t, you ain’t who you is.” because the world desperately needs all of us to be more honest with ourselves and each other.
I taped the conversation with Marie back on October 16th, 2017, and we taped the conversation with Mark Russell on November 5th, 2017. We interview people you don’t know, about a subject no one wants to talk about. We hope to encourage people in the process of deconstructing their faith and help curb the loneliness that accompanies it. We think the world is a better place when more people live by sight, not by faith. Please subscribe to our podcast, and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode or more through Patreon; that’s www.patreon.com/eapodcast, or leave a lump-sum donation through PayPal at our website, www.everyonesagnostic.com. The smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.
Credits:”Towering Mountain of Ignorance” intro by Hank Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v3S82TuxU Intro bumper “Never Know” by Jack JohnsonThe segue music on this episode is recorded by Sam Maher on a handpan in the NY City subway.
The article on Compartmentalization I reference, “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of a Man’s Ability to Compartmentalize.”