Before we get into this week’s episode, a brief word about this week’s events around white-supremacy and the President’s remarks. His insistence on imputing violence on “both sides,” completely misses the point, of course, in that one side’s resistance, however imperfect, has been justified since at least the 1940’s by the historically proven abuse of power and ethnic cleansing agenda of racial supremacy. To no one’s surprise by now, Trump’s insanity at pronouncing both sides equally guilty is, in fact, ludicrous because it equates evil with good—a determination he obviously has no compass, no core, and no soul by which to measure. I do hope that my fellow Americans do not share his oblivion and stupidity. Stand strong resisters; even though they know not what they do, they do not deserve forgiveness, patience, or passivity. That said, we must do more than just punch individuals on the street, we must enlighten whatever hearts and minds are left of those who elected him. Speak out, write blogs, songs, and poetry, vote, talk to friends and family, coerce, convince, and persuade, but please do not think this will go away without some serious social chemotherapy.
Welcome everyone to episode 164 of the Everyone’s Agnostic podcast. I’m Cass Midgley. Today, Dr. Bob Pondillo and I interview Molly UnMormon. Obviously, this is a pseudonym; she’s not entirely out to her friends and family. Molly is a blogger, writer, and poet at Doubting Dogma; that’s doubtingdogmablog.wordpress.com. She lives in south-central Pennsylvania with her husband and two dogs. She served in the Army and continues her career in the civilian sector of the federal service. (yeah, she’s kinda bad-ass) She grew up in Colorado, where she was born and raised in a conservative and devout Mormon home. After several phases of not attending Church and some revealed family secrets, she doubted the truthfulness of the Church. It was another two years before she began doubting the core of her faith and finally wrote her letter of resignation to the Church. In order to deal with the frustrations of lost faith, she began blogging, and later podcasting, about her journey.
Before we get into our talk with Molly, this conversation brought up something for me that I want to emphasize: relationships. Yeah, I’m frustrated at how many relationships are complicated by if not ended by the fact that we no longer adhere to the master narrative of Christianity and how that somehow equates to no longer having enough in common, as humans, to remain in contact or congenial. But the human condition is unavoidably universal and we ALL have the shared experience of trying to find our way in this world, we all get stuck in traffic (as Marlene pointed out last week), we all get sick now and then, we all form opinions about movies, sports, politics, home decor, ice cream flavors, etc. And this brings up for me our ability to compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is a tool that can benefit our lives and diminish it depending how we use it. Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, even personas. For example, Walter White on Breaking Bad was a high school Chemistry teacher and family man while living a double life as meth cook. We all do it. We’re different people around say our grandparents as we are around our intimate friends. We may also know in one part of our brains that Horoscopes are bullshit and yet read them anyway because it rings true and feels good to think the universe really knows me and perhaps has plans laid out for me. compartmentalization can be a tool that makes you a better person in that you’re more engaged with the present moment because you’ve set aside distracting things that are on your mind in order to fully focus on the task at hand. For example, it can be helpful to leave one’s thoughts around one’s job at the office in order to be more present for one’s loved ones at home. This is healthy compartmentalization because you’re not in denial about those other things, you’re just controlling which thoughts you’re going to focus on now, knowing that you will attend to the others later.
On the flip side, we can knowingly or unknowingly use compartmentalization to partition off thoughts that make us uncomfortable. As a Christian, I had to tell myself things like “God knows what he’s doing” to stave off my fear of say my daughter rejecting Jesus and being cast into outer darkness forever while I feasted at the banquet table in Jesus’ throne room. We delay our own maturity when we bury our heads in the sand instead of get honest with ourselves. This too is compartmentalization. A Christian who is a good person at heart, has to compartmentalize a God who commits genocide, eternal torture, and doesn’t intervene in tragic and/or unjust circumstances so that they can sing a worship song to that monster. Or in the context of my concern today for broken relationships due to religion, compartmentalization allows people to choose loyalty to their God–who is both imaginary and evil–over their loyalty to their own family member or friend, who is real and good.
Compartmentalization is how the majority of Evangelicals believe Trump is a good thing for the country…or Pro-Life people are simultaneously pro-Capital Punishment or hawkish when it comes to bombing foreign nations. But when it comes to Christians allowing themselves to come in contact with people who they know hold a contrary belief to their belief–their precious belief that ensures their acceptance into heaven and was purchased by a tortuous beating of their beloved savior god-man and left to die a slow painful death nailed to a cross, they not only want to mentally compartmentalize conflicting thoughts and evidence that casts doubt on their beliefs, they want to compartmentalize us–the people that represent such evidence–out of their lives. Our very presence reminds them of their own doubts. I don’t over flatter ourselves, but I imagine that, in some ways, they envy us. They envy our courage, and those who are more on the margins of their own faith, are probably watching us to see how that works out, taking the path of outright unbelief.
One last note on this subject of compartmentalization: in my personal therapy, I have done some work with dissociative issues. Where parts of me–be they the Cass that experienced something traumatic at a certain age, or the Cass that didn’t get enough affirmation from his father, or the 17 year old Cass who didn’t properly grieve his father’s death and ran into the arms of a beautiful affirming woman to prop up his ego and establish validation and identity vicariously through her, or whatever. The goal of integrating these compartmentalized versions of one’s self is healthy, I think. I’ve benefitted greatly from comforting my fearful, insecure 17 year old self and my 51 year old self welcoming him into the 21st century, to forgiving the Cass that made horrendous public mistakes, to affirming the sexually confused Cass and reversing the damage done by shame and self-hatred. I can attest to the benefits of integrating one’s fractured self, conflicted and divided, actually fighting within one’s self and manifesting in self-sabotage, paranoia, and being a walking contradiction. As an ex-Christian, I welcome my former Christian self into my core rather than deny that I ever believed it, as embarrassing as that may be. And by saying yes to my journey in all it’s hills and valleys, I accept my reality and restore my dignity.
Ironically, when a person remains a compartmentalized person, I think they find comfort in what I’ll call counterfeit integration by, instead of integrating internally, they join a group of people just as compartmentalized as they are. All the members of the group have forfeited their personal agency and so they can feel good about themselves even though they’ve sold their soul up the river. Their doubts can be squelched because all of these people can’t be wrong. Such a group is good at putting on airs and masks and posing as good people, nice and thoughtful, but it’s only because of their deep need for acceptance. You know the difference between someone being kind because they need something and someone being kind because they’re kind, right?
Conversely, when a person integrates within themselves, accepts their self, they don’t have the unhealthy need for safety in numbers and groupthink. They do, however, being human still desire friendships, except now, that they are whole and integrated, they look for relationships with other whole and integrated people–other yes-sayers. A community made up of people who love themselves, who are comfortable in their humanity and unashamed of their flawed, imperfect selves, is FAR more capable and empowered to be honest and real and genuine in their community than a group of compartmentalized, reality-denying, scaredy-cats who are embattled within themselves with self-loathing and disgust of their own humanity.
When ideologies and tenants are canonized as sacred, unquestionable, and static, and then education, research, and science reveal the fallacy of those beliefs, or at least a need to amend, adapt and rethink what we formerly thought, we are either going to discard those former beliefs for the newfound facts we’ve been exposed to, or we’re going to set those beliefs aside in their own compartment of our brains and tote them along as we aspire to be honest people with integrity. We have no other choice. But consider the emotional and mental toll that living with such inner tension might have on your life. No one has perfected this, least of all myself, but I think it’s obvious that they healthiest route and the most moral choice is to try to be an honest person with eyes wide open who holds on very loosely to ideologies and beliefs, who is willing to release them when they prove false and/or no longer serves your higher values. Our hearts and minds cannot help but be freer and happier when we lighten the load by throwing old sentimentalized things away, when we stop being mental hoarders of things we’re afraid to cast aside, when we subject all our compartmentalized beliefs to scrutiny, and retain only that which is true and aligns with our new values that we’ve allowed to evolve by critical thinking, snapping out of denial, and saying yes to what is.
We taped the conversation on July 30th, 2017, and my talk with Peter on August 7th. 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. Our show is available on most podcast platforms. Also, you can support us monetarily in two easy ways: you can pledge one dollar per episode 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 is on this episode are segments from music by Nightwish, a favorite of our guest today.
Thanks for listening and be a yes-sayer to what is.