In this episode, I dive into the topic of religious exclusivity and cult-like doctrines. My special guest is Joseph Magestro, author of the book Ask an Atheist: What You Should Know When Discussing God and Religion. In this book, Joe describes himself as “just an average person – your average atheist” who enjoys “discussing religion with numerous individuals and being a resource for anyone who wishes to open their mind to something new.” But Joe’s backstory is not so average, and he has a fascinating personal story to tell. When Joe was a Christian believer, he was involved in Iglesia ni Cristo (or “Church of Christ”), a fundamentalist, cult-like Christian church whose members claim to be exclusively the only true Christians. The church has a small presence in the US and elsewhere, but they are historically and currently based in the Philippines, where it was founded in 1914 by Felix Malano.
In my discussion with Joe on this episode, we discuss what life is like inside the church, how he became involved with it initially, some of the scandals and controversies that have put the church in the news, and what chain of events and thought processes led him to abandon the church and abandon religious belief altogether to become the atheist activist he is today.
Joe Magestro’s book “Ask an Atheist: What You Should Know When Discussing God & Religion”: https://tinyurl.com/yacc94f5
Milwaukee Humanists on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MKEHumanists/
Joe Magestro on the “Real Life Beyond Faith” podcast: https://reallifebeyondfaith.podbean.com/e/ep-25-joe-magestro-ex-cult-member/
Robert R. Reed, “The Iglesia ni Cristo, 1914-2000: From Obscure Philippine Faith to Global Belief System,” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde(Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania) 157, no. 3 (2001): 561-608. https://tinyurl.com/yd6h8n3t.
Eric Rankin, “Philippines-based church has ‘means and motivation’ to kill refugee if returned: IRB,” CBC News, January 25, 2018, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/refugee-philippines-church-lowell-menorca-1.4502614
ABS-CBN News, “Timeline: Iglesia ni Cristo in Crisis,” http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/08/28/15/timeline-iglesia-ni-cristo-crisis.
INC Kids’ music video “Always Submit to the Church Administration,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nmYOQIidqo
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The opening clip is an excerpt from the audiobook “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Hachette Audio. Text Copyright 2007 by Christopher Hitchens. Audio production copyright 2007, Hachette Audio. Used with permission.
The opening and ending music is “Jade” by Esther Nicholson and is used under license.
In this episode, we are doubting the historical existence of a man you may have heard about: Jesus of Nazareth. Ever since critical biblical scholarship began in the eighteenth century, largely a product of the Enlightenment, the consensus among mainstream historians and religious scholars has been that a man named Jesus did historically exist in Palestine and was crucified by the Romans in the first decades of the Common Era. Although these biblical critics did doubt and challenge the reality of the New Testament’s portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker and divinely appointed savior, they did think – or, more precisely, assume – that there was a real man named Jesus upon whom theological legends were later based. But there has always been another school of thought. The mythicists argued that not only was the Christ of faith a theological fantasy, but the Jesus of history was also a fiction. Jesus, said the mythicist scholars, never even existed historically.
Eastern mysticism clashes with rural America in this episode, as we recount a tale of religious bigotry, government paranoia, bombings, wiretapping, poisonings, assassination attempts, and airplane chases. I am joined by my good friend and patron the show Chris Watson, host of The Podunk Polymath Podcast, to review and discuss the six-part Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country. The series chronicles the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, the once-thriving city established in 1981 in central Oregon by the Indian guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers.
In this episode, we explore the topic of fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) within the context of the moral panic and cultural stigmatization that surrounded games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. My special guest is Joseph Laycock, PhD, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University and the author of three books, including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds. He has also written a book about vampire mythology and the communities that form around them and several journal articles on subjects which include Otherkin, parody religions, and paranormal beliefs.
My guest for this episode is Carly Gelsinger, author, writing teacher, and freelance editor. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from William Jessup University and a master’s in journalism from Boston University. Her work has appeared in local, regional, and national publications. Her first book, which was released this month, is called Once You Go In: A Memoir of Radical Faith, a book about her life inside a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, where she was on fire for the Lord, as they say, until she found the courage to leave and forge her own path free of the toxicity and fear that fundamentalist religion so often breeds.
In this episode, there is plenty for us to doubt, because we’re talking about philosophy of mind with some moral and ethical philosophy thrown in like sprinkles on top. In what may well become a recurring theme on this podcast, we’re doing another philosophical deep-dive into a television series. This week, we’re analyzing HBO’s Westworld, a cerebral, high-concept series which explores the emergence of artificial consciousness in a theme park modeled after the American Old West and populated by highly sophisticated robots that look and act just like humans from that era.