#011: From Religious Cult Member to Atheist Activist (feat. Joe Magestro) | A Leap of Doubt

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.

Links:

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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Consider supporting me Patreon if you enjoy the show: patreon.com/aleapofdoubt. Thanks to Jeff Prebeg, Jeanne Ikerd, Torsten Pihl, and Chris Watson for being my patrons!

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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.

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I am a freelance writer and podcaster. I attended Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, where I majored in Journalism. My interests are many and diverse; they include investigative reporting, science, philosophy, history, and pop culture analysis. My motivation in writing and podcasting is to contribute what I can to the promotion of critical thinking among the public. My goal is to use my journalism training to be active in the secular humanist movement, helping more people come to an appreciation of philosophy and history, and analyzing dubious but popularly-believed claims involving the supernatural, the paranormal and religion.
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