The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E23: “Fix This NOW!”

On our last podcast, we asked a similar question: “What now?” as we came back from a brief hiatus only to face an America fracturing faster and faster because so many problems are coming at us all at once – inflation, gun violence, abortion, immigration, corruption and war in Ukraine. And that’s all in the public sphere.

Even the best multi-tasker would have to admit – it’s really, really hard to solve multiple problems all at the same time. While, in real life, we do have to sort through and solve multiple problems at once, here in podcast, we can do what we like. We can attempt to solve one problem at a time.

What one problem sits atop the heap? Which one is the “Yertle the Turtle” of problems? And how might we deal with Yertl?

So, the question is: which of America’s problems do Randy and Alan each think is THE problem to start solving first? Is it inflation? Is it gun violence? Is it abortion? Is it immigration? Is it corruption? Is it religious freedom? Is it social media? There are so many possible culprits, it’s like a murder mystery!And, in a sense, it is? What killed American comity? What made our divisions so extreme and the Rubicon between us so seemingly un-crossable? What made winning the argument so important?

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E23: “Fix This NOW!”

Or, if you’d like to watch –

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E23: “Fix It NOW!”

The Faitheism Project Podcast, S2E22: “What NOW?”

After a brief hiatus, Randy and I wanted to come back with something light, fun – an episode called “Guilty Pleasures”. We’ll get there. But, we came back into a world that didn’t feel terribly light or fun. Against a backdrop of persistent bad news – or news that riled the nation – The Supreme Court made some very key decisions before finishing its work for the session. The country’s still reverberating, alternately celebrating and seething. That can’t be good for anyone…

We know that politics is a tough topic to put on the table. It’s right up there with religion for explosive potential. What Randy and I are learning to do through this podcast is to have the kind of civil conversations we used to be better at (collectively). Among political topics, few are as flashpoint ready as abortion. It’s the picture definition of “loaded”. One can’t even define one’s terms without starting an argument.

But, here we are regardless. Is it possible to talk about one topic – like, say, abortion – apart from any or all other topics? Is it possible to solve one problem without connecting it to others? Is it possible to solve one problem while creating a myriad of new ones – albeit unintentionally?

Hey, the Fourth of July is coming – you want fireworks, you got fireworks! The trick is – and it’s really what our podcast is about – is what to do after all the fireworks go off and the smell of gunpowder hangs heavy in the air. These are trying times with trying problems. The goal is keep talking to each other despite our differences.

How do you think we did?

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E22: “What Now?”

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The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E21: “It’s Getting Old”

No one’s ever said that getting old was the best thing they ever did.

The truth is, you do know more – lots more. That’s got potential. If one had the time one has at the start of one’s life with the perspective one’s gained at the end of one’s life, why, there’d no end to the great things one could do in this world. Alas, Life does not work that way.

Few things drive home how mortal we are than looking after an aging parent. For starters, there’s the whole role reversal thing of the former child now looking after their parent because their parent has now arrived at what Shakespeare called “second childhood”. As I just experienced – this is Alan writing here – having just spent two weeks visiting with and looking after an aged parent (while the sibling who usually does it was away) – an aged parent is a preview of an aged self.

That can be disconcerting. Good thing I’ve got a friend like Randy to talk about it with. Dying is one of those clubs we’re all going to join, like it or not. But that commonality is a great starting point for understanding each other. Few things are as heart-poundingly real to us as the end of everything – our everything.

As conversations do, this one goes some unexpected places. In particular, we talk about traveling with cannabis – as I “muled” a couple of heavy duty THC containing edibles and tinctures from California for my mom. I also travel with my own stash – cannabis is an important part of my mental health regime; I mean that sincerely. So, we talk – in very practical terms – about traveling with cannabis.

Enjoy. Just, whatever you do, don’t Bogart that joint.

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E21 “It’s Getting Old”

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The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E20: “Fight Or Flight”

In our last podcast (S2E19), we talked about our moral compasses – how to keep them properly calibrated in such morally challenging times. Randy and I came to the conclusion that, in essence, America now has two different moral compasses at work. That might explain why so many of us feel poised at the edge of our “flight or flight” response most of the time. It’s not “flight” we’re struggling with. We’ve lost interest in it.

Fight’s our game these days. For better but often worse.

How have we gotten so belligerent, all of us? So ready to fight? And are we fighting “our own” battles to begin with?

This is tricky ground because it describes one of the very real fundamental differences between Randy and I. Randy believes outsiders to a situation (like Uvalde, Texas) should stay outside because they don’t really know how that place works. I acknowledge that, yes, there are differences between, say, life in Los Angeles and life in Uvalde but the similarities far outweigh the differences.

This is one of those conversations that puts our whole podcast’s premise to the test. Can Randy and I “go there” and still hear each other? Can we disagree civilly?

There are fireworks in this one. And a very good, intense conversation. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed – or left on the sidelines!

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E20: “Fight Or Flight”

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The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E19: “Ye Olde Moral Compass Repair Shoppe”

We hope this isn’t a revelation (or a Book of Revelation): these are incredibly challenging times. Between all the various wars – and forms of war – being fought all around the globe and all around our quotidien lives – it would be easy to back into a corner defensively or strike out wildly or  shut down completely. It’s hard enough figuring out what’s the best thing to do in even one of these situations. What if we aspire not so much to do the “best” thing (after all, what is our metric for “best”?) but the most right thing? The most moral?

Sometimes the most moral choice doesn’t look like the “best” choice. The moral choice is often the hardest. The least fun. How can that make anything “best”?

As we all know, harder than living with others is living with ourselves when we’re not happy with ourselves. Good thing most of us have a handy-dandy moral compass inside of us (hopefully it’s turned on) to help navigate these tricky shoals. 

So, where does the term “moral compass” even come from? Turns out in 1824, an anonymous English author (a self-defined deist), writing in Essays on the Universal Analogy between the Natural and Spiritual World was the first to use “moral compass” in his essay “Parallel between Magnetism and Electricity, Natural and Spiritual”.

“He perceives that the centre between these two extremes or poles, is this divine truth, ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ He then sees that the meridian of his moral compass from east to west is the true line of religion, at right angles to that of morality.”

As we’ll discuss in this episode, though the term “moral compass” has a religious origin, one does not  need to have religion or be religious to have a moral compass inside of them. 

What does it mean to have a “moral compass”? How does it impact us? How does it guide  us? How does it show us the way? 

But, what if you look to your hand (to where your compass usually sits) and you see either yours is missing or it’s there but, clearly, it isn’t working right. What good is a moral compass that can’t guide you?

And, can a simple gadget really deliver the perspective necessary to be a good person?

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E19: “Ye Olde Moral Compass Repair Shoppe”

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Photo 100972312 / Moral Compass © Marek Uliasz | Dreamstime.com

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E18: “Food, Glorious Food!”

If the point of the exercise is to start a conversation with someone who – on paper anyway – you shouldn’t be capable of conversing with, no subject makes starting a conversation any easier than talking about food. Everyone eats. We have that in common no matter what. Even if we hate what we eat – that’s something to talk about and, chances are, if you hate what you eat, that’s something you’re dying to talk about. Sitting together and eating – dining perhaps! – that is so fundamental to the experience of being here and being human. Because, regardless of whether or not the food is good, any meal improves markedly if the conversation sparkles.

And then, when we talk about food itself? Food is memory. Food is ritual. Food is habit and adventure. Food is sensual. Food is addicting. Food is Life.

And food is stories. Man-oh-man, is food stories. Randy has traveled his whole life. It’s entirely possible that, aside from Antarctica, he’s hit literally every continent. That means he’s eaten on them. And, as I point out during our conversation, a lot of the places on those continents Randy visited (and lived in) didn’t have anything in the way of refrigeration. Food, while necessary, always carried risk. And rewards! These aren’t all just “I ate something I shouldn’t have and got sick” stories.

There are stories here about, well, “food, glorious food” – not merely good meals we’ve had but great ones! We’ll talk Tongkatsu Ramen and Marmite, Old Bay Seasoning and Mushy Peas, Mind-blowing shrimp-n-grits and chicken sushi. Yeah – chicken sushi. There’s an honest-to-goodness chicken sushi story.

So, pull up a seat. Can we get you a drink? Sure hope you’re hungry…! Of course, before we start – “The Missionary’s Prayer”: “Lord, if I can get it down, please keep it down”.

The Faitheism Project Podcast, S2E18: “Food, Glorious Food!”

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…

The Faitheism Project Podcast, S2E18: “Food, Glorious, Food!”

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E17: “A Few Words About Words”

On paper, Randy and I should be a train wreck of a relationship. In part, that should be because we have nothing in common. That’s not the case of course; this podcast is the weekly proof that Randy and I have way, way more in common than we do otherwise. This episode is more fuel to that fire. Both Randy and I are heavily reliant on words to get our work done. The better both of us are with words, the better we’ll both do. 

In a sense, we’re both storytellers. I’m more blatant. Randy’s mission is to create a magnificent, grand narrative in which potential believers see themselves. The basis for all of our storytelling is words. Turns out yet another thing Randy and I share is an absolute passion for the them. We both love words. Well, what we really love is language. And both of us feel a strange connection to our “mother tongue”, English. But other languages do come into our love of words.

Never mind whole thoughts! Let’s get cozy with words themselves. What words do we like or love? Are there words that we don’t love – or even hate? For me, language touches something primal. I am compelled to convey not just my immediate needs via words but huge ideas. And yet, as I stare up with awe at the cosmos – feeling my spirituality humming inside me – I’m often wordless.

Good thing, once I turn back to thinking about words, a million come rushing to my mind.  A much better way to start a conversation…

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E17: “A Few Words About Words”

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The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E16: “5 Mantras”

Does this sound familiar? A rival does something. You top it – and a song lyric breezes through your mind: “Anything you can do, I can do better!” Or someone predictably gets what’s coming to them and Freddie Mercury singing the title line from Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust!” pops into your head. Are there lines from a poem that occur to you regularly – not just because you like it because it always seems so incredibly apt in so many moments. And so you find yourself saying it repeatedly. Like a mantra.

Words to live by. That’s really what we mean here. Can we think of five “mantras” – lifted from poems, song lyrics, books, movies or wherever mantras come from – that really do come to mind on a regular basis. Maybe that’s the wrong question… maybe the question should be can we KEEP it to just 5 mantras?

This episode really and truly goes pretty much everywhere – in the best way possible. By the time we’re done, Randy and I will touch on Robert Frost, TS Eliot, Andrew Marvell, Groucho Marx, Beowolf, Walker Percy, The Hobbit, Joni Mitchell and the Old Testament. Yeah – a lot of territory gets covered. We think you’ll enjoy it as much as we enjoyed having the conversation.

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…

Photo 186191735 © Noipornpan | Dreamstime.com

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E15: “God v Consciousness”

We all have (at least one) voice inside our heads. But, even when there’s a chorus involved, one voice will alpha all the others. That would be our “me”. The voice we think of as ourselves. It’s the person we address in the bathroom mirror – the “us” behind our eyeballs that only we ever get to see. Who – or what – is that creature? Is that really “us”? They sure seem to think they are. Is that voice our literal consciousness? Is it our literal conscience? Or, is it just some “humble narrator” there to narrate our story to no one in particular? Is that voice God?

The absolute truth is, we don’t understand yet how consciousness works – or what it even really is. We don’t know where memories go when we’re not remembering them. Sure, sure, they return to their previous format inside our brains but what does that even mean? Is consciousness a subset of free will or is free will a subset of consciousness? The difference is important?

Our perceptions – of Life, of God, of how we’re perceived – all bubble from the same synaptic soup inside our heads.

This conversation – as most do – goes some unexpected places. But then, consider the nature of the questions we’re asking: how does a believer-in-God describe the ‘voice of God’ to an atheist who doesn’t believe there is a God (so how can he have a voice)? We talk about how consciousness and conscience can get tangled in depression. As depression robs its victims of perspective (convincing them the world really is the teeny-tiny, hopeless space the depression wants them to think it is), one’s conscience and consciousness can both be weaponized against them.

Our consciousness can also be weaponized against others. One of the dangers of monotheism is that it can put the “voice of God” inside someone’s head. We’ve seen evidence of what can happen when their version of God is angry at the rest of us. For good measure, there are a few televangelists who clearly don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God. Talking to YOU, Kenneth Copeland!

Our conscience and our consciousness are where we start today. Who or what’s in control of us?

Or, if you’d prefer to watch…

The Faitheism Project Podcast S2E14: “It’s Opposite Day!”

On paper, this whole podcast series either shouldn’t exist or should be a lot more combative than it ever gets. Mostly. That’s how opposite Randy and I appear – on paper.

As this atheist has said here a few times before, Randy and I were social friends for a year before I knew he preached for a living. Opposites must attract because, conceptually, that made him “sexier” if you will. Knowing Randy was that different from me made it imperative that I get to know him better than I did. That started a series of lunches and conversations and books we agreed to read together and friends joining in occasionally, and more laughter and insight than should be legal. But I have always kept to my side of the aisle while Randy has kept to his.

That ends today with this podcast.

Okay, what if Presbyterian pastor Randy had to pitch atheism… could he do it (the pitch has to be genuine – you have to believe what you’re selling)? How about Alan? Could this “dropped from the womb an atheist” atheist make Christian faith appealing? That’s today’s podcast challenge. Alan the Atheist will step to the pulpit and Reverend Randy will tell you why unfaith is the way to go.

But, first, we’ll talk a little LA… LA is a city of opposites. It’s sun-shiny most of the year but, at the same time, there’s a pervasive darkness about the place. There’s a reason the noir literary genre was invented IN Los Angeles – by writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain – who were trying to wrap their brains around it. People started moving to Los Angeles because of the bright, healthy weather. So, where did all the corruption that’s haunted LA forever come from?

Turns out? Both Randy and I have distinctly opposite feelings about Los Angeles and about living here. Let’s start there…

We’ll have the YouTube version up shortly…