Why am I here ?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about Why questions? Although it’s often difficult for me to get motivated to write, I do find some element of comfort in putting my words into the ether, if only for me. When I put a date stamp on my thoughts in writing, I’m committing to my personal goal of thinking, reasoning, and self help. My why question today is, Why did I become an Asupernatural Atheist? My why answer may take a while to explain so I’ll start with the first domino.

In reality, my transition to this way of thinking spans decades. I’ve tried to put a date and time an exact moment I had my AhhHaa instant and said, well I’ll be damned, I’m an Atheist. Like so many folks, Atheism came upon me over many many years and during many personal trials and tribulations.

Nearly 28 years ago, professionally and personally, I was on a all time high. I’d graduated late from College (I was nearly 30 at the time and had been going to night school for many years while raising a family), transitioned to my dream job, and was making more money than I thought any human should ever make on this earth. I had three healthy happy kids, a wife who loved me, the respect of my family (both mine and my wifes), and a lake home in southern Indiana. I also had the shared faith in a God from my childhood that my wife and I had instilled in our children. The old me would say I was “Blessed”. I was even asked to say “Grace” at most family get togethers. I exemplified the Catholic Father mystique.

When my wife told me one day she wanted to help her sister have a child, I was perplexed. What does this mean and why would she want to do this? My wife is a kind and decent person at her core who aims to please. Her sister had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Cancer) when in H.S. As such, she didn’t have any eggs with which to bear children. When I look back, this is in reality one of the first times I started questioning my “faith” as it was. How can my wife, who’s super religious go against her faith to help her sister have a child when it’s pretty clear the Catholic Church does not support this? Fast forward many months, my wife has had many many shots to warm up her ovaries for harvesting and I found myself in a position of thinking about my wife’s eggs creating a child with my brother in law…. Kind of a messed up situation isn’t it? I remember at the time thinking, how can I possibly pray for anything here to God when he knows whats going on and doesn’t support it. So, I asked God to let happen what he wanted to happen. In other words, I asked God for “his will to be done”. After multiple attempts at embryo implantation, none took. At the time, I personally saw this as vindication God didn’t want Theresa to have a child. (I also thought he likely didn’t want her to have kids so maybe he gave her cancer in the first place). So my confirmation bias was confirmed. My prayers had been answered. Fast forward a few months, my wife’s sister is now pregnant by a donor egg and ultimately had a little girl. My mind then started wondering if God punished Theresa and my wife because I wasn’t on board with the whole thing and jealousy in my heart toward it all. I talked to folks in my CHRP (Christ Renews His Parish) group about the situation and of course they recommended looking to the bible to find the answers. Let’s just say, I only found more confirmation bias. This incident started my head spinning when it came to religion.

Shortly after trying to help Theresa have a child, my wife and I decided to have a 4th child. Mind you, my wife’s system was loaded up with fertility drugs and raring to go. Shortly after beginning the try stage of getting pregnant, we found out we were in fact expecting “TWINS” This rocked our world in quite a big way. We of course were super excited and scared to death. We were going to have (5) children !! After numerous visits with the gynecologist office, it was confirmed that two little heart beats were in there and all looked to be moving along nicely. So, at 11 weeks gestation, we told our family we were having two more kids. Everyone was excited and our own children were giddy.

During the 15th week of her pregnancy, my wife and I went to the gyno’s office for a ultrasound, which is normal at this stage of pregnancy. We’d had several prior to this visit and had seen and were excited with the two little heartbeats growing inside my wife. During this visit, the nurse was doing the ultrasound and started darting between the paperwork and the ultrasound with an increased look on her face. Then without prompting, she said, “The chart says you are having twins” to which we replied, “Yes, we are”. The nurse then said, “well, I only see one heartbeat here, it appears this one has died (pointing to what used to be my other child)” My wife and I were completely caught off guard. Tears started flowing…. Anger started welling up in us…. we didn’t know what to say, what to do…. we were stunned. I finally asked, “What about the other baby?” She said, “well, this little heartbeat seems strong and health” There was a relief in hearing this but I questioned further, “What will we need to do about the child who’s heartbeat stopped?” The nurse replied, “this happens more than most people are aware, your wife’s body will probably just absorb this one, (said while pointing at the glob that used to have a heartbeat).” After talking to the doctor to get further clarifications, we left the office in our newly purchased Suburban (Because we needed one for a 7 person family…. right). My wife cried and cried the whole way home. My mind went to guilt. Were we being paid back by God for trying to help Theresa. Why were we so foolish?

Around 25 weeks gestation, our (1) baby was developing just fine and we had adjusted to the idea of having one healthy baby. I vividly remember having a running joke with my friends at the time when asked if I wanted a boy or a girl. I’d often say, “one or the other is fine with me, just nothing in between.” On our next visit to the gyno, the nurse doing the ultrasound asked us if we wanted to know if our baby was a boy or girl? We already had two boys and one girl so were excited to know so we said, “yes, please tell us.” The nurse looked around and said, “It’s a girl” So we were gonna have two boys and two girls, isn’t that perfect…. God did have a plan after all. Before our next hospital visit, the baby room had already been painted pink and all kinds of decorations had been hung. We were gonna be ready.

At our next visit to the hospital, the nurse started telling us that things were’t measuring up. Arm & leg bone length to skull circumference wasn’t matching what would be expected for a healthy baby. More fear crept in…. The doctor confirmed these findings and said our pregnancy was now considered “high risk” and we’d be needing to do more frequent visits for even more ultrasounds. It was at this time the doctor suggest we consider doing a amniocentesis test because when things aren’t “measuring up” from a bone perspective, there may be other genetic issues we’ll need to consider. We of course agreed. The results came back inconclusive. Candidly, I’m not sure we’d have done anything if the child came back with all kinds of other issues at that time anyway. More to worry about.

At our next ultrasound visit, we braced ourselves mentally for whatever was coming. We knew God had a plan and we were along for the ride…. The nurse came in and started looking around and around. She was taking more time looking around than normal and then stopped, put the ultrasound wand back in it’s holster and looked at us and asked, “It says here in the chart you’re having a girl, is that correct?” We responded with the answer in almost unison, “Yes” Her face gave a twist and she then said she needed to consult with a college. The second nurse then entered the room and after a brief introduction started looking around with the ultrasound as well. After some private discussions, both nurses excused themselves and said they were going to consult with a doctor about something they were seeing in the ultrasound. This didn’t sound good, more fear crept in…. The doctor came in shortly there after and after another brief introduction started his survey with the ultrasound machine. After a few minutes, he put down the wand and looked at my wife and I caringly and said, “I’m sure you’re concerned as to why the nurses came and got me.” My wife and I both shook our head yes. He then said, “well they saw some things that raise some concerns rightfully. I know you’ve been told you are having a girl” We both nodded yes again. He went on, “well, it appears this child has as severe case of Hypospadias” What !!! Our minds began racing… What the hell is Hypospadias? The doctor went on to explain… “by 35 to 36 weeks male testes have normally completed their decent. The male penis is visible on an ultrasound and the testes are very noticeable to anyone who knows how to navigate an ultrasound machine. It appears this child is very likely a boy who’s testes and penis didn’t descend normally. We won’t know if this child is a boy or girl after birth until we do some blood testing”

To say our world was shattered at this news would be an understatement. What did I do? I took on the role of supporting my wife in her grief as I wracked my brain for meaning and purpose. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Had we contributed in this by trying to help Theresa have a child and now God is punishing us. Had my flippant answer about having a child that’s one or the other but not in between offended God? We were at a loss for words.

Shortly after this incident, my mind started “THINKING” and “REASONING” Once I opened the door to the possibility of why this could have happened, my cognitive biases stated to fall away. More to follow on this as the road continued to get bumpy…..


I’ve been thinking about writing a book for a very long time. My struggled to date is how to get started. To the extend I’m able to visualize an end state, I have many ideas regarding the numerous topics this book would cover, and how I’d like to address each. For the purposes of getting started, I’m going to attempt a very broad outline here, likely for my review only.

What do I mean by the abbreviation, “HGWTGW”? The idea came to me a long time ago and it has developed in me a deeper meaning as time goes by. In some ways, HGWTGW helps me frame what I see going on in my daily life and in the lives of others. HGWTGW stands for “Heads God Wins, Tails, Got Wins”

A year or so ago, someone close to my wife lost her brother almost instantly in a motorcycle accident. I say almost instantly because he was in the hospital with his wife (who was also on the motorcycle when they crashed) for a few days before dying. From the moment the news became available of “Bob’s accident” my wife’s friend was flooding Facebook asking for Prayers for Bob and his wife. I’m telling you, the number and ferocity of prayer warriors that came forward were in the hundreds. As I sat back and observed what had happened and how it was developing, it dawned on me that God was gonna get all the positive credit for whatever happened to Bob and his wife regardless of what the end looked like in this situation.

First and foremost, where was God when Bob and his wife had the accident? How could no one see this? Why are so many people apparently blind to the real situation going on here? Why does this point never even cross their minds? Oh, sure… God gives us free will…. OK, Bob crashed on his motorcycle and got what he deserved. Where are the folks complaining about motorcycles and their inherent risk? No, the prevailing attitude among my wife’s friend circle was to pray to a “Celestial Dictator” to intervene in saving Bob and his wife’s life. What does save Bob look like here? Well from my perspective, there are many ways an individual can look at the situation and get confirmation of God’s blessings in this situation to “Save Bob”. In all situations, God Wins.

Option-1 Bob Lives – In this option, Bob and or Bob’s wife live after the accident and all is good with the world because God saw fit to let them live. The all Loving and Merciful God at work. God Wins. (which in my mind also indicates he was somehow involved in the accident which I won’t discuss here)

Option-2 Bob lives and struggles the rest of his life. Well in this case, God saw fit to save his life so he can be an inspiration to others moving forward.
The all Loving and Merciful God at work. God Wins.

Option-3 Bob dies. In this case, God called Bob home and he’s now happy in heaven with his heavenly father. He’s frolicking with his relatives and it was clearly his time.
Loving and Merciful God at work. God Wins.

As can be seen in the above examples, there is no scenario in the minds of the faithful at which point God loses. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all merciful. How can he possibly be at fault for anything bad that happens here on earth?

Although this is not an exhaustive examination of what went down in the story of Bob, it does lay out my initial thoughts when it comes to how and why living with people of “Faith” is driving me crazy on a daily basis. What may come from this, for me, is a creative and I believe constructive way for people to sincerely examine what’s going on in their lives and view it through a new and hopefully better prism. My goal is not to deconvert folks from their faith as much as assist them in analyzing all the available options so some real thinking can take place. Maybe God should lose once in a while. Maybe when folks realize God plays no part in our day to day lives, they can purge supernatural thinking and add rationality to their daily lives.

Moving foward, I intend to visit this site often to contemplate and document situations I see and hear about in my life, the lives of my family, and in the news. Hopefully someone will be helped by viewing the other side of what I call HGWTGW.

On the Topic of “Sin”

The concept of “Sin” has been around for a very long time. Growing up in a Catholic household, sin was one of those things that went hand in hand with “Guilt”. These two words are largely synonymous for most Catholics. Sin is something that goes against “God’s” wishes and pisses him off. In the Catholic world, there are really two classifications of sin that any young Catholic learns at a young age. For a Catholic there are Venial sins and mortal sins.

A “Venial Sin” is a relatively slight sin that does not entail damnation of the soul. Venial sins must be reported later to the priest as soon as you can to gain forgiveness from God.

A “Mortal Sin” is a grave (no pun intended) sin that’s so severe, if you don’t confess to a priest before your death, you most likely will spend eternity in hell. Wow, sounds serious doesn’t it….

Sins are a big deal to Catholics and with this type of mindset toward “Sin” it’s no wonder most all Catholics in good standing with the church carry around huge amounts of guilt. How would it be possible to not carry guilt when from a young age Catholics are taught they are sinners who need to be forgiven by a priest first and then God?. To add insult to guilty injury, the list of Mortal sins endangering your soul just got a whole lot bigger. In the last few years, thanks to the Pope and the Vatican, the newly overhauled list of seven added several more to cope with the age of globalization.

The newly added sins are aimed at those who undermine society in far reaching ways, including by taking or dealing in drugs, polluting the environment, and engaging in “manipulative” genetic science according to a recent “The Times of London” report.

Also new to the list are pedophilia, abortion, and social injustices that cause poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few”. These added sins join the long-standing evils of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride as mortal sins – the gravest kind, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession or penitence. Supposedly, the Pope lamented the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world,” and falling rates of Roman Catholics going to confession, The Times reported. According to the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said after a week-long Lenten seminar for priests that surveys showed 60 % of Catholics in Italy no longer go to confession.

There is now a belief in the church that sin now has social resonance. One church official said, “You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos.”

With this being said, is it any wonder Catholics carry around huge baggage when it comes to Sin? It appears to me, “Sin” is something created by man to control people, and get them to church to confess their sins to priests, drive up attendance to mass, increase the collection plate tally ea. week, and keep people in perpetual fear and guilt.

I’ll close this with two stories that hammer home Catholic guilt.

1) My oldest sister told me recently when she was going to Catholic school as a youngster, the nuns and priest stressed the importance of not sinning. Per her, “One sin, the kissing of boy, was considered a venial sin up to 3 seconds… The rub was, it turned to mortal sin AFTER 3 seconds… so, one 1000, two 1000, three 1000… she counted ea. time. This is why I was in the confessional every Sunday because we never stopped at 3 seconds.” She still 60+ years later remembers kissing a boy and counting during the deed so as to break away from his embrace in time to avoid sinning. Like the expectation of the category “Venial Sin”, it was almost impossible to live up to Catholic doctrine and expectations.

2) One weekend while attending mass with the family, I was looking particularly dapper standing next to my father. During the service, I evidently was rattling the coins in my pocket (out of shear boredom I suspect) when my father hauled off and slapped me across the face. His words that followed slammed home the meaning of “Sin” in my family and how closely we adhered to the church’s ordinances. My dad’s slap was followed by the simple words, “Stop showing off”. I can say with 100% confidence some 50 years later, the idea of showing off the large quantity of coinage in my pocket never crossed my mind at the time. And yet, as of this writing I still remember the guilt and pain I felt for offending my father and God in that moment.

It appears the Catholic church is seeing a decline in the number of people viewing “Sin” as something the church, (vis-à-vis God’s newly chosen) can determine. As much as the Catholic church wants to add more “Sins” to their list. I for one call bullshit on the entire concept of “Sin”.

I submit, “Sin” doesn’t exist and neither does the God who supposedly gives two shits about it. If we can remove the concept of “Sin” from our life, we can begin to live an authentic and fulfilling life free from undue guilt and anxiety. Give it a try.

Implication Costs

I’ve noted in earlier posts a book by Neil Rackham called “Spin Selling”. One significant aspect of this selling technique is the idea of Implications to Change. This post will apply this idea to changing one’s position on a belief in a god and the severity belief of Covid-19 in the United States.

The current Covid-19 pandemic looks to be very serious and worthy of concern. Here are the current stats both in the U.S. and Worldwide as of April 15, 2020 (the date of this writing).

Covid-19 statistics as of 4-15-20 at 10:45AM

In the U.S., between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimates there were 60.8 million cases of H1N1 (aka: swine flu), with over 274,000 hospitalizations and nearly 12,500 deaths — that’s a mortality rate of ~ 2%. The numbers above indicate the mortality rate of Covid-19 is significantly higher than that of the H1N1 pandemic from a decade ago and sits currently at 4.2%. So, is the Covid-19 pandemic we’re experiencing a serious issue? In some ways, it depends on your mindset and the implications of believing in things without evidence.

A belief in a God is not something humans are born with. We as people are indoctrinated largely into the religion (God belief) of our parents and likely their parents, and so on. Agreeing to participate in a doctrinal religion as a child isn’t much of a choice. If you want to live in the house of your parents, the average person would go along with their religious upbringing to get along. Why rock the boat if someone is paying for your food and housing right? Most people wouldn’t even think of questioning at an early age. The implications of doing so could prove deadly if you were forced onto the streets because you denied the savior of your parents. Thus, the implications of denial at this stage are significant and often cause severe risk aversion. As someone grows older and starts a family, much of their religious upbringing often forms the type of spouse one seeks out. If Christian, I think it’s fair to say most religious people seek out other like-minded religious people for their love interests. Once this hook is set in motion and a marriage happens, it’s even harder to jettison one’s faith. Add kids to the mix and the hook is set even deeper. The larger point here is, the further down the rabbit hole of religion one goes with family, friends, social cohesion, and co-worker, the greater the implications to oneself and one’s family should they exit their belief in a Supernatural God. This is precisely the reason most people fake it to make it.

In the case of the latest Covid-19 Pandemic, there is a strange situation going on in the United States that’s eerily similar to a belief in a God. It appears there are two schools of thought when it comes to the reality of this virus. One is the thought of the Religious Right and the “Fake News” crowd. The other is reality-based as witnessed by the actual virus numbers. Across this country, the folks who lean more to the political right are touting how this latest virus is no more deadly than any other virus and how the country should get back to work. The reality-based camp on this is attempting to do the least amount of harm and suggest the social distancing is working and should continue until things truly get better and it’s safe to leave our homes and interact again with one another. There is little doubt Covid-19 is highly infectious and even those who are asymptomatic can still transfer this virus quite easily to others without knowing it.

For those on the religious right who want to open up the country again, having a different belief as to the severity of this virus is tribal. Many of them associate with family and friends who share their ideological beliefs when it come to the severity of Covid-19. Should they switch their views and espouse continued social distancing, the implications to them personally and even professionally could be jeopardized. This tribe of thinking is not easily swayed from their belief structure and highly unlikely to move from their positions.

For those viewing the Covid-19 crisis through the lens of facts, figures, reality, and espousing continued social distancing, changing one’s views to the Religious right’s position would also have possible severe social and professional implications.

So who is right and who’s wrong on this issue? Only time will tell as the death toll continues to rise. One thing for sure, the reality of the situation will present itself regardless of ones beliefs. The question truly comes down to this, how many lives are worth saving and at what cost is this reasonable? Let’s not forget the implications of changing one’s views on this as we engage in conversations with folks about the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all need to be mindful of the actual costs associated with changing one’s perspectives.

Should we Always be Kind and Helpful to Others

I’ve recently had numerous conversations with some friends about the topics of being kind and helpful. Should we always be kind and helpful to others? In the strictest sense, yes, we should always be kind and helpful to others. The real question is, how best should we show kindness and helpfulness to others. This isn’t just in the words we choose to say, the silence we choose to reply, or the actions we choose to take. For the longest time, I’ve sheltered and nurtured the Gateway Belief that whenever someone needs help, it is my responsibility to help them, however explicit or veiled the request. As will be made self evident, i no longer believe this to be true.

The “Old Me”:

In the past, I’ve literally had thousand of situations present themselves where i had to make a quick decision as to the best way to be kind and helpful. Some examples are worth presenting here:

  1. Person standing on the corner begging
  2. My kids want money
  3. Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at home
  4. Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at work
  5. Someone challenging my lack of belief in something

Let’s address each of these head on and how the “New Me” handles this now.

  1. If a person chooses to stand on the street corner and beg for food or money, this is a personal choice on their part. I have a personal choice when I decide to either give them free stuff or not. Whether or not I feel guilty about my decision is completely up to me. If I have a Christian worldview, I may or may not harbor guilt for my decision. Feelings would largely come from how serious I take my theology and who I’ve been listening to for guidance. Some folks see it as religiously justified to stiff or judge panhandlers as lazy and ultimately stiffing them is what “God” would look down upon and expect of them. Others would view it as un-Christ like to walk away and not help people in need. For me, whether or not I help someone physically begging for food or money is a decision to be made in the moment and nothing to feel bad about. I’m not a practicing Christian or even posses a believe in anything Supernatural. For me, there is no Heavenly Dictator judging me or my decisions. I have a choice to make in helping a panhandler and I can live guilt free making a decision in this regard on my own. When i was a believer in the Supernatural I had the “Gateway Belief” I was being judged all the time by some heavenly being who was keeping records on both my thoughts and deeds. Wow, It’s truly liberating to have shed this way of thinking.
  2. When and if my kids ask for money, the old Dad in me would feel guilty if I had money to give and chose to be stingy with it. Most parents harbor some element of guilt if and when a situation like this occurs and they choose to not indulge their kids requests. My sister had a child addicted to Opioids and I can tell you, there were many a time she wanted to help her son and had to say, No I can’t help you. It wasn’t from a position of not wanting to help. Almost always these decisions are made from a position of doing the least harm to your child in the long term. As another analogy, when the brakes on my son’s car started screeching, I could have given him the money he asked for to have them fixed, or I could do what I did instead, I suggested he work with me to fix the brakes on his car. I suggested also he stand by me to learn so next time he is low on money he will think twice about a possible better alternative. Once again, my old Gateway Belief of always having to give into my kid’s needs is now superseded with a much better view of the situation from a overall best way to help approach.
  3. I’ve now been married 32 years and have had both my ups and downs in my marital relationship. One thing my wife and others in my life have done for years is apply passive aggressive tone and rhetoric to their every day life in an attempt to have me “Fix” whatever the situation is. Generally speaking, there isn’t much either electrical or mechanical I can’t fix. As such, I’m the go to guy for most of my immediate and extended family for any fixes needed. At a wedding this past weekend, my sister expressed concern that my brother, who had agreed to take our 96 year old mother home after the wedding, might be leaving later than our mother wanted to leave and that someone should talk to our brother about it and rectify this concern. The old me would have had the Gateway Belief that resolving issues like these is always my responsibility. The new me said the following to my sister: “I think the person who has this concern should venture over to our brother and express their concern” She probably thought this was extremely forward and rude and yet I now know this is likely and precisely the correct reply to a comment of this type. It’s not my responsibility to resolve others concerns unless a person makes a coherent and compelling case as to why I should give two shits about what they feel is concerning.
  4. When anger is expressed at work over a situation or viewed situation, the old me would always want to jump in and resolve whatever the issue. The new me in the work place is much like the new me in family relationships. If I don’t have a vested interest or concern as to outcome, why should I expend my thoughts and energy in resolving the problem or perceived problem? The answer is I shouldn’t.
  5. If someone challenges my personal views or lack there of, the old me would have tried to vehemently justify my position and why. This Gateway Belief is now discarded and it has truly made my life more interesting and fun. Because of my long held belief that what I think matters to others, I almost always shared stories and anecdotes to justify what I believed and why I believed it. If someone wants to believe something fervently, they have every right to do so in the ole’ U.S. of A. If someone wants my opinions, all they need to do is ask me and I’ll share my positions freely. I’m what I call an Asupernatural Atheist. As such, I have no belief in anything Supernatural or any Gods. I needn’t justify my lack of belief in something anymore than those who lack a belief in Thor or Zeus. Again, I can be kind in simply not engaging in discussions about my positions if I have concerns over how it will be handled. Saying nothing about how I feel might be the kindest thing I can do in a given situation.

All this being said, being kind can come in many forms. Being helpful is subjective and open to personal interpretation. Is it possible to be helpful by doing nothing? I believe the answer is Yes, if done kindly.

Dying with Dignity

What does dignity mean in today’s world? I believe dignity is adequately defined as “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect “. As I look back on my life from just five years ago, and before my deconversion from Christianity, I find solace in knowing I’ve made significant progress in becoming the man I want to be. A man who stands by his convictions and makes decisions based on his own internal moral compass, not the unassailable dogma of the Catholic church. The way that I define my life has changed since my deconversion, and I hope these new-found definitions are used some day at my eulogy. I sincerely hope my rotting corpse is not subjected to someone saying, “He was a religious man and supporter of the faith.” This would be a lie and a stain on the life I’m now trying very hard to nurture. This may sound crazy, but to many, I would be viewed a heretic. If a heretic is defined as not conforming to established attitudes, doctrines, or principles, then sign me up. I am a proud heretic. If I am not true to myself, and transparent in my beliefs, then I won’t be able to die with dignity.

When my children were of impressionable ages, I was, by all outward signs, a practicing Roman Catholic because I was raised in a Catholic family and this was the only practice I knew. The Catholic church was my Gateway Belief. I was taught from a very young age the Catholic church was the oldest religion on earth and all other religions were cheap imitations: no other religious beliefs mattered because the Catholic Church the original Christian church. I do not recall a single conversation with my parents about the ills of the Catholic church, the Spanish Inquisition, or any of the other things I now find repulsive about the Catholic church. When growing up Catholic, my mind was a perpetual roller coaster ride between venial and mortal sins. According to church doctrine, even thoughts can be sinful as well. If you are not in a state of “Grace” in the Catholic Church, it’s a sin to receive Communion. Any good Catholic knows the difference between these sins and what a big deal it is to “Not” be in a state of Grace. As an ex-Catholic, and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see clearly that this antiquated way of thinking no longer plays a role in my life and I’m happier and far more fulfilled because of my choice to “Just Say No” to religion. In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to live up to the requirements of the Catholic church. I refuse to live my life in constant fear of a made-up sin structure which determines my fate. How can I die with dignity believing in this concept?

Here’s a handy dandy chart to help you avoid Catholic sinfulness.

This is where the idea of “Catholic Guilt” comes into the picture. My dad was a very religious and spiritual man who raised eight children and instilled in us the Catholic values he deemed appropriate to live fruitful and productive lives. He was uber-Catholic, as is my 96-year-old mother to this day.  Both attended church every day when I was growing up and my mother still does. I don’t resent them for indoctrinating me in the Catholic faith.  I do however, have the option of not repeating the cycle of dependency and delusion. It might surprise you to know, I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he died over 10 years ago. Does this make me a horrible person? In my opinion, it means I’m grounded in reality. I believe my dad is no longer in his human form and has left the Earth. There is nothing there to “visit”.

So, what is the takeaway from all this you may ask?

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. However, in the case of humans, I have the hard belief that energy can be fully depleted. As I get older, I’m reminded of this every day as it’s getting harder and harder to maintain the energy to cope with life. Religious folks use this law to provide justification for a transcendence of one’s being to another plane. When I go, it will most likely be from exhaustion and a life well lived. Much like a battery, the energy within me will no longer be sufficient to run this thing called my body. I’m at complete peace with this idea. It is with confidence that I proceed until this time. Once my body is fully depleted of its energy, I have a firm belief my human energy and essence will live solely in the memories of those I leave behind.

When I die, I want my loved ones to remember how I felt about them and that they were important in my life. I want anyone I’ve ever wronged to know I’m truly sorry. I have a hard belief that my life is the only life I’ll ever live. I have a hard belief that my state after death will be what it was before I was born, i.e., nonexistence. And lastly, I want to exit Earth under my own terms.

My body will be handled in a certain way after death: likely in accordance with Catholic doctrine unless I specify otherwise. If there are any good body parts left, why shouldn’t I let them help others instead of rotting away? For me to die with dignity, I need to be dignified with all aspects of myself, including physical self. Now is the time for me to set plans in place for my demise. I don’t want any money spent on prepping my corpse for viewing, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. Why would I want beautiful flowers draping a lovely coffin?  Why would I want to be encased in cement and dropped in the ground for God’s supposed second coming? Instead, burn what’s left of me and discard the ashes back to the Earth. A recent article suggested there is a growing movement to compost the remains of humans like any other organic material.  This seems like a great idea to me as well. After my passing, I honestly won’t care whether my remains are cremated or simply composted: I’ll be dead no matter what.

When my body and mind finally give out one day from exhaustion and physical depletion, I want my actions to speak for themselves: “This man possessed both dignity and a keen sense of self-respect until the very end.” 

Gateway Tolerance

This morning, after I dropped my son off at his high school, I saw a yard sign that gave me pause. This yard sign has been in the front yard of this family’s property for over two years, but recently, the sign has taken on a new significance which I’ll reveal later.

Gateway Tolerance – Indiana

I wondered, “What possesses someone to put something like this in their front yard? What message is this guy trying to convey?”

To manufacture a metal sign such as this isn’t always inexpensive. I know the sign’s owner was retired when he had it printed. Apparently, making this sign was so important that he wanted to convey a very important message for all to see. Everyone who drives by or stops at the stoplight can clearly see this sign because the family lives on a corner lot in the center of a very small town with only one stoplight.

The first word seems benign: “Welcome” What a wonderful word. Typically this word is associated with Openness, Love, Caring, and Tolerance. It appears the owner is setting a hook to get the viewer engaged in something very important and worth reading. Welcome is a warm embrace of things to come. Its encouragement is to feel comfortable with the information to follow. Let’s see if the welcome is warranted.

Following the lovely opening word, we are slammed in the face with a statement which sets the tone for all information to come. “We the Branham’s (sic) are politically incorrect.” (not to mention grammatically incorrect, ahem, but I digress…) In today’s age, politically incorrect can have many different meanings. For me, the phrase “politically incorrect” conjures up thoughts of Bill Maher and his show of the same name. Maher’s show, which airs Friday nights, takes a comical look at the political right’s take on government. OK, so maybe the owner of this sign is a political lefty. I’m interested, so I read on.

“We say Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and in God we Trust.” Uh-oh, this sign and its owner have tipped their hand quite a bit here. “We say Merry Christmas” means they are a Christian or a Christian-tolerant person. Recently, this has become a dog-whistle for the conservatives which actually means: “We only believe in OUR God, and we reject anything that you believe.” The next slug read: “We say God Bless America.” Apparently, the sign’s owner is now conveying the message that his God shines blessings on the United States. I’m not exactly sure which God he prefers but I’m still thinking the sign owner is likely a Christian. And…the pinnacle of this trifecta: “In God we Trust.” Once again, I’m guessing the God he trusts is the Christian god and yet I’m still not sure. At this point, I’m suspecting the owner of this sign is likely not a left-leaner and is likely a right-winger trying to let people know how proud he is to be a God-fearing man of Christian values. Let’s look at the next line of this sign.

“We salute our troops and our flag.” One could infer that the sign owner is likely former military, has family who is military, or just simply loves his/her country. In and of itself, I see little wrong with a statement suggesting this sign owner loves his country. Now for the denouement.

“If this offends you……(sic)LEAVE.” Here we’ve come to the crux of the matter. The real message appears to be: “At this home, we are a God-worshiping, Troop-loving, Flag-hugging, right-wing family. If you believe what we believe, you are ‘Welcome.’ If not, we want you to LEAVE our house, our yard, our little town, and our country.” The sign clearly displays the family’s anger toward those in this country who are different from them. Recently, this story took a turn that has prompted my exploration of the sign and a search for deeper understanding.

Sadly, I’ll never get to know exactly what this sign’s owner meant because he died suddenly last week from a heart attack. The homeowner’s wife works for a family member of mine: she is extremely sweet to everyone she encounters. I’ve known this woman for years and had no idea she was married to the guy who just died. Either she agrees with the sign’s viewpoint, or she tolerated its placement in her front yard and viewed it as an appropriate message to send to all her neighbors and town visitors. I’m sad for her. I’m sad partly because this woman recently lost her husband, and also for the ideology and thinking which went into producing this yard sign.

On this site, we examine “Gateway Beliefs.” What gateway belief or beliefs would drive someone to position a sign like this in their yard so they could convey their message for all to see? In my opinion, the need to make this sign and post it came from two opposite positions: fear and pride. Somewhere it became acceptable for this family to believe people of other religions were not worthy of love and respect. Somehow their vision of America where people worship and think differently isn’t acceptable. To them, if you don’t say “Merry Christmas,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say “God Bless America,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say, “In God We Trust,” you need to LEAVE. If you are opposed to America getting involved in foreign wars and choose to protest, you need to LEAVE. In essence, if you don’t love the Christian God and buy into the Gateway Beliefs purported by the religious right in this country, you need to LEAVE.

What happened to the “melting pot”? My generation was taught that one of the things that made America the Greatest Nation on Earth is that we embraced people from all races, faiths, and lifestyles. How has this ideology been corrupted to say, “Be like us…or LEAVE”? I know there are people who claim “both sides do it” – but that is patently false. Is there hatred on both political sides? Yes, but let’s look at this a little deeper.

There appears to be a backlash among the right-wing conservatives that the left’s intolerance of their beliefs is a form of hatred. It is no secret that most people on the left embrace those who are gay, transgender, black, female, differently-abled, non-white, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, et. al. I can already feel the ruffled feathers of some conservative who may be reacting to this simply because of the words that I choose. However, what I see on the left is INCLUSION: all are “Welcome.” However, what I see in my conservative family and friends is EXCLUSION. Conservatives want to use their religion, their whiteness, their privilege as a cudgel to hate people who are different from them. To quote: “If this offends you…LEAVE.” What if this sign had said, “If you don’t believe the way we do, I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee and learn more about you!”? Wouldn’t that have been a much more loving message – one worthy of their God’s love and acceptance? No, the left’s rejection of your intolerance, exclusion, and bigotry is not hatred. It is living the values on which this country was founded, and the values of the God you claim to worship.

This morning, a video of our president hugging the American flag at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) appeared in my news feed. I have a soft belief that the patriotism shown in this picture closely mirrors the patriotism shown on this yard sign. To me, this is a childish and immature love of our country. It is the same love that a child has for “Mommy” – one that is too young to recognize that “Mommy” is a fallible human being with idiosyncrasies, quirks, and faults like any other human being. That doesn’t diminish the love between parent and child, but as the child matures to adulthood, he or she begins to recognize that “Mommy” is not the infallible super-human they once thought. There is nothing wrong with this concept of course, but it shows that we can still love and accept someone despite their inherent human flaws. Or not. In many cases, some people are too toxic and must be confronted with their issues, or the person must jettison the relationship.

The left doesn’t “hate” America. Quite the opposite. Just like the child whose love for “Mommy” matures into an adult relationship, we recognize that America is NOT perfect, and we simply want to confront these imperfections: misogyny, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, homophobia…on and on. As I have stated, intolerance of these faults is not hatred, but rather a desire to see our country mature into the “Welcome-ing” place we were led to believe in.

Unless this country can rid itself of entrenched beliefs based upon fear and division, it’s going be very difficult to remain a cohesive nation. If you read this and believe others are less patriotic and less deserving of freedom and love than you, I challenge you to look closely at what is driving your beliefs.

I wanted very much to stop and talk to this guy using SE. In my little
part of the world in Indiana, I actually feared approaching this
house for fear of weaponry. Even though the sign said “Welcome”
the rest of the sign sent a very different message. This is not a
sign of tolerance and understanding. This sign was placed in the
front yard to send a very clear message: “At this home we’re angry Americans who are intolerant of other’s opinions, freedom
of speech, and religion.”

“Welcome” to America, indeed.

Hot Coffee: Perspective – Facts – TRUTH!

Hot Coffee: Perspective – Facts – TRUTH!

The other day while listening to “The Thinking Atheist” podcast (hosted by Seth Andrews), I heard an incredible story about the importance of truth – and the new perspective one gains when the truth is known. By the end of the podcast, my opinion of something I thought I knew to be true had changed completely. There are clear parallels to SE in this story.

In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck bought a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque, NM and spilled it on her lap. If you were around during this time, you no doubt heard this story and the firestorm of opinions surrounding the “exorbitant” amount of money Stella was awarded for her injuries.  The media went into a frenzy and certain lobbying groups pushed for tort reform.  This woman was vilified as a money-hungry klutz who spilled her coffee for financial gain. Let’s face it, on the surface her case seems preposterous. Who doesn’t know that “Hot Coffee”, is, by definition, “Hot” and should be treated as such?  Why would anyone sue McDonald’s for making their coffee too hot?  At the time, I believed the media spin about Mrs. Liebeck and still remember many conversations I had with my conservative friends about this extremely high-profile case. However, once I learned the facts, (i.e. – the truth), I gained a different perspective about this woman and the reality of this case. 

Mrs. Liebeck, who was a passenger in her grandson’s car, was not driving when her coffee spilled, nor was the car moving. She held the cup between her knees while removing the lid to add cream and sugar when the cup tipped over and spilled the entire contents on her lap. The sweatpants she was wearing absorbed the heat of the coffee and kept it against her skin, exacerbating the injury. Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries were far from frivolous: she suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts on her inner thighs and elsewhere.

The coffee was not just “hot,” but dangerously hot. McDonald’s corporate policy was to serve it at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that could cause serious burns in seconds. Furthermore, Mrs. Liebeck’s case was far from an isolated event. McDonald’s had received more than 700 previous reports of injury from its coffee over the previous 10 years, including reports of third-degree burns, and had paid settlements in some cases.

The Jury also awarded Mrs. Liebeck $3 million in punitive damages which were ultimately reduced by more than 80 percent by the judge. McDonald’s ultimately reached a confidential settlement with Mrs. Liebeck sometime later.

At the time, one juror said, “the facts were so overwhelmingly against the company.” The jurors were able to hear all the facts — including those presented by McDonald’s — and see the extent of Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries, as opposed to the speculation that occurred in the media. Ask anyone who criticizes the case as a “frivolous lawsuit resulting in jackpot justice” if they have done the same. Do they know the facts or are they reacting to their own biased perceptions? Do they know the truth, or the truth as they believe it to be presented by others?

As SE practitioners, we often find ourselves in the unique position of introducing new evidence (i.e. – “truths”) to our Interlocutors. This evidence can be critical in helping people gain fresh perspectives about reality. Many of the people we question have firmly-entrenched beliefs that were planted during their upbringing.  Public perception can be the enemy of truth. Profound media bombardment and proximity to others with false beliefs often make the examination of one’s belief even more difficult. Our job as SE practitioners is to help others determine what is true. In doing so, we have the potential to change lives for the better. Sadly, lies, dis-information, and skewed perceptions are enemies we must meet head-on.

I’ve been practicing SE for a little over a year now, primarily with family and friends.  Recently, my 17-year-old autistic son Sean came to a belief position and couldn’t wait to tell me about it.

Two family acquaintences recently died in a horrible motorcycle accident. After hearing what happened, Sean came to a belief based on limited evidence and engaged me in a conversation which went like this:

“Dad, I think Motorcycles should be outlawed.” Instead of just saying ok and moving on, I thought about his truth claim.  To Sean, coming to this belief was simple. If you ride motorcycles, you are going to die.  Being autistic, his critical thinking skills are limited and easily fooled. With repetition and good logic, he has recently shown an interest in grasping new realities, so I thought I’d try a bit of SE with him.

“Sean, why do you think motorcycles are bad and should be outlawed?”

He replied, “I’ve heard several stories of people getting killed on motorcycles and I think they are bad and should be outlawed.”

I challenged his belief, “Do people die while driving cars?”


“Should we outlaw cars?”

“No,” he said pensively. I pressed him further.

“I’m curious, is there any possible good in motorcycles?”  He thought for a moment, and then answered in the negative.  “Did you know some people say they really like the way it feels to ride on a motorcycle?  Generally, riding on a motorcycle gives people a sense of freedom. Also, many people ride motorcycles because they can go a long way on a single tank of gas.  Did you know there was many positive things about motorcycles and there are millions of people who enjoy riding them?”  Again, he replied, “No.”

There was a long, thoughtful pause in the conversation. Finally, “Dad, I think people should be more careful when they ride motorcycles.”  Another long pause. “Dad, I don’t think motorcycles should be outlawed anymore.”

In today’s world, we are all faced with increasingly deceptive AI technology, “fake news”, partisan politics, and entrenched ideologies. These often shape our perception of reality. Determining what is real is harder than ever.  We all need to be more diligent in obtaining truth and gaining perspective. For me, this is a personal challenge. 

I was once told by a pro bass fisherman, “Do you know why big fish are big? It’s because they know how to stay alive.” Long-held and false beliefs are much like these big fish, they like to stick around for a long time.  I think as SE practitioners, we need to go fishing and reel in a few whoppers.

Jettisoning your Faith – 3 Talks about the effects of powerful Gateway Beliefs


I was listening to a talk by Matt Dillahunty last night and he mentioned his friend Nate Phelps.  Yes, Nate is the son of Fred Phelps, the religious whack job who indoctrinated his family and convinced them God wanted them to hold signs saying things like “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, etc… to win over the damned.  Sadly, these incendiary things are actually biblical.  Fred (Nate’s father) was a deeply devout Christian who took the words of the bible literally.  How Nate was able to leave and why is a fascinating story, and his strength and use of logic over his indoctrinated Gateway Beliefs is powerful.

Here’s Nate’s TedTalk >> HERE <<

Nate Phelps

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the same family as Nate Phelps.  She says in here talk, there was “good” which was her church and their beliefs, and there was “evil” which was other faiths and the world outside their small congregation.  Her ability to leave the cult of her upbringing and jettison her Gateway Beliefs shows the power of social media and the use of SE type reasoning.

Here is her TedTalk >> HERE <<


Dawn Smith was raised in California by parents involved in the “Jesus Movement”.  Her father was an ex hippy who started a cult called the “Assembly”.  From birth, she was indoctrinated by her father to preach the reality of Hell Fire and salvation by accepting Jesus.   When she was little, a older woman knelt in front of her and said, one day you will grow up and you will realize you can leave all this.  As she says in her talk, “Leaving a Cult can be incredibly difficult.  It can also be completely life changing.  College changed here life and helped her begin the path to Critical Thinking.

Here is her TedTalk >> HERE <<

Dawn Smith


Recently, I found myself thinking about Street Epistemology (SE, to its adherents) and how some of the lessons I learned in the business world dovetail neatly with SE concepts. I spent some time thinking about how selling and marketing concepts can be incorporated into the SE lexicon: expanding SE’s reach, and making SE interactions more efficient and trenchant. A concept known as SPIN (not the political type!) can change minds and alter the way SE practitioners engage with ILs (interlocutors) in a positive way.

SPIN is an acronym that stands for Situations, Problems, Implications, and Need Payoffs.  The book, “SPIN Selling”, written by Neil Rackham, describes how the best salespeople listen to their clients attentively with “Elephant Ears”, ask good questions, and in turn, sell more.  Rackham and his team of investigators interviewed and observed the best salespeople and investigated what made them successful.  According to Rackham, SPIN works when a salesperson carefully examines how they currently sell, recognizes where they are deficient, and carefully navigates the SPIN process to arrive at a sale. 

One afternoon in the office, I was engaged in a conference call with a company that was trying to identify problems they had with their business of breeding expensive puppies. My company was established to provide cloud-based monitoring for all things analog and digital.  From temperatures, switch positions, humidity, to most anything else, my company’s hardware and cloud-based software solutions could monitor, trend, analyze, and alarm as well as or better than almost anything on the market.  My product was the “Internet of Things” (IoT) before there was an official IoT. When I asked, “What is the main problem you’re hoping to resolve?  The customer responded, “Of our eight puppy delivery trucks, on average, two puppies die during every delivery trip and on each truck.  My first thought was, “This must be costing them in the pocket book and they need a solution to their problem!”  The SPIN process teaches that almost everyone, when asked questions about their problems, will respond with their implied needs.  Initial answers are typically brief and sound something like this:  I need a car, I need a haircut, I need a new girlfriend / boyfriend, etc.  Rarely, if ever, will someone respond with their explicit needs such as: I need a car because mine caught on fire and my parents won’t let me use theirs, mine is costing me too much money as it’s old and the door handle is falling off on the driver’s side, my girlfriend / boyfriend cheated on me and I found a note to their lover inside their diary, I need a haircut because I have a job interview tomorrow and I know how important nice hair is to the person who’s going to interview me because she used to be a hairstylist, and so on. To extract explicit needs, it’s important to follow the SPIN process very carefully and skillfully and put on your “Elephant Ears”.  For me to identify the true explicit needs of this company it was necessary for me to do some skillful SPIN selling. What they had given me was their implied need. They wanted to stop killing the puppies.  This is simply an outcome and not the problem itself.  To fix their problem, I needed to ask a lot of questions.   SPIN is about drilling down and listening with Elephant Ears to identify explicit needs.  People only change beliefs after they realize their explicit needs are not being met.  After many discussions about the problem, what they’d done to correct it to date, and other things about their business, I finally asked, “What’s actually killing these puppies?”  The conversation went on without my involvement on the other end of the phone for at least 10 minutes. They argued back and forth making points and counterpoints until it was agreed it was likely the temperature in the back of the trucks or an accumulation of ammonia vapor from the urine which was causing these puppies to die. I then inquired, is there anything else about delivering puppies which causes you and your team to lose sleep at night?  A conversation ensued, and someone suggested knowing where the trucks were at any time would be very helpful. (Implied Need) I probed more as to what the implications of this would be if fixed and if not fixed.  A discussion began, and the answers were: 1) this would help them predict when the puppies would arrive at their destination, or 2) it would help them with customer service. I said, “If I hear you correctly, either the high temperature, the ammonia, or a combination of both is likely killing the puppies on long trips around the country?”  Almost in unison, I heard the response on the other end say, “YES!”  I then asked, “What are the implications to the business if your business doesn’t solve this problem?”  Once again, another discussion ensued.  The responses were: 1) upwards of $600.00/puppy if it dies, 2) clean up after a dead puppy, 3) inability to deliver what was promised to their customers, 4) social media backlash and protesting if puppies keep dying, and the list went on and on.  In sales and in changing minds, it’s imperative to have the customer think on and express the implications of resolving and not resolving their explicit needs verbally.  By doing so, you can address them in the “Need Payoff” portion of the SPIN sell.  I reflected my understanding of their implications in my own words and they responded “Yes, there were, in fact, many negatives associated with not solving this problem.”  I then asked them, “What are the implications to solving this problem?”  The feedback to this question was swift and heartfelt: 1) they would all likely keep their jobs, 2) most if not all the puppies would live, 3) the company could live up to investors and public expectations, 4) social media couldn’t fault them for dead puppies, 5) the drivers could be more careful if notified of dangerous puppy conditions and pull over to ventilate the cage area – the list went on and on.  Then I went in for the (excuses the pun) kill.  I asked, “If I could monitor both the temperature and ammonia of your puppy delivery trucks while they’re traveling down the road and notify both the company and the truck driver of the situation in time for the driver to pull over and ventilate the puppy area, would this be a benefit to the company, puppy store owners, your investors, and the public?  The answer I received back was a resounding “YES!” I then asked, “If I could track each and every truck while its moving down the highways and byways of our country and display this information for you on a website, would this be of benefit?”  Once again, I could imagine the heads nodding on the other end of the phone as they said emphatically, “YES!”   

Fast forward a couple weeks, I had a purchase order and a trial under way.  All this was because of SPIN.   Anyone who’s capable of “putting on their elephant ears” and “asking good questions” could have done the exact same thing.

In my opinion, SPIN can change minds and the way SE (Street Epistemology) practitioners engage with ILs (interlocutors) in an extremely positive way. When someone says, “I have a belief in a God,” some SE practitioners follow with questions such as, “What specific God are you referring to?”  “What leads you to believe the Bible is true?” etc.  Unless the cost of making a decision is low, it is difficult to change one’s behavior or consider another alternative.  When you buy milk at the store, the decision and risk of what to buy among the available alternatives is low.  If you buy the wrong milk, say 2% instead of Skim, or 1%, it’s only a couple bucks, right? It’s not a big deal.  Low-risk decisions are evaluated more quickly and without much consideration of the alternatives.  We may not go through all the mental gymnastics of our decision or seriously consider our explicit needs for a low risk purchase or change of perspective.  We may only require our implied needs be met in this case.  If, for example, you are put in charge of buying a new phone system for your company, there is a very clear implied need for a phone system.  What about all the explicit needs therein such as the ability for conferencing, muting, interfacing with other telecom devices, forwarding to cell phones, etc? The decision here is much more complex and the implications to you and the company can be extensive.  These implications are the explicit needs which must be met before any meaningful choice of what system to purchase can be made.  As SE practitioners, if we in any way start questioning an IL’s God belief, it’s a “BIG” deal to the IL. If we enter our questioning lightly and only consider the obvious and implied issue, “This person believes in a God, why do they believe in a God?” we are missing a very important step in what should be a successful process.  I wonder how our IL’s responses would change if we asked the following questions?

  • Is it a problem for you if someone you know holds beliefs you believe are wrong and possibly dangerous to him/her self and others?
  • What is life like for people who believe in true things over false things?
  • What would be the implications of someone only believing in true things?
  • What would be the implications of someone believing in a false God?
  • What are the implications of someone having a belief (or non-belief) in a God?
  • What are the implications of believing in a God to a person’s immediate Family?
  • How would someone’s life change if they didn’t believe in a God, or Ghosts, or Karma?
  • How do you think most God-fearing families would treat their family member if they left the church?
  • How is a person’s life who doesn’t believe what you believe in X different from yours?
  • What would be the implications to you personally if you stopped believing in X?
  • How might a person approach their family if they firmly believed something others may disagree with?
  • Would it be worth it to change ones opinion if it may indirectly cause derision within oneself or others?

Lastly, after asking probing questions to expand implied needs and beliefs into explicit ones, it is imperative to ask good “Need Payoff” questions. This closes the loop on all the questioning and puts a ribbon and bow on your efforts.  Without the Need Payoff questions, the individual or IL cannot easily and mentally connect your suggested solution to the identified explicit needs / beliefs.  Some examples of Need Payoff questions might look like this:

  • If a person could find a way to believe what is true, shed themselves of what is false and keep the peace in their family, would this be a benefit?
  • If a person had more time to spend with their family on Sunday and had acquired a belief in something which fulfilled their life in a better way, would this be a benefit to them and their family?
  • If someone believes their spouse is abusive and there is a solution that can rid them painlessly of this situation, would they see any benefit in taking a chance to make a change in their life?

As you know, this site is called Gateway Beliefs.  This being the case, it’s important (in my mind) to draw a clear parallel to this point  Whenever we engage in any sort mind expanding activities as SE practitioners, we are selling critical thinking, whether we are conscious of this or not.  When SEing we’re helping people open their minds to the possibilities outside of their traditional way of thinking. It’s important we enter these conversations thoughtfully and with great care.  If we enter our conversations with a mindset believing the implied beliefs posited by our IL are their explicit need, we are selling a solution without in many ways drilling down on to our IL’s true needs. How these people will feel and the implications of changing their own minds is huge and risky.  Most beliefs have much deeper meaning to our ILs.  Our job is to blow up implied needs to explicit and help our IL’s better understand all the implications of doing nothing or doing something to fix the situation they find themselves in. I believe if SE practitioners put on their Elephant Ears and drill down with thoughtful and probing Socratic questions, they can actually expose the deep seeded and hard to draw out explicit needs and beliefs of our IL’s .  In doing this, SE practitioners can truly help our IL’s move their lives in a positive way one Socratic question at a time.