Interviews

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13 Sep Frank Schaeffer: Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes In God | The Flipside Podcast #007

Frank Schaeffer Cover

 

 

 

Is it possible to be an atheist and believe in God?

 

Well, Frank Schaeffer seems to thinks so.

 

And the description of his new book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, gives us a glimpse into this seemingly contradictory reality:

 

Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts with a lyricism that only great writers of literary nonfiction achieve. Schaeffer writes as an imperfect son, husband and grandfather whose love for his family, art and life trumps the ugly theologies of an angry God and the atheist vision of a cold, meaningless universe. Schaeffer writes that only when we abandon our hunt for certainty do we become free to create beauty, give love and find peace.

 

In this candid interview, Frank pulls no punches and points out what many of us sometimes think and feel–whether we wanna acknowledge it or not.

 

So give yourself a break from trying to believe all the “right” things for a moment, and think about whether or not your beliefs now inspire you to give love, create beauty and find peace.

 

Enjoy the show!

 

IN THIS EPISODE, FRANK ANSWERED THE FOLLOWING:

 

• Isn’t calling yourself an “atheist who believes in God” a contradiction?
• How has embracing paradox and uncertainty brought healing into your life?
• Doesn’t certainty give people hope?
• Do you pray to a God on some days and live as an atheist on other days?
• You feel connected to something bigger than yourself whenever you paint. Would you call that God?
• Where do you find meaning? Is meaning something we create ourselves, or something we discover?
• Why did you join the Greek Orthodox Church? Do you still go to church?
• You talk a lot about your wife. What’s her reaction to your theological evolution?

 

Download this episode to your computer (right click and save)

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

 

frankschaeffer.com

frankschaefferart.com

Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God

Frank’s Facebook Page

Frank’s Youtube Channel

Frank’s Twitter

Frank’s Google Talk

FREE AUDIOBOOK download when you try Audible for 30 days

Order Signed Copies of So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion

Please Support This Podcast by Making a Donation (any amount helps!)

 

Thanks for Listening!

 

Thanks for chillin’ with me again this week. Have a question or some feedback you’d like to share? Or you wanna just show some love? Leave a comment below!

 

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

 

Also, I’d really appreciate it if you can leave me a REVIEW and RATING on iTunes by clicking here. It helps the podcast a lot and allows more people to discover it as well!

 

Then follow these steps:

 

1. Click “view in iTunes” button

2. Go to Ratings and Review.

 

Finally, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on iTunes to get automatic updates so you’ll never miss a show!

 

Thanks again. Peace!

 

(Image: Frank Schaeffer  | Used with permission)

 

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06 Sep Darrel Ray: Sex and God – How Religion Distorts Sexuality | The Flipside Podcast #006

Darrel Ray thumbnail

 

 

What is the impact of religion on human sexuality?

 

You see, growing up in the church, I was told all the dos and don’ts of sexuality for “Bible-believing” Christians. Yet, ironically, some of the preachers I’d listen to would contradict one another when it came to “how far” one can go sexually, both before and after marriage. And some would even commit the very “sins” they’d passionately condemn at the pulpit.

 

Why was there so much hypocrisy going on in the church?

And why were so many of my [natural] sexual desires considered “sinful” in the eyes of God?

 

In this episode, I have an honest chat with psychologist and author, Dr. Darrel Ray. And let me tell ya, we don’t shy away from any topics here.

 

So put your kids to sleep (if you have any) … and let’s talk about sex, baby.

 

IN THIS EPISODE, DARREL ANSWERED THE FOLLOWING:

 

• Why are so many people afraid to talk about sex?
• How has religion shaped our culture and sexual development?
• How is religion often an excuse for bad behavior?
• What’s the difference between guilt and shame?
• Why do even non-religious people struggle with guilt and shame when it comes to sexuality?
• Talk about masturbation for a bit. Are there any benefits to it?
• What are some ways parents can address the topic of sex to their kids?
• What have you discovered in your research about porn and porn addiction?
• What would you tell someone who’s struggling with shame right now?

 

Download this episode to your computer (right click and save)

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

 

• Recoveringfromreligion.org

• Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality (FREE when you try Audible for 30 days)

• The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture

• Darrel’s Talk on “The Myth of Sex Addiction”

• Sex Education For All Ages Interview With Dr. Melanie Davis

• Kindle Countdown Promo for The Secret to Awesomeness (only for a limited time!)

• Become a Patron and help support this podcast to keep it going (any amount helps!)

 

Thanks for Listening!

 

Thanks for chillin’ with me again this week. Have a question or some feedback you’d like to share? Or you wanna just show some love? Leave a comment below!

 

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

 

Also, I’d really appreciate it if you can leave me a REVIEW and RATING on iTunes by clicking here. It helps the podcast a lot and allows more people to discover it as well!

 

Then follow these steps:

 

1. Click “view in iTunes” button

2. Go to Ratings and Review.

 

Finally, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on iTunes to get automatic updates so you’ll never miss a show!

 

Thanks again. Peace!

 

(Image Description: Darrel Ray speaking at Steven Allen Theater (2012) | Used with permission)

 

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01 Sep Ryan Bell: A Year Without God | What Does He Believe Now?

 

Ryan Bell Free OK

 

 

A Year Without God?

 

Yup, at the end of 2013, former pastor Ryan Bell announced he was gonna “try on” atheism for a year. And boy, it didn’t take too long for the media to take notice.

 

So what made a life-long Christian, who pastored for nearly 20 years, do such a thing?

 

Well, it’s been over a year since his experiment began, and I had the opportunity to chat with him at his home in Pasadena, California.

 

So get ready … this episode is sure to get you thinking.

 

IN THIS EPISODE, RYAN ANSWERED THE FOLLOWING:

 

• What events led to your  “Year Without God”?
• What difference does God make?
• How do you respond to skeptics?
• Did you ever “pray” during your atheist experiment?
• Why not “A Year Without Christianity?” instead of God?
• Why atheism? Why not deism? Pantheism?
• How would you define the God you reject?
• How did your “year without God” affect your family?
• How did the atheist community influence your journey?
• Do you ever miss the old notion of God you used to have? (e.g., a loving father, provider)
• Do you ever feel like your religious years were all a waste?
• What would it take for you to believe in God again?

 

Download this episode to your computer (right click and save)

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

 

Ryan’s Bell Blog “A Year Without God”

Ryan’s Facebook

(FREE Audiobook Download) God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything 

Become a Patron and help support this podcast to keep it going (any amount helps!)

 

Thanks for Listening!

 

Thanks for chillin’ with me again this week. Have a question or some feedback you’d like to share? Or you wanna just show some love? Leave a comment below!

 

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

 

Also, I’d really appreciate it if you can leave me a REVIEW and RATING on iTunes by clicking here. It helps the podcast a lot and allows more people to discover it as well!

 

Then follow these steps:

 

1. Click “view in iTunes” button

2. Go to Ratings and Review.

 

Finally, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on iTunes to get automatic updates so you’ll never miss a show!

 

Thanks again. Peace!

 

(Image Description: Ryan Bell speaking at Oklahoma Freethought Convention 2015 | Author: FreeOK)

 

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02 Apr You Are Creators Interviews Joshua Tongol – The Secret to Awesomness!

 

Check out my interview with the largest self-help channel on Youtube: YouAreCreators

 

This video was uploaded with the permission of YouAreCreators

 

Information about YouAreCreators:

 

We (YouAreCreators) created this channel to share one of the greatest secrets of the universe, and the secret is, we literally create our reality! (Quantum Physics now proves this) We are all governed by a set of Universal Laws, and these laws were created by GOD, to aid us in creating the life we desire. One of these laws is known as the “Law Of Attraction”, or the law of “Reaping and Sowing”. This law simply states, whatever you give out in Thought, Word, Feeling, and Action is returned to us. Whether the return is negative, or positive, failure or success, is all up to what you give out. Many authors and celebrities such as, Wayne Dyer, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Steve Harvey, Rhonda Byrne, and many others have testified to this amazing Law Of Attraction. Its time you learn this wonderful secret…

 

Visit their website: http://youarecreators.org/

 

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19 Oct 12 Questions for Joshua Tongol – Ready…Go!!

 

Hey folks, not too long ago I was interviewed in Santa Barbara by a ministry called The Golden Lampstand.

 

I hope it gives food for thought and encouragement to those who can relate with what I share.

 

The Golden Lampstand Production presents: “The Truth Revealed” Series

 

Date: October 8, 2014
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

 

An honest, straight-from-the-heart interview with Joshua Tongol.
(author “So You Thought You Knew” and international speaker)

 

1) What is the gospel?
2) How important is questioning?
3) What’s the problem with religion in general?
4) What are your thoughts about church?
5) What would you say to those struggling with their faith?
6) What’s a big division in the church?
7) How can unity come back into the church?
8) What would you like people to remember you and your wife for?
9) You say/use the quote gesture often when you speak. Why?
10) What helped you get out of the fear-based relationship with God?
11) Why did you start writing? And tell us about your projects.
12) Final thoughts?

 

Edited by: Ricardo Perez
Background music: “Without Limits” by Ross Bugden
Golden Lampstand channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClplvYbMZYEiPJh-NO3duXg

 

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04 Apr Joshua Tongol: Christian or Anti-Christ? | HuffPost and Examiner.com

 

In this exclusive interview for The Huffington Post and Examiner.com, bestselling author, Jeff Rivera (“Forever My Lady”), discusses Joshua’s controversial book “So You Thought You Knew.”

 

Throughout the hour, you’ll hear Joshua share his journey out of religion, and how he ended up questioning what many consider to be the “fundamentals” of Christianity.

 

Joshua discusses his personal views on religion, church, healing, satan, the Bible, and for the first time in public, homosexuality.

 

Enjoy the show!

 

 

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04 Apr Examiner.com Interview: Joshua Tongol: Christian or Anti-Christ?

(I do not own the rights to this. Shared with permission. Original post can be found at the Examiner.com website.)

 

Here is my EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Examiner.com. Bestselling author, Jeff Rivera, interviews me about my book, healing, homosexuality … and bunch of other shhhhtuff!

 

It’s not every day you hear a Christian, especially a former pastor, who challenges the traditional view of eternal hell or questions if Satan really is responsible for all man’s perils. Nor do you hear someone who’s spoken to congregations all around the world refer to the doctrines fundamental to Christianity as legalism. But when I ran across best-selling author and former pastor, Joshua Tongol’s videos on the Internet, I knew I had run across something special.

 

Little did I know just how special he was until I saw his healing videos. I had to find out more but had no idea what I was in store for when I began reading his latest book, So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion. Touted as honest, courageous, and a breath of fresh air by many but cursed as controversial at least and anti-christ at most, Tongol’s best-selling book, raises the hard questions he believes Christians should start asking.

 

From his journey as a self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christian, evangelist and missionary to a spiritual thought leader that hopes to pose the questions other pastors wouldn’t dare to ask their own congregations, Tongol opens up to me in this full-length interview about why he wrote the book, what led to his decision to give up his post as pastor, how he’s lost friends after writing his best-selling book and shares exclusively with me for the first time publicly, his honest opinion about homosexuality.

 

Many people have come to know you from the healing videos, and that’s led to a lot of opportunities for you to speak all over the world and churches worldwide. Can you tell us a little bit of a brief history, of your journey from a pre-theology student to now?

 

Tongol: I was interviewed by The 700 Club several years ago if people want to hear more about it. I was born with one hand. I grew up in a very charismatic kind of church, and so my whole life I was trying to seek healing by going to all these different miracle crusades. I wasn’t into theology very much. I was just a simple kid going to church. Then when I was about seventeen, I reached a turning point in my life where I went to this crusade with a high expectation, and I didn’t get healed. Then, I just stopped believing. I found a lot of it to be a little strange, because my whole life I was going to a church that believed in healing, and I didn’t see any miracles happen. I was very skeptical.

 

At the same time, when I was seventeen, I started getting into theology, even before I went to seminary school. I was getting into something called apologetics, which is an intellectual kind of defense of the Christian faith; it’s basically how you defend Christianity against all the other religions, trying to prove that we’re right and everyone else is wrong. My methodology, at the time, was that I criticized not only other religions, but also Christians that were doing healing because of my own lack of healing and my experiences that I had growing up. Needless to say, I was really into that kind of intellectual Christianity, very critical. I would debate with people all the time.

 

Prior to that experience, I never really questioned anything. I wasn’t mad at God; I was more saddened. I would think, maybe miracles don’t happen today. Finding myself very skeptical of all the miracle claims from Charismatics, Pentecostals, and others. It led me on an eight-year journey of being a Christian skeptic. During this eight-year period, as a pastor, I would pray for people, but I didn’t really heal anything because I was still very skeptical. After those eight years, I met a man who was miraculously healed that I just couldn’t explain away, and long story short, I was so persuaded by it that I went on my own journey again, revisiting this whole idea of healing. I began reading all the books that I used to read; reading books that I’ve never even heard of, from guys that were supposedly respected by this community, and for the first time after eight years, I started to believe it again. I started praying for people and instantly seeing people get healed faster than usual. After that eight-year period, I just started doing healing and everything changed.

 

I was born and raised in fundamentalism, so I grew up in an Assembly of God church. I taught apologetics at a Presbyterian church, I served as a pastor for several years at a Southern Baptist church, I was an evangelist at another Pentecostal church, and I was a missionary to the Philippines. So, I’ve pretty much been around when it comes to the whole evangelical Christianity deal.

 

I want to talk a little bit about your latest book, which I finished reading last night. I really enjoyed it. It’s probably one of the most honest books I’ve read about religion, or the spiritual experience in a long time from someone who calls himself a Christian. In fact, it’s probably the most honest because you have dispelled a lot of the myths that people have thought about, but wouldn’t dare say aloud but how have churches reacted to this book? Because it’s pretty controversial.

 

Tongol: Naturally, a lot of people, and especially, the bigger institutions are not too happy about it, including those in other countries that I’m aware of, but I’ve also seen a very positive response, as well. I think the generation now is a lot different than my parents’ generation. My generation is more into the Internet, where you can find out information on your own now; you don’t have to listen to the pastor. However, there have been very opposite extreme reactions to it. It’s either a love or hate kind of deal. To me, that’s a good thing because it says something.

 

I know a lot of people who have actually read the book, some pastors, really make me wonder if they actually read the entire thing because some of the criticisms that they claim I never brought up, I actually did. I think a lot of it has to do with a loss of control because now I’m getting people within their congregations to think.

 

I’m not trying to wreak havoc and cause division; that’s not my point. My point is for people to finally be honest with themselves. Tomorrow is the first day for my book tour, and it’s going to be at a church. I haven’t spoken about my book at all yet, so that’s going to be my first one. In the past, when I’ve spoken at churches, it had nothing to do with my book.

 

Are there are any churches that you spoke at before, or you were invited to speak at before, who don’t really want you to come this time around?

 

Tongol: That, I’m not sure. When I was speaking at some churches, in the past, I would mention my book in some of my messages, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. Some people have told me that they wanted me to come do meetings with them again in 2014, this year, and I never heard back from them. I don’t know if it’s because of my book; I would just be speculating. I have lost a good number of people in my life, unfortunately, not just because of this book, but because of my teachings in general. I’ve had people who associated with me from the beginning who, once the first day my book was released, didn’t want to be associated with me anymore.

 

Were you warned ahead of time by those close to you that maybe you should rethink about whether you need to write this book, or even release it?

 

Tongol: No one has really told me, that I can remember right now, not to write it. Even those people who are starting to distance themselves from me, surprisingly, never said anything about it. It’s not that we were really close, but these would be people that would endorse each other on their websites, “partners” so to speak. In fact, a lot of people have told me to write my book because it’s been on my heart for years.

 

I actually started writing my book back in 2010 when I was still a missionary in the Philippines. I was already sharing with some people some pretty radical stuff when I was preaching, what we would call, a radical grace, or this unconditional love that God loves and embraces all people. During that time, I almost finished my book, but I had more radical shifts.

 

That was when I started questioning the doctrine of hell. People were becoming concerned about my questioning, but I was still eventually going to pursue writing a book about it because it’s so important. The doctrines that I mention in my book is one of the reasons why I wrote it. They show how it really does shape your life as a Christian, of how you view the world. For instance, if something bad happens, you will blame the devil, or f you do something stupid, you’ll be afraid you’re going to go hell.

 

You mentioned a couple of interesting things. One thing in the book, you’ve mentioned, is you did actually question hell, and its existence, and you also talk about what it means to be a Christian. How would you describe Christianity? Would you describe yourself as being Christian?

 

Tongol: If someone were to ask me if I’m a Christian, it would be hard for me to answer because it depends on what that person’s view of a Christian is. I know for a lot of people, at least here in America, the view of a Christian is someone who is very intolerant, a bigot, and very judgmental; they’re against homosexuality, they’re pro war, etc. For me, I don’t know if I fall into that category. Even if I were to give the cliché answers that a Christian is someone who follows Christ, one can still ask, what does that mean, though?

 

I follow the teachings of Christ the way I understand them, but I don’t limit myself to just studying from Christian teachers. Back in the day, actually my whole life, I would follow the Bible and everything that was not called Christian, I would reject. But these days, personally, I don’t even call myself a Christian, but I could if I wanted. If I try to explain what I mean, I don’t limit myself to just the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible. I try to discover truth wherever it’s found, so if I can embrace something that Gandhi said, or Buddha, or even some positives in the Quran. I’m willing to admit that I was raised in a Christian tradition, at least evangelical tradition, so I’m very familiar with it.

 

However, I’m also willing to step out of that box and be able to explore other traditions in order to discover truth, which could be coherent with what I believe. It’s hard for me to label something Christian or not because it’s all very subjective. Everyone’s definition of Christianity is so different, especially when you have 30,000 plus denominations. We can’t even agree with each other. As you can tell, my book is contradicting, so many of the Christian beliefs out there, or so-called Christian. This is just my experience of how I understand things, so whether or not I’m right or wrong, as I mention in the book, this is just my journey growing up as a Christian.

 

You also had a shocking confession in your book, that although you were a pastor, you actually don’t read the Bible every day.

 

Tongol: I’m surprised you brought that up. Honestly, I don’t. I know that sounds really bad. I don’t acknowledge that to a lot of people when I preach at a church because, obviously, I usually have a Bible in my hand. I don’t remember the last time I picked up the Bible, and I know that can sound bad to a lot of people. I have Bible verses still memorized in my head. I used to read the Bible because I would feel so bad. It was like getting rid of your guilt; you’re supposed to read it as a pastor, so I read it. I got nothing out of it, but at least I read it, and got rid of the guilt for the day. That’s how much I was stuck in legalism.

 

I do appreciate the Bible. I’ve seen a lot of atheists, and a lot of people who are ex-Christians who just throw away the Bible, and say the Bible is garbage and just filled with violence. Obviously, they’re not taking the Bible very seriously because the Bible, in my opinion, is not totally off. As you’ve seen in the book, I do believe that there are some good treasures in there, but there are also some things that I do find problematic, so you want to read it as objectively as possible. So, if I feel like reading it, I’ll pick it up.

 

How do Christians – traditional Christians, fundamentalist Christians – respond to you mixing the sort of metaphysical, quantum physical thoughts with spirituality?

 

Tongol: Like I said before, it’s both positive and negative. When you watch my videos, I’m speaking at a church, but I do try to speak the language of the audience, or I try to stretch them just a little bit. If I’m more in a traditional church, I’ll really tone it down. If I’m in a church where the pastor invites me to speak, I feel they must be familiar with my content, some of the things that I say, and, so, I do tend to ask for permission, “Can I say whatever I want? Are you familiar with my teaching on this and that?” And if they say, “Josh, say whatever you want,” then I tend to say whatever I want. For the ones that tell me what the background of the church is, some of the more traditional, I do tend to speak a language that is very Christian sounding.

 

The video you saw, the How to Heal Yourself, that’s in a more progressive type of church community. I’m actually speaking there again next month. Of course, when it’s a big crowd, you can’t please everybody. You’ll have people who say, “I loved your teaching because I used to be a New-Ager but I gave up New Age to become a Christian and now you’ve shown me how you can bring the two and two together,” and then you have another person who says, “You’re just like this total anti-Christ. You’re bringing New Age teachings in here or secular ideas.” For me, I think that’s the problem, they try to make these distinctions between the secular and the sacred, or the holy and unholy.

 

To me, like I mentioned before, truth is truth. I’ll stay away, to some degree, from the New Age language if it offends people, but I try to push it just a little bit to show that some of these people who are considered New Age, or New Thought, etc., have some truths that we have to be open to. I’m trying, in a sense, to bridge that gap because, there’s been too much of this us-them going on and I want to show people not to be afraid to read books on metaphysics, or New Age, or something else that’s very different from traditional Christian theology.

 

I just learned that I can’t please everybody. I don’t try to totally speak exactly what people want to hear, but I try to push it just a little bit because I want them to grow. At the same time, I try not to push it too hard because I still want them to hear me out. The moment you just get all crazy and you speak a different language, it scares people away and they don’t want to listen to anything that you have to say. You’ve offended them and it makes them uncomfortable. I try to play it by ear, whoever the audience is.

 

You briefly mention in your book that you run across all kinds of love. Being a former pastor, what is your personal view about gay marriage and homosexuality?

 

Tongol: I’ve never gone public with this. I’ve had so many people ask me this question, but I’ve never gone public with it. My views change so much. Homosexuality is very common in the Philippines, and when I was there, we had gay friends. In fact, one of close friends is actually gay and my my wife’s best friend growing up was also gay. These are wonderful people. To try to keep it as simple as possible, I just leave it up to them to choose what they want to choose. I don’t understand how all this happens; are they born that way or not? Honestly, I don’t know, but to me, no matter what, I accept them and I don’t judge any of them; I love them. In fact, the woman who married us, my wife and I, she lived a homosexual lifestyle in the past. She doesn’t do it now for whatever her reasons, for her own convictions, but no matter what she chooses, I will still love her. I wouldn’t tell her to stop doing it because, honestly, I don’t understand all that.

 

You stop short of saying that Satan doesn’t exist in your book. What is your personal view of who Satan is and whether or not he really is the way that most Christians view him?

 

Tongol: That’s a big thing. Surprisingly, I’ve questioned the doctrine of hell for a while, but for some reason when I question Satan it pisses off people even more. I’ve had people even walk out of my teachings; during the time that I would teach, because they were offended. It’s hard because I’m hoping that the people who hear this interview will be able to at least read the resources that I recommend in my book because, obviously, I’m just getting people to question it, but there’s a whole other way to understand Satan. When we think about Satan within just popular Christianity, we think of a fallen angel who’s tempting everybody in the world, but when you look at scholarship, even today, there’s a whole other way of understanding Satan in the Bible. My quick answer would be, if it’s not limited to just being a fallen angel, which I believe there to be very little support for in the Bible, my understanding would be why can’t something satanic be more, such as, a dark side of humanity, or fear itself, or the ego, or destructive behaviors, or people who are addicted to drugs, dealing with their demons? Why can’t we look at it, especially within our culture, like that?

 

I tend to believe that the way Satan works is it manifests according to our culture, the way we understand the world. For example, if I go to certain parts of the Philippines, or to Africa, it’s going to manifest as these somewhat crazy monsters, these crazy demonic manifestations. I’ve been there and I’ve seen all those things; not in Africa per se, but even in America I’ve seen people manifest all those crazy things. Usually, as I’ve noticed within the Christian culture, depending on the mindset of the community, it tends to manifest according to the mindset of certain individuals. We do have this whole idea of the collective consciousness of how we are as a people, the ideas that we have. You don’t see an atheist manifest demonic activity because they don’t believe in demons, but a Christian would come back and say, “Well, because the Devil already has him. The Devil wants to get the Christians.” They come up with these really interesting theologies.

 

Personally, I just don’t get into those kind of things anymore, that’s my mindset. Whether something is a fallen angel or not, I do not deny the reality of evil in this world. There’s a lot of sick and twisted things that I’ve seen. What I’m saying in the book is that I just get a bit tired of people scapegoating the Devil all the time, because I’ve seen that firsthand. People in high positions, in the Philippines and in America, after they’ve fallen into “sin”, they blame the devil. I just find that very irresponsible of them. Maybe there is a fallen angel that’s coming down on their shoulder, I don’t know, but to me I just don’t like the whole blame game going on. I would like for people to take more responsibility. It makes this world a better place when you just stop talking about monsters and demons.

 

My whole life I was afraid of demons. I was taught while growing up in a charismatic church, people saw demons all the time; people see demons on walls, and blood coming out of the mouth, and people getting choked at Bible study. Those things were happening, believe it or not, at the time when I would be teaching those kinds of things, so people want that kind of lifestyle. For me, I don’t. My life, now, is just so much different. It’s so crazy because I don’t even think about the Devil at all. If a problem happens, I don’t think it’s the Devil.

 

Maybe I’m deceived, but if I was deceived I wouldn’t know it, right? All I know is my life is better now. I take full responsibility for the choices that I make, the things that I put in my mind that are probably bad ideas, and I end up living it out. Whatever it is, I take full responsibility for. That’s just where I’m at on my journey. Who knows what I’ll end up believing about the Devil five years from now? It could be more than an angel, but it could be structures and institutions that are just controlling people, controlling the masses. I just don’t want to limit it to being a fallen angel. I think we need to make our understanding broader.

 

 

 

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03 Apr Huffington Post Interview: Former Pastor Joshua Tongol on Hell, Satan and Homosexuality

(I do not own the rights to this. Shared with permission. Original post can be found at the Huffington Post website.)

 

Here is my EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the The Huffington Post. Bestselling author, Jeff Rivera, interviews me about my book, satan, homosexuality, and bunch of other shhhhtuff!

 

Religion is crumbling. The views that were once held sacred and unfixed by Christianity, have been questioned and challenged at a rapid pace for decades. That I knew, but when I heard what former Pastor Joshua Tongol had to say about his views on hell, Satan and homosexuality, my jaw dropped.

 

Never had I ever run across a Christian as forthcoming about his faith and his doubts as Tongol was in his new book, So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion.

 

In my interview with the best-selling author today, we discuss what led him to his spiritual metamorphosis, the challenges he’s faced speaking from the heart and how the healing he’s been known for has affected his life.

 

What moment in particular led to that total change in tune from following Christianity to the letter to where you are spiritually today?

 

Tongol: For me, it could be cliché, but honestly, love. For my whole life I don’t feel like I’d been living as honestly with myself as much as I could have. My entire life I would hear things at the pulpit, I would read things in Christian books, and it just didn’t make sense to me at times. It’s like the moment I started to understand unconditional love, everything changed.

 

I started to see God in other people, even when Christians would tell me that God is not inside a non-Christian. The moment I saw God in other people, it really changed everything. I saw how critical and dark the Christian world can be when you start to disagree with them, with people. I’m not trying to scapegoat them; I’m just trying to share my experience of what happened. The moment I started to question a lot of the teachings that I was taught growing up, all hell broke loose and I saw how nasty people can be. It’s not even just among Christians, I’m sure it’s everywhere, but it’s just my own experience about how many friends and people I lost.

 

Thinking, once again, about how many denominations that we have and the different interpretations of the Bible, I think there’s something wrong here when everyone is claiming to have the absolute truth. We’re all contradicting each other. I just thought to myself, maybe we got some things wrong, not just in interpreting the Bible, but as any human being. We all make mistakes, so why couldn’t the authors of the Bible make mistakes too? Which is normal, because they were people that were bound by their culture and limited by their own time.

 

I just started to follow my heart and realized that all these years I used to study a lot of philosophy, I actually read a lot of books on atheism that actually made sense to me at the time, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I was scared to admit that they made sense. So what I would do is read all these books on Christian apologetics and how to defend my faith just to reaffirm what I already was supposed to believe — because it was what I was supposed to believe — but then I wasn’t being true to myself. I can’t say it’s like one moment; it was a journey for me because I’d always had these thoughts in the back of my head saying, that doesn’t make sense, but I’m supposed to believe it as a Christian.

 

Like I said, it was a process of just learning to let go, and learning and discovering the truth. It was very humbling for me because if you see me now, if you watch my videos, I’m pretty chill; usually I’m just like chilling, sitting down on a chair talking, but back in the day I was very dogmatic, very in your face, “You better do this, you better believe this if you’re a real Christian,” and very legalistic, so a lot of people are really surprised at how I’ve ended up. Of course, a lot of people I used to judge in the past are a lot happier with how I am now. It’s definitely been a process.

 

And there was even a time, you mentioned in the book, when you would be open to talking to different religions, but really your secret agenda was to, somehow, convert them to Christianity.

 

Tongol: It’s sad, it’s really sad. It was very disingenuous, just like my approach. I did that every week. I was a hardcore. I was even telling my wife yesterday, I would go to all these different universities every single week. It wasn’t my school, I was still a seminary student at the time, but every Thursday I would go to different colleges, universities, just to evangelize as many people as much as I could. I remember I would meet some amazing people, but I had my own agenda, and they were going to hell in my view at the time. Now, I see things differently. I’m just as passionate, if not more, than I was before, but I’m more humble because I realize there’s still so much for me to learn about other cultures and to hear their story that I don’t know why they ended up believing the stuff that they believe. Look at me, growing up as a Christian who claimed to supposedly have the truth, look how much I’ve had to unlearn even within my own tradition. I just needed to take a step back and realize I’m not as smart as I thought I was.

 

The healing you do was one of the ways that really opened up a lot of doors for you, but you mentioned in your book that there was a point when you started to wonder if the only reason people were really interested in you, or maybe invited you to their church to speak or becoming friends with you, was because you had these gifts. It’s been a while since we’ve seen newer videos of healing. Is there a reason for that?

 

Tongol: The only reason is a simple one; it’s just because I’ve been focused on other things like writing my book and speaking on other topics, other than healing, so it’s nothing big. I still do it. For instance, I’ll be speaking in San Diego tomorrow, and the pastor last night told me about these people that are going to be coming to do healing, so whether or not that’s recorded I still do this all the time, it’s just not being posted online. I do a lot of the same teachings, so I wouldn’t want to be posting the same kind of content all the time. Even in my book and in my videos, I’ll put it in quotes about “healing gifts” because I believe that everybody can do what I do.

 

I think that’s something that’s been on my heart for Christians to understand. People would put me on a pedestal in the Philippines and here because they think that I’m unique, and I’m not when it comes to healing; it’s something that everybody can do. I was actually concerned about that for some time, especially when being new to a country. They didn’t really know who I was except for that I do healing. I would have very shallow conversations, such as, “How many miracles happen at your church?” I got connections fairly easy once I got to the Philippines. I had a meeting with some really well-known guys in the area, and one of the first things that they’d ask me would be, “How many miracles happened at your church last week?” Honestly, it’s great that they get excited, but in the long run those things ultimately don’t matter to me.

 

For me, what I was concerned about were the relationships, and that they would get to know me for me. It’s good they’re into healing and all that I do, but deep down I just wanted to know they would be alright with me just because of who I am as a person; to see my flaws, and my weaknesses, and to not just be interested in me to speak at their church. I’ve had opportunities where I’d be doing these healing services at these churches, and after I leave, that’s it; they don’t keep in touch with me after that, and I’m left thinking a lot of these churches that I was “connecting with” are very shallow, and used me to do some of their dirty work. I won’t mention any names, but I was speaking at some of the most well-known churches in the Philippines and they would have these undercover pastors. I started from the ground up, grass roots, and I was just doing my own thing, sharing, and some of these pastors would get a hold of this message and would be too afraid to preach it at their churches, so they would have me do it, and then after I would do it they would hardly even keep in touch with me. It just got very shallow for me. I don’t know if I’m asking for too much. I was just looking for real relationships because it’s very easy to get caught up into the celebrity scene.

 

You mentioned that you’re not special, that anyone can heal themselves. In fact in one of the videos you did, one of the things you say is that someone needs to get into the “feeling place” of having already healed themselves or having already healed that person. How do you do that exactly?

 

Tongol: Well, there are different ways, of course. It depends on the person and what would actually work for them. As I mention in the videos, it’s about the technique that will work for you, and will build you up to that point. Some of the ways that I mention in the clips would be speaking words. I’m sure we’ve all done this, just like when we’re discouraged we will speak positively to build ourselves up. For example, the new song that’s been out called, Happy; I’m singing that a lot now. Sometimes when you’re feeling down you just need to say something and all of a sudden you reach a “state of consciousness” where you just feel it. Visualization could be another, like through meditation where you’re seeing something in your mind’s eye, or even just doing some sort of action. There are different ways that you can actually do it.

 

For me, it’s visualization, speaking words, listening to something; and just all of a sudden, I hear a message. You can reach this state of awareness where it just feels so real for you in that moment. I’m glad you brought that up because I believe the feeling is the main element that people are missing. When people read something like the law of attraction they’ll try all these different techniques thinking, “Oh, I prayed or I said ‘in Jesus’ name’ or I visualized and nothing happened.” That’s the problem. It’s not your words, it’s not your thoughts that create the healing; it’s faith, and faith is usually evidenced by how you feel. I use the feeling as an indicator of showing that that’s probably a genuine faith you have. If you tell someone, “You’re rich. You have nothing to worry about. Don’t worry, you’re not going to struggle financially,” and if you keep saying, “rich and rich and rich and rich,” but you don’t feel it, then you don’t believe it. When you feel it, you believe it.

 

So how do you get to that point? Like I said, you can be watching something, you can be listening to something, you can be saying something with your words, or you can be visualizing it. There are many ways; it just depends on the person. If you want to sound Christian, according to your faith, be it onto you.

 

You talk very lovingly about your wife in the book. How much of her support and her love really has a lot to do with the success that you’ve had and the happiness that you’ve had in your life?

 

Tongol: Oh, everything. We’ve been married for the third year this month, we’re actually celebrating our anniversary next week, so we’re fairly newlyweds. I was already “having success” with all these things prior to meeting her, but to me, just meeting her, life has been so much better, especially after a lot of the stuff that we go through, sharing the kind of message that we share to the Christian world. When I first met my wife, we actually got together after two weeks. I fell for her the first day and I wanted to be with her. After two weeks I just asked her, “Would you like to be with me?” I told her, “If you’re going to be with me, are you ready for the stuff that you’re going to have to endure for the flack that I get for the message that I share?” The crazy thing is, I met my wife at the time that I wanted to leave the Philippines.

 

I didn’t mention that in the book, but I was getting so much criticism from the churches, and the mega churches. The rumors that would be spread about me through even text messages – because text messaging is big in The Philippines – people would be calling me a cult leader or a false teacher, and then all of a sudden that week, I wanted to go back to America. Literally, I told people I’m going back to America, I’ve had enough, and I was still single so it was really hard for me going back to an empty home and hearing all these negative voices in my head from all these churches. I didn’t have a big church. As you saw in the book, I stopped going to church. Then that same week that I decided to go back to America, I met my wife. Obviously, I ended up staying in the Philippines for a couple more years.

 

She has been this a huge joy to me, just a big support. It’s really interesting to have someone by my side to just remind me that I’m not crazy. For instance, all the times when I was hearing all those negative things, and well-respected people condemning me, or people telling me that I’m going to hell, my wife would just say, “Josh, I know your heart. I know your heart.” Even when I was dropping her off at work today, she was saying, “You’re going to have fun with the interview.” If I was home alone, and with this all negativity that’s gone on, honestly I don’t know how I would take it. Would I be okay? I believe so because I believe that I’d always be okay no matter what, but it’s just a joy to have my wife with me. It just makes life a lot more fun.

 

You briefly mention in your book that you run across all kinds of love. Being a former pastor, what is your personal view about gay marriage and homosexuality?

 

Tongol: We’re all different, we’re all unique. If there’s something that leads to a destructive lifestyle, then I would say something. But I do know people, surprisingly, if they’re Christians, they don’t understand that there are people out there who live good lifestyles, who love people, who “love God,” and they’re living that lifestyle, so who am I to judge them? I know I’m going to take a lot of flack for that, but I just accept all people. If they’re not hurting anybody and they’re not hurting themselves, why not? That’s just my personal view. There are a lot of Christians who will disagree with me, but I just don’t buy a lot of the criticisms that I’ve heard against gay people. My gay friends in the Philippines are some of the most loving people I’ve ever met in my whole life, and they’ve been through so much hell from the Christian church. Why should I add to that? Those are my thoughts.

 

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