What do you think when someone tells you they’re a Christian? What do you think when someone tells you they’re an atheist? Are your assumptions fair? Do they affect how you work with them or interact with them?
On this episode of our “Ask a…” series, we have “Ask a Christian (Robert Davis, pastor) / Ask an Atheist (Christian Charette, former pastor, now with Couple Forward Counseling)”, and these two have a conversation around beliefs, morals, perceptions and misconceptions, and relating to each other.
Jason Gillikin: You’re listening to the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast. On this podcast, we share diverse perspectives from leaders in their industries, explore diversity, equity and inclusion concepts, and challenge our own assumptions and perspectives to take diversity beyond the checkbox. I’m your host for this special series.
Jason Gillikin, the executive producer of the Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox podcast and CEO of Earfluence. This podcast series seeks to initiate courageous conversations that remove barriers, stereotypes, and apprehension associated with asking difficult questions related to types of diversity.
Our goal is to foster understanding, create connectivity between people and share experiences through conversation. Most questions asked in the series are researched as often asked questions and perspectives shared represent those of our guests and do not necessarily represent the setiments or viewpoints of Earfluence, The Diversity Movement, other associate organizations or their employees or assigns. On this episode on our “Ask A” series, we have asked a Christian and ask an atheist. This episode will make you think, and you might even squirm in your seat a little bit, too. But before we get to that, if you like this podcast, make sure you subscribe, rate, review and share on social media. And to see more diversity initiatives, including an online course on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, visit www.thediversitymovement.com. With that, let’s jump right into the show.
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I’m Jason Gilligan and we’ll see you next time. I’m Jason gala, Ken, and we’ll see you next time on diversity beyond the check box.
So let’s meet our guests. Robert Davis is a father of three with a son and two daughters and married to his wife, Christie. Robert is a U.S. Army veteran, former law enforcement officer and a certified criminal justice instructor. He is a licensed ordained minister at New Bethel Baptist Church in Rolesville, North Carolina. Robert is a Christian.
Christian Charrette is a father of three daughters and has been married for 26 years to his wife, Amber. He is a marriage and family therapist with a private practice, Couple Forward, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, focused on helping couples live the intentional life. Christian is also an atheist. Can we just take a quick moment to resonate on that? We have an atheist on the show named Christian. Welcome. Both of you. Will you each take a moment to tell us about yourselves, Robert we’ll we’ll start with you.
Robert Davis: Good afternoon, everybody, first of all. And, as you stated, my name is Robert Davis. I’m originally from a little small town called Hampton, South Carolina. You might not know where it is, but normally tell people the big cities around it, like Charleston and Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head, when you say those places, then people kind of know what you’re talking about, but it’s a very small town.
I was brought up in church. I got baptized when I was six years old, and I’m almost pushing 50 now so that’s a long time to say you’ve been baptized. But, I was brought up in the church. I couldn’t have outside activities if I did not attend church. Meaning I could not play sports, I can not hang out.
Church was first, everything else came second. Did I stray away from it as I got older? Yes. But as I continue to get older, I made my way back. You know, they say the South is the Bible belt and I believe that in a certain degree.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah. Thank you, Robert. And Christian, how about you? Tell us about yourself.
Christian Charette: Yeah. So, my family is originally from the Buffalo, New York area. My mom’s family and my dad’s family is from upstate New York, and we moved to Florida when I was probably 9 or 10. Like Robert, I also grew up in a religious household that was Christian.
We went to church as well. It was Sunday morning to Sunday night, Wednesday night, visitation on Tuesday night. Similar backgrounds there. So I also grew up in the Christian faith as well.
Jason Gillikin: Christian. What denomination of Christianity did you grow up in.
Christian Charette: So when I was 5, we were living in New York and my mom attended a you know, I think her family background was Catholic. And she attended a Presbyterian Bible study in the neighborhood and, kind of had a, what they say, a born again experience, right? And then that, sort of, took our family in that direction. Then when we moved to Florida, we went to a Christian school where they required you to go to the church, and she taught there, too. It just happened to be a Baptist church. Fundamentalist, independent Bible, you know, Baptist church.
So, that stuck for the majority of our family life, so it was Baptist.
Jason Gillikin: OK. And when did you start to move away from that? You personally in your journey.
Christian Charette: It was actually quite later in life. So I’m 49 now, probably around 2001 was the beginning of my, you know, deconversion or Exodus from personal faith and personal belief in the cultural system that I had been given for quite a long time.
I was actually a pastor. I was a pastor for 16 years, and the last seven of those I planted a church in Tampa, Florida, and was doing that when I was having these conversations with my wife, long walks on the beach, and reading a lot and thinking a lot. And you know, of course you’re speaking all the time and answering questions a lot.
So, one of the best ways to learn is to teach and after a while, those questions that were being brought to me, I didn’t feel great about my answers. And so I, more and more, was troubled by whether or not I actually believe the things that I was, you know, raised to believe and, and genuinely believed.
Jason Gillikin: I want to dig into that more in just a second. But Robert, you said that you kinda strayed a little bit as well, and then later in life kind of went back to it. Can you talk about that?
Robert Davis: Well, let me clarify what I mean by the words “stray away.” If you’ve been raised to do something as a little boy, you know, the Bible says you train a child up, you know, in a way that it should go and as they get older, it should never depart.
Well, I got older and went into the military and, what I mean by stray is I didn’t attend church like I was supposed to. You know, in the military, you’re constantly on the move with assignment and when you’re moving around, I didn’t find the time to go to church like I should. So that’s what I mean by stray away. That means I just fell off from going to church, like I was brought up to do. But I’ve never strayed away from God to make that clear.
Jason Gillikin: Gotcha, OK. Yeah. And Christian, you mentioned these conversations with your wife, the walks on the beach. Were there any conversations that you had in particular where you’re like, ” You know what? This isn’t happening for me. It’s just not there anymore.”
Christian Charette: I don’t know if it was one particular conversation, it’s probably a host of them that just lead – it’s just about questioning, right? I think that, you know, I’ve always been a person that’s asked questions. Mom tells me about the questions I asked her when, I was a kid and I asked those questions a lot, all throughout church.
And for a long time, probably was satisfied with most of the responses I got. But, you know, as you get older, you ask the question again or in a different way, or you go back to it and think it over. So it was more about just not being satisfied with the answers that either I would present to someone or all the books that you read would present to someone. You know, and I was in a pretty – at that time, the church that we planted moved from the suburbs of Tampa to the downtown area and we were doing primarily social justice kind of ministry with homeless people and, you know, we were hooked up with a place called Metropolitan Ministries there in Tampa. And so we fed people, and we were very active in our faith, but, you know, because of the people that we attracted, which were artists and people, you know, millennials and, you know, there’s a lot of questions and there’s a lot of discussion and I kept narrowing down my fundamentalists.
Finally, I got down to the. I think it was the Nicene Creed, you know? And I said, “OK, these are the essentials that I believe. And then eventually I was like, “Yeah, not even those. I don’t really fundamentally believe this anymore.” So, that was a huge part of why I stepped out. And, like anyone in that situation, when your livelihood depends on your belief system, it’s a pretty intense time.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah, I imagine. You’ve got to change careers on the fly as well as you’re going through that.
Christian Charette: Exactly.
Jason Gillikin: So Robert, give us a few of the tenants of your faith or your beliefs.
Robert Davis: I don’t have to get too deep with that because some people do get lost sometimes when you start trying to tell them the tenants of your favor. I mean, I keep it very simple. I believe in God, the father of God, the son of God, the Holy spirit. I believe in the Bible. The Bible is the true living word of God.
And like I said, that was poured into me, planted in the me, as a little boy. So that’s, you know, even though I did not attend church like I should, that’s something that has stuck with me. And I’m like, like him, I’m almost 50 years old. So, it has stuck with me my whole lifetime, and it actually sets the foundation for my beliefs.
And that’s one of the big things I believe in, and that is the true living word of God. I mean, of course there’s other things I believe in, but when it comes to the Bible, that is my foundation for my belief is the Bible. So that, that’s the strongest one for me.
Jason Gillikin: Sure. And this podcast is not the place for debating that. But I’m just kinda curious you, like, did you ever question those beliefs at all? Did you ever have questions about, “OK , this doesn’t make sense for me,” or has it always made sense to you?
Robert Davis: When I was younger, I would say I didn’t really grasp the Bible. I didn’t really get an understanding, but that’s why you have to put yourself in a position to be taught the Bible.
I get a lot of questions today and people will come and ask me “Well, I don’t understand the Bible.” I always tell people, as I was told, “Read the Bible from start to finish.” Start at Genesis, all the way to Revelations, and to take your time doing that and slowly something should click in you that will make you slowly start understanding what you’re reading, but people still can’t do that to this day to still understand what the Bible is. But I’ve never questioned the Bible. I’ve always believed that the Bible is right and like you, I’m not here to debate. I like open honest dialogue and I respect people’s, you know, where they stand, but that’s just where I stand. I’ve always believed that the Bible is right and it’s never wrong. And we are dealing with one of those questions later on in the podcast about the contradictions of the Bible.
I’m waiting to get to that one.
Jason Gillikin: Christian, what about you? What, what do you believe in?
Christian Charette: You know, it’s interesting, actually, you know, maybe this is a hybrid of the last two questions you asked me, but, you know, I went – I met my wife at Bible college. I took Greek in high school. It was like, I went to a Christian school, so I remember the final exam was to translate First John. I mean, I’ve been immersed in the Bible.
I’ve read it many, many times. I was going to say, you know, be careful what you ask for ’cause that’s actually probably a big reason why I got to where I was because really the first step here is that in order to have faith, or religious faith is what I mean, you know, you have to believe, at least as a Christian, you have to believe in the Bible. And you know, that’s the sacred text of Christianity.
And so, just like all other sacred texts, I just put it to the same test. So, once I left that belief system, once I decided for me, “I don’t really genuinely believe that anymore,” and feel comfortable with that. You know, what does that leave me with in terms of beliefs? I mean, I was looking over some of my stuff and preparing for this and I had at the top of my personal Facebook, “No creed, but love.”
And so that’s, you know, that’s pretty much what I operate under and there’s probably, you know, like he was saying, there’s certainly branches of that, but that’s basically it.
Jason Gillikin: I like that, too. And so what
Robert Davis: Can I piggy back on something real quick he just said that just kind of stuck out? Because he’s right.
I would be, I would be hypocritical even as a ordained minister to not believe in the word or believe in God, and then I preach and teach that same word. So I have to believe in what I’m preaching and teaching to other people. Because if I don’t believe in it, then I have no foundation to teach others to believe in it.
Especially as pastors, because that’s important.
Jason Gillikin: And I’m sure that both of you feel like your beliefs get a bad rap at times. Christian, what about you? What are some common misconceptions that you feel like, you know, atheists get a bad rap. What do people not understand about, being an atheist?
Christian Charette: So I think the most common misconception about, you know, most atheists is that they’re angry people and that the only reason that they either stopped or never believed in God is because, you know, something bad happened to them when they were a kid or in church, or they’re angry at church people. All those things are probably possible reasons people might choose to leave their faith or challenge their beliefs, but, you know, the people that I talk to mostly have intellectual problems with spiritual and I find them very earnest people, you know, which I would consider myself a sincere person.
I sincerely believed what I was taught and I sincerely don’t believe it anymore, and I think that sincerity sometimes is questioned, and it’s usually an attack on a person, you know, would do me no good to do that to Robert either because I think he’s sincere in his belief, That’s why I appreciate and why I agreed to be on a podcast like this, because the only time that you genuinely meet an atheist in the sense, unless you have friends, is in a debate. And that’s sometimes, in debate, can sound pretty angry to people.
And I think that, if there is an angry part of these two sides of, you know, especially in the U.S. With Christianity, it’s because of how we talk about policy in the U.S. and how religion has played such a huge role in our country. And I think that, that’s where I know atheist people in terms of their movements can be perceived as angry because they have certain feelings about, you know, what they believe about the United States and a pluralistic society and all religions or no religions. And I’m sure, at times, people of faith feel, you know, disenfranchised as well. So, I think that where you meet people at and how you hear them can cause those misperceptions.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah. I mean, it almost seems to be like, In politics, atheism can be seen as evil and that doesn’t really seem fair, you know, when people are just talking about their beliefs, it doesn’t make anybody a bad person to be an atheist and, you know, there can still be love and everything else that goes with being a human.
But, it also seems like, and we don’t need to get into political discussion too much, but it also seems like there’s no way right now an atheist could be elected to a high office.
Because it’s seen as, evil. Robert, what about you?
What are some common misconceptions that people have about, about your beliefs?
Robert Davis: Believe it or not, Christians get just about the same kind of heat because most people want to say “Christians, why are y’all so judgmental?” Now in all honesty and all candidness, there are some judgmental Christians.
I just happened to not be one of them because I try not to put myself in a place just because, you know, what I believe as far as, you know, what I stand on, as far as God and the word I don’t want to be in the place where, “OK, now I’m sitting here as the high judge.” Because, believe it or not, some Christians are even judgmental against other Christians.
So, and definitely against atheists because I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it, I’ve seen it, but like Christian said, if you can get to a place where you can, where you don’t get into a back and forth shouting debate match and if you, if you sit there and listen, that’s the key hearing each other and listening, you’ll be amazed what can come out of that conversation.
And ironically, I’m just finding out that people that I’ve known for years are atheist. And I’m just finding, it’s ironic that I’m here today, and I’ve had friends for years and I’m just finding this out. They’re not hateful. They’re not, you know, everything Christian said, you’d just be amazed. They’re not just like, “OK, evil, evil.” I mean, no. Not the ones that have been knowning for years now, but I know they’re atheist out. That blew me away when I found that out, so.
Jason Gillikin: Well, how did that make you feel when you found that out?
Robert Davis: I didn’t, it didn’t make me feel any kind of way because, believe it or not, they’re friends with a lot of Christian folks. If people think Christians and atheists can’t be friends, I dispute that because that’s not true. Like I said, I was friends with quite a few of them for years and didn’t even know it.
That’s what I’m saying. So I believe Christians and atheists can be friends, you just have to get to a point where you’re going to agree to disagree, but do it the right way, respect each other’s beliefs and just keep it moving, you know?
Jason Gillikin: Well, Christian, what about you? Like, are you ever surprised to learn that a friend of yours is a Christian?
Christian Charette: No I’m not, because of where I came from. I mean, there’s more people that probably, if they’re not, you know, obviously we’re using terms very generally here, but you know, there are more people that I think assign agency to the world and their life. You know, God or a diety, or specifically a Christian God or a Muslim or whatever, then there are probably people like me, although we’re a growing group.
They call it. I’ve heard so many podcasts and different things, they call them the “nones,” right? And N-O-N-E not the nuns, you know, so, you know, we’re growing, but I’m not surprised at all. I mean, you throw a rock, especially in North Carolina, you’re going to hit a Christian.
Jason Gillikin: So. Yeah. Well, so what about in the workplace like Robert has, you know, being a Christian, have you felt like it has affected you in the workplace in conversations that you’ve been able to have, or that you have had with your team?
Robert Davis: That question kind of stood out to me a lot too when I got it, because ironically, I, once again, ironically, and I’ve been fortunate enough to actually work mostly with a lot of other Christians. So our conversation is gonna pretty much line up, pretty much most of the time. And I’ve really have not really had any workplace experiences where I had to say, get into a back and forth about somebody really questioning me about my beliefs or, now you do get people that will point out certain things in the, you know, in the Bible , you know that they have a problem with, but other than that, you know, I have really not had any bad experiences with the workplace things about my beliefs, because once again, if people tell me they don’t go to church, they don’t believe in God. I, you know, I don’t sit there and beat the Bible across their head, you know? I just tell them what I believe in, and then where I stand, and, try to get them to, you know, see my point of view, I hear their point of view and it’s all done in love. So I’ve been kind of fortunate not to run into any workplace experiences about Christianity and stuff like that.
Jason Gillikin: Well, what about, you know, the people that you’re mentoring as a minister and, you know, do you get into debates with anybody? You know, let’s say there’s somebody that’s questioning their faith , your faith, do you get into debates with them? And how does that work out?
Robert Davis: That is a good question.
And maybe Christian can, as a former pastor, he could probabl y kind of, relate to what I’m saying, but one thing I tell people when they come with me, I’m not going to debate. First of all, I’m not gonna debate the Bible with you because you do have folks in church that will come and ask you certain things and they want to get into Bible debates with you.
I don’t debate the Bible. I tell people, read the Bible. Try to get that understanding for yourself. And if you can’t get that understanding, then yes, you are supposed to reach out to those because as a person that’s called to the gospel, I’m supposed to labor and study myself. So when people do come and ask me questions, I can point them in the right direction.
Now it doesn’t mean that I’m going to know everything that they ask, but that’s why I make sure that I’m keeping myself studied up as far as. Things that you just say when people come ask those questions. But, I tried to avoid Bible debate because I’ve seen some ugly ones in my time and I try not to get into Bible debates with people because it can, they can get pretty ugly.
Jason Gillikin: And Christian, what about you in your work as a couples therapist? Do you share that you’re an atheist?
Christian Charette: Sometimes I do if it seems appropriate. I’ve actually been very fortunate to have people from all different walks of life come into my office. I’m certainly, there are plenty of people who they make the leap that just because my name is Christian that I do Christian therapy. They type Christian, therapists, Raleigh in Google, and my name came up and they make the assumption. I tend to take a position that my personal life is – I’m not there in any agenda way, which is actually probably partly reinforced by my Exodus from Christian faith and my lack of faith because when I made that conscious choice to do that, when I really knew that that’s really sincerely where it was, it fundamentally changed a lot of things that I believed about other people, you know? At least the Christian faith I grew up in, every decision, every act, every conversation was about trying to convince people to come into this belief system. And, you know, now I don’t have to do that anymore, so I can fully accept people exactly where they are.
And for me, that brings me much more joy. So sometimes in a therapeutic setting, I decide to disclose that. I’ve actually had a lot of pastors that come and see me, usually from out of town because they don’t want to be seen in their town going to a therapist, which is a problem for pastors because they don’t have anyone they can go to.
You know, and they’re just people too. And they have bad and good and awful marriages as well or just issues in their life. Ironically, I actually am on the clergy project – not on the team, but like I’m part of the clergy project – and they’re offshoot of that. It’s like, a resource to find secular therapist. And what I get a lot of times through there are people who are inside of their churches or inside of there, you know, their faith communities and they want to talk to someone about how they really feel without getting in trouble. And so I get a lot of people through there, so I kind of have both, and I certainly have plenty of people that are practicing Christians and I wouldn’t probably share that up upfront unless it made therapeutic sense.
Does that, does that make sense to you guys? You know, my life only makes sense to them, if it’s a good example or if I find it useful, you know, or if they directly ask me, I don’t feel like I should lie, you know? I might sidestep them and say, “Well, why is that important to you?” And then say, “Well, you know, I’ll tell you what I think.” It’s ironically, a lot of people would think that I would lose clients because of my personal beliefs, but I haven’t found that to be true.
And that’s where I think, you know, that no one, just because they’re a pastor or, you know, a podcast producer or a therapist can be pigeonholed into whatever that might mean to someone as a label.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah. Now, do you feel like you’ve ever offended anybody by bringing that up in a therapy session?
Christian Charette: Not to my knowledge, but you know, I mean, it could, it could have been possible I guess. I know I’ve actually had people come back to me like a year later and I thought that the reason they stopped was because that conversation came up in some meaningful way in their therapeutic process, and it turns out sometimes they want an outside opinion. And so, I know I’ve had clients come back and I’ve said, “Oh, I thought, maybe that was too much for you or that bothered you or you had people in your life say, ‘Oh, don’t go listen to a, you know, evil person or an atheist, right? They ‘re going to give you bad advice.'” But they’re like, “No, no, that, that wasn’t it at all.” So, I’ve never had anybody express it to me.
Jason Gillikin: Robert, what, what guides you morally? Is it the Bible then?
Robert Davis: The Bible, my faith, guides me because, like I said, I have to operate in faith because I’ve been to a place where I once didn’t have no faith at all. And that that’s, that’s not a good place to be either.
So it takes a lot for me to make sure that I try to keep my faith walk as strong as possible, and as Christian can relate, when you’re in the role of ministry, you have a lot of people that actually they look to you for certain things, especially on the Christian side. They come to you and they, like you said, you need certain answers from you, they’re looking for certain answers from you. I have to teach them about faith and give them hope because that’s what they’re looking for at the end of the day. They’re looking for hope. So from a moral side, and I keep relating everything back to the Bible, but that is my foundation, that’s what I’m rooted in, and that’s what drives me. But it ties in as well with my faith. As far as the moral side is concerned.
Jason Gillikin: OK. And so Christian, what about you? Like what’s your moral compass thing? Like if there’s no Bible for you, you know, from where do you find morals?
Christian Charette: I think we all, you know, my position is that we all find them the exact same way. We find them from being, you know, social beings. We find them from being conscientious people. We find them because we realize pretty early on that what I do affects another person and what they do affects me.
And so, this is one of the objections that people usually have is like, “Well, if you don’t believe in God, right, that’s probably another misconception is that how can, you know, what’s right or wrong?” And, you know, I realized pretty early on in my life, I didn’t need a diety to tell me what was right or wrong. I probably already knew. And if you look at the 10 commandments closely, I mean, you know, not to jump down, I don’t want to get into the weeds, but you know, those things are not uncommon sense. You know, they’re pretty much common sense, and so I don’t need a sacred text or a diety to help me learn how to live a moral life. And I would say that it’s, you know, all morality is relative to the social ecology that we’re in. And so, I think it’s a misconception that without the Bible or without God, you know, you just can’t know what’s right or wrong and there’s no absolute right or wrong.
And you know, for me, when I, you know, in my concept and thinking about that when I got to the place where I understood that, “Wait, you know, wait a second. Somebody has to say what’s right and wrong. Is that arbitrary or is it objective?” And I’m like, “OK,” well then they’ll say, “Well, God said it’s right and wrong. And that’s why it’s objective.” But that still seems arbitrary because how did he know what it was right and wrong. And so you go into this vicious circle and what you find out about all faiths, not just Christian faith, is that the God always gets the exception to the rule. Everything has to have a beginning.
In other words, it has to be designed, except God, Everything is objective, except God. Or arbitrary, except God he’s objective, you know? And so they have, you know, obviously they have reasons for that. I’m sure Robert could probably hit those out of the park in terms of the pretty standby, you know, responses for those things.
But when I thought about those things, I couldn’t be sincere in holding that to be true for me anymore.
Jason Gillikin: Robert, what do you think about that?
Robert Davis: He just gave a very good perspective. I like how he put that so eloquently because it’s not that hard.
It’s either you’re going to believe, or you’re not going to believe. And that’s why I when he said he was a former pastor, I thought that was kind of interesting because he once – to be a pastor, he once had to believe. ‘Cause I don’t believe he was a pastor and didn’t believe because if he was then, like I said, he was doing a disservice to the people he was leading as a pastor. So that’s why this is so interesting. But when he made the shift, he’s right. People who don’t make that shift, they’re going to believe that God is the Supreme, that God is beginning and he is the end. So I respect where he’s coming from it’s just a believer of faith – the faith believers and those who don’t believe in the faith anymore.
Jason Gillikin: Gotcha.
Christian Charette: Well, and I think that, you know, that’s probably the important distinction between what generally people make between the word faith and the word belief. We all have beliefs, and we certainly can all believe things that are not true or true.
And that’s, you know, we can talk about, epistemologicalically, how we gain knowledge, how we know what we know, but faith is reserved – the more narrow definition of its religiousness, you know, I think the Bible says faith is the evidence of things not seen, right? So it is a leap from concrete, here’s the evidence, prove it to me to believing things that you hope for, believing things that you, you know, believe are true.
Robert Davis: Can I read something real quick? Since Christian opened that door, he must’ve been in my study notes last night, so, all right. It says “faith in its natural, meaning, not the spiritual context, but in the natural context, is to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
So it doesn’t have to be actually in some one you can have faith in anything, based on the natural meaning. But he said something key, the spiritual context and he’s very correct. It says “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” That means you got to believe it before you even see it.
A lot of people can’t do that. You have to have faith to do that. I’m glad he, kind of, opened that door and I actually wrote that down last night, so yeah. That’s why I had to, I want to read that. Thank you for opening that door, Christian.
Christian Charette: You’re welcome.
Jason Gillikin: Well, Christian then what do you, what do you have faith in?
Christian Charette: I think that both Robert and I, and people like us would share, certainly, faith in our eyes, you know, sort of like a belief based on things that we experience. Probably there’s evidence on both sides that we have some trust if we’re using the word faith and trust, you know, as a synonym.
And we trust certain authorities, because I’m certainly not, you know, an astrophysicist, I am not someone who understands string theory or physics itself. I’m not a, you know, I’m a therapist. So obviously I can read those things and I have to put some trust in the authority, but the nice thing about, at least how I think that I come to know things, is those things can genuinely be tested.
I could learn how to do carbon dating and come to some conclusion about whether the actual test outside of an authority proves that the earth is more than 6,000 years old. So that’s what I like about founding and grounding my beliefs in things that I think are more knowable. That doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong in my beliefs, but the nice thing is I can change my beliefs.
You know, one of the problems with the church as an institution is it, even though I would argue it’s changed quite a bit about what they fundamentally believe, you know, there’s some principles that they’re not going to shift, they’re not going to change because they’re not going to question it. You know, even my friend, Robert here has a pretty – his principle is I’m not going to debate the Bible. I believe it, I’ve accepted it. He’s sort of made it through that threshold, and so he’s not interested in, at least it sounds like, and even questioning, you know, its veracity, how it came to be, you know, the contradictions that we haven’t really talked on, you know, He’s sort of got to this place where his faith is first in that text, and then what it says about this person that we all call God. So that’s a long winded answer, but.
Jason Gillikin: Well, sure. And so, Christian, if I remember the Bible, right, the Earth is around 6,000 years old or life is around 6,000 years old. am I right? Is it humans are around 6,000 years old?
Robert Davis: I haven’t researched that. I recall seeing that somewhere, not for this particular podcast, but I can’t remember exactly where I saw that at.
I don’t want to say I saw that in the Bible because I don’t, I don’t ever recall coming across that in the Bible. Not saying it’s not in there. I did see that somewhere, though. What you just said. I did remember seeing that somewhere.
Jason Gillikin: Okay. And so I’m fairly certain then the Bible does say that, the Earth was created in seven days, by God, with humans starting on the seventh day or on the sixth day, and then God rested. Am I right on that?
Robert Davis: You’re in the book of Genesis right now. It was the human, not humans. It was one in the beginning, which was Adam.
Jason Gillikin: Yup.
Robert Davis: And then the second human came, which was Eve from Adam.
Jason Gillikin: Yup. And is that what you believe? Robert?
Robert Davis: That’s what I believe.
Jason Gillikin: OK. And Christian, if they’re – well, in your beliefs, is there no, God?
And then if not, like where do we come from? Where did the Earth come from?
Christian Charette: Yeah, in my belief, there is no God, but what that means is I haven’t seen any evidence for him, right? I think To be, to have integrity. You have to be like open to the possibility that there’s something, you know, something else that I don’t know.
So technically, you know, we should say for the listeners to be an atheist is to be off-theist to someone who does not accept the evidence, right? It’s not necessarily an affirming position. It’s not a position you take and try to prove. You can’t prove a negative, you know? You’re not out there claiming like – I can prove nothing, you know, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s just not accepting the affirming position, which is, “Hey, there’s this being out there.” What was the second part of your question?
Jason Gillikin: How did the earth begin?
Christian Charette: Oh, well, I mean, I think that, you know, the leading science is fairly conclusive.
There has been an evolutionary process over millions of years. And it makes a lot, a lot of sense. I know when I, when I left, you know, being a pastor and decided that I could no longer hold these beliefs in a genuine way, I got my hands on anything I could read because I was taught since I was a little kid what they believe the fallacy was in the evolution story, and it turns out they kind of got it wrong. They were arguing against a lot of straw men. So when you actually read what science says about these things, for me, it’s a pretty conclusive thing, and everything that we have, even this technology that we’re using right now, comes from an understanding of science in that view.
So for me, that, that makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t mean that it’s not hard to understand, or it’s not complex, or that, you know, it may not even make sense to us. I happen to think that, you know, since I’m a more of a psychologist now that it makes more sense for people to assign agency to things they don’t understand.
And we’ve seen that throughout history. So, you know, then to sort of understand the evolutionary process, but that’s how I think life began and where we came from.
Jason Gillikin: And thank you for that Christian. So, Robert, do you feel like our society is becoming more and more agnostic as a whole and moving away religion?
Robert Davis: Depends on how you view it and what lens you’re looking at, and I’m talking from the Christian standpoint. It seems like they’re trying to even separate more of taking a religion or spirituality out of the schools. I’ll use the schools, that’s a perfect example. Because once upon a time, you could pray at school. You could do a lot of things when it came to Christian stuff at school. Now you can’t do any of these things anymore, it seems, ’cause everybody’s trying to separate spirituality or religion from institutions. And I think somebody said something about the government earlier and even, certain forms of the government that’s true. So, I don’t know – and you said that word agnostic. ‘Cause I did my research last night a little bit and I didn’t know this, because I’ve heard the term agnostic, but then I didn’t also know that that is another term that some atheists will use when they don’t want to be called directly an atheist.
And I got that directly off the atheist website last night, ’cause I did a little research myself and I saw a lot of terminology that they use when they don’t want to be called straight out atheist, and Christian can correct me if he likes, but I got that strictly off the American atheist website last night, and I read that and that kind of floored me because I’ve heard agnostic, but I’ve never heard some of the other terminology that they also use. But I think right now, when it comes to religion and spirituality, I honestly think we’re at a split in this nation, to be honest with you, and that’s just my opinion. But in light of everything that’s going on around us from the spiritual side, I think people are looking for some spiritual guidance. I’m talking about everything that’s going on in the world right now. I’m talking about right here, right here in the United States alone, so.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah. And so how do we come together as a society then? Like, you know, you talk to Christian and you talk to other atheists, you know, how do we make it so it’s not, you know, us versus them type of debate, and how do we come together as a whole, you know, to make policy and to be morally guided and how do we do that and everybody to get along?
Robert Davis: I’ll give you a prime example. It’s what Christian and I are doing right here today. He’s very strong on where he’s standing, I can tell, if I’m right. If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong.
I take the you’re very strong at where are you stand, and, you know, I’m very strong and where I’m standing, but we’re not sitting here shouting back at one another. It starts with healthy dialogue. Once you can incorporate healthy dialogue, then you can start implementing change.
Because trust me, I’m not going to say it’s impossible for me to so convince the atheist to flip over to Christianity. I’m not saying that’s highly impossible. I know it can probably happen, it probably has happened. No different than Christian flipping over from Christianity to being an atheist.
So it can go either way, but it starts with healthy dialogue. And if you don’t have healthy dialogue, none of this stuff is going to get better. Whether you believe or don’t believe nothing is going to change. So, this is a prime example today, because like I say, we were respecting each other. We’re not shouting over each other.
We’re not “Hey, you wrong, you wrong!” No, we’re not doing that today. We sitting here respecting one another and that’s how it should be. If we’re looking for change, that’s how it should be. Even in the believing and non-believing arena.
Jason Gillikin: What do you think Christian?
Christian Charette: Yeah, I would pretty much agree with that and piggyback on, you know, the aspect that’s useful in the process of listening to someone is validation.
And to me, validation is not about agreeing about the facts that someone else has. That’s, you know, that’s what a debate is about. Whether the facts prove this person’s perception. But validating someone is trying to put myself in their shoes and making sense of how they got to where they got and is it reasonable that they believe the things they believe? And I think that is primarily the way that, across any divide, you know, whether it’s socioeconomic or race or religion, when we get to a place where we understand that, “OK, it’s not unreasonable for Robert to hold these views. I mean, these are, these are pretty common views.
I think it makes sense from a psychological sociological, all kinds of perspectives. It makes total sense. I don’t find my views on reasonable either, and I think because religion played such a role in the early history of humanity, it’s only, you know, in 2020 that I can say something like that and probably not receive a bunch of hate mail or whatever.
Like I think that even Robert could say it’s a reasonable view to have these questions and come to the conclusion that I don’t think this thing that you believe is out there.
Jason Gillikin: Yeah. Robert, what is one question that you would ask Christian?
Robert Davis: I wrote it down wait a minute. I want it to, yes, I got it right here. Christian, my question is, is just very simple. How do you identify in your atheism. Do you identify just as, straight up, I’m an atheist or do you sometimes use these other terms that I came across last night?
Now I’ll call them out for you a agnostic, humanist, secular, right? Free thinker. Those are the terms that I got off of the atheist website last night. Do you just, do you identify with any of those that I just mentioned that you just identify as “I’m atheist? I don’t have a hand or I don’t, you know, I don’t use these other terminologies.”
Christian Charette: I’m a Christian atheist.
Robert Davis: Christian athiest.
Christian Charette: No. To answer your question directly. I mean, obviously it probably depends on who’s using the labels and how they’re defining them, but most of the time I find the term agnostic is the middle ground where a person’s really not sure whether they believe there is no God, or they’re not convinced there is.
They’re sort of in this middle ground, right? You know, I think that you and I share a lot of common ground because you’re agnostic and or atheist about every other God, the same way that I’m agnostic about all of them or atheistic about it – I think atheist from a Christian perspective is more from in, “Hey, I’m, I’m pretty convinced that there is no God,” right?
Again, I was liking it to this, though. It’s not a hobby in itself. Me not collecting baseball cards is not a hobby. So me not having faith, is not also a faith, right? So it’s really, a skeptical position and all the terms that you like free thinker, atheistic, agnostic, sometimes those terms are used to argue against the person in debates, but I don’t think you’re using it that way, but I would just say I’m an atheist.
‘Cause I I’m fairly convinced that the evidence that I’m aware of, that I. You know, put trust in, whether it’s a trust in authority or things that I can see and touch, the evidence that I think points that there is actually no divine being that’s responsible for all this. So I’m more firm in that position, but that doesn’t mean, you know, it’s a faith in itself. It’s not a thing in itself. It’s just a default position in my view.
Jason Gillikin: OK. Christian, what about you? What would you ask Robert?
Christian Charette: Sure. I think what I’d ask you, Robert is, twofold. How do you differentiate between the voice that you would call God or the Holy spirit in your head and your own voice? And do you not question anything or have any doubt in the Bible and/or the beliefs that come from it?
Robert Davis: Part one, I can tie that into just by studying God’s word, and I’m talking from the Christian standpoint, when you study God’s word, you really you come to know his voice through his word. So if – and I’ll give you a prime example. We live in the flesh. We all know that we all sit in here. We live in our flesh, whether you atheist, whatever you, whatever we identify with, we are all sitting here in our fleshly being so normally if I operate out of my flesh I’m usually going by my voice, meaning I’m wanting to do this because Robert says do it. And normally nine times out of 10, Robert is going to do it the wrong way and Robert normally gets it wrong. He messes up something. But normally when I tie into God’s word and based on what I’ve read and studied in his word, if I apply that and I pray about it – ’cause I have not mentioned prayer this whole podcast, but praying is very important part of my life.
So I do have a prayer life as a believer. I’m supposed to have a prayer life. So by prayer and meditating and studying God’s word, that’s how I – and I’m just speaking for me as a Christian, I can clearly hear his voice and I can differentiate between, I need to follow what this voice of God is saying, go left and not listen to the Robert’s voice and go, right. ‘Cause if Robert goes right, it’s probably going to be a disaster for Robert. So, that’s just me based on my study of the word. And the second part –
Christian Charette: Have you never, or do you, do you not actually ever question its veracity, its origins?
Because it never caused any doubt or you never have any doubt?
Robert Davis: I can honestly say I don’t – I never questioned God’s word and I’m not in a position to question God’s word. And like I said, I cannot call myself a licensed ordained minister for 14 years, stand before people and teach out of that Bible and question or doubt anything in that Bible.
Because if I start doing that, then I’m not true to my calling of being a preacher, a pastor, a teacher. And I need to step down and say I made a mistake of stepping into that arena and I have to believe in what I’m teaching other people. That’s just, I have to believe in it myself, because it deals with me first, before we can deal with anybody else, it must deal with me first.
Jason Gillikin: Well, yeah, guys, and I appreciate both of you and there’s so many different faiths out there and beliefs out there, and with conversations like this, we can all come together and talk about it. And this is great. So, I really, really appreciate both your time today, Robert and Christian. Robert, is there any place that you want people to go for your ministry?
Robert Davis: They can, follow me on Facebook, or they can like me on Facebook. I’m not a big social media person. I don’t have all these other – I’m straight Facebook. That’s how they can find me. Robert D. Davis,
Jason Gillikin: Robert D. Davis. Alright, Christian. Where can people go to find your therapy?
Christian Charette: www.coupleforward.com
Jason Gillikin: www.coupleforward.com.