S01E04 - Apostles of Unbelief

In this episode Lindsay and I discuss an article published by The Gospel Coalition on the deconversion of YouTubers Rhett and Link.

  • Are we culpable for the salvation of others?

  • Are we too, Apostles of Unbelief?

  • Are we in or out?

These questions and more are discussed.

Digging Deeper

A YouTube Playlist of all of Rhett and Link’s Spiritual Deconstruction Stories

Here is a video from The New Evangelicals responding to Alisa Childers (the author of the article we discussed in this episode.)

And after some time going down the rabbit hole I found this gem:


Here’s a good discussion on the ramifications of Rhett and Link’s de-conversion:


I was really interested when y’all established that your discussion in this episode would be centered around an article about Rhett’s and Link’s deconstructions. I didn’t follow them on YouTube or podcasts (I was familiar with their viral “Red House” ad from internet eons ago). But when exvangelicals talked about Rhett’s album that came out a few years ago, listening to it really, really moved me. So I was interested to hear more.

I really empathized with when Rob talked about not feeling like he could talk about it with anyone. I suppressed my doubts for so long because, like one writer described a similar experience as, “… I couldn’t follow through with my own questions because the cost was too high.” I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about the deconstruction process, especially because the vast majority of our family and friend circle were evangelical. A lot of them knew my story and I knew (rightly, it turned out, later on) that they would blame my deconstruction on me being hurt by the megachurch we’d been at. That was a small part of it, but it was so many little things over about a decade — it wasn’t as simple as one thing.

But I didn’t even feel like I could talk about it with my husband. I was worried that telling him would cause a crack in our relationship, because evangelical Christianity was so much a part of his life. The cost was too high; I didn’t want to lose him. But I finally broke after a visit with some evangelicals who were like raptors testing a fence the whole time I’d been there. And, to my relief, he admitted he’d been having a lot of doubts and questions, too. But he’d also worried about talking about it with anyone, even me.

Something I think about now is: what does that say about the evangelical environment we were in? We’d done an extensive couples bible study on apologetics, read many books (in both groups and alone), attended 5 or more sermons every weekend, etc. But when either of us had tried to ask follow up questions that didn’t fit these apologetics arguments that other evangelicals had memorized, the questions were treated pretty repressively — we were told we shouldn’t ask questions like that; we should work to have more faith; or, we were just redirected back to the bible (the source of the questions we had). So we…stopped talking about it with other evangelicals, and even with each other.

When we eventually told family we no longer believed, multiple people (who had been disparaging about anyone who wasn’t an evangelical Christian with us) expressed disappointment and asked us why we didn’t talk about our doubts and questions with them. (!!!)

Part of why we still don’t discuss our nonbelief with some evangelicals dovetails with something else you mentioned in this episode: “definitions do matter.” Some won’t even agree about the definition of “religion” and that they practice one (how many of us have heard that someone has “a relationship with Jesus, not a religion”?). We can’t agree on the basics that need to be established for a conversation on religious beliefs; how can we have a fair conversation?

Our relatives’ reactions really scared us off talking about it with anyone outside our few non-Christian friends — so this quote from the article you were talking about came across really off-putting.

“The sad reality is that, for the deconverted, disbelief isn’t sufficient. These apostles of unbelief are on a mission to help others deconstruct with the same evangelistic zeal they learned from their previous tribe.”

(Aha, it’s where you got the title!)

What struck me is that: it isn’t that Rhett and Link are being evangelical about their nonbelief (because they’re not — their overarching shows aren’t centered on this topic!) — it’s that they’re talking about it at all that bothers people like the article’s author.

Why are evangelicals allowed to widely tell their stories, but we, the deconstructed, shouldn’t share ours, even if it’s a footnote in a larger collection of unrelated media?

When Lindsay asked if there are there really people who feel responsible for other people’s spiritual journeys, both of us reached for the bluetooth speaker to pause it because both of us immediately thought of the same thing.

One relative said they “just wanted to listen” to Nicholas’s deconstruction story, so, based on that premise, he gave them a short overview. When he finished, the relative then quoted some scripture and said some dismissive things that made Nicholas realize they’d been sitting there quietly, rebutting what Nicholas was saying, instead of simply listening, as they’d claimed they’d wanted to do.

Because they said they’d only wanted to listen to Nicholas’s story, he thought that was the end of it, so he shrugged off their dismissive response. But a few months later, this relative asked when they were going to have the followup discussion Nicholas had agreed to.


Nicholas had not agreed to a followup of any kind.

When he refused to have a follow up, another relative said that they and the other person “deserve closure” because they’d been responsible for teaching Nicholas evangelical beliefs — and Nicholas gently rebutted that no, he doesn’t owe them closure about his personal decisions.

Yep, there are people out there who feel that way. :pensive:

When y’all asked: “Do I want answers?” I’m more comfortable with not knowing or maybe never knowing things than I ever was before. But I also got to this place after reckoning with childhood abuse, getting therapy, and started working on letting go of my need to feel in control thanks to my anxiety (and I’m still working on it, probably will be for the rest of my life).

We’re watching the Rhett and Link deconstruction playlist now…soooo much of Rhett’s story, so far, feels very familiar! Thanks for sharing the extras, gonna work our way through some of those, too.

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Thanks for sharing; so much of what you said resonated with me. A couple of things really stuck out:

I too, realized that there was more to the deconstruction than what the megachurch did, yet, for me, it was no small thing. I would say it was the largest contributor. I would likely still find myself wrapped up in evangelicalism if the megachurch didn’t do what they did. I probably could’ve lived in that tension for a long time. In other words, If I had found myself in a more progressive faith community, I likely wouldn’t have left it. Not sure though.

Excellent question. My thought is currently that deconstruction is the same as cult deprogramming. And all the same trappings come along with it. Shame, isolation and the need to just heal and be removed from the narrative for self-preservation.

I think one of the reasons that Lindsay and I started this up was we had felt that way for years (at least I did) and I wanted to get back to that sense of community or belonging. A thread that is shared. And we are finding out so many people have this same experience. Its nice to have some solidarity in it now.

This story got me; I haven’t had it exactly, but I sense it bubbling in some folks around me; I am just waiting for it to happen.

I very much am okay with never knowing. Some days I want to know, most days I choose to delight in the mystery. I know now what I am not willing to do or think in order to have “answers.” And that is, to subjugate any other person based on their skin color, genitalia or self-identities.

It’s really great stuff. And even though I don’t follow their career either, hearing their journey and seeing their courage to speak it when so much is against them sharing; is really humanizing. I am glad they did.

Thanks again for sharing @jamiemyselfandi. I loved reading your thoughts on the episode.

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For me, it definitely accelerated the process. Like you and Lindsay have pointed out, my awareness about the evangelical Church’s open embrace of white Christian nationalism was also growing, so I was already having some serious misgivings when everything went down. I think I would have been on my way out soon anyway, although it likely would have taken a few more years.

Yes! There’s lots of reasons (maybe even a different one for each of us that shares our story). Community is a big part, for me.

Oof. I wish I could reassure you that there’s relief that it’s over once you’ve had the conversation, but our experience has been that they just push for a new conversation about it whenever they sense that we’re hurting or vulnerable. :face_exhaling:


Thank you for sharing your and Lindsay’s thoughts via the podcast, and creating a space for others to respond!

An example: once, two separate people called the night before a hurricane was set to hit us and monologued about their beliefs.

That’s just so … predatory?

Just awful.

The wild part is that I don’t think that’s what they consciously set out to do; but this is the way they were taught to proselytize, so they just do it without reflecting about how hurtful (and transparent) it is now.

It sucks.

I am not sure. For some mission minded folks (I was one of them a long time ago) we purposely created spaces in order to “win converts.”