Santiago interviews his Gen Z brother Miguel about growing up Gen Z and Seventh-day Adventist. We laugh about sex ed, bananas, and fleeing our home in the middle of the night.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Ray Comfort on the banana
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Credits: Abby and Ami, creators of the Seventh-day Atheist Podcast • Music: Hall of the Mountain King Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
[00:00:00] Santiago: Welcome to Haystacks and Hell, an ex-Adventist podcast where we tell stories about growing up Seventh-day Adventist, leaving faith behind, and building new, fulfilling lives.
Coming Up: Meet Miguel, Santiago's Gen Z Brother
[00:00:16] Santiago: Welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. I'm your host Santiago, and today we have a very special episode. I'm interviewing my little brother who we're gonna call Miguel. You may remember from the first episode that he deconverted before I did.
[00:00:31] So we're gonna talk about his journey and where he is now. And if you haven't already listened to episode one, I definitely recommend that you go back so you can hear my story and the stories of other ex-Adventists.
[00:00:44] Some background on my brother is that we're a couple of years apart. I'm a millennial and he's Gen Z, and we were both homeschooled by our mom for a bit, and for a brief amount of time we attended the same SDA school before he went back to homeschooling, then to public school, and then back to homeschooling.
[00:01:05] [Laughing] So he's been back and forth kind of like I was a little bit. And because there's several years between us, we weren't always super close growing up, but we've definitely gotten closer as we've gotten older, and I'm really grateful that he's my brother.
[00:01:20] So with that background, let's jump into our conversation. Miguel, little bro, welcome, thank you so much for being here.
[00:01:28] Miguel: Thanks for having me, it's a pleasure.
[00:01:30] Santiago: All right so before we jump into the questions, and there's a lot of questions, some really good questions that people submitted. Is there anything you would like people to know about you that you would like to say in your own words?
[00:01:43] Miguel: Sure, so I'm Miguel. I'm in my early twenties and I'll be graduating university quite soon. I guess you could say I'm a self-proclaimed deist. We can get into what I consider that to be a little later. I'm not entirely sure at what age I left the faith, but I believe I was around maybe 14 or 15, um, I think closer to 16.
[00:02:08] Santiago: Yeah, kinda like me, it's, it's hard to pinpoint exactly when that happened.
[00:02:13] Miguel: It, it was, it was a process.
[00:02:15] Santiago: Yeah, I think it is that way for many people. For some people it's sudden, but I think for a lot of people it's probably pretty gradual. So what is one of the earliest religious teachings or experiences that you can remember?
[00:02:30] Miguel: Um, from an early childhood, it's so ingrained just to pray, to believe in God. I remember sometimes even without mom or dad being there, I would still like pray sometimes before I would go to bed. I'm not sure if there is like just one moment I would say, 'Oh, this is a teaching that I'm gonna carry with me the rest of my life.'
[00:02:51] Santiago: Mm-hmm. Do you remember going to Sabbath school at all as a little kid or as you got older?
[00:02:59] Miguel: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Sabbath school, I went there until I was maybe, until actually after I left the faith. I would still continue going to church with my parents and also with you. And, you know, they had different groups, age groups. Ever since I'd say maybe the age of like 17 and below, I, I would continue going to Sabbath school.
[00:03:21] Santiago: Yeah, I do remember there was a time where you put your, kind of line in the sand. You drew a firm boundary with our parents, which we'll get into a little bit later. I know we're not gonna be able to do like a perfect timeline from start to finish, but as much as we can, I kind of want to walk people through, you know, your experiences over time. So I'm wondering if you can remember what being homeschooled was like, and if you can describe that.
[00:03:47] Miguel: Yeah so, at least for the state we live in, I'm sure every other state is different, but for the state we live in, homeschooling isn't just you and your parents, but it's you and whatever school you're attached to. So for us, we did have a teacher that we saw at least I think maybe once a month. And we would submit our coursework and they would review it and talk to us and kind of gauge, 'Okay, this is the level you're at.'
[00:04:17] So obviously we didn't have classmates [laughing] we weren't in a regular classroom setting, but I don't necessarily think that homeschooling was the worst thing nor obviously the best thing. But it is just what it is, it is what we had.
[00:04:34] Santiago: Yeah like anything, there's, there's pros and cons. And you did make a conscious choice to go back in high school, which we'll talk about a little bit later.
[00:04:42] Miguel: To a degree. For me it wasn't necessarily homeschooling, 'cause I did go to school twice a week with, with teachers. So it was what they would call independent study. So for most of the week it was just me and my textbooks and my... we had online classes as well. So it wasn't necessarily fully homeschool, as we did have classes and I did have classmates, but it wasn't completely every day in a classroom either.
[00:05:11] Santiago: Right that's a really important distinction. And just for those listening, my brother and I did go through the same school for our homeschooling experience.
[00:05:21] So one of the things that people typically think of when they think of Christianity, there's that cliche of oh, "it's not a religion, it's a relationship." As a kid, when you heard people talking about having a relationship with Jesus, what did that mean to you? And do you feel like you ever really experienced that?
[00:05:42] Miguel: For me, a relationship, at least as a kid growing up, it was always just like kind of viewing Jesus or God as a friend.
[00:05:50] It was someone that you could confide in, someone that you would complain to, someone that you would ask things for. I remember our mom always telling us about like, our guardian angel. Everyone has a guardian angel.
[00:06:03] So you kind of felt like this, 'Oh, well I'm being watched over, I'm being protected.'
[00:06:08] Like an older friend [laughing] that is supposed to take care of you.
[00:06:13] Um, and that's kind of what I viewed a relationship with God would be. I think that as you grow older you kind of realize, 'Hey, there's a lot more silence' and there's a lot more, you know, this relationship is kind of one-sided.
[00:06:30] Santiago: Mmm okay, yeah.
[00:06:32] Miguel: And I think there are moments that you would say, 'I think there is a God,' or like, I remember one time I was going through what I would consider like a pretty big crisis for, for myself. I don't know if you would call it a crisis, but at least back then, I would consider it one.
[00:06:53] And I remember I was flipping through the Bible and it took a few tries, but I found a verse that I felt resonated with me and was applicable to my situation and it really helped. So I, in that moment, you know, I still believed back then and reading the Bible really helped in that moment. And I think that is applicable to a lot of other people. That faith for them helps, and that increases their belief in God and in Adventism.
[00:07:25] Santiago: That's a really important point. There's people who will say people like you and me who left Adventism were never truly Adventists or were never truly saved or born again. But I would argue that we did, like you just mentioned, we did have experiences that we felt were spiritual, were of God, right? Experiences with God.
[00:07:49] I think over time, you, I think you said it really well, it feels one-sided. Abby in, I think one of the first episodes, mentions that she had a hard time maintaining a relationship with an invisible, silent being. And that is ultimately, I think at least in our experience, what Jesus is to us now, right, is silence. And some of the things that we may have previously attributed to being a spiritual or supernatural event can, when we look at it with clearer eyes in hindsight, you know, it's something that can be explained with something else.
[00:08:26] So anyway, not to go on too much of a tangent there... I remember that abeulita really wanted to see you get baptized, and I remember you were thinking about that. Do you want to talk a little bit about your thought process there?
[00:08:40] Miguel: Yeah, so I remember that some of my friends from Sabbath school and from the church were planning on getting baptized. I was around the age where it was becoming kind of normal. People would take you more seriously if you said you want to be baptized, the pastor would do Bible study with you.
[00:08:58] And in all honesty, the only reason I wanted to be baptized was because my friends were being baptized. But my parents told me, 'Hey, there's no rush. You don't have to get baptized just because other people are getting baptized.' And they told me, 'You'll be ready when you feel ready.' And I took that earnestly. I believed 'Okay, I don't feel like right now is a good moment, and I'll wait until it's my calling.'
[00:09:30] And over the next few years I remember that we would have calls from the pastor, from other elders, saying, you know, 'Anyone that wants to be baptized,' to stand up or to come to the front by the pulpit. And I never felt touched. I never felt like 'This is my moment, this is when I should be baptized.' For everyone else it really felt like a spiritual moment, but I never had that moment.
[00:10:02] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:10:03] Miguel: Talking about abuelita, talking about our grandmother, she really believed that I would go to hell if I didn't get baptized.
[00:10:12] Santiago: Mmm.
[00:10:13] Miguel: And according to Adventists, according to my parents, also my mom who has spoken to my grandmother, she told her, 'No, that's not right.' According to, you know, Adventist teaching, you can go to heaven without being baptized.
[00:10:28] It could be my grandmother's Catholic background before she converted, but she was very adamant that I had to be baptized, otherwise I wouldn't go to heaven. And due to her being older, she really wanted me to get baptized before she died. So that was that was something she really, you know, wanted and pushed for.
[00:10:49] Santiago: Yeah, you're, you're kind of the baby grandson of the family, right? I think on both sides of the family, you're, I think you're probably the youngest or one of the youngest.
[00:10:58] Miguel: I think I am the youngest.
[00:11:00] Santiago: Yeah, so definitely Grandma was looking out for, for the baby grandson. And you're right, I do think her Catholic background and her upbringing definitely honed that in. I do appreciate the fact that mom and dad never really tried to pressure you into it.
[00:11:16] There's different levels of paranoia I've noticed among members and among churches and I wanna ask you like if you remember ever being afraid of hell or dying, or the end times, because I know that's a common theme for some ex-Adventists.
[00:11:38] Miguel: Mmm, in all honesty, I don't think I was ever really afraid because in my viewpoint I was going to heaven. You know, I prayed, I tried to be a good person. If I did something wrong, I repented. So in my point of view, if you did everything right, then there's nothing to be worried about.
[00:11:56] But for a little while, and I guess this could be the sci-fi, you know, influence or whatever from movies and books and whatnot. For a while I wanted to live forever. And part of going to heaven is living forever.
[00:12:11] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:12] Miguel: It's interesting how both of those are kind of, you know, tied together. Going to heaven, everything's supposed to be perfect, you're supposed to be perfect, so it's this, utopia that, you know, everyone would kind of wanna go to.
[00:12:24] Santiago: Yeah, I remember Abby mentioning that I think for her, she wasn't super afraid of dying, but really liked the idea of heaven. Especially as someone who's a writer and creates like all these worlds, the idea of going to this, you know, paradise where so many things are possible that aren't possible here on earth.
[00:12:44] Besides just the idea of living forever, did you actually have in your mind a mental picture for what heaven might be like and was leaving ever more challenging when you thought about the idea that, you know, you might not go to heaven, or that heaven as we thought of it might not be real?
[00:13:01] Miguel: It's kind of tough to say. For me, heaven was always this like, it's in your mind. Obviously people have done paintings and you know, there's different like, imaginations of what heaven could be like. So I guess in my mind it was always kind of like the Windows screen saver or whatever, the wallpaper it was. Just like rolling green hills, these nice houses with different, tons of families, you know, a bunch of animals. You know, that was, that was kind of my idea of what heaven would be.
[00:13:34] Santiago: Since you mentioned animals, I had a hard time remembering if anybody at church ever talked about pets or animals going to heaven. As far as I remember it, we were not taught by our parents that pets or animals of any kind go to heaven. But do you remember ever hearing anything about that?
[00:13:52] Miguel: I'm pretty sure we were taught that animals don't go to heaven. That they don't have souls, or that was, I believe, the consensus. We probably talked about it in Sabbath school, but if not mistaken, the consensus was that no, animals don't go to heaven.
[00:14:08] Santiago: So it sounds like you definitely had less of a fear of the end times than I think many Adventists who perhaps grew up in a stricter household or a stricter, kind of more fundamentalist church. I mean, don't get me wrong, our church was conservative and fundamentalist, but I guess conservative by West Coast standards. That's one of the things I'm coming to realize 'cause I describe our church as conservative. And don't get me wrong, it was right? No drums, only live music, we really avoided...
[00:14:42] Miguel: No clapping.
[00:14:43] Santiago: Yeah, no clapping. So by West Coast standards, pretty conservative, but by the standard of maybe some churches in the South, probably considered middle of the road, I would guess.
[00:14:57] Miguel: There was definitely some like end times fear though. Like the New World Order or like the, you know, Sunday Laws and stuff like that. I remember mom and others always saying, 'Oh, we have to go to the countryside,' you know, I think there's a verse talking about you have to go to the hills or the mountains or whatnot. So there always was kind of this fear of like, you're gonna have to eventually run for your life.
[00:15:22] Santiago: Yeah.
[00:15:23] Miguel: And you're gonna be persecuted. But at the same time, you're always taught God will protect you. God will be there with you and, if you are a good Christian, a good Adventist, you're gonna go to heaven. So it was, it was kind of interesting, kind of like mixing the two, the fear and also 'Don't worry about it.'
[00:15:45] So it's, it's a little, you know... For me, I did go to evangelistic series and whatnot, and there was a lot of fearmongering in those. Especially about Revelations and end times, but at the same time, there was kind of the underlying message is 'You're gonna be okay.'
[00:16:04] Santiago: Yeah, yeah we wanna scare you so that you commit to this religion, but if you are committed enough then, then you'll be okay. It's basically, yeah... I don't know if you remember this, 'cause you were definitely pretty young when this happened, but do you remember the time when we left our home in the middle of the night?
[00:16:26] Miguel: I remember.
[00:16:27] Santiago: [Laughing] Okay, what, what do you remember about that? And can you kind of describe it for everyone listening?
[00:16:33] Miguel: I don't remember a ton cause I was younger, [laughing] and this was quite a while ago, but I remember mom being freaked out. Trying to be as calm as she could, at least for us, I guess, the kids. And we packed our bags and we went maybe like seven minutes away from us to a, to a motel. And we stayed there the night, and all of this was because some rumors or whatnot of people, mobs, or whatnot, going to different Adventist homes and trying to kill them or something like that. And that's kind of like, uh, we don't talk about it too much.
[00:17:12] Santiago: Yeah, we don't really talk about that anymore.
[00:17:15] Miguel: I think that kind of turned off mom from, I guess more crazy, I don't wanna use the word crazy, but more, uh, people more susceptible to conspiracy theories. There's definitely some people in our church and also that were, were her friends. She cut one off, cut one of them off, but there are people who definitely do spread this fear and make it seem like Adventists will become persecuted and that we're some, some religion that everyone will hate.
[00:17:46] Santiago: Yeah, for anyone who's listening who is not Adventist, we all kind of know that Christians, especially in the U.S., have a persecution complex. There are Christians who are actually persecuted in a tangible, real way but in the U.S. Christianity is the majority religion. So any American who is complaining about being persecuted really, in my opinion, has more of a persecution complex than anything else.
[00:18:13] But Adventists, I think take the cake when it comes to having a persecution complex. But anyway, so this person shared, it was either a VHS tape or a DVD. I'm pretty sure this was late enough that it was a DVD. Even before social media, chain letters over email were a thing and I remember getting those from Adventist church members.
[00:18:37] But VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and then DVDs were a big thing in terms of spreading a lot of this fear mongering. And I remember the reason why, or one of the reasons why mom got so freaked out that we left our home in the middle of the night is because somebody gave her a video to watch where, like you described, they were claiming that people were coming with vans to kidnap families.
[00:19:05] And they didn't, I don't remember them getting into the specifics of what they would do or why they would do it, or, you know, where they were taking them or how they had this information. You know, all of the things that hint at the fact that it's a conspiracy theory. It makes this outrageous claim, doesn't provide any evidence, and instills fear in you, that's exactly what happened.
[00:19:27] So mom got so scared to the point where she insisted, I don't think any of us truly bought into it. I know, I'm pretty sure my dad didn't, I think more than anything, he was just going along to appease her and to just get it over with. And you and I were kids, so we just went along with it, right?
[00:19:47] Miguel: I was, I was a little young, but yes, uh, I, I do remember. We, we, we drove to like the closest motel [laughing] by our house.
[00:19:54] Santiago: But yeah, we, we literally packed bags, drove not that long, not that far away from our home, spent the night. And then mom, I think kind of calmed down in the morning, realized the motel was kind of gross and we didn't wanna stay there any longer, so we went back home. Why that particular night? I have no idea, right?
[00:20:16] But that just goes to show like, the fear that is so tangible and so real. And, you know, if mom ever happens to listen to this, mom, I love you and I'm not sharing this example because I wanna make fun of you, but I'm trying to illustrate the point that these conspiracy theories that are rampant within SDA churches cause real psychological harm to people.
[00:20:43] Miguel: Yeah, if I'm not mistaken, we did talk about it years later, and she cut off one of the people that was really spreading conspiracy theories. She moved away to another state, if I'm not mistaken, but she eventually cut off someone from her friend circle. And the other person that I believe gave her the, the DVD was still at our church for quite a while.
[00:21:06] Santiago: Yeah, I mean that's, and so for everyone listening, I think, one thing that I appreciate is that my brother and I are able to talk about this now, and I, I don't know about you, but I, I don't think I've ever had dreams or nightmares or panic attacks specifically because of stuff I heard in church.
[00:21:29] I do remember having a recurring dream where it's like, it's almost like the set of a Western movie and I'm being chased and like I'm being shot at, but I don't remember it specifically being about the end times. Who knows if they were connected? I'm not gonna make that assumption that they are.
[00:21:48] But I know that some people still have nightmares about this kind of stuff, but you and I, I think were not really outside of that one event, at that one motel, I don't think you and I were really scarred permanently by some of this stuff, right?
[00:22:03] Miguel: Yeah, I don't believe so. I know that other people though, not just with the end times, but the church in general, I think that we've been pretty lucky.
[00:22:13] Santiago: I think you and I were spared from some of that because we grew up exposed to ideas outside of the Adventist bubble to some degree, right? Unlike other Adventists, we were allowed to read fiction.
[00:22:27] Miguel: Um, fiction to a degree. Anything that hinted at witchcraft like Harry Potter, I think Vampire Diaries or whatever was, you know, a "no-no" and stuff like that. So there, there were certain limitations as to what we could and could not watch or read. Like for me, I think it was the Percy Jackson series. I read all of those, not an issue, Greek gods, big deal. I think there was also Eragon and those books.
[00:22:57] Santiago: Oh, I remember Eragon, I also remember Percy Jackson.
[00:23:01] Miguel: Yeah, so those books despite you know, having these gods and whatnot, uh, "false idols," you know, it wasn't necessarily an issue, but I guess where it was more prominent is you know, magic and whatnot. That was all, that was always like a no.
[00:23:17] Santiago: Yeah. I remember there was someone from our church who, pretty sure it was an elder in the church, who took it upon himself to read Harry Potter so that he could understand what it was and be able to speak from a place of understanding to "the youths" about it. And what's hilarious is that I think in one of the episodes, Abby also talks about somebody she knew from her church who did the same thing.
[00:23:43] So there's always those adults who are like, 'Okay, I'll take one for the team and I'll look into see, I'll, I'll look into this and see what it's all about.' But yeah, you're right, there were absolutely limitations. But what I was kind of trying to get at is that there are some Adventists who were completely shut off from all of that. Completely shut off.
[00:24:04] There was somebody who left a comment on one of my posts the other day who mentioned that they were not allowed to read any non-SDA books and that if they were ever hanging out with friends, their parents had to be present at all times.
[00:24:19] I will say this, mom never allowed us to do sleepovers. She would always tell us, 'You never know who's gonna be like a sexual predator. And you know, even among family, family is, you know, like the most, the most common occurrences of this are with people that you trust, close friends and family' and, you know, she's not wrong. But she was definitely, there were definitely things that we were not allowed to do compared to other kids that we eventually went to school with, like sleepovers and like, things like that.
[00:24:49] Miguel: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think part of it might also have to do with, at least for the literature, Harry Potter was extremely famous. Everyone knew about it. Maybe for these other books, our parents just didn't bother reading them or researching. So maybe if they were, you know, I guess you could say stricter, maybe they were only strict for, you know, [laughing] whatever was popular at the time.
[00:25:13] Santiago: Yeah, whatever was on their radar.
[00:25:15] Miguel: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:16] Santiago: So speaking of kind of the things that you read, and the school experiences, I don't remember exactly why you decided to leave homeschooling or how that decision was made with our parents. Do you, do you remember, and can you talk a little bit about transitioning out of homeschooling?
[00:25:33] Miguel: I think it was just kind of a natural transition. Something a little embarrassing, but I hated reading. I really didn't wanna read for quite a while. So much so that my parents thought something was wrong with me and took me for a few evaluations and whatnot. but eventually, I got my act together and this was before going to a public school.
[00:25:57] I said, 'I don't wanna be behind,' so I remember our mother, she enrolled me in, kind of like this reading bootcamp during the summer. I got up to my grade reading level in that summer, which was really good, and I started going to a public, a charter middle school.
[00:26:17] I don't think it was necessarily like, 'Hey, I wanna like be free, I wanna get out of homeschooling.' It was around the time that you also went to the public high school. So I think our parents kind of recognized, 'Hey, maybe we're not the best teachers and maybe they need more support from, you know, an actual structured education.'
[00:26:39] Santiago: Yeah I think that was part of it. Like you said, part of me going to the public high school, I'm sure definitely influenced that. They saw that I didn't immediately become this heathen...
[00:26:48] Miguel: Yeah.
[00:26:49] Santiago: ...and figured that you might, you might be okay, too. So what, what was that like for you? Because the time that you spent at the Adventist school was very, very short, right? I think we probably, it's like a blip on the radar.
[00:27:03] Miguel: Yeah, just if I'm not mistaken, it was just two weeks. I really had a bad time, I remember I was crying always, coming home. I didn't eat my lunch most of the time and I just really didn't like it. This was around first grade, if I'm not mistaken. So I was around like six years old. And a lot of the reason why I just didn't like it is because of one of the teachers I had. I think she was a little too old to be teaching children that young and maybe she was just tired of the job, but...
[00:27:35] I remember specifically one time, like I had my shoelaces untied and I didn't know how to tie them, or I was just way too flustered, I guess, to tie them, and she didn't like that. And, you know, there's things like that that just kind of stick with you sometimes, especially being that young.
[00:27:55] And I was a little socially awkward too, being a new kid, kind of a transfer student, you know. Everyone else knows each other except I'm just the new person in that, in that classroom. So for me, I, I had a kind of a tough time getting along in, in that SDA school. And, I left and I went back to, uh, homeschooling.
[00:28:18] Santiago: Yeah I can relate a little bit about the social, being socially awkward when, when you get there, because you're right. I, I went later on in elementary school, and so by that point everybody knew each other from kindergarten and the earlier grades.
[00:28:35] So I was also the new kid and I was bullied a little bit my first year, I think partly because I was this new, naive kid and I was socially awkward. I was the quote unquote good kid. And so, and people could recognize that in how I was dressed and how I acted, and my hairstyle [laughing] if you remember my Ronald Reagan comb over hairstyle...
[00:28:59] Miguel: I remember it, you know, conservative politician!
[00:29:04] Santiago: Honestly, honestly! I looked, man, when I was at church, you remember how both of us used to be all dressed up with our little suits. And I had, I had my little, my little briefcase. I thought it was the coolest thing ever 'cause I had an actual briefcase that I would bring my coloring books in. I still remember that, and...
[00:29:26] I don't want to derail us now, but you know, like you, I didn't have a great experience at first, and then eventually I had a better experience and then I was totally fine. But for you going to a middle school that was a public school, do you feel like you experienced any culture shock when you went there or did you feel socially awkward by that point?
[00:29:47] Miguel: I don't think so, because the nice thing was that everyone was new. You're entering middle school for the first time, and since they don't have an elementary school, everyone there was a new student.
[00:30:00] So everyone was kind of figuring things out, you know, testing the waters, different friend groups and whatnot. And eventually I had a friend group that lasted until I left in ninth grade. So I definitely found, you know, my, my group of friends.
[00:30:17] Santiago: I think that point is super important, right? That everyone's new, everyone's kind of starting on, on, a level playing field in terms of that. Did religion ever come up within your friend group, or did they ever invite you to do things on Saturday and you had to explain things away?
[00:30:34] Miguel: Um, not really. We didn't hang out too much outside of school. Everyone, since this is a charter school, no one was really from that area.
[00:30:43] Um, people were from all over, all over the county. So it wasn't necessarily like we would hang out outside. We did a few times, but it wasn't an extremely common occurrence.
[00:30:56] I think religion might have come up a few times, but for me, I never really felt like bothering to say I'm Adventist, but for the most part I always just said I was Christian. And then if they really wanted to learn more, I would explain what Adventism was. But at the first pass I wouldn't say I was Adventist 'cause that would require explanation.
[00:31:18] Santiago: Interesting, okay. And I know, like me, you're you're kind of introverted, so maybe that, do you feel like that played into that at all?
[00:31:25] Miguel: Um, not really, 'cause I mean anyone that would ask would just be friends and you know, kids don't really care that much about religion. You know, the most important things were just the homework, the class, and, you know, going out for recess and lunch and playing. That was about it.
[00:31:42] Santiago: Yeah, it's interesting you mentioned that. We're gonna touch on this a little bit later, this idea of your generation being I think the least religious generation to date, at least in terms of data collected in the U.S., and probably in other countries, I imagine.
[00:31:58] Do you remember learning anything specifically in middle school that directly contradicted something you had learned while being homeschooled or while at church? And did that make you start questioning things?
[00:32:12] Miguel: I think we might have briefly touched on evolution or science of that like, but it wasn't necessarily anything that we did a deep dive on. What I do remember though is sex ed. There were two classes that took it, some 40 something kids all taking sex ed. And, you know, the students had to get signed permission from their parents and my parents never signed it.
[00:32:45] Santiago: Oh, really?
[00:32:47] Miguel: So I was the only kid out of both classes. I didn't feel too bad about it 'cause I literally was just on the computers outside of the classroom just playing and listening to music. So for me it wasn't too bad of an experience and some of the kids showed me like the, the papers and talked about it.
[00:33:05] So, I mean, I kind of got, you know, uh [laughing] not the best sex education from middle schoolers, you know, just going off of what they heard. But yeah, I, I definitely remember that I was the only kid who didn't you know, have sex ed.
[00:33:23] Santiago: Damn, that doesn't surprise me though. Knowing, knowing mom, I'm sure, I think dad may have been maybe more on the fence, but I bet you that probably ultimately was mom who didn't want you to. Do you remember the VHS tape that they played for us?
[00:33:38] Miguel: Uh, I do, 'cause I had it a bit older. But yeah, I, I do remember the VHS tape.
[00:33:44] Santiago: Did they play it around that same time? Were they prompted to show you that because...
[00:33:48] Miguel: they were prompted, um, it was very embarrassing. Uh... [Laughing] I don't know if I wanna say it. I was never caught or anything, never caught with porn or, you know...
[00:34:05] Santiago: Unlike, unlike me.
[00:34:07] Miguel: Unlike you. But it was... I almost ruined a marriage.
[00:34:13] Santiago: [Laughing] I feel like that story is too good not to tell.
[00:34:17] Miguel: Okay, I'll, I'll, I'll tell it. Um, so basically I went on a trip to Europe when I was around 15 years old. And I had an Amazon account at that time and I ordered condoms. I thought, 'Hey, you know, I'm going on a trip, there's gonna be girls. Who knows what'll happen, and I don't want kids.' [Laughing] So I bought condoms and I brought some to Europe and I had one in my wallet.
[00:34:50] And being a brilliant kid, I had left the box under my parents' bed because I didn't want them to catch it in my bedroom, of course not, that'd be horrible. So, I left it underneath my parents' bed. And months had passed after this, and I had totally forgotten about them. I just, I, you know, I knew they were there, but I was like, 'Well, they're there.'
[00:35:16] And I didn't do anything about it, until one night my mom had found them. She, for some reason was looking for something under the bed and she found a box of condoms. And she didn't believe that, you know, it was her, her kids that had them.
[00:35:37] Santiago: It didn't occur to her.
[00:35:39] Miguel: Yeah, so I guess she thought that dad was cheating on her or that dad, you know, was doing something, because who would put condoms underneath their bed? So she was extremely upset with him. And I remember, you know, she wasn't talking to him, and I was like, 'I don't know what's going on' until they called me over. Obviously dad was completely clueless of what was going on.
[00:36:05] So they called me over to the room, and you were with us, if I'm not mistaken,
[00:36:09] you eventually came over too. And I was like, 'Oh shoot, I almost ruined my parents' marriage.' [Laughing] So I, you know, I came clean and I, I told them like, 'Yeah, well those are mine. [Laughing] No, I haven't had sex, I just bought 'em because, well, I thought maybe I would.' And yeah, that was kind of like, you know, my explanation. And eventually after that, I think the next day or whatever, I got the talk and the VHS and, you know, the whole shebang.
[00:36:43] Santiago: I, I totally forgot that those two were related. I'm so glad you mentioned that, 'cause I totally forgot. I remember both of those things happening. I didn't remember that they were, that they were related. I, yeah, for this isn't a video podcast and either way I wouldn't be showing my face. At least not now, but for everyone listening, I am dying over here because I do remember this and I remember all of us had a really good laugh after that.
[00:37:08] Miguel: Yeah, for sure.
[00:37:09] Yeah, I remember mom and dad were laughing just like, 'How can our kid be this dumb?' [Laughing] It was definitely, you know, one of those things you can't really forget.
[00:37:24] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, do you, do you remember some of the initial doubts or questions that you first had and do you remember what prompted them?
[00:37:37] Miguel: For me, it wasn't necessarily anything that was against the foundation of Adventism. So it wasn't any literature or anything by Ellen G White. For me it was more kind of Christianity and the belief in God. So for me, part of it was kind of, there are these civilizations that we know about. We have, you know, actual historical records about, you know, having existed hundreds, thousands of years ago.
[00:38:11] And we ourselves believe as a church, as, as a denomination, that the Earth you know, existed, uh, six, 7,000 years ago when it was created. So that right there for me, learning in a classroom kind of contradicted that belief system. And it sounded kind of weird if I were gonna tell a classmate, 'Hey, well the earth is only 6,000 years old.' They're gonna look at me kind of weird.
[00:38:40] Santiago: Yeah, to be clear, not all Adventists or Christians believe in Young Earth creationism, but at least in my experience, I think most of the people we knew did, I'm pretty sure everyone our, at our church did. All of the evangelists that came by, all of the people who did, you know, like different stuff with apologetics and whatnot.
[00:39:00] I don't think it was until I reached maybe my late teens or became a young adult, that I realized there are Christians who believe in evolution. And that kind of blew my mind when I learned about this. I definitely think the Adventist Church has shot itself in the foot by dying on the hill.
[00:39:22] There are Adventists who do not believe in that, but Ted Wilson as the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, he's kind of chosen to die on that hill. He's from a generation that reads the Bible in a certain way and views it that way. I've said this before. I can't say this enough, Adventism is not a monolith. So there are, you will find Adventists who, who do not believe in Young Earth creationism.
[00:39:49] Miguel: It's kind of like you sometimes learn about like, oh, well there's all these like animals or, you know, civilizations that existed thousands of years ago, and you're like, 'But the, you know, the earth is only 7,000 years old.' It's just like, this is kind of a tough sell.
[00:40:05] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. I think there, I think over time more and more Christians, even if they remain conservative from a social standpoint, may start to believe in evolution. What was the decision behind going back to homeschooling or, or rather independent study?
[00:40:25] Miguel: It was definitely nothing tied to religion or Adventism. It was just of my own volition. I knew of another student who was taking college classes at the same time that he was taking his, you know, high school classes, and I thought that was really cool.
[00:40:44] I considered him a smart person and I also, you know, I guess you could say, considered myself a smart person too, so I was like, 'Hey, I could probably do that too.' And I knew that it would look good for college admissions and that it would help me in the long run. So I talked to our, I guess you could say, what is it, like a college admissions...
[00:41:07] Santiago: Advisor?
[00:41:08] Miguel: Advisor, yeah, like an advisor. 'Cause I was guided to talk to him. So I talked to him and I was like, 'Hey, I know of this one kid who's doing it, could I possibly do it?' And the answer was 'No, you can't do it.' So I got upset at that and I said, 'You know what? Well, if I can't do it here, I'll find someplace I can.' So I went to independent study and I said I'll just graduate high school early. I graduated high school early and I took the college class that I wanted to.
[00:41:38] Santiago: Yeah, and that was definitely a good move for you. I think overall you've been making good choices. I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you, bro. You mentioned, you know, kind of being exposed to this idea of evolution in middle school, but it sounds like you didn't immediately leave your faith then, 'cause you mentioned leaving a little bit later in, in your later teens. So can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:42:04] Miguel: Yeah, so for me, I didn't really fully deconstruct or leave the faith, until, I guess you could say I was like probably 15 closer, a little to 16. But some of the first moments, I guess you could say that I was beginning to doubt my faith, probably was closer to middle school. I wasn't really a model Adventist.
[00:42:31] I liked video games, I liked being with my friends, listening to music, listening to rap. Dubstep was pretty big for my generation back then. And I, I remember specifically I was listening to electronic music with one of my friends and his father came in the room and had a talk with us 'cause we were listening to this music.
[00:42:53] And I thought that was ridiculous. I thought, 'There are no lyrics in this music. There is nothing that is blasphemous, there is nothing that you know should be considered wrong.' And I was kind of upset that his father had a talk with us, and I thought it was kind of ridiculous.
[00:43:11] Santiago: Interesting. Well, you know, it's not just the lyrics, it's also...
[00:43:16] Miguel: The beat.
[00:43:17] Santiago: It's the, it's the rhythm, it's it's that good old anti-Black racism and, and fear of anything to do with things that are too rhythmic.
[00:43:28] Miguel: Yeah, yeah, for sure. No dancing, no dancing at all.
[00:43:33] Santiago: Did you miss out on school dances?
[00:43:35] Miguel: No, I went to a school dance. I went to like two or three and I didn't feel too bad because no one knew how to dance, we were way too young. But, I definitely feel it now that I'm a bit older. There are like, like especially, you know, we do have Latino heritage.
[00:43:54] Our mother is Latina and we have friends and family that are also, you know, Latinos and they know how to dance and I don't. Being at parties or whatnot, people know how to do specific dances and I was never taught that. So I think that is something that you kind of lose and it is part of the culture. And you sometimes will feel like an outsider because of that, just because the way you grew up.
[00:44:25] Santiago: Yeah, absolutely. I remember reading on the ex-Adventist Discord, there were some people on there talking about how they missed out on having their quinceañera because their Adventist pastor, even though in some cases these were Latino pastors, they were like, 'No, we don't do that, we're Adventists. We're not going to endorse or participate in that.'
[00:44:52] And because of that, their families, I guess, felt pressure or felt shamed into not doing it. And that's one of the things I, we're gonna touch on more in, in future episodes. But I definitely am disappointed at the cultural erasure that not just Adventism, but White, Protestant Christianity in general does. Evangelical Christianity.
[00:45:18] And you know, our dad is White. So for anyone who's, who's out there listening who is White, I'm not bashing White people. Both my brother and I are biracial. We have, you know, multiple different countries represented, you know, in our background.
[00:45:32] But we have to, if we're gonna speak honestly about the Adventist experience, that is one of the things that is part of that experience. And, and I definitely relate to you on, I don't know what the right word is, mourning the loss of? I mean, we didn't lose it 'cause we never had it to begin with, but it is part of our heritage and it's something that we missed out on.
[00:45:54] And for people who don't really care about it, it may seem silly to say, 'Oh, I wish I had this.' But it is part of the culture and it is something that you can relate to other people with, something you can experience with other people.
[00:46:08] And I definitely feel awkward. I keep telling myself, and you know, my partner, I keep talking about how we need to take lessons together. She was in a dance troupe in, in her university. But I never participated in, in anything like that so I have some catching up to do there.
[00:46:24] Miguel: Yeah, it, it definitely is a way to connect. I know there's like certain songs that are extremely popular, that everyone knows the lyrics. Literally everyone knows the lyrics. And for me, I was just like, 'I've never heard this song before.'
[00:46:39] Santiago: Yeah.
[00:46:40] Miguel: So like, I understand I am definitely more American than I am Latino, but, I do kind of lament not embracing both or learning both cultures growing up.
[00:46:54] Santiago: Would you agree that our mom... I think she was like this a little bit before she became Adventist, but especially after converting to Adventism, I think she identified less and less with the culture she grew up in and the country she grew up in, and started identifying more with Adventism and I guess being an American after she became a citizen. Would you agree?
[00:47:20] Miguel: Um, I don't know so much about being a citizen or being American, but I think just being conservative.
[00:47:28] Santiago: Mmm.
[00:47:28] Miguel: Mom was always more of a conservative woman. She never liked specific types of music.
[00:47:37] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[00:47:39] Miguel: She always, you know, will comment about people and their grammar or how they speak. So I think mom was all was kind of like, a person that would, you know, not so much like certain ways that people do things.
[00:47:54] And I think that kind of ties in well with Adventism because it is more conservative. And I think that we kind of lost some part of the culture just because of Adventism and also living in the United States.
[00:48:10] Santiago: Yeah, I will say though, I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'm very grateful she taught both of us to speak Spanish. I know that you, like me, didn't really wanna learn at first, but then you came around.
[00:48:24] Miguel: Yeah, it was definitely, I never wanted to learn and, um, I, I was very stubborn. I, I recognize that I definitely blame myself to a degree, learning Spanish later in life.
[00:48:36] Santiago: I mean, I think, I think by now with the friends that you have and the experiences you've had, you probably have a, maybe a bigger vocabulary than I do? At least you definitely have more of the slang down.
[00:48:49] So going back more specifically to, you know, your experience... we've talked about middle school, you started leaning more into evolution. You had this experience where you're thinking about music and kind of questioning criticisms of music, which is very common in, in Adventism or at least in the church we grew up in.
[00:49:11] So for you, when, when you were doubting and questioning, at any point, did you consider leaving Adventism but remaining Christian or because your questions were broader, you know, were you just kind of thinking of leaving it all together?
[00:49:25] Miguel: Definitely thinking of living it all together, just because it was in a broad sense. It was nothing directly criticizing or attacking Adventism and its beliefs, but it was just kind of the whole structure of a god and of everything that you're taught, that you were created by a god. That everything that you do and everything that you ever will be is because there is a god. So it was definitely just questioning the foundation of religion.
[00:49:54] Santiago: Mm-hmm, okay. Do you remember if there was a specific moment when you realized you didn't believe, or when you decided that you had thought about it enough and, and you had kind of come to a conclusion?
[00:50:08] Miguel: For me, I think my, my deconstruction was kind of fast. I wasn't the biggest Adventist, I wasn't the biggest Christian. There were moments where I did believe and there were moments where I didn't believe. So, I wouldn't say that I had this, you know, huge experience or moment.
[00:50:31] For me, I guess it was kind of like every parent's or every Adventist or Christian parent's nightmare, is my public education. I had this one class, I think it was called the Big History Class or whatever, and it was literally, I think it was Bill Gates funded, which oh my goodness. [Laughing] But yeah, it was this class we had on Google Classroom and it literally, it was big history. It was from the beginning of the Earth until where we are now.
[00:51:02] So I applaud my teacher who taught it. She got us to question things. I know of another classmate who was in the same situation as me, conservative family, Christian. He didn't believe in abortion and, you know, other subjects.
[00:51:18] I remember he got into debates quite often with our teacher surrounding abortion. And I remember for me, I was definitely a bit more liberal where I would be, 'I'm not exactly for abortion, but I'm okay if you do it.'
[00:51:33] Santiago: You didn't want to force people to, to not...
[00:51:37] Miguel: Yeah, I was definitely like, I guess you could say on the more liberal side. But you know, it was contrasted with my friend who was a very conservative Christian who under no circumstances, you know, abortion was an okay thing.
[00:51:50] And I'm glad that we had that teacher because she definitely kind of pushed us to think more and think more critically of our beliefs. And I think that's what education should do. It should make you question what you believe and it should kind of...
[00:52:04] I liked that class because it kind of showed you, this is how you should process information. This is how you should look at it, this is how you should validate it, and this is how you should make sure it's correct.
[00:52:16] So I, I liked that and, part of this Big History class was evolution. It was talking about how the Earth started, and it was all based on a scientific background, and that's what I really liked. For me, a big thing was carbon dating and just realizing, hey, there are things we can measure. There are ways that we know how old things are. It's not necessarily perfect, but I would take it over the Bible.
[00:52:48] And that's kind of how my deconversion or deconstruction kind of began. And I remember, you know, going kind of down on YouTube rabbit holes of atheist debates and talks and whatnot. I think one of them is what, Richard Dawkins? I think he's a bit of an asshole...
[00:53:06] Santiago: [Laughing] Yeah, I haven't read too much of his stuff. I know that some people have read his stuff and it's been very helpful. I remember reading Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great.
[00:53:17] Miguel: Or maybe it was Hitchens, I don't know, one of them.
[00:53:20] Santiago: I remember thinking that the author came off as a bit of an asshole there too, because, I feel like some of these atheists have come in guns blazing and they make fun of people who still believe. They're very almost militaristic about it in some cases. Some people on Reddit can be like that, just anywhere on the internet can be like that, but especially it seems to have been that way within atheist circles.
[00:53:48] But one of the things I'm starting to realize is, as more and more Christians are leaving, I think I'm starting to notice a turn where there are atheists who are empathetic because they know what it's like to have come from a family and from a background where you do have faith where they themselves personally believed and recognized that they were intelligent people. They weren't stupid people, and yet they had faith then, right?
[00:54:15] There's people in our church today who work in the medical field who are smart, rational people, by and large, and I have respect for them. And they're respected in their, in their jobs, and they still believe, right?
[00:54:30] So I think it's unhelpful when authors like Hitchens will come in and say, you know, god is not great, flat out, and here's why religion is the worst thing ever. I mean, I don't necessarily disagree with them, but I think that there's a better way to deliver that message and it has to be rooted in empathy, right?
[00:54:54] Miguel: For sure, I think that atheism has kind of gotten a bad connotation. Not just for being I guess you could say in the minority, just not believing in a god, but because the way that online, especially, people come off very, you know, sarcastic or, you know, just kind of coming off as an asshole.
[00:55:17] And I think that really kind of comes down to a lot of the videos that went viral around that time that I watched and whatnot. The debates that are just sometimes yelling matches and, you know, they're not really a great way to convey information or disseminate information.
[00:55:35] And part of the reason why I say I'm deist is because I don't necessarily like the term atheist, and I think deist sometimes is like a better explanation of what I believe.
[00:55:48] Santiago: For people who may not be familiar with that term, can you kind of describe you know, how you view deism and, and what your belief system is?
[00:55:56] Miguel: Sure, the definition is the belief in a supreme being, so someone who has created the universe and, you know, maybe even the humans and this Earth, but they don't necessarily intervene in it. They're not someone that interacts with humans, or necessarily cares what we do.
[00:56:16] I take a little different of a viewpoint, I guess you could say I'm a bit more agnostic, so I believe, hey, there probably is something out there. We don't know necessarily the explanation of how our universe started. So I'm open to saying there probably is something out there, but I'm also okay with saying maybe there isn't, but don't necessarily subscribe to a Judeo-Christian version of a god like Jesus or that, you know, should be worshiped.
[00:56:46] So I think maybe it could be an energy source that isn't sentient or conscious. Or even if there is something out there like that, maybe, we're not necessarily its priority and it's all caring for us. You know, sometimes it's okay to say, "I don't know" and for me, deism is kind of like that. It's believing in what exists right now, and it's saying maybe there is something out there. I'm not gonna rule out the possibility that there isn't, but I don't believe it's what is in the Bible.
[00:57:21] Santiago: Mm-hmm. When I personally came to identify with the labels agnostic atheist, I decided that even if the Abrahamic god existed, based off of what we know from the Bible, especially, you know, primarily the Old Testament, but even some things in the New Testament...
[00:57:42] I was like, even if this god existed, I don't think this god is actually loving in the way that we think of love as humans. And I don't think that this God is particularly moral and worthy of worship. So I kind of reached the conclusion that, yeah, I don't completely rule out that there is a higher power. I personally don't believe that the Abrahamic God exists. Have I completely ruled that out as a possibility? Who am I to say, right?
[00:58:13] So I, I, that's why agnostic is definitely part of how I identify. But even if that entity existed, I don't think that they're a moral entity or a loving entity that is deserving of any of my worship and devotion and attention.
[00:58:31] Miguel: Yeah, part of the issue that I take with the Bible is that probably during the time it was written, some of the things, it was just part of the culture. It wasn't necessarily, you know, frowned upon. I mean, Sodom and Gomorrah, an entire city wiped out.
[00:58:46] If you read about like the Israelites, when they would invade other countries or other, you know, people, they would kill all the men, they would take the women and I think it was okay to rape them in some cases.
[00:59:01] Santiago: Yep, Deuteronomy.
[00:59:03] Miguel: Yeah, so there's just a lot of instances where I think our morals have changed a bit where it still happens, of course, you know, just look at Balkan wars and whatnot, lots of raping, but it's viewed upon very negatively. Everyone can agree that's horrible.
[00:59:22] Santiago: Yeah.
[00:59:23] Miguel: And I think back then it was okay. I mean, the Bible said it happened and it was okay, it was allowed by God.
[00:59:30] So nowadays, of course, we would say, you know, anyone in a war raping people, horrible. But back then it was okay.
[00:59:39] So it's just, it just kind of goes to show how morals I think can kind of change and what is viewed upon as good and okay also changes.
[00:59:50] Santiago: Yeah, absolutely. I have yet to speak to a progressive Christian about this, and I'm, I'm very interested to hear their take on this, but you're right, it's Deuteronomy 21 verses 10 to 14 literally spells out, I think I mentioned this in the last episode, literally spells out instructions on how to treat women captured in war. And it does specifically give the conquering army permission to take them as wives and to have sex with them.
[01:00:20] And it did stipulate that, oh, if you're, if you decide you don't like them after all, then you have to let them go and be free or whatever. And I actually had a Christian on Twitter tell me, you know, 'See, God is, God is loving. He, he spelled out a way for them to, to get out if the marriage didn't work out.' And I'm like, do you hear yourself? Do, are, do you really believe that? Or are you just making this excuse so that you can win some, you know, back and forth on, on Twitter?
[01:00:51] Miguel: Back then slaves were common, so human life was definitely treated very differently. I don't think anyone now would be saying, okay, if we were to invade Afghanistan or another country and take prisoners of war, it's okay for them to take women as their wives or whatnot.
[01:01:12] I don't think anyone would say that's okay. Maybe there are a few people that would, you know, be very fundamentalist and say, 'Well, it's in the Bible, it's okay.' But I think most people, morally would be against it.
[01:01:25] Santiago: Yeah, but on the slavery point, you know, people will point out, 'Oh, it's not like the chattel slavery we had in the U.S.' but I would still argue that any form of slavery in a world with as much abundance as ours, any form of slavery, in my opinion is immoral.
[01:01:43] There's somebody I follow on TikTok who gave a really good example of morality when you are a fundamentalist religious person who believes in the Abrahamic god versus somebody who is maybe a little bit more open.
[01:02:00] She talks about her morality being on a horizontal plane where she relates to other people... Her morality is rooted in empathy and the harm the actions cause to other living things. Right, so that's morality on a horizontal plane. Whereas in a fundamentalist religion, morality is often seen on kind of a vertical axis. It's between you and God, right?
[01:02:27] And so when you sin, you are sinning against God and you are violating God's law, and that's why God has the right to punish you and send you to hell. But that results in this concept called sin flattening, which, uh, somebody posted on the ex-Adventist Reddit the other day, they posted a video of Ted Wilson talking about pornography.
[01:02:52] And in the same video, in the same section where they're talking about the, the negative effects of pornography, in the same breath, he mentions CSAM or child sexual abuse material. I think most people today would agree that pornography created by consenting adults who are not exploiting each other or being exploited themselves is on a completely different level...
[01:03:21] Miguel: Very different.
[01:03:22] Santiago: ...from child sexual abuse material. But Adventism, fundamentalist Adventism and fundamentalist Christianity in many cases, again, not everybody believes this, but in many cases people believe a sin is a sin is a sin. And you know, no sin is any worse than the other.
[01:03:42] There are videos of people on TikTok being interviewed or going back and forth, and they're like, 'Yeah, a murderer, a rapist, if they go to Christ, if they believe in Jesus and they repent, yeah, they'll go to heaven. But somebody who lived a perfectly good life where they did not hurt other people, if they don't believe in Jesus, then they won't go to heaven.'
[01:04:04] What the hell kind of morality is that, right? Like, there's, there's, there's no accountability in a system like that, if you ask me. Anyway, we're going off on a bit of a tangent, but um, before we wrap up, I want to ask you what your thought process was leading up to when you told me and, and the rest of our family. What made you decide? Because you, you could have just pretended and gone to church and pretended to still believe. So what led you to telling our parents?
[01:04:39] Miguel: I think I didn't necessarily go about it the best way. I think I was a bit, you know, brash and abrupt with the way that I presented everything. But at the age I did it, I think I did it okay.
[01:04:55] Santiago: As good as you could've?
[01:04:56] Miguel: Yeah, as, as good as I could have. I mean, you know, 15, 16 years old, you know, can't expect too, too much. Especially after the whole condom debacle. [Laughing] But, for me, I truly didn't believe anymore. I said 'I'm atheist.' For quite a while, I believed that I was atheist.
[01:05:18] And I have nothing against, you know, atheism as a whole. But for me I was like, 'There's no evidence that I have looked for and found that convinces me of God, and I have evidence that says God doesn't exist.' And I kind of wanted, I guess you could say to convert mom and dad, just kind of show them the light that I had found.
[01:05:43] Santiago: Really?
[01:05:44] Miguel: In a sense. I knew it probably wouldn't happen, but I would be like, you know, I'm not gonna necessarily live a lie, and I'm just gonna be honest with what I believe. I remember I had sat you down and our parents down in the living room, and to be honest, I don't remember too much of that day.
[01:06:04] I just kind of said, 'Hey, I don't believe anymore.' If I'm not mistaken, I tried to set, you know, some, some, you know, lines in the sand just saying, 'Hey, I don't want to go to church anymore, I don't wanna go to Sabbath school.'
[01:06:19] I remember for quite a while I wouldn't join in prayers for, you know, eating and whatnot. So I was a bit of a rebel in that sense, just kind of rebelling against Adventism and against, you know, being a, being a Christian.
[01:06:34] Santiago: Yeah, definitely more of a rebel than, than I was at that age, for sure. [Laughing] It took, it took me a while longer. And it's interesting you mentioned that you wanted to convince mom and dad. I remember you and I had debates about evolution. Do, do you remember me showing you the Walter Veith videos?
[01:06:55] Miguel: Well, before getting into that, I don't know if convince is the right word, maybe convince them that what I believed in wasn't that bad.
[01:07:04] Santiago: Ah, okay.
[01:07:05] Miguel: If I was trying to convince them, I probably would've gone a different way. But for me it was just kind of like saying 'Hey, this is what I believe. I hope you respect it, and these are the foundations of why I believe it, and maybe you should believe it too.' I think that's kind of the way I went about it. But yeah, I remember, I remember our debates about evolution and Walter Veith. I think, was that the one with the banana?
[01:07:38] Santiago: No, no, no, that's Ray Comfort.
[01:07:40] Miguel: Ray Comfort, get a grip guy. I'm sorry, just like, just find a new job. Uh, I don't know what to tell you. Because even with that banana, maybe you could put up...
[01:07:53] Santiago: I'll, I'll link it, yeah.
[01:07:55] Miguel: It's ridiculous in my view, because if you learn the history of bananas, they don't look like that! They were made to look that way! A banana fits in your hand that way because it was bred to look that way, just like animals have been bred for centuries.
[01:08:12] Santiago: Yeah, yeah. For anyone who doesn't know about that video, my brother's referring to, it's, it's absolute gold. Uh, the, the pinnacle of apologetics ridiculousness where Ray Comfort is talking about the commercialized...
[01:08:31] Miguel: Store bought, grocery chain banana. Chiquita overthrowing government banana.
[01:08:38] Santiago: Yes, exactly, banana republic banana. So he's talking about how that banana fitting very well into our hands is evidence for intelligent design. He tried to play it off as a joke later on, but kudos to the YouTuber who found the original video and uploaded it in context. I will link that for sure in the show notes so you can see this absolute gem that, that we're referring to.
[01:09:07] Miguel: I think mom showed it to me.
[01:09:09] Santiago: Yeah, she probably did.
[01:09:11] Miguel: What was the one that you showed me?
[01:09:12] Santiago: It was Walter Veith and he has some wild beliefs. He has flat out refused to publicly come out against flat earthers because presumably, a portion of his audience believes in the flat earth. He has a Q&A channel or call-in number where he'll take questions. Somebody asked that and he flat out refused to answer it because it would be too controversial, when he's saying all this other controversial shit.
[01:09:39] Miguel: Ehh, he knows where his money comes from.
[01:09:41] Santiago: Yeah, it's hilarious to me. Anyway yeah, you and I sat down watching his videos and I was very convinced, right? This guy's a supposedly a respected zoologist from South Africa who I think was maybe even the chair of his department.
[01:09:56] He was respected, I knew that much. He actually worked at a non-Adventist institution of higher education if I'm remembering it correctly. And so I took his stuff very seriously, at least on, on the creationism side. And I remember we sat down at the computer, we had probably a several hours long discussion about that.
[01:10:18] Miguel: Yeah, I wasn't convinced. [Laughing]
[01:10:21] Santiago: So now, like years later, right? You've been out of it for a while. You have gone to church here and there, but not regularly. Are there any hymns or praise songs or anything we did in church that looking back, was pretty problematic?
[01:10:40] Miguel: Um, I kind of like the hymn, but it is a little weird, Power in the Blood.
[01:10:45] Santiago: I was gonna, okay, I've thought about that one, too!
[01:10:48] Miguel: Yeah, it's probably blood of Christ, but it is a little weird. It's a nice song, I'm not gonna, it's a nice hymn I'm not gonna lie.
[01:10:57] Santiago: It's a catchy tune.
[01:10:58] Miguel: But it is, it is a little weird.
[01:11:00] Santiago: Yeah, this whole idea of like blood sacrifice is a little weird when you take a step back and, and think about it.
[01:11:07] Miguel: Yeah like the lamb, and we don't do that anymore 'cause Jesus was the lamb.
[01:11:12] Santiago: Mm-hmm, Christianity is, is built on the idea of human sacrifice, even though Jesus was, was... Animal sacrifice earlier, and then done away with because of the sacrifice Jesus made. Even though Jesus was fully God, he was supposedly fully human too. So it is human sacrifice still.
[01:11:33] I think you and I are pretty lucky that we can hear these hymns and not immediately go into a panic attack or be triggered by it because I know there's some people that, because of different experiences they had, are deeply affected by that. And I feel very fortunate that you and I were not affected in that way.
[01:11:55] Miguel: No, that's true, that's very true. Yeah, we never really had traumatic or very bad experiences in the Adventist community or church. I can't really remember anything that happened that I would say it was horrible. I think we were lucky in that regard that, you know, our community members, our church members weren't bad people.
[01:12:21] Santiago: At least, not to us personally.
[01:12:23] Miguel: True, at least not to us personally.
[01:12:25] Santiago: I'll get to this in the future, but there were some awful cases of abuse that did happen with people who attended our church, but not to us personally.
[01:12:37] Miguel: Ah, that's true. That is, that is really true, I just remembered, yep.
[01:12:41] Santiago: Yeah and, and the fact that we can forget about some of those things just goes to show how lucky we are, right? That we were not so personally and deeply affected by those things. And that's part of why I'm doing what I'm doing and encouraging people to share their stories because sometimes we forget.
[01:12:58] Many people were privileged enough that they did not experience emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, sexual abuse. We did not, but others have. And that's something that I think, isn't talked about openly enough.
[01:13:14] Miguel: Yeah and I think part of it has to do, that we're men. I think that it would be very different growing up in that church as a woman.
[01:13:22] Santiago: Or being gay, lesbian, bi, you know, being...
[01:13:26] Miguel: Impossible in our church.
[01:13:28] Santiago: Yeah.
[01:13:29] Miguel: I think yeah, it would definitely be very different because now that you're talking about that, yeah, it, there were, there were things that happened, but we were lucky enough to not, you know, experience that.
[01:13:45] Santiago: Yeah. Would you say there were any positive messages or ideas that you took from Adventism or any cultural practices that you still have with you?
[01:13:57] Miguel: For the most part, I, I like the idea of Sabbath rest. I think it's a good way to connect with community. To just kind of decompress from the week, especially if you've had a rough week. I think Saturday's just a good day to do it.
[01:14:12] Sunday, you know, you might go shopping or be busy, you know, preparing for the coming week. So I think that Saturday's definitely a, a good day to do that. And I remember you mentioning in your podcast, we had positive experiences in Pathfinders. Oshkosh was a lot of fun. It was cool being with so many different countries and people.
[01:14:33] We would've never gotten the opportunity to go camping and whatnot if it weren't for Pathfinders. So I'm glad we had that experience. I don't think it was a negative one and I think it, it was positive.
[01:14:47] Santiago: Yeah, we could have done Boy Scouts, but I don't know that mom would've trusted Boy Scouts...
[01:14:51] Miguel: Mmm, probably wouldn't trust them, no.
[01:14:54] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, and may, may, maybe for good reason, although...
[01:14:58] Miguel: They've had their own scandals.
[01:15:00] Santiago: Yeah, I'm very curious to hear if, if anyone has stories about Pathfinders that are either positive or negative, because one of the cases that I'm thinking of, like I mentioned in the last episode, is with somebody who was my class teacher and who I worked with alongside as Pathfinder staff. To my knowledge, this case did not involve youth at our church or other Pathfinders, but, it did involve minors.
[01:15:26] If you could talk to your younger self, knowing what you know now, is there anything in particular you would want to know before you had stopped believing or, or while you were going through that process?
[01:15:40] Miguel: I think it would've been nice if we had grown up in a more open-minded environment where we were allowed to learn different things. Not necessarily, things would be off limits. And also have the ability to criticize, or the ability to inspect things and, you know, in a more, deeper way.
[01:16:11] I think that's part of the reason why I began to deconstruct, is because I was given that opportunity in that class. And never before had I really done that. And I think that was really important for me, as I was growing up. It was a bit later in my life, but hearing about Abby and these other people, some of them were in until 30 years old.
[01:16:32] For me that would be crazy to think about, especially when you have your community and your friends, and everyone that you know is Adventist. Most people at my high school weren't necessarily Adventist or Christian.
[01:16:48] One of my girls who was a classmate, her father was a, was a priest. [Laughing] And she wasn't, you know, anything you would think about like a Catholic girl, you know? Definitely more goth than anything else. You could see the different people that you are around and you realize, hey, you know, they're kind of like me. Sure we have a different religion, but at the end of the day, we're both classmates and we're both humans.
[01:17:15] Santiago: Yeah, I think that's super important. And on that note, there are a couple of folks on the subreddit who have also identified as being Gen Z. Somebody posed a question of, you know, have you heard people blame Gen Z leaving Adventism and Christianity at the rate that you are because you're maybe too worldly or quote unquote "woke?"
[01:17:42] Miguel: I do agree that the majority of Gen Z is more liberal, but I don't necessarily believe that that's the full explanation of why we're leaving the church more. I think a better explanation is more along the lines of we just have access to a lot more information.
[01:18:03] If I'm starting to question or doubt my faith, I can look up a video right now of someone who went through something just like me, it could be someone Adventist. And I could find a community and find information regarding that and how to go through it. It's kind of unprecedented to have access to all of this information out there and say, okay, this is a new way of thinking and I'll start utilizing this more.
[01:18:37] Santiago: Definitely access to the internet sounds like it, it has been a huge factor.
[01:18:42] Miguel: Yeah, I think it's kind of wrong to characterize Gen Z as entirely woke, especially because of a lot of polarizing figures like Andrew Tate and Aiden Ross and, you know, these popular streamers and online figures who are very anti-woke. They have millions of fans, especially men, who I would say are definitely a lot more conservative than they are liberal.
[01:19:11] When I was growing up, I was also definitely more conservative, and I partly blame YouTube for that. Because YouTube, even though YouTube knows my recommendations and knows that I follow more liberal news channels like Democracy Now and whatnot, it will still recommend me Andrew Tate videos.
[01:19:33] It will still show up in my short feeds. It will still show me conservative videos. As much as conservatives like to say that, you know, they're suppressed and whatnot, I still see 'em. So for me, I think YouTube was very powerful in that sense that the algorithm showed me lots and lots of videos that were... Gamergate, I don't know if a lot of people remember that, Gamergate was a big deal.
[01:20:03] It was mainly feminism, it was anti-feminism. It was a lot of the videos and media that I consumed and a lot of the YouTubers that I consumed. I think one of them was Thunder Foot or something like that. He was a scientist. He's a smart guy, but he was very anti-woke, very anti-feminist.
[01:20:19] I think he's like a nuclear physicist or something. So very, very intelligent guy, but he was very, you know, anti-feminist in all of this regard. And that's literally all I was recommended on YouTube, was these videos.
[01:20:35] And I am seeing that again in younger people with Andrew Tate, with Aiden Ross, and all of these different famous streamers and YouTubers. So I'm seeing kind of a repeat and possibly resurgence of some conservative values or I don't know if you would say values, but tendencies.
[01:21:00] Santiago: I think somebody who self-identifies as conservative might take, they might object to lumping them in with Andrew Tate, but I, I see what you're...
[01:21:11] Miguel: But, but it's, but, in my opinion, if you were to poll Andrew Tate supporters, they're more closely aligned with Trump and other Republicans, than they would be with an AOC or a Bernie Sanders. If you were to poll them, it is completely opposite on the spectrum of where they think things should be or what they believe in.
[01:21:33] Santiago: Yeah, think what you're, what you're pointing to and what I'm noticing is that in place of religion or in place of a, you know, traditional religion, if you will, orthodox Christianity, even within the Evangelical churches, there is a movement toward conspiracy theories, QAnon. And for some people who aren't religious, QAnon is like their religion, right?
[01:22:05] They meet regularly online, they scour all of these texts that they treat as sacred, if you will, they're looking for clues, they have this, this savior figure in Q. I think it's interesting that, that you bring that up because on the one hand we have people in your generation who are kind of rejecting the traditional norms of the past.
[01:22:31] And I think even if they don't identify as being, you know, more liberal or leftist, they may still reject some of the traditions, but they are looking to new figures like the names that you mentioned.
[01:22:46] Miguel: Absolutely. Yeah, for me, Q is definitely older generation. Probably 40, late thirties, most likely no Gen Z is believing in Q. Um, I think those are two very separate issues. It's more of our parents and older generations. I've never seen a Gen Z be involved in QAnon or anything like that. For me, it's more famous and polarizing figures who take the forefront and who kind of reject the mainstream, which would be feminism, which would be abortion, which would be women's rights.
[01:23:27] That's mainly the main issue right now, and I feel like I lived through that already with these YouTubers and people that I followed. So I feel like it's a repeat of literally what I lived when I was in ninth grade. Um, so I think that it's kind of a pushback against on Twitter and other things like having pronouns and whatnot. That's a big, like, oh, they'll make fun of you if you have that in your bio or whatnot.
[01:23:55] So I think it's just mainly criticizing feminism or criticizing people who are LGBTQ supporters and whatnot. So I think it's kind of just pushing back and it could be influenced from their parents, absolutely, but I think it's also influenced by these online figures.
[01:24:16] Santiago: Yeah, it's almost, it's almost as if pushing back against what I think many people view as progress, pushing against that almost seems countercultural now. The media and entertainment industries have kind of embraced this, and so now this is seen as the, the mainstream thing. And so pushing back against that is seen as countercultural.
[01:24:42] Miguel: Yeah don't get me wrong, I think most Gen Z is more liberal and I think is for the most part, leaving religion just because they have access to so much information. You have access to so many people online. I could look up right now, "Why should you be an atheist?" Or, you know, "What are the arguments against being an Adventist," or "What are the arguments being against Christian?"
[01:25:10] And I can get huge lists with tons of sources, and before then, you would ask your pastor or your parents or other people and they would give you, you know, possibly a biased answer. And I'm not saying that, you know, the online sources aren't biased, but I can get information whenever I want regarding a subject. And I think that has a big influence on what we believe and why we believe it.
[01:25:39] Santiago: Yeah, I think a lot of the, a lot of the tension that we feel right now, and a lot of the kind of anxiety, if you will, in all corners of the world, has to do a lot with the technological transformation and the, the transformation that the internet has brought upon us. I think as a species we maybe got the internet before we were ready for it, and we are seeing some of the repercussions of that play out.
[01:26:11] But I think you're right, this access to information, just like, just like you mentioned, you know, having seen porn before you got "the talk," having bought condoms on Amazon before you got "the talk," right? Like, that would not have happened a decade earlier or a couple of decades earlier.
[01:26:29] To any parents out there who don't identify as Adventist, you know, maybe still figuring out what you believe, but you know for sure that you don't want to teach your, your kids, or to raise your kids within Adventism, I think from both my brother and I, I think we could say the best thing to do is be open with your kids. Don't try to hide things with them, 'cause they will eventually find out that they exist and you may not be there to guide them responsibly through that later on.
[01:27:00] Miguel: Yeah, absolutely. I do believe that, you know, some protection should be taken. You know, don't let your kid watch YouTube on an iPad for 10 hours a day [laughing] but, at the same time, I don't think you should necessarily restrict all of the information and just be honest with them. Honestly, there's, there's no, there's no reason to lie or to just not be honest with your kids.
[01:27:26] Sometimes you can say 'I don't know,' and that, that's okay. Maybe you guys can figure out together. There's nothing wrong with that. I think part of growing up for me was kind of realizing that your parents are just humans. They're flawed people that have their own issues that they've carried for, you know, since they were little or, you know...
[01:27:49] We all have our own issues and I think sometimes you just have to kind of realize that. And for me, maybe it took a little longer, but that's kind of how I view things.
[01:28:00] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. All right, we are pretty far into this so I'm gonna wrap it up here and ask you two last questions. Do you feel like Adventist beliefs or culture still affect your life today?
[01:28:20] Miguel: Oh, absolutely, just because of our family. I still once in a while go to church with my parents. I still live with them, rent is too expensive [laughing]. But I mean, I don't mind Adventists. I don't mind religion. I think it's just something that's there. I've kind of taken a more, I guess you could say passive or neutral outlook.
[01:28:44] I don't think it's necessarily a great thing, but if someone were to raise their kid in a religious environment, I don't think I would be extremely against it either. I would definitely push for them to allow their kid to decide what they want to do and to kind of teach them everything that's out there.
[01:29:03] I think that religion has its purpose in community building and kind of cohesiveness in a, in a sense. But even then you still have, you know, splits from different sects of religion that'll, you know, go off and do their own thing. So I think just as humans, we will always find communities based on different ideas and beliefs. Maybe in the future it'll be more science based or maybe it'll be more nationalistic and country based. Who knows?
[01:29:37] Santiago: Hopefully not nationalistic.
[01:29:39] Miguel: Hopefully not.
[01:29:40] Santiago: Yeah, but unfortunately there, there has, there have been trends toward that as well. I personally hope that kids are no longer raised in a fundamentalist environment, regardless what the belief is, right? I personally do not have kids and do not plan to have kids or desire to have kids, neither does my partner.
[01:30:01] But for anyone who does, or for any kids you know that are, that are being born now and being raised up, I think you said it well. They should have all of the information as is age appropriate. But as they're raised up, be permitted to choose what path they want to take.
[01:30:19] Because I do feel like there are healthier theologies out there. I think Evangelical Christianity, especially in the U.S., has just become so corrupt and toxic to the point where pastors are committing abuse and then being applauded when they come back after a three month vacation.
[01:30:39] But there are healthier theologies out there that can provide community, can provide comfort to people. So yeah, like you, I'm not, I'm not against it by default, but I think I, I would say that I am definitely against fundamentalism in any form and this idea of having absolute certainty.
[01:31:01] Miguel: Yeah, yeah. It's okay to say "I don't know." It's okay to not understand everything that happens.
[01:31:09] Santiago: Yeah. Have you told any of your Adventist friends that you don't believe anymore?
[01:31:17] Miguel: Um, no, I only have one Adventist friend, that I would really consider a friend. We've grown up together, since little always known him, but he's definitely more conservative than I am. We obviously get along well and we're still friends, but it would be very difficult to say, 'I don't believe anymore.' I think for me it would have to be a better time. Right now we haven't seen each other in quite a while, so it's not like I would send a random text saying, 'Hey, I'm no longer Adventist.'
[01:31:53] Santiago: Yeah, yeah.
[01:31:54] Miguel: But, I think it really depends on the context and the situation. If he himself is starting to question or I see, you know, maybe he's a bit more open-minded, I would probably bring it up and see where our friendship goes from there.
[01:32:11] But I haven't told him at all. Obviously my parents know, but other people in the church don't know. But for me, at the end of the day, they're just church members and that they're not necessarily my friends or have the best intentions for me or my family. So for me, I'd rather keep it something private.
[01:32:32] All of my friends from my university and outside of the church know that I'm not Adventist and if people ask, I'll, I'll tell them my story, but it's not something that I am very public or vocal about. Even now, I'm not using my real name, especially for you as well. We have parents that are still in the church. We have friends that are still in the church. So for me, it's not necessarily right to just kind of rip a bandaid in such, you know, in that way.
[01:33:04] Santiago: Yeah, I've, I've always told myself that I'm primarily doing this for our parents. Like you, if somebody asks me, I want to tell them the truth. I want to be open and honest and have an honest conversation with them. And I've mentioned before on this podcast and, and on the subreddit that I've basically ghosted everyone from our church and the, and, and it's not 'cause I wanted to, I don't like the idea of ghosting people.
[01:33:33] But it's because when they ask me to do something or they ask, 'Hey, have you been? Why haven't you, why haven't you come?' I haven't gotten too many of those. But when I, when I do, I can't tell them the truth because our parents asked us to not be open and public about that. And because we also don't want to cause a bunch of drama and problems for them.
[01:33:55] Miguel: Yeah. If, if my friend were to ask me, we, to be honest, we don't talk a whole lot. We're one of those friendships where you can, you know, be a month or two without talking, see each other in person, and you guys are, you know, really close.
[01:34:09] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[01:34:10] Miguel: But if he were to ask me, I would probably be honest. I think it's very different if a close friend asks you and you talk about it instead of just a church member.
[01:34:22] Santiago: Yeah, for sure, yeah, I think those distinctions are important.
[01:34:26] Miguel: Mm-hmm.
[01:34:27] Santiago: I've talked about this before, but there's, there's your, your "church family" in quotes who you're nice with and you know, you might do favors for each other every now and then, but at least in our experience, I don't think we ever really got super, super close to a lot of these people. Only to a few of them who we're still in touch with today.
[01:34:47] Miguel: Yeah, yeah. It's not necessarily something you want to confide with, uh, just, you know, members of the same church. Because I know that there have been, you know, drama and whatnot related in our church. And honestly, I'd rather just avoid it. There's no need to blow things up and say, 'Hey, I've been here my entire life and I'm no longer Adventist!' There's no, there's no reason to say that.
[01:35:12] Santiago: Yeah, I don't know. Part of me, the, the chaotic side of me wants to someday, we'll, we'll see.
[01:35:21] Miguel: Yeah well, our church is definitely on the older side, so we'll see how many people will still be around.
[01:35:27] Santiago: Yeah, oh honestly, that's true. Alright if you could tell fellow Gen Zers, or really anybody who is actively going through deconstruction or deconversion, what would you tell them?
[01:35:42] Miguel: I'd tell them that it's gonna be okay. Pick your battles 'cause sometimes just arguing and kind of having these debates with your parents or your friends or your family, it's not necessarily the wisest. Coming from me, the way I did it, I think it would've been better if I just kind of kept my mouth shut for a while.
[01:36:08] I think I'm lucky in the regard that our parents, they just said, 'Okay, we'll pray for you.' And we talked about it, we argued about it, we debated about it, but I was never punished because of it. And I don't know if everyone can say the same if they were my age in leaving the faith.
[01:36:30] So I think, be wise about it, do your research, and you know your family. You know how they would probably react. So it's just something that you have to think about. And if you have to go to church, I mean, I did it. I, you know, I went to church even after I left the faith, and sometimes I would be a little antagonistic or, you know, ask these questions in Sabbath school and whatnot, but that's, you know, that's okay. There's nothing wrong with questioning your faith or, or the, the belief around it. But for me, you know your family, you know your environment. So just do what you believe is best around that.
[01:37:22] Santiago: Yeah.
[01:37:23] Miguel: It's tough to give advice, you know, without, without knowing everything or knowing the situation. But, that's my advice. There's a lot of us, there's a lot of people that don't believe. We're not horrible people. I'm just human just like you. I have a close relationship with my parents still, and religion isn't everything.
[01:37:47] Santiago: Yeah, absolutely. I think Abby mentions this at some point, but she coined a tagline for the original Seventh-day Atheist Podcast that says "There may not be life after death, but there is life after Adventism." And I think that's absolutely true for both of us.
[01:38:04] Miguel: Yeah.
[01:38:06] Santiago: All right well, thanks so much for coming on. It's been great chatting with you and I'm sure we will do it again at some point.
[01:38:14] Miguel: Absolutely yeah, I enjoyed it. If anyone has questions, maybe in the, you know, future podcasts, we can answer them together or anything specific for Gen Z [laughing] I don't mind answering those.
Haystacks & Hell Outro
[01:38:29] Santiago: Thanks for listening. If you have a story to share about your Adventist or fundamentalist experience, we'd love to hear it. You can submit stories on our website at hell.bio (that's H E L L dot B I O) or leave us a voicemail at 301-750-8648 and we might feature it in a future episode. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you on the next one!