A Christian and an Atheist have a polite conversation. Kind of. Daniel and Kyle have competing worldviews and yet still remain close friends. Each try to understand each other's viewpoints, using media to uncover how each interprets the world.
About Assumptions: A note from Daniel on the story behind this project
We live our lives surrounded by others who have completely different ways of viewing the world. It's my experience that as a society we default to two ways of responding to those who think different from us. We get along politely without bothering to understand and challenge those differing assumptions. Or, we antagonize the other side and shake our heads at how foolish they must be.
I've been close friends with Kyle Marshall for five years. One the one hand, our friendship makes sense. We are both very tall, both love creating things, both enjoy pop culture, and nothing satisfies us more than a long conversation about worldview and culture. And yet we are also completely different. Kyle is a bisexual atheist. I am a relatively conservative Christian who was homeschooled.
Years ago, Kyle and I would go see a movie together and then film a short video reviewing the film. These videos quickly outgrew their time limitations as our discussions became less about the cinematography and more about our contrasting worldviews. Realizing that it was was this aspect of the discussion that satisfied us the most, we scrapped the video project and began plans to start a podcast instead.
And now, almost four years later, we present Assumptions, a podcast dedicated to a dialogue of trying understanding how someone with a completely different worldview makes sense of his culture and life. This is a chance for us to try to get inside the head of the other worldview, to ask questions that puzzle us.
For me, these conversations with Kyle have been incredibly illuminating. I grew with the assumption that it's relativity easy to dismantle an atheist's worldview. Just knock on a few of the key support beams to reveal how shaky they are, and then the whole structure will come tottering down. But by getting inside his worldview and testing the walls, I've discovered that, to him on the inside, it's actually a pretty firm structure. I still largely disagree with it. But I certainly understand it better. Loving my neighbour begins by taking the time understand who exactly he is.
So I hope you get as much from listening to Assumptions as we did recording it. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, and through your favourite podcast provider, or you can listen on Soundcloud below. Further down, you will find an outline of Season 1 with release dates.
Season 1: Stories We Tell
The podcast will be organized around seasons, each focused on a specific topic. Season 1, Stories We Tell, is focused on all aspects of the storytelling. Both Kyle and I love stories, as do all humans. It's a trait that distinguishes us from the animals, and is consistent across the divides of race, culture, and history. Stories are ubiquitous and unavoidable. We tell them amongst ourselves, we record them in every medium imaginable, and we long for them during every stage of our lives. Why this instinct? Does it point to grand narrative, a master Storyteller? Or, if the universe is in fact a closed box, where does this desire come from? Is it simply a way to make sense of the chaos around us?
The season begins by exploring the allure and power of storytelling. It then illustrates the differences between Kyle and Daniel's worldviews by examining their favourite stories, then examining several genres of storytelling. Non-traditional storytelling in video games will be explored, as well as our own desire to create and the subtle ways we do that through social media. Finally, we'll take a shot at examining the overarching power of cultural narratives and how church services and movie theatres tell stores.
Season 1 Teaser: (March 13th): A quick preview of the themes and style of the podcast.
Episode 1: "We Are Made of Stories" (March 19th): The book Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper investigates the subtle power of the stories told through movies and TV. We discuss the allure of storytelling in both of our lives and ask why, according our differing creeds, does this desire exist?
Episode 2: The Stories that Shape Us (April 02): Kyle's favourite movie of all time is Jaws, which Daniel has never seen. We sit down to watch it and then ask: why does this movie speak so deeply to Kyle? We also talk about Daniel's favourite movie, Moonrise Kingdom and examine why these different stories mean so much to us and what that says about our worldviews.
Episode 3: Oh, the Horror! (April 16): Daniel argues that many horror films deal blatantly with the existence of evil and often have strong religious themes. So why are they so popular amongst our secular culture? And why do most evangelical Christians avoid them like a curse of Satan? Does Kyle believe in ghosts anyways?
Episode 4: "Harry Potter is of the Devil" (April 30): Daniel grew up believing that the Harry Potter books were, quite literally, inspired by the devil. Until last year, when he read the whole series. Now he thinks they are, at their core, essentially Christian novels. What does Kyle think of this theory? Why does our culture love these books so much?
Episode 5: The Validity of Video Games (May 14): Speaking of stories Daniel grew up despising, he still tends to think of video games as a largely useless art form. Can Kyle convince him otherwise? Together they play the video game "That Dragon, Cancer" and get emotional talking about death.
Episode 6: Dance, Dance, Otherwise We Are Lost! (May 28): Daniel and Kyle are both creative people and both have a relentless drive to create. Why? Why create art when there is more than enough already? What happens when our art goes unseen and unvalued? Such deep questions.
Episode 7: #Stories (June 11): Our culture is obsessed with crafting its own narrative through social media, what some have described a our own carefully edited realty show. How do Kyle and Daniel tell their stories on social media and how has this shaped their identities?
Episode 8: The Cathedral and the Cinema (June 25): Daniel likes to think that weekly church service he attends tells a story that its congregation becomes immersed in. So Kyle comes to Daniel's church and offers his outsider's observations. They then discuss the Kyle's weekly temple experience: the movie theatre. How do these communities shape the stories of our lives?
Episode 9: Concluding Thoughts (July 9): Kyle and Daniel pause to look back on their conversations. What did they learn about each other? How did their opinions changed? What surprised them? They also gather up any loose ends discussed over the season and announce their plans for Season 2.
Assumptions in the press
Patheos Evangelical (Rebecca Florence Miller): Assumptions: A Podcast in Which an Atheist and a Christian Talk about Stories
Special thanks to Evan Thomas Way of the Parson Red Heads for his support and help in getting us access to the soundtrack. Thanks to Jen Hall for the photos and Chris Taniguchi for the logo design. Thanks also to Mike Cosper and James K. A. Smith for the influence their books and ideas have had on this season.