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A call to action from John Dehlin: Are Sunday Assemblies enough?

Mormon Stories is a podcast and community created by John Dehlin who started  the podcast  when he began to wrestle with his faith in Mormonism almost ten years ago. Through the years, he has interviewed hundreds of Mormons, both faithful and apostate, and challenged the church to come to terms with gay Mormons and women who wanted equality in the church.

Recently, Dehlin was excommunicated and Mormon Stories has started to explore alternatives to religion. Or, is there an alternative to religion? This is the focus of his most recent podcast interview with Micah Nickolaison, former host of A Thoughtful Faith and also a former Mormon, now atheist. Together they discuss the recent trend in the New Atheism’s Sunday Assembly. They both like the initiative in the Sunday Assembly but feel something is missing. That missing thing is the glue that could bind a certain segment of Nones and former Mormons into a more cohesive unit and would provide them with an identification.

So, John’s latest podcast is a kind of call to action to anyone who is interested in taking it to the next level. He says, and I agree with him here, that the old bronze age religions are dying and this is reflected in the rise of the nones. But the psychologist in him recognizes that community is necessary for collective action and mental health. Also, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the other Four Horseman may be doing atheism a disservice by not recognizing this need in most people.

John says we are at an evolutionary point. How do we evolve away from these old religions while maintaining the ritual and ceremonial aspects that bind communities? It’s a fascinating podcast for those of us in-betweeners who pretty much find Abrahamic religions silly and anachronistic but can’t do the full Dawkins.

Whatever it is that comes out of this, let it be a potent antidote to fundamentalism, which is the real threat to all of us.

Here are Dehlin’s conversations with Micah Nickolaison of Strangers in Zion on his transition away from Mormonism and brainstorming the next evolutionary level. (If you want to skip all the background story, go directly to part 3. But if you want to hear a gifted interviewer do his thing, listen to John lead Micah through in parts 1 and 2)