Erin Louis POI

The Brazen Atheist Erin Louis on Countering Conspiracists With Critical Thinking

August 20, 2020

Would you rather have your children looking at QAnon conspiracy Youtubers or porn online? That’s a question author Erin Louis has had to confront with her teenage son. How do you employ critical thinking, media literacy, and a skeptical mindset in the every day world to make a real impact.

In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Erin Louis joins Leighann Lord as they discuss her journey through the freethought movement, countering conspiracists with critical thinking, why she wrote Expose Yourself, stories from her life as a stripper, and how to get over our unconscious or implicit biases.

Erin Louis, also known as the Brazen Atheist, has authored the books EXPOSE YOURSELF: How To Take Risks, Question Everything and Find Yourself – Humor and Insights From My Life As a Stripper, Dirty Money: Memoirs of a Stripper, and Think You Want To Be A Stripper? Her goal is to facilitate and foster self acceptance and critical thinking. You can follow Erin on her website and on twitter @ErinLouis666

We are proud to announce that this episode of Point of Inquiry was sponsored by the Wadsworth-Sheng Fund. Our friends, Spike Wadsworth and Sherry Sheng, are committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to thought-provoking content that addresses the big questions in science, religion, politics, and culture. We are grateful for their support.

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This Week’s Music

“Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0
“Cold” by Pictures of the Floating World / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
“Paper Feathers” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

My name is Leighann Lord. Your co-host for Point of Inquiry, my guest today is known on Twitter as the Brazen Atheist. Aaron Lewis, she’s the author of several books including Dirty Money, Memoir of a Stripper and Expose Yourself How to Take Risks. Question everything and find yourself humor and insights from my life as a stripper. The latter is a straightforward and funny book. That is part self-help, part self discovery, part tough love talk. It shows you how to use critical thinking to evaluate and improve your life. In this episode, we talk about what inspired her to write expose herself. She shares about how she thought her biggest problem with her teenage son would be porn. But instead it was the rabbit hole of white nationalism and how it gave her an opportunity to teach her son media literacy. Her entire life, Erens been her own best debunker, whether it be Jesus, homoeopathy, ghosts or the stripper Illuminati. Please enjoy my conversation with brazen atheist Aaron Lewis. 

Hello, everybody, my name is Leighann Lord and I am your co-host for a point of inquiry. My guest today is known on Twitter as The Brazen Atheist, and she is the author of several books, including Expose Yourself How to Take Risks. 

Question Everything and Find Yourself Humor and Insights from my life as a stripper. It’s a straightforward and funny book that is part self-help, part self discovery, part tough love talk and shows you how to use critical thinking to evaluate and improve your life. Ray Lewis, welcome to Points of Inquiry. 

Thank you for having me. Your book just seems to effortlessly use your life story and your career as a pathway to sort of exploring your Athie ism and, you know, for folks who don’t know you. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write the book in this way? 

I’ve been a member of FFR for, I think about a year at that point. Of course, I’d had their newsletter and that kind of stuff. And I saw the convention was in San Francisco is pretty close to me. And I thought, well, gee, I can you know how. And I settle little gambo myself. And I went there literally not knowing anybody at all, except for the editor of the newsletter who’d actually had just recently published an article of mine. So he was the only person I knew and he’s like seven feet tall. And if you know until 10, he knows like, oh, I should warn heel’s after all that happened in the next day, they introduced me to my local chapter president. He named Judy St.. He’s actually the contributing editor and she was interested in my other two books. And after she read them, she said, well, how long will it take you to write another book? And I said, I don’t know. And so she actually helped me come up with the concept of it. We kind of wanted to have a different take on critical thinking, Athie ism, humanism. And my hope was that because of my naughty profession, that it might kind of draw in a different audience and people who are already exposed to those types of ideas. 

Well, you hit the nail on the head because who would put stripping and Athie ism in the same sentence? It’s like, what? And then when you sort of broke it down and sort of aligned concepts from Athie as a more critical thinking to how your career got started in advance, it was like, oh, my gosh, this is this is so smart. Now, I remember you talked about the incident at your son’s school. Can you share a little bit about that? Because I. I thought you were pretty bad ass, some hardcore the way that you handled that. 

Well, it happened when he got sent home with a flier or free bike that his school had won or had gotten. The entire elementary school was going to get a free bike. And my first thought was, well, this must be for underprivileged or needy kids. And he’d just gotten a bike a couple of months ago for Christmas. So my first words out of my mouth was, if you do get a new bike, you’re probably going to we’re going to donate it. You don’t need two bikes, right? So I looked into it a little further once. I actually opened and looked at the flier and it was kind of cryptic. It just said destiny. And I’m like, well, what the hell is destiny? And what is their point? Because what they were really touting was this event where they gave the bikes away and they’re like, well, every kid’s gonna go to this event, you know, to get your bike. And I’m like, OK, so what is this event? And I realized that destiny was a church. So my next. OK. It’s a Christian church. So my next thought was, OK, well, this is weird because this school that he went to was actually outside of our regular. It wasn’t his home school. He was going to a different school. And it was actually in kind of an affluent area. And we had just looked for houses, so I knew the median home price was like four hundred five hundred thousand dollars. And I’m like, this is why would you pick this all in particular to give everybody a free bike to? And then I was like, oh, it’s a church. And I’m like, well, they’re probably more likely to want to donate to the church. So then I ended up messaging them on Facebook to make sure that the event was actually a church event. And that’s when they very cheerfully told me that there was going to be a message of hope for all the children. And I’m like, all right, cool. So then I messaged FFR. And they said, yeah, that’s a problem. And I had walked into it. But I’d also taken a flier in actually before I contacted f f R.F. because I kind of wanted to give the principal a chance to to say to point this out and say this isn’t really OK. And so I walked in with the flier and the first thing out of her mouth was, oh, are you a member of Destiny Church? And I’m like, no, actually, I’m not. This can get awkward really fast for you. Yeah, I explained to her. I explained to her why it was problematic and that, you know, you can’t have kids of different faiths going to a Christian. You know, you as a school, as a public entity can’t promote this while blah, blah. And I said, you know, worst case scenario, you’re gonna get Satan this involved that are going to come out here and hand out, you know, Satan is coloring books and stuff because you can’t promote one religion without promoting another. And I said, you really don’t want that. And she said, nope, this is great for our school. And basically refused. And so that’s why I contacted FFR F, who sent it. And a letter to the district. And so basically that’s kind of how all this stuff got kicked off. So Mama Bear basically is is how the book ended up coming to fruition. Just sort of. 

That’s definitely secular Mommy Hood. I think at its finest. 

And so the event did not happen is that the school stopped promoting it that I know of. I’m pretty sure that the event still happens. My concern when it came to my individual son was that if he didn’t go to the event, that he may get bullied because he was the one kid that didn’t get the free bike. And of course, the principal, you know, I wasn’t really a fan after that. And that ended up kind of making him a bit of a target anyway, because now they know, oh, here’s C, you know, secular kid or the atheist kid. And I think he was it wasn’t even a point where he was identifying as atheist and he actually doesn’t. Now he’s fifteen. And so he calls himself agnostic, which is perfect. But it was one of those things where it was like, that’s a really unfair thing for a kid to get. Yeah. Get picked on for. I mean, granted, it don’t pick on kids for anything at all. But it boils down to it’s not just the kids, that single amount. Then then you have a lot of Christian teachers that all of a sudden are looking at him with Sinai. 

Oh, you mean instead of being Christian? 

Definitely important knavery after this fact. We’ve run into several Christian teachers that will I guess his math teacher was talking about intelligent design and this in his class. He begged and pleaded with me to not get involved. 

So hold up, please, under the momma bear thing, please don’t do that. Yeah, no, I get it. 

Kudos to you for having a 15 year old son. I think the teenagers are their own category in and of themselves. You know, as you as you find yourself. So good law, actually. 

I’m really okay with it. I’m very, very proud of how he’s how he’s working through especially the teenage years. I’m still slightly terrified. He’s bugging me right now to read the Foundation series by Asimov. Oh, it’s a great series. Yes. So he’s really smart. He’s very level headed. You have a lot of conversations about things we see on the Internet as far as Keyes has had that awful experience of sort of falling down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole a couple years ago that was talking about some white nationalist type stuff. He kind of had a couple of he blurted out a couple of talking points and I was like, whoa. And so we had a really long conversation about where his information came from, what he was ingesting on the Internet, what he was seeing, how to identify, what is not true, what is spun, how to find actual sources and things like that. And so I’m actually really, really proud of him. He’s been able to pass some of that on to some of his friends as far as identifying some of the really scary stuff on the Internet. And it’s just I’ve been worried about porn, and that’s why it’s not my biggest concern, especially in regards to the various conspiracy theories and things like that we got going on right now. 

Yeah, that’s something that CFI is actually really is focusing on big time. We just had a wonderful talk about Colbert, 19 conspiracy theories, and we have one coming. About how fast A were developing a vaccine for the virus. 

And, you know, in between all of that is just this campaign to really have a better media literacy. And it sounds like you stepped right in there and and did something that that some adults can’t do. 

Jeff, that’s what I’m running into right now, actually, is I have a few of my friends, former colleagues, that have fallen into the CU hole. Which is really, really terrifying for me. And then from a social aspect, it it’s hard to know how to deal with people, especially friends, that start to go down that road because they’re really I don’t know how to pull them out of it. And I actually I watched the Kovik talk that you’re talking about, and I’ve been paying attention to the Skeptical Inquirer, actually. I guess you guys have a series of articles on misinformation in particular. And that has been actually really helpful for me personally because it’s helped relieve some of my anxiety surrounding it, because, I mean, as much as I think that I’m immune to biased news and things like that, I’m not. I’m absolutely not. And so I have definitely found myself in a couple of rabbit holes myself where I end up just terrified. And I’m like, I don’t to touch anything or go anywhere I want to. Right. Right. I just want to, like, hide in my little hole. And that’s not that’s not really an effective answer either, right? 

Yeah. No, I always have to guard against doom scrolling. 

You know, like one minute I’m looking at kittens and then the next minute go all it’s going to end in tears. I’m like, I gotta find a movie. Yeah. So that that doesn’t happen. But you mentioned a couple of things here, and I want to make sure I don’t I don’t miss it. 

You know, like because your son is in his high school years. And I feel like you’ve kind of always you’ve been in this space for a while. 

And what I mean by that is you talk about writing a paper when you were in high school bunking homoeopathy. Did that go over well? 

I remember being surprised because when I started the paper, my mom and I hadn’t lots of little like liquids in the droppers and we had ear candles and all those kinds of things. And so I was really, really shocked when I when I actually read on it and I looked at it and researched it and I was like, wow, I cannot believe that this is total garbage. I think if there was any, like, really major reaction, it was my own. Because I was really shocked. And then you really underseas start to understand this psychosomatic it where you know your take you’re putting these little drops under your tongue and, you know, they taste kind of sweet and you’re like, oh, it’s working. And it’s like, wait. That was nothing. And then, you know, how much are you spending on it? But I can’t remember the specific reaction. I want to say that there probably wasn’t much of one, if only because, you know, it was one of probably, you know, another hundred high school papers. 

I love that. You know, the biggest change was you. I find that fascinating. You went in thinking, oh, this is the thing I like doing with my mom and wait a minute. Yeah. You know. 

And that convinced my mom. Perfect. And she was actually very receptive to it. She died. My mother grew up very, very strict Catholic. And I have oh, especially more recently, I’ve really associated that with more rigid thinking along with magical thinking. And she really wasn’t like that. Who’s very, very open to new information. And I think that’s one of the reasons why she was very accepting of my profession when I started to dance. She was always willing to look outside of herself, although she did keep her faith, at least outwardly, although we discussed that shortly before she passed, that it was it was really more of a social thing for her than it was anything else. 

Yeah, I know that. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Oh, n. 

Yeah. No, I think that’s a situation for a lot of people who they may not necessarily be rigidly religious anymore, but that social aspect, you know, that’s what they’re their friends are and community and and habit, you know, of a place to hang out in and feel feel connected. 

Yeah. Oh, definitely. And she actually said that to me personally when I got involved with FFR. And it was actually. Right before my first book came out, we had talked about my dad. I told her the first only person in my family and told that I was an atheist and she wasn’t, like, shocked by it. She wasn’t taken aback by it. She wasn’t. We just had a conversation about it. And I just told her I said there. I have never really felt what people talk about feeling. I’ve never. I said it. It just doesn’t I. There is no evidence there. I mean, there’s nothing for me to hold on to. And and I said I actually feel a bit of relief being able to let that go because I tried so hard as a kid growing up Catholic to believe because there was a social aspect. And then you have that. Yes. I mean, atheists are like, you know, the worst people ever. You know, murderers and rapists and everything else. At least growing up Catholic did the very word atheist was probably worse than the F word. That was one of the things that I really admired about her, was that she was able to question and and understand. And so we had a conversation. She goes, you know, I never felt bad about the Bible, too. And I was like, shocked. I was like, Really? And she goes, Yeah. She goes, Well, Adam and Eve, she goes. Who did they how did they make more kids? And she said she said what got her was when they said that they went off, their sons I guess went off and and had kids with it. The villagers are people of a local town. And she was like. But how did that exist? And she goes, that’s when it ended for me. But it was such a taboo to not believe and to not be Catholic. That she just kept doing that. And so while she would have never identified that way, she was truly an agnostic. And she said that she just wanted to believe. And that was the end of it all. When I was growing up, that’s what I wanted to I wanted to believe. I felt like I needed to. And then I felt like there was something wrong with me when I couldn’t trust. 

I know the feeling I was raised Catholic as well. And it’s like, yeah, yeah, exactly. 

And like all I want to believe. But you guys, I have questions. It didn’t end well. Well, no, actually it did. And well, I’m here definitely. 

It can hurt some relationships. And that’s, I think, why finding other nonbelievers is so important. I think a lot of people go on to pretend to believe to preserve those relationships, which is what I did for a long time. And then and then when I did and it was sort of basically when my book came out and when I read a couple articles for F, F or F and then also secular nation, that was sort of like, well, I want to tell people I’m writing. I don’t know if someone is writing about. 

I’m fascinated by the idea that your life seems to be filled with what seems to be very difficult conversations and but you plow through anyway, like you you told your mom, you know, your family, I’m a stripper and I’m an atheist. 

I may not at the same time, but those are those aren’t those are in conversation I think a lot of parents are prepared for. Definitely not. But you got support. You didn’t get the kind of blowback you were thinking for either disclosure. Am I correct in that? 

Actually, pretty accepted that the rest of my family kind of thought it was it was not for eight years and that was more recent. But with dancing, you know, they were happy that I was taking care of myself and being independent. They weren’t happy, obviously, with the sexual aspect of it, but it was more a safety issue at first. Although I came to find out later that there was quite a bit of talk that wasn’t quite in my face. They had a lot of opinions about what I did that they didn’t necessarily tell me, but I found out through other people, which kind of sucked. And then ageism thing went over pretty much like a fart in church. And there was really no there was really no getting out of that one. And part of that I understood I understand where they were coming from because it was they would never really be able to understand how the how anybody could go on without that type of belief. And I understand that if only because I was raised in the same way. But that was that was more difficult and that was the beginning of the end of a few different relationships. 

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You talk in the book about anchoring biases and self-serving biases, and so you that’s where I was uncomfortable. 

Was like, wait a minute, wait a minute, I have to examine my own cognitive biases. Why? You know, and and that’s really hard. People do it like, oh, that’s my blind side. 

That’s what I’m, you know, believe. And when you sort of explained it, Stryper magical thinking, I just found it blew me away because you’re talking about shoes versus sneakers. Can you share that that concept? 

Because like I say, I think we all have something like that that we all do. 

It comes back to where we pattern seek. 

I happen to be taken in by somebody who, you know, an older girl who I trusted and I thought was, you know, giving me great advice and told me day, you know, take a look at Guy’s shoes and, you know, you’re going after the guys in the Gucci loafers or the more expensive shoes. And if they’re wearing zino sneakers or probably broke and, you know, God forbid you go after anybody in flip flops. And so for a long time, that’s what I did. 

And I literally just kind of wrote that’s how I chose my targets. I suppose poor marks, I guess, is by looking at their shoes and their clothes. And I judged in that way. And when I noticed that she wasn’t actually following the advice that she gave me, I was aware that she had actually planted that bias in my mind. And once I started to kind of discount that and go, you know what, I’m not going to judge people that way and I’m just going to straight go up to everybody. And I made a whole lot more money. That was a terrible way to not only judge people, but I wrote off so many other people because of them that I brought on myself really maybe not necessarily brought it on yourself because I didn’t come out of nowhere. 

But you accepted it from someone like you said, that you trust it now, seemingly authority figure, perhaps. And how often do so many of us do that? Well, my my governor said it. My president felt it. And I will confess the shoe thing is a thing. You know, I’ve heard people say that to me. It’s like, oh, look at a guy’s shoes on shoes. Knife could be the only thing he bought. Exactly. Exactly. 

Yeah, it’s a terrible way. But it was one of those things where in my head, I as soon as I saw them, I associated it with money. And I was wrong probably 80 percent of the time. But I stuck to it because that’s what I had ingrained in my head. 

I love that you you have these things and then you examine them and you’re able to toss away the stuff that doesn’t work and make it sound that easy. 

It’s solid, like, oh, no, no, no, I I’m just I’m sort of, you know, aggregating things from your book. 

But these are were examples that that jumped out at me. And I’m like, wow, that’s something that, you know, if I. 

I probably don’t do it enough, even though I do do it more because of the length of time that I’ve been involved in the skeptical movement. 

I’m always just trying to get better, you know, and and not fall down as many YouTube rabbit holes or believe people just because it sounds reasonable. 

The shoe thing sounds reasonable. 

I can see why somebody would believe that, you know, and some of my best customers who, you know, ended up being more well-to-do or being more executive type, what at times they would come in either before or hopefully before or think about doing something else. And it was you know, there ofttimes they’re not necessarily coming in in a suit. I found that the more that I turned those awkward questions on myself and I ask myself, you know, why do I believe this or why do I think that? I find more often than not that, you know, I’ve been leading myself astray. 

The best lies are the ones we tell to ourselves. Now, you are retired from the stripping profession. Yes. 


A year yesterday actually isn’t really what it really is. 

Should they throw you a party or would you say, you know, that you make a big stink? I didn’t. You just say, OK. OK. But you were like, OK, I’m done. I’m leaving. 

Yeah. I mean, it was I had just published an expose yourself and that was my third book. And plus I was about to turn 41. And I just kind of wanted you know, I wanted to quit while I was ahead. I was still pretty much at the top of my game. And I really wanted I you know, I had over 20 years. And that’s a good run. That’s an amazing run. I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to, like, walk in one day and then be like, hey, you know what? I bet you are Dayshift. Or, you know, you know, we’d prefer you come back as a customer. You know, I, I didn’t want to reach the point where they were like, you know, hey. Old lady, get off the stage for you, break hip. I wanted to quit while people were still asking me why I quit. 

That’s a great way. That’s a great way to phrase that. Yeah. You tell the story in your book. I guess, you know, this is sort of framed, perhaps, that you were leaving the business and you could talk about this via the stripper Illuminati that nobody seems to know about. 

That’s that’s operating out there unbeknownst to everyone. 

If sexuality and sexual expression become the norm and become more accepted, especially in more Puritan type cultures. Well, there’s not gonna be any need for Forner or strip clubs. So it’s actually really important to perpetuate those ideas just to keep the business lucrative. 

You wrote that and I’m reading and or listening to it cause I did the I listen to the audio book. 

I’m thinking, is this this thing, this really going on? Well, she’s she’s worked in this industry, so she must have this inside knowledge. And while this sounds plausible and then you do the gotcha, which I totally love doing, you like that sounds true. 

Right. And then you go, no, there’s no stripper Illuminati. 

And part of me was I wanted to say in my mind, yeah, I knew that the whole time. That’s what I wanted to say to myself. 

But no, you had me going and I’m listening because you you have knowledge that I don’t necessarily have. 

And that’s like the girl that told me to look for expensive shoes. 

Right. I mean, it was just a wonderful to me example of. Well, yeah, this is how somebody can believe a conspiracy theory. Absolutely. 

You know, you set it up with all the elements. You have some sort of expertize and off we go. 

And also a little bit of truth. Yes. So when I was writing, I was like, this is insane. Know, like, this is ridiculous. I’m like, they’re gonna know that it’s crap right away. In fact, I almost scrapped it a couple of times and then I tried it out on it on a few people that actually know me really well and a few people that are in the business or it was very familiar with it. 

And they were like, oh yeah, it makes sense. And I’m like, no, too. It doesn’t go right. How long? Why does that happen? And at the time, it was kind of like lighthearted and funny. But in the context of what we have going on right now, it’s actually terrifying. Yeah, it actually really scares me. 

I’m giving a talk in September for the Global Center for Religious Research. They’re doing an E conference on racism and humanism and things like that. And I am going to use part of that in my presentation. But as I’ve been setting up how to debunk conspiracy theories and kind of looking more into it. It really frightens me how easy it is to deceive people. And then once they’ve gotten those types of beliefs, how do you convince them that what they have already convinced themselves is is not is not true? You know, it is not like Heaven’s Gate, where it’s just a small kind of isolated thing. We’re looking at conspiracies that are really just spreading like wildfire and we’re talking millions of people. Right. You know, I I might have known, you know, 10 years ago, I might have known one person that believes something weird. And that is not the case. Now, I must know ten, at least 10 people that are actually really involved in like the Wayfair thing and the pizza gate phone. My people that think the world is flat, which is insane to me because it’s so obviously not. It’s so easily disproven. But in the light of facts, you there aren’t. You can’t you can’t show people that it’s not that it’s not true. 

Right. Once they’ve they’ve gotten it from what they believe was a trusted source. It can be very difficult, even when presented with facts to let go if they’ve emotionally attached to it and built on it. 

And then some people, you know, I’ve listened to talks from from folks who are magicians and, you know, professional con artists. And they say most people don’t ever want to admit that they were wrong. 

They’re they’re too afraid to even admit that they’ve been taken because then what does that say about them? 

Like the people who are who are taken in in cons, like Ponzi schemes or whatever? You know, many of them may not even come forward because they’re embarrassed. 

That makes sense. And then also, I guess that makes sense as to why when people make fun of them or shame them or things like that, then then it doesn’t work here because you’re really only you’re really only on making them dig in. Because then they’re just right. 

Exactly. Exactly. Now, you know, speaking of, you know, even to me in the face of facts, people will cling to certain beliefs. 

You were a you were a ghost hunter type person or for a while. 

Tell us a little bit about that, because you were and then you sort of transformed it for yourself. 

Well, I think it was one of those things, kind of like religion where I want. Or not even religion per say, because that was a there was no way I was ever going to buy into the whole crucifixion resurrection thing. That was. I kind of debunk that when I was like six God. But the God believing in God and in a higher power was heart was a part of thing for me to let go, as was the ghost thing, because it was fun. It was, you know, it was scary. And as a kid, after I moved out of Southern California, I moved up to the foothills, which is where gold was first discovered in gold country and where the gold rush happened and all that stuff. So there was a lot of creepy cemeteries, a lot of history. And so it was fun to go and explore those places. And then actually, after I started dancing with my friend, my best friend for a very long time. That was kind of our thing would go to different haunted places and look for staff and research the stories. But, you know, when you walk into those places as a ghost hunter in air quotes, you you already know the stories. So you’re walking in with an expectation. Yeah. Already thinking that something is going to happen. Something’s creepy. You know, that something really bad or something creepy or something has already happened here. So you’ve already kind of psyched yourself up for that. So it was a lot of fun in that respect. But in the light of day, the next day and you’re eating breakfast in the local diner and you’re, you know, hung over, you’re like, gee, did that happen or did we really just scare ourselves? And in the end, there ended up being really a plausible explanation for every single thing we thought we may have seen, including pictures when I actually started reading about physics and and things like that ever there was and there was nothing left. There was really nothing left. But what I did once I debunked all that stuff and realized that there weren’t really any ghosts. My thought was, well, why do these stories perpetuate? And that led into the thought that, well, it’s a very human thing. Number one, death is scary. And like religion and God and things like that, the afterlife is something we want to believe in. Because the thought of just no longer being can really produce kind of kooky feeling. And so I think that that’s why we we look for ghosts and those stories are so compelling. But on the flip side of that is all of ghost stories do include a human story. And you’re learning about other people’s lives from the past and what they went through, their sorrow, their pain. And I think that those types of stories, any human stories really teach us a lot about ourselves because we’re trying to relate to them. 

That part of the book, just the idea that ghost stories are really human stories really to me was transformative in how you look at it. It takes it from being creepy in odd and weird to wow. 

That’s another way to tell a story about us, you know, or people that aren’t that different from us. So I really love that. And once again, you’re doing your own personal debunking. 

Yeah, I, I, I’m, I’m, I’m enjoying that. 

What you’re saying you you just mentioned that, you know, part of that comes out of fear. You know, death is scary. The idea that there may not be or there is there isn’t something quote unquote on the other side. No one’s really waiting for you. How did you. That had to be difficult. You know, I know you mentioned that your mom passed away. 

Is it difficult dealing with that as a skeptic or have you found a way to deal with that? It can be very different from people who are still religious and how they deal with it. 

Definitely. Part of that really the first time I dealt with like a personal death was my nephew passed actually, which I’m sorry, when he was eight. And he’d had can’t he was diagnosed with cancer when he was two. So we went through six years of kind of up and down and often on. And when he passed, you know, there’s all the stuff of don’t everybody pray. That was probably the last time I actually, like, actively prayed, although I didn’t really think that I was doing anything, but I couldn’t do anything. And so that was like I was like, Wolf, I mean, I got to do something. And so that was kind of the last time that I, like, actively prayed. And once that happened and I was a little more removed from my nephew because of distance and issues with in-laws and all that kind of stuff. But that was when I really started to research like souls, consciousness and life after death and things like that, trying to reconcile my nonbelief with, you know, everybody around me. And so when my mom passed, I was actually in a better position to handle her death as opposed to my nephews because. I was already in a place of acceptance when it came to there not being anything after you. That was difficult. Was my family once again where they were talking about her being in heaven and, you know, talking about her being with her parents and actually talking about her being with my nephew and things like that. And I saw that they took comfort in that. But for me, there wasn’t any comfort in it. And I sort of had to go back into that pretend mode because I certainly didn’t want to make anything more difficult for people around me. Right. As a nonbeliever, it was actually it was hard for me because I wasn’t able to really express what I was feeling, which was just pure grief. Without that thought of her, you know, looking down on me and things like that. And I actually experienced a an audible hallucination where I heard her call my name. And it was very much loud, like you’re talking to me. I heard her say my name and I but I knew because I had known that that was something that that was common. I knew at the time that it was an auditory hallucination. And yet I was still able to fall, find comfort in it because her voice was so clear in my ear, obviously was in my head. But, you know, I heard it. And so it was actually kind of like I was able to take solace in the fact that I felt like I heard her voice again. The same thing with dreams and the same thing when I know I joke about it in the book. And also I wrote an article for FFR F about dealing with it that way is, you know, I have a lot of her physical features. So does my son hurt? Yes. Jokes and things like that. And so I really find a lot of comfort when, you know, I noticed myself sounding like her or saying something she said or I or a I see something on my face. I think actually mentioned my butt because I really didn’t inherit my butt from my mom. 

I you know, I laughed. I laughed at my sister and I she was bending over to pick something up. And I was like, there’s mom. 

And it was definitely different. But it’s but it’s lonely when everybody around you is seeing the, you know, the better place things and the heaven things. And so it was it was a different experience. But I think I had already found a lot of the science. I had already researched a lot of it in an already kind of come to terms with. 

The physical leaving of the world. 

I think it was a little easier on me at that point. And it wasn’t, whereas a lot of people around me that dealt with that kind of stuff with alcohol or or other things. I was in a better position to confront it, to confront the grief and the feelings and the sadness without trying to find something to pretend it didn’t exist. 

Before I let you go, I feel like this leads right into something that that you’ve recently done. You contributed to a book of essays called Beyond the Grave. 

Yes. So it’s a book of short fiction stories. So basically, I wrote a ghost story which reflect. Yeah. You know, it was it was definitely fun. Right. And probably where I’m going to be taking my my writing and the features is more towards fiction. This book, like I said, there’s I think there’s about nine or 10 other authors. It’s a book of short ghost stories. It’s called Beyond the Grave. You can get it on Amazon. I believe it actually comes out on the 17th. I smellable for preorder right now. 

And of course, your other books are available on Amazon as well. I highly recommend expose yourself. 

Expose yourself to expose yourself. 

Thank you, everybody. That would be a nice bit of reading, you know. 

Particularly in these heavy times to read something both fun and on point. But, Aaron, thank you so much for being a guest on Point of Inquiry today. You’ve been delightful. 

Thank you for having me. So it was really great to talk to you. 

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Leighann Lord

Leighann Lord

Standup Comedian Leighann Lord was the New York City face of the African Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and it’s Millions Living Happily Without Religion campaign. Author Chris Johnson featured her in The Atheist Book: A Better Life. Leighann has been a co-host on the Emmy-nominated StarTalk with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann has shared her comedic and hosting talents at many secular conferences including American Atheists, American Humanists, Center for Inquiry, CSICon, DragonCon – SkepTrack, The PA Freethought Society, NECSS: The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism, PASHTACon, and Skepticon. Leighann is also a CFI certified Secular Celebrant; officiating at milestone life events commemorated with a nonreligious worldview. And she was honored with the 2019 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association. As a veteran standup comedian, Leighann has been seen on Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, and HBO. She is the author of Leighann Lord’s Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget (Volumes 1 and 2) and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady; available on Amazon.