Season 1 Finale – The Christmas Chronicler

Hard to Believe #025 – The Christmas Chronicler - Gerry Bowler on Santa Claus

It’s our final episode of season one. We began the season looking at the lasting legacy of the X-Files and how the landscape of conspiracy theories in the 1990s contrasted with those of today. So closing the season right before Christmas, it only seemed right that to examine history’s most successful actual conspiracy – that of hundreds of millions of parents the world over, duping their children by willing into existence a magical elf-man who flies on a sleigh delivering presents for free to all good children.

And who better to ask the greatest living Christmas historian, whose books on the subject include Christmas in the Crosshairs, The World’s Greatest Christmas Stories, The World Encyclopedia of Christmas, and Santa Claus: A Biography. He lives in Canada, in some corner of the country where it’s always Christmas.

Check out his Amazon author page here.

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TOMORROW – A Very Special QANON Event! PLUS: Catch up on episode 21!

Election day is just around the corner! Will the armies of QAnon, defenders of nonexistent children who are the nonexistent victims of a nonexistent cabal of devil-worshipping vampiric/pedophilic elites rise up and take to the streets when Donald Trump loses?

Maybe? Probably? I dunno. But QAnon is scary as shit and you should take them seriously (as in as a terrorist threat, not that you should take their claims seriously!)

Mike Manzi, Jess Collins, and Teddy Smith join me for a two-hour-plus discussion about Nazis, Russian, Roswell, and why your crazy uncle has a WWG1WGA shirt! Head here and subscribe via your favorite podcast platform now!

In the meantime, check out my discussion with Richard Kaczynski about occult icon Aleister Crowley. It’s a good one.

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

Episode 20 – Pastor June Joplin

Hard to Believe #020 – Pastor June Joplin 

Until last summer, June Joplin had been serving as pastor at Lorne Park Baptist Church in Toronto. Then she delivered a sermon that would change her life. In the months since, she has been interviewed by the New York Times, Vox, and the CBC, and her story has been featured in major news outlets far and wide. She spoke to John about what led to her wanting to be a pastor, what led to her coming out, and her hopes for Christianity and herself as she considers what comes next.

You can find more about her at her website, PastorJune.com

She is on Twitter @beloved_june

You can contribute to her GoFundMe here

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

Episode 19 – Emmy Nominee Liza Richardson

Hard to Believe #019 – Emmy Nominee Liza Richardson 

Long admired in the television and movie world, Liza Richardson developed a loyal fan following when she served as the music supervisor for The Leftovers, and this year she was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Watchmen. Joey Lewandowski – whose favorite show of all time is The Leftovers – joins John for the first time since our debut episode to talk to Liza about her work, her life, and how she helped make The Leftovers what Joey calls “the best show about religion that’s not about religion” ever.

Find Liza on Instagram and Spotify, where she puts together ridiculously great playlists. 

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

Episode 18 – Greg Garrett on U2, zombies, race in Hollywood, and more

Hard to Believe #018 – Greg Garrett – Cultural Theologian

Cultural theologian Greg Garrett is the author of more than 20 books, including 2009’s We Get to Carry Each Other, the Gospel According to U2, 2017’s Living with Living Dead, an exploration of the theological and human insights of the zombie apocalypse trope, and A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation, which was published in May of this year.

Greg teaches English at Baylor University in Texas. He joined John to discuss U2, zombies, race and racism in Hollywood, and the people who continue to teach and inspire him.

He can be found on Twitter at @Greg1Garrett

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

Episode 17 – Mandisa Thomas – Founder of Black Nonbelievers

Mandisa Thomas is the founder of Black Nonbelievers – a nonprofit that connects Black Americans and their allies who are living free of religion and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends in a caring, friendly, and informative environment. The group now has chapters in 14 major cities across the country. 

Mandisa serves on the board of directors for the American Humanist Association, and has been recognized as the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s 2018 Person of the Year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Freethought Heroine for 2019, and the Secular Student Alliance’s 2019 Backbone Award winner.

She talked to John about why she believes Christianity can’t be unlinked from white supremacy, why she took on the role of helping other Black atheists come out of the closet, and the importance of putting people first and keeping the momentum of this moment alive. 

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

Episode 16 – Decker and Philosophy

Hard to Believe #016 – Kevin S. Decker – Pop Culture and Philosophy

Kevin S. Decker is a professor of philosophy at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, WA. In his classes, he works from science fiction, comic books, and other popular culture reference points to explore and explain concepts of philosophy to his students.

He has also contributed to and edited a number of books from the “…and Philosophy” series, including Alien and Philosophy, Star Wars and Philosophy, Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant, and Terminator and Philosophy: I’ll Be Back, Therefore I Am. He is also a devoted Whovian, and the author of Who is Who, an exploration of philosophy in Doctor Who.

For this episode, John is joined by Nico Vasilo, from CageClub podcasts .html and X is for Podcast

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"

New Episode Tomorrow (8/26): Kevin S. Decker “and Philosophy”!

Eastern Washington University philosophy professor Kevin S. Decker has written and taught extensively about philosophy and popular culture. He has been a regular contributor to various entries in the “….and Philosophy” series of books, and is also the author of Who is Who: The Philosophy of Doctor Who.

Nico Vasilo from X is for Podcast and .html joins the conversation.

Available tomorrow here or wherever you get podcasts!

Episode 15 – The Lovecraftian: S.T. Joshi

S.T. Joshi is an author, researcher, and scholar based in Seattle, Washington. Since the age of 13, he has immersed himself in studying and chronicling the life and works of the enigmatic and highly influential American author H.P. Lovecraft.

Since this month sees the release of HBO’s adaptation of Matt Ruff’s novel Lovecraft Country, I asked Joshi to speak to me about the author’s complex legacy on literature, philosophy, and atheism and how we should think about his problematic views on race.

Joshi, who proudly describes himself as “technologically inept”, can be found here: http://stjoshi.org/

He is the author of the superb biography I Am Providence

#2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation" Hard to Believe – A Podcast About Belief

In the wake of the 2020 election, one meme, which had originated in the spring of 2019, flooded the most ardently MAGA corners of the internet. It featured an image of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and the following quote. "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." To the MAGA world, Stalin’s words echoed eerily into the present. Like Stalin, the imposter president Joe Biden was, naturally, a Marxist bent on reconstituting America as a Communist hellscape in which Christianity was illegal and worship of the state was mandatory. But the problem with the meme is that the quote is fabricated. Stalin never said it. In part three, our final episode of the first half of season 2, we look at how Stalin would use deception to take control of the Soviet Union and how his use of disinformation helped him tighten his group, reshape Russian foreign policy, and infect the American imagination for decades to come. John is on Twitter @ProbablyRealJB Mike on Twitter @the_mikestir Jess on Twitter @jayarekay_ Sources for this episode include: Georgiy Kent – "How fake news helped hide Soviet genocide in Ukraine" EJ Montini – "Arizona Republican lawmakers endorse Joseph Stalin's disinformation strategy" Orlando Figes – "The Cult of Lenin"  The outro music is a cover of Ruled by Secrecy by Muse, performed by Lena Hall.
  1. #2.21 – Rule by Deception – Part Three of "Disinformation"
  2. #2.20 – Maria Against History – The twilight of the Romanovs in their own words
  3. #2.19 – The Legend of Polybius – with Tyler Birth
  4. #2.18 – Rev. Dr. Marcia Ledford – The Religious Left in the Age of Trumpism
  5. #2.17 – Michael Blanding – on "North by Shakespeare"