Thursday, October 26, 2006

This morning Mulan and I are taking a train to Boston. She is still sleeping. I have been letting her stay up really late while we’re in New York – basically I’ve kept her on west coast time. Poor bug, I’ll have to drag her little body out of bed and into her clothes in a minute. She’s such a stage-baby. She likes to play in my green room while I’m on stage so she can see me during the intermission. And then she plays with her dolls while I’m doing interviews which just breaks my heart at the same time that I’m so glad she’s there and learning how to navigate herself through this world of such unpredictability and people. She’s having such a different childhood than I had.

Anyway, I did the Fresh Air interview yesterday. It was lots of fun for me, because I am a huge fan of Terry Gross. We spoke for over an hour. When I left the NPR offices over on 2nd & 43rd I walked back to the theater slowly and sipped my coffee and I was so happy. It was clear and the air was crisp and people were bustling about. Oh how I love New York. There is just no place like it.

By the time I got back to the theater-apartment, I had a call from Janet (my publicist) that Fresh Air was going to put the show on the air tomorrow! OH NO! The new web site isn’t up yet and people can’t order the CD yet!!!!! Oh gawd. I was so upset. I thought it would be on in the next couple of weeks or something.

I got Eric (my web guy) on the phone and he rushed up a preliminary Letting Go Of God site only. It has the release date as November 2nd. When I saw it up, I had all kinds of tweaks I wanted to make – the print is too small, it seems too girly, things like that. But in any case, the new site is up well, the part that has to do with Letting Go of God.

Yesterday Janet and Frances (my assistant) sent out over 60 CDs with letters to various magazines and TV shows. We will see what happens.

I am really excited to see Harvard today. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to see. I wish I could get a glimpse inside the Lampoon, but I don’t know if that will be possible. We had a mill of Lampoon writers coming through SNL. I have this image in my mind of some old building, with dark worn wood, cigar smoke all around. It’s probably not really like that, but it would be fun to get a real image to replace it.

On Sunday I’m going to do an interview with that PBS show Religion and Ethics. I cannot wait! Wow. That’s like a dream. I always would see those shows and want to be on. Now I’m going to get to!

I hope we are sold pretty well for Sanders Theater. I actually have no idea how many tickets have been sold. I do know that the Fresh Air that features me will air in Boston today, before the show. Maybe that'll help.


dizzy blonde said...

i heard yesterday Terry Gross announce Julia Sweeney was going to be on her show.
I nearly ran off the road in my car.
I first heard you on This American Life (Goddles America) and ordered the C.D. I have listened to this many times and love it.
I have many times questioned these people who called themsleves Christian but their actions are mean, hateful, arrogant and intolerable.
I can not believe their is a DVD coming out.
I googled you and found this website, blog, etc.
I can not wait to order DVD!!!!
I will be listening to Fresh Air at noon along with the nation.
Have fun in New York and know you have a great fan in Florida.

bookboy said...

thanks for the heads up Julia. I couldn't get your web site up. So had to google found your blog. I'll be listening to terry today. There's a buzz building in the bookstore. We have an empty stop on the endcap with your name saying, cd-book coming soon.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog very funny as it perfectly describes how I ended up here. Hearing you on Fresh Air piqued my curiosity. Though you have been through a far greater analysis of your own life than me and my own, I believe we have arrived at a similar place. I appreciate your realism and humor when discussing your own spiritual path, and look forward to hearing more from your CD.

Gary A. said...

Julia, It was so great to hear you on Fresh Air just now. I have been on a path very much like yours: I have an 8 year old son and I constantly worry about not providing him with the Catholic upbringing that I had, but I just cannot do it!

Thanks for your honesty and your great seeking spirit. And have a great run with your show!
Gary A.

Anonymous said...

I was riveted while listening to your "Fresh Air interview: it was fascinating to hear about your journey in discovering a spirituality that works for you. Its neat that you've been able to turn these huge life challenges over into a belief system that makes sense in your head and in your heart. Awesome. I can relate to that whole thing of realizing that the "old" anwsers don't make sense and don't fit - and finally, don't help. Congrats on having the drive to keep searching instead of settling for what's at familiar or convenient.

I think you might appreciate Unitarian-Universalists: most of what you said parallels UU principles on drawing from nature, science and world religions and wise folk to encourage people to develop their own belief systems. There is the core value of honoring the "inherent worth and dignity" of everyone, and a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". It's quite amazing. And they have great children's spiritality education programs! As a mom, I was so happy and releived to have some back-up in introducing my son to srirituality with a "Sunday School" I could believe in. Check it out!

Anonymous said...

I just heard your interview on Terry Gross. Fantastic. I had a similar experience growing up. When I had children, I also wanted to have that community again. Look into the Unitarian Universalist community. There is no set creed. Children learn about world religions and atheism, humanism, ethics etc. Your child will find a group of accepting children. Some believe in God, some don't but they respect each other. Social action is stressed as is the environment. Just a thought.

SweetThursday said...

I just visited your new Letting Go of God web site.
I listened to the Audio Clip "There is No Santa" I have to say that your audio is the clearest I have heard. I am still a Dial-Up idiot.

Of course it goes without saying that I laughed too!

I also wanted to mention that you are quite fortunate that you are not a Virgo. In my experience all Virgo women are insane. And I have Virgo lady friends that freely admit this. The only friend I ever visited in a psyche ward -- a Virgo.

However, the Virgo guys I know are incredibly sane. I think they are the sanest people I know. Outside of Canadians that is.

These thoughts are my own and in no way sanctioned by Julia Sweeney.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Julia, for sharing your path with us. We need brave voices like yours, offering a different perspective.
There is a community out there that supports an individual's search for truth and meaning--including atheism! Unitarian Universalism.
We've raised our daughter in this religion, and there are traditions and rituals, if you want/need them. Check it out: you are not alone!

Anonymous said...

I'm listening to your fresh air interview as I type this. It's interesting the parallels between your story and the story of myself and I'm certain many others. I was raised a Catholic, went to Catholic schools, and my mother is still a very devout Catholic, while I have gone into the sciences, earned a Ph.D. and found my own path in terms of religion and the universe. However, unlike you, I am a coward and have kept the extent of 'straying from religion' from my mother for fear of breaking her heart.

In any case, I am definitely interested in hearing your complete experience/monologue (and having a few chuckles along the way), and so I hope you get those CD links up soon :P

Anonymous said...

Just finished listening to your Fresh Air interview. The world needs a new "spokeperson" for Atheism and you just may be it. (I've always felt that Madeline Murry O'hare gave atheism a bad name).

Anyway...wonderful interview. Can't wait to get the DVD.

Dian said...

I am listening to you on Fresh Air at this moment. I can relate, was a Catholic then atheist. But as the Catholic didn't take, the atheist thing didn't either.
These are the answers I got when I looked at Christianity again (they may help or not, up to you):
1)Jesus talked in parables: He talked in parables because his life is a parable. Death and suffering has no meaning. He suffered, died and was buried and he still got up.
2) Jesus impatient to those you did not understand: Sure was impatient, because he wanted them to understand. Jesus also said there are those who will get it and those who won't. Consequences for not understanding, I dunno, nothing probably.
3)God never ever talks to me, never ever. Never a Hi or nothing. God ever talk to you? Praying is me talking through whatever.
4) Your brother got sick and died as a fact of life. Exactly how I feel too. Go back to #1. Life is all about happenstance. Should it be any other way? Why would God make it any different if pain and death is not the end? No one on the planet deserves the good that happens to them nor do they deserve the bad things.
5) There is never proof of God, never will be. If there was, what's the use of believing in something that has proof? It's not belief then, it's fact and if it's fact, it's not a choice. Faith is a choice, nothing more.

Episcopalian now and realize that the universe isn't about me. I have a place in it. It is up to me to choose my place in it.

I'm rational.

Anonymous said...

I heard the Fresh Air interview today and immediately looked for info on the CD.
I was touched by your comments worrying about your child growing up without a "community" without rituals. I grew up rejecting God and religion at a very early age, and never belonged to a synogogue. My family still celebrated Passover and we sometimes actually lit all 8 candles at Chanuka, but never sang the prayers. I disliked the rituals I didn't the speaking in Hebrew. I disliked that religion separated people. I have not missed growing up without a religion. All religion seems cult-like to me. You can have TRADITIONS without having religious celebrating goodness or nature or growth. Too many so-called religious people are too busy being religious to spend time doing any good! As long as your daughter feels free to communicate with you, having another community she can reach out to will not be important.
I think it is admirable and BRAVE for you to come out with this memoir/monologue!

Jeanne Harris said...

I heard the Terry Gross interview on Fresh Air today and I have to admit for the first time it really was FRESH AIR.

It was wonderful to hear someone other than a radical tell their point of view and share their personal stories with such diplomacy.

There are times I feel like such an alien in my own country and it was uplifting to hear someone on the radio who shares my point of view.

Kudos, Julia!

Sheldon said...

Look at all these new JS bloggers! How great is that!

Rocket Scientist said...


Just heard the story on Fresh air and it resonated strongly with me. As you might have guessed from my screen name, I'm a scientist. Specifically I am a Ph.D. Chemist, and I ran into the same problems you did when you started applying the scientific method to the Bible. And for a while I went ALMOST as far as you have, throwing the whole thing out because there was no way I could make it work.

However, there was good and beauty in the Bible, and some very powerful tools and approaches for living a, well, what I will call a healthy life. There was also amazing capriciousness, intolerance, hatred, injustice, oppression, and thought control. Rather than doing the dirty work for myself (digging out the good from the bad) I did what any good scientist does, I went to the literature to see what people who had much more time to think about it had done.

And I found a gem I would heartily recommend to you: "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time" by Marcus Borg. Reading this book resonated just as strongly with me as your situation does. I still have a REAL problem with "organized" religion, but I no longer view the Bible with such animosity, which is where I had ended up at. The biggest change for me was realizing that the Bible is not history book, based in absolute fact, a manual for how to live your life, or God's own instruction manual for your existence. It is, for the most part, simply stories (in some cases myths, in others embellished history) of the ancient Hebrew culture and early Christian society and how they saw their relationship with God. I happen to have a radically different relationship with God than they did, but it's instructional to see what they thought on the subject.

Marcus Borg can explain it better, but I thought you would enjoy the read, and perhaps get a new take on the subject.

As an aside, I believe we have souls, although possibly not as defined by a dictionary or a priest. From my viewpoint, a persons consciousness and every way that they affect the world around them contributes to the makeup of their "soul". So from my point of view, you carry around a rather large bit of your brother's soul around with you, while you in turn have a significant impact on others around you. If I was an artist I'm sure I could come up with beautiful analogy for this, but I guess I'll just have to work on it.

Final Thought: Quantum Mechanics has some severe limitations and scales horribly. Read up on string theory and see if maybe God couldn’t be hiding somewhere between Plancks.

Butch said...

I just heard your interview on Fresh Air. I wanted to drop you a line and say thanks. I was a Christian myself, although of the born-again variety, but have settled into atheism quite comfortably. Thanks for being such a great spokesman for free-thought. I don’t know if random comments like this from random bloggers like myself matter, but thanks nonetheless.

daverave1025 said...

Just heard the NPR interview near the end. Since you are at a loss without a church community, I would also recommend the UU church as referenced in a previous comment. You would be warmly welcomed there with your beliefs or nonbelief. My elevator speech describing the church is this: We are an intentional, liberal, welcoming, free-thinking community with diverse beliefs who through critical thinking and with integrity believe what we are compelled to believe without fear of condemnation. Also my 12yo son George attends their RE (Religious Education) and has a very good experience. There are very excellent UU communities in every major city in the country including Spokane which I have visited, but we are not well known. The best people I know today I have met in this community. The potlucks are terrific. We have great conversations without having to adhere to any dogma. Mostly we talk about films and food. I also was raised Catholic,attended parochial schools,& high school seminary. I am the only one of my family to have left the flock. Had to attend CA(Cathaholics Anonymous)for a time to relieve the guilt!
Take care & good luck.
Dave from Eugene,OR.

Renee, Stockton, CA said...

Hi Julia,
I have listened to the interview you did on Fresh Air with Terry Gross all day long today at work. I'm absolutely amazed that someone else went down the same path as it seems I'm going down right now in regards to religion.

Everything you said on that show struck me as being exactly what I'm feeling. I'm not at the stage of Atheism yet, I identify myself as an Agnostic. I believe there is a God, I just don't believe anything that people say about Him/Her.

I work at a place where people are so open with their Christianity. I get at least 1 offer a week to visit someone's church. The last time I took someone up on it I ended up in a Pentecostal Church, such a high spirited group. I lasted about 30 minutes before lifting up my finger, the signal taught in Baptist churches that one needs to be excused, and tipped toed down the aisle. On the way to my car I kept apologizing to God for being a heathen but I also said to Him/Her that there is no way He/She should allow folks to carry on as they were doing.

I'm now in search of a polite way to get out of these invitations, I'm busy with something is wearing kinda thin.

Anyway, it was a pleasure listening to you and I'm sure I will play that interview over and over again.

Thank you!

SusieQ said...

Julia, your interview on Fresh Air was amazing. I can relate to much of what you said and admire your ability to be honest and to stand up for what you believe. My husband went to Catholic school and college and I was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. I have two wonderful children that have not been baptized b/c I just do not have good vibes about organized religion. I was a tad annoyed with Terry's question about how to motivate people to be "good" without god... Many of the so called religious folk I know are selfish and judgemental; I don't need to threat of god in order to do good for my neigboors, my community ( volunteer for the local food pantry, my childrens' school, etc)...Anyway, keep up the intelligent and thought provoking conversations. I look forward to purchasing all of your books and cds...I wish I knew some people who thought like you...Take care!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Any possibility of your also rereleasing "God said Ha!" on CD? I think it would sell well - whenever it shows up on E-bay, it goes for a high price.

melissa said...

julia--i heard part of your interview with terry gross today while running errands in my car. i was raised semi-catholic. meaning, i went to catholic school 1-10th grades, but my mother had quietly disengaged from catholicism when i was very young. for awhile i told myself i was agnostic. the idea that no god exists was always a bit too extreme. (i can still recite a mass even though i haven't been to one in two decades). i know i'll never put the energy and thought you did into examining all the options, sad but true. but what you described really struck a cord with me. so here i am, coming out of the god closet: i do believe i'm an athiest. and dangit if there isn't an american athiest organization. i read their website and i think i'll pass. i don't want to be a part of organized religion OR organized atheism. i'm just me, striving to live well and help others. and raising my kids to do the same.

Lolly_Gagger said...

Hi, I just heard your interview on TG. I have always been a fan of yours and was looking forward to hearing about your path back to Catholicism and then to atheism. I have had a similar experience tho I have stayed involved in my church and meander between believing and not believing. One bone I have to pick tho, is the Catholic Church does not teach a literal reading of the bible and your interview made it sound like that was your takeaway. Part one of the Catechism is about how the Church does not take a literal view of the bible but sees it as inspired by the Holy Spirit. I'm sure this won't make you a believer, but just thought you need to know that. And, if a priest was telling you otherwise, perhaps you need to refer HIM to the Catechism. I'm also not a right wing Catholic freak either. I'm very liberal and am drawn to the social justice aspect of the faith. The pope probably wouldn't give me a medal for being a model catholic, but I learned that they can't touch me and I can question, believe or not believe as things happen.

Good luck to you whether you're believing or not. You're still very funny and insightful.

Sheldon said...

Ah...the Unitarians. Smart enough to quit Christianity, but they can't quite bring themselves to embrace reality.

Anonymous said...

Everyone's talking about the DVD. I'd like to preorder it, but I can't find any such option on your website? I mean, I'm trying to give you money -- for something you want to sell -- how hard can this be?

I'll be sure to pick up your CD as soon as it comes out. Keep fighting the good fight!


Jim Jimster Jinkins said...

Hey Julia

Heard your interview on Fresh Air and I thought I'd come by to drop off a few thoughts of my own without being too much of an narcisstic ass.

I can only hope that you would be kind enough to afford me some of your attention through my tiresome observations as studiously as I was listening to your interview.

Before we continue, I'd like to first offer that I am an, "I think Christian". That is, in response to being asked what religion I am, I respond, "Christian, I think".

You seem be a fan of rationale, as am I. So being students of the critical eye, I do not believe the most apt line of reasoning to turn to science to answer matters of God, due to the fact that science has very limited capabilities when dealing with forces we cannot percieve with our eyes, ears, and so forth. How can we ask science, to answer questions about the supposedly most amazing complex being in the universe (should it exist) if it can't even explain why some particles behave in the way they do. Having taken classes in quantum mechanics, you must realize that first, what we know about, we know very little about, and second, we have much more to discover, and there are some things we will not discover. That's the limitations of science, it can only deal in the things of the tangible nature, quarks and photons.

For the stuff of ideals as well as conscious we can turn to the logical and completely rational workings of philosophy. To quote you from an SF Gate interview, "After I stopped believing in God, I realized it was completely up to me to create my own meaning and my purpose was my own." Well you see, the problem with that is that, *if purpose of existence is not ordained by and outside entity,(for example God, or super Alien beings) it is then impossible to give one to ourselves*. To grossly over-simplify things, it would be the equivalent of building a computer without any programming(excuse my hyperboles). It is a just a thing that came into existence not meant to do anything but be. If it *somehow* happened to program itself to reproduce and inhabit all inhabitable planets, it would not be a purpose, but an arbitrary decision. For something to be a purpose for existence, it must have an ultimate end, some kind of determined point of ultimate completion. Humans cannot do that. *We can do, and we can we make reasons for doing, but we cannot make any absolute reasons for existence.*

You mentioned that since your shift to atheism, you have become, "more moral". You see, there is seems to be some conflict in ideas there. As well as having no ultimate purpose without the existence of an external entity, there is no way to determine ethics or morals. Without an external influence to determine what is good or bad, we have to rely on conscious and unconscious impulses. Those being different in different people, you have people who have inclinations towards serial killing, as well as raping, and you have people who join the Peace Corp. In a word without an externally acquired guidelines, those people are all on equal "moral" footing in accordance to the universe. Without an external entity, the notion of right and wrong as you and I know it has no footing by which to dictate from. Those who do wrong are infact not wrong, and not right either. They just are, and they could do as they please if not for the laws we have in place. Although these laws would be entirely based upon some human urge tuned by evolution to create harmony enough to procreate.

I can go on and on but I'll save you the pain, presuming you're actually reading this.

The Bottom line is that I won't accept fact that the good I'll do is essentially meaningless. I won't accept the fact that love is just a rush of chemicals, a souless mixture of endorphins and animal lust. I won't accept that the romance I have for others will eventually be blown into space as stardust, never to be the one again. I won't accept that human being are just here to propagate the species, and if the sun exploded tomorrow, I would want it to matter that all that life perished. I want you to matter, I want your daughter to matter. That's why I believe in god. Rather then erring on this side of arbitrated meaninglessness, I would rather Err on the side of hope and belief in a higher calling.

Reconsider discounting the existence of God.

Melissa said...

I don't know if you actually read these posts- but after hearing your interview on Fresh Air, I just wanted to let you know that if you really are intersted in going to church & being a part of a community with out all the God stuff- you should check out the Unitarian church. It's the only place I know that has "Devout Atheist" meetings after services.

Anonymous said...

Saw the show, and it was great.

Kellie said...

I heard most of the interview on Fresh Air yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. I can't wait to get the CD. I was surprised to find a pointer to your blog in an entry on my network page. At first I wasn't sure it was you but once I read this post, it became obvious. Thanks for helping keep the world sane with your funny observations. Good luck with your CD and break a leg with your show.


GloryintheMorning said...

Oh Julia, Julia! I just finished listening to your interview with Terry. My heart was in my throat as you spoke about your daughter's questions, your tennis club-cum-community, and the empty space where your parish life used to be.

Kudos to you for seeking your truth so actively and clearly...but the tennis club doesn't need to be your only community. As a number of commenters have mentioned, there are a fair number of Unitarian Universalist congregations in LA, all of which have atheists and scientists, all of which have theists and agnostics, all of whom strive to be together in beloved community.

UU's don't push their beliefs on each other -- the point is to accompany one another on their dynamic, shifting, deepening journeys without needing to all agree on the same answers.

Thank you for your wonderful interview, your work, your depth!

Naomi Russian said...

I heard you on Terry Gross yesterday! I immediately knew I had to get a copy of "Letting go of God"!!! I couldn't find one for sale, but I did end up here and I see why I haven't been able to find it for sale yet. Soon, I hope? Thank you for telling your daughter that when a person dies they decompose. She is a lucky lucky girl!!! Thank you for your honesty, it is sure to the light the way for others!!
Appreciated in Texas!

Mike said...

It was great to see the show last night, again. And it was also nice to meet you, again. You're so down to earth and a real pleasure to talk to.

It's kinda interesting to see all these new people around. Hopefully this means that your show will be seen and/or heard by many more people now!

ARBaboon said...

I also listened to your interview yesterday. Thank you giving me a little perspective on someone who chose to be skeptical later in life. I have been skeptical all of my life so this is of much fascination to me. I also feel compelled to correct you on a couple of points. First I would like you to be very careful about your association of science with 'truth' or 'fact'. Science is not about truth or fact as much as it is about accuracy and precision. More specifically is about discovery and vetting of methods to predict observations given a set of observations. There is no claim of truth, although many, like myself, happen to believe that long standing scientific theories equate to truth. The distinction may seem mundane but it is the basis by which people who feel compelled to believe in supernatural can reconcile those beliefs with holding adjacent understandings rooted in science. If that reconciliation can not occur these people apparently choose to reject anything which is labeled science by popular culture.

ARBaboon said...

Jim Jimster Jinkins,

Without trying to be provocative, I would like to note that there is a body of work that runs contrary to your claim that "[One would have] no ultimate purpose without the existence of an external entity, there is no way to determine ethics or morals."

Game Theory

Have a nice day.

Dispirited, I Guess said...

I listened to the Fresh Air show - I am glad I did. Extremely funny!!

I've heard the name "Julia Sweeney" before, but never connected it to the fact that a very very funny and extremely wise person has that name out in celebrity-land.

I Love that bit I heard from "Letting Go of God" (even the title is funny, like some annoying AA slogan that has, happily, gone all askew). I will have to get this cd and more of Julia Sweeney's work!

However, I am also terribly depressed. As usual, to be frank. Specifically, at this particular moment, it is due to Julia Sweeney's comments (I just heard the T.Gross interview today, a few moments ago from the Fresh Air website) -

And being so depressed is really pathetic of me. I am just glad that she and other great comics exist, really.

However, I feel so at odds with the world. Why? Because there are:

1. True believers (even fanatics) - and I can't relate to them at all. They creep me out. And/or bore me.

(Although, I must add, in a visual/visceral way, I connect to the Catholic Church very deeply. I was raised Catholic, myself, and love all the imagery, stained glass, flowers, candles, incense, crowns, thorns, bloody hearts and so forth...)

2. There are also Agnostics (the Hey who knows??? folks). I like the open-mindedness of these people. Even though they seem a bit lax. A bit lacking in fiery conviction or even, it would seem, much interest in whether or not we all get to live on after death - or just die.

3. Then there are the Aetheists. Can't relate to them either.

I confess: I cannot fit in anywhere. As I say: Fantatics scare me. True believers bore me. Aethists - well, why are They so Sure there is Absolutely Nothing after we die? I mean, you guys can be as bad as the True Believers for unswerving belief in your non-belief.

I guess the most reasonable choice for me would have to be with the agnostics.

But it's not. Not really.


I AM AFRAID OF DEATH!!! (what? am I the only one out of all of you agnostics and aetheists)?

And *Not* just dying. Actual death. Non-existence. Nothing. Nada. The big black hole of no afterlife.

Of course, it must be said: I fear a God-mania Heaven of having to Sing His Heavenly Praises For All Eternity *even More*. Because an eternity of *That* is Certainly nothing to look forward to.

Although it does save us all from the worms. Yet, there is the Devil to also contend with.

At least the Devil has some dignity.

God has always seemed appallingly need to me. I went to catholic school and all I remember from religion classes was just how needy and whiny the Lord truly was/is.

And horribly demanding. Even one iota of doubt can send you reeling from a lightning bolt. Or maybe that's Zeus. Whatever.

Anway, at the risk of offending, I have to ask:

Why is Julia Sweeney - and others who have similar views - so sure of no after life and, apparently, not afraid death?

I mean, how can you guys just not have much of a problem with decomposing and just - not being?

It's amazing to me: you're all okay with it. Down with it! Happy about it, even (because, I guess, all the stress of believing is out of the way). I can see that. But then, all the hope is all tucked tidely away.

Unless a person takes comfort in knowing that their body is going back to the earth; it's a continuous cycle, blah blah blah.

Yeah, that's nice enough. I ain't exactly thrilled with the idea.

Apparently many a person - including all the agnostics - feel very breezy and okay with the fact (to them) that This life is all they will get.

And then a date with the grim reaper.

I mean, even the name: "grim reaper" doesn't seem to bother anyone who's a non-believer.

Just swing that scythe! Or whatever it is that gets swung by the reaper.

They don't worry about it (ha ha! guess I'll find out when/if I get there)!

And if I don't, then I won't ever know.

Cold comfort, my friends, very cold comfort indeed. (Fitting, I guess, but still...)

Maybe you all don't obsess because you are just living your lives.

I suspect it's because you all have real lives. Lives of meaning.

Well, maybe for me, people like myself, people who have not much of a life to speak of:

maybe we need an afterlife more than anybody.

Honestly, though, I think it's a bit of a cop-out, to some degree, to write off a spiritual experience such as you, Julia, had at 38 as just being: "neurons firing in the brain".

Julia - how can you be so sure your experience was only that? Do you really like this kind of cold view of it all, this reduction, this neat classification under the heading:

Neurons Firing?

Is science so comforting as all that?

I'm sorry - I've got some nerve to question you. And I have Never had such an experience, myself, so I could even be jealous of you (although I love to hear of experiences such as you had, at 38).

To my way of looking at it: neurons were firing, yes. And this means, perhaps, that we all are Spiritual And Physical creatures - hence we Need to have some sort of physical interactive screen, some sort of go-between:

between us and the spirtual world.

Which would account for why we all have neurons that go firing away when such an experience occurs. It's to facillitate the experience. Or even - to just enable it to happen in the first place.

(That this sort of thing can be reproduced in a lab Is a bit more problematical to "expalin", I must admit).

Anyway, it's just my guess. I admit: religion with its beliefs and science with its own beliefs - either one offer much more certainty than mere guesses.

Neither comfort me. But just guessing also leaves me with nothing. I really want to know. And now. Not when I'm dead.

Because maybe I really Will just die. And then - I'll never find out! I'll already be too dead to know. That really bites.

Althought - I have to wonder: if our human minds have this ability, these neurons, then surely there is a reason -

even a *need* for them?

Science says it's just a random firing off of neurons - perhaps to comfort the dying spirit/brain as it gradually flickers into the "off" position we call: dead.

It seems odd that the need or reason for this sort of brain would just be to give us all some helpful, yet illusory comfortas before death is finally closing in.

It's so depressing.

I mean - decaying birds and all - very nice lesson, yes. Even sort of Buddhist (they upset me too, natch. Too much detachment).

That's Just not enough for me. Although the bird thing Does sort of make me feel better about Not being a vegetarian, and eating chickens and the like. The guilt is gone. Sort of.

The glass is always half full, I guess, in some way.

So - I feel somewhat dismayed with Julia Sweeney (or, really, the views that she represents) - doesn't she know that she doesn't really know any more than she did know when she thought she Really Did know - when she was religious?

Still - I love her humor.

I would like to be laughing as I exit - and Not just from a brain gone amuck (that's already a reality in my life anyway).

Laughter gives me hope, at any rate, for a more fun life.

just me said...


I just wanted you to know that you are a hero of mine. I am going through the whole process of leaving Catholicism behind - officially - and it is tough. My family is devastated. I'm not sure what to do with my kids, 6 and 3. We live in a very red, very Christian state. I still don't know how I'm moving forward, but I do know I would feel like a big ol' liar if I brought my kids up Catholic.

Anyway, you are brilliant, logical and lovely and I just want to thank you for all of your work in this area, and for being a wonderful role model. You have given me much strength to realize that it's OK to be an atheist and to move out of the limbo I've been in for the past decade.

Can't wait to get the CD. Mulan has an awesome mother. Thank you so much, you dear woman.

cinemantim said...


Wonderful interview. Keep up the great work. I'm linking you everywhere to everyone I know. At the risk of sounding evangelical, I think you've discovered your "calling." Sorry I missed the NY performances.


Anonymous said...

I don't like all these new members of the Commune. They're all preachy and wordy. I liked it better when club membership was more exclusive.

And what's up with all the Unitarians? Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

I heard your interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air and I flew out of my office to call my best friend and demand that he listen to "Letting Go Of God". After listening to you talk about it, I'm thrilled to finally be able to get the CD and listen to you. You should be really proud of your show Julia, from the snippets I've heard so far, it sounds great.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who missed the NPR show, click on the Listen button on this page:

Havalife said...

It's a real treat to hear years of frustrating thoughts about Jesus reduced succinctly to your soundbite on Freshaire. Almost want to scream out loud, "YEAH, that's what my voices are talking about!" Most of my religious skepticism had been previously summarized in an offbeat cartoon I saw years ago...."I spoke with God. He told me to tell you what to do." Of course, a release of frustration can't occur without an influx somewhere else, and that came when I went to Barnes and Noble last night to get the CD and was told their computer showed it wasn't going to be released till May, 2007.

familyman said...

Just found your blog. Love you and I can't wait for the DVD. It's really nice to have someone like you talking about these kinds of issues. If you are ever in the Chicago area, I'm there. I'm going to go look up the archive of Fresh Air right now.

Jan Jenky Jimmings IV said...


In regards to game theory, specifically evolutionary game theory -- it explains why we make certain choices, but it does not explain for what ultimate means for which we make them. I'll try to exemplify by taking it to the extremes.

Humans working together will be "better" than humans working to just get their own individually, because the latter is assumed results in conflict.

Humans have much sex and make many babies, to create a great society. Great society is created and world peace is achieved. Humans spread like a wildfire throughout the galaxy. Humans inhabitate other galaxies. Humans eventually discover all that is to discover, everything is harmonious. Game theory is great success! What now? For what reason do we continue? What's the point? We will all end up disappearing into oblivion, and now existence is left meaningless; the only reason we continue existing is to follow some genetic mandates hardwired into us. Love is just a cold Machiavellian process by which biology almost forces us to perpetuate our existence. In this type of existence, the only difference between whole of the human race and a rock is in how we carry out our existence. We are both stored bits of energy, mass, and maybe some information.

**************BOTTOM LINE: I think we'd all rather like to believe that our existence goes beyond us(humanity) to something of much greater importance and meaning. That is why we, or at least I, need a God.****************

smijer said...

And what's up with all the Unitarians? Sheesh!

That hits the nail on the head. Probably, like me, they heard the interview with Terry Gross, and felt a huge pang of recognition when she spoke about the regret she had leaving the church's community and ritual, and the value she found in those aspects of the church.

I'm not, but quite a few UU's are atheist ex-catholics, including the minister of my church here in Chattanooga. Personally, I'm an atheist, ex-Baptist.

I sympathize with the commenter who said, something to the effect of "poor Unitarians, smart enough to reject Christianity, but too dumb to accept reality." - It isn't too far from the truth. Many in the Unitarian church are New-Agers or supernaturalist Pagans, Buddhists or feel-gooders. There's room for them there, and sometimes it's feels like an embarrassment of sorts for the strict rationalists in the congregation. But we love them, and we aren't going to be quick to denigrate their contribution to the church, even if we hold their religious perspective suspect. There are political elements in the UU that sometimes come across as dotty and disconnected from reality, too.

But, to those atheistic free-thinkers who recognize the need for tightly-knit community, for cultivation of reverent attitudes, and for setting aside time in the week for a special kind of quiet recharging of the batteries, there is a lot to be grateful for in the UU church. Other alternatives for atheistic free-thinkers are conceivable, but no one has really created a real institution to fulfill that role other than the Unitarians.

And, so, when we hear a kindred mind expressing similar ideas - we want to say, "Hey! Try this - it works pretty well for us!" It's not quite water to the thirsty, but everyone wants to offer solutions they think are worth trying. And, of course, we'd be proud to have a clear-minded, good-hearted individual like JS in our company. That's what's with all the Unitarians...

Janny Jimmings Jekerdly VVI said...

Oh, forgot to add that game theory does not giving a reason to be ethical. Giving that ethics is completely relative to a existence without some *entity*, not biology, to tell us what us ethical. Now if you define ethics by what would be make more human beings, and limit human discomfort, I would say that game theory is a valid guide for morality. Given that not everyone holds that view, and given that you have no ways to prove that game theory is moral, or "ethical" by standards not arbitrarily set by us, it is not an actual guideline by which we can gage ethics.

In otherwords, logic cannot prove morality. Although, feelings instill morality. Given that we can't prove feelings, we are crap out of luck until something tells us wtf to do.

SweetThursday said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SweetThursday said...

I am happy for you, Julia, that you have all these new voices piping in on your blog.

Unhappy for me because it is getting crowded in here and some are taking up alot of the oxygen.

But this is your blog, you are the Queen and the more minions the bigger the kingdom.

I saw your show last night and loved it! But couldn't you have found a use for the disco ball? A disco ball tucked in among the gels and the spots is a sad neglected thing, all that potential shine and sparkle just gets dusty.

You don't have to worry about your shine and sparkle getting dusty. . . Nope, that won't happen.

Anonymous said...

And thanks for the poster who put the link up for the NPR broadcast- much appreciated!

Amy said...

Thank you, Julia. Heard you on Fresh Air and felt... relieved. You so eloquently expressed things I have been feeling for a long time.

Anonymous said...

well i just found your wit and humor on fresh air the other night and went in to tell a freind immediatiely about your humor. i even did a fair rendition of paraphrasing your wonderful monolgue. i wrote your name on a napkin in the car and looked you up today on line. im such a popculture wonk i'd never heard of you and you are so bright and funny.
look forward to gettingto know your work more!

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