Monday, December 11, 2006

Well, I just got home from a taping at Craig Ferguson. I really don’t know how it went. I am sort of flummoxed. Well, maybe not flummoxed. I will probably know better how it went when I watch the show. Which won’t happen because I won’t be able to bring myself to watch it. Mostly because it's on so late. And because I can't bear to watch myself. Those two things will stand in my way of having a reasonable feeling about it.

First of all, one of the wonderful things about doing the show was that Tim Meadows was also there. We were on SNL together. He does little sketches for Craig from time to time. Tim was also in the Pat movie. We had a good time talking in my dressing room about friends and what has happened with everyone we know from SNL.

Craig started right off (after a brief mention of Pat and SNL) with asking me how I could know for absolute certainty that there was not a God. I said I didn’t know for sure (which got a laugh) but that I think the evidence for God was weak. And then I said that I describe myself as an “atheist” because I do not live my life under the assumption that there is a God. I am “a” theist. I’m not sure I was very clear about this. And then that started a longer defense of atheism. I spurted out the Carl Sagan analogy of the purple dragon in the garage and I think I sort of mangled that. Then he asked me if I was trying to convince people to be atheist. Atheist, Atheist, Atheist. This is the only thing people will remember about the interview. And my nervous laughter. I am sure this will help me sell about two Cds. UG. It’s so hard! I mean, this is so not really what my show is about. Which I tried to get us back to. The struggle, the FUNNY.

Craig is really smart and charming. He said he “used” to be an atheist but now is not so sure. He had a joke about a dog crossing the street in the pedestrian crosswalk and how this makes him believe in God. I mean, we got to talk much more about the topic of my show than I did on The View. But still, I wasn’t totally thrilled when it was over. Not because of Craig – I mean, he is smart and funny and he gave me time on his show. But I felt I didn’t represent my CD as well as I wanted to. I wasn’t ready for the “how can I know for absolute certainty there is no God” and so forth. I made my case, but I don’t think it was very clear. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… I mean, how could I not have expected to be asked that? It's the obvious question. But I thought I was so smart and had figured out that people who interview me were going to only ask me questions, like, about how my parents reacted to my show or how I am raising my daughter. Because no one would want to touch the topic directly. See -- just shows me never to assume anything. So, I am glad it's over. Criag genuinely listens to his guests and that is really unusual and nice. I think he is smarter than your regular talk show host. But still, I felt that many of you blog-poster people could have done a better job defending the viewpoint. On the other hand, I had a good time. So, go figure.

Oh. I am so tired. I must go to sleep.


ShellyD said...

Eh, I wouldn't be too hard on yourself. The fact that you're out there at all, openly declaring yourself an atheist, is so bold.

If the "A" word sticks in people's minds, it might actually be positive. You're so far from the stereotypical strident, scary atheist that it could awaken people to the fact that we come in all different stripes.

And personally speaking, I always feel better about my TV appearances after a good night's sleep. (I mean I would, were I the least bit famous.)

James Hammond said...

Julia, I'm sure that you did just wonderfully, as usual. Your response on "100% sure" is right on target.

When you're asked if you are trying to convince people to be atheists, tell them that you're trying to convince people that it's OK to be an atheist. And to give support to the confused doubters. And to give concerned believers an idea of what it is like to become an atheist in a deeply religious society.

Dawkins' "God Delusion" works on the first two purposes, as well. (At his Skeptics Lecture I asked him about quoting from LGG in his book.)

Speaking of the lectures, the last one, by Jonathan Kirsch, he mentioned that a high point in his life was seeing you in the book line at his previous Skeptics Lecture (God Against the Gods).

See you around,


Flippy said...

Yeah, no matter what, if "atheist" sticks in their mind, along with "Julia Sweeney", then they'll either find their way here for more information (and then go get your book/dvd) or find their way into a bookstore to get your book/dvd. It'll all work out.

I'm just not sure why people need to know there's a god. If god doesn't do anything concrete for them, wouldn't just a beloved dead pet serve the same purpose? Don't you want to be a good person because that's what your pet would expect of you? Or, like most of us here, just be good because that's the way you should be in life. Even though they say the golden rule comes from the bible, I'm willing to accept that as the only thing people need to live their lives in a manner that would make them a worthwhile part of the universe.

Audrey Heffner said...

It looked like you had fun. You came off as funny, sensitive and kind. He did listen, but made sure his point was made as well, I think the whole thing was very very positive. Good Job.

Boston Guy said...

I just watched the show and thought were great. The only problem I had was that you weren't on long enough.

Trying to explain your beliefs in less than 5 minutes is a lot to takle.

I am a fairly religious person and I think atheits are very brave people considering how large a role religion has in society. I have never talked to an Atheist who had not come to their thoughts about god until they spent many years thinking about it.

Although, I don't think Madeline Murry O'Hare did much to advance the cause.

I din't know you had a new CD. I didn't know about your web site or this blog until tonight. Tomorrow, I am going out and buying the CD so I would say you did fine.

Robin said...

I never watch late night tv, and have never seen the Craig Ferguson show, but I just caught your segment tonight. It's a bit of a coincidence actually, because I've been on a small Richard Dawkins kick lately as well.

I really appreciate people like you approaching the subject in a public way with such grace.


As to your discussion of the term "atheist," I agree that it is inadequate. It is unfair to force people to describe themselves with a word that indicates something they.. don't believe? It is also unfair to require the use of a word that falls within the conventions of religion. Atheism is NOT my religion.

Anyway, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Correct the spelling of "something" in your blog header.

"Unless I say someting awesome and insightful that makes me look smart..."

Loved you on SNL!

Anonymous said...

I saw you on Craig and was very moved. You're comments resonated with me, and I'm sure with many other people. I immediately did a search online which led me to this site. I don't know beans about blogs, but I think I might, now. See what you did? I was really looking for info on the CD, which I will seek out after sending this. See??? It was a GOOD appearence on Craig's show!! Thank You, Mark

Paula Thomas said...

Firstly Julia I'm relieved to discover that there are people like you getting a hearing in the USA. What we hear in Britain just sounds awful. It's not so much theistic side of things, it is the anti-science and the totalitarian-like imposition of that world view that scares me and quite a few of my fellow citizens in the UK.


There are several reasons for believing in God ... the trouble is none of them imply that he exists!!

As one of our great, and sadly late, comics, Linda Smith, put it "I don't think God wants us to believe in him, if he did he'd do something about it like exist perhaps" (She died tragically young of Ovarian Cancer earlier this year.)

Jeff D said...


I just watched (twice via Tivo) your appearance with Craig Ferguson. Good job! I thought it was much better than you described in your last blog entry, especially your explanation about a-theism not really being a descriptive word about non-believers, how atheism really doesn't imply anything about personal character or morality, and how it took you years to get to the point where you have labeled yourself with the "A" word. The CD box got more on-camera time than during your appearance on The View, and I think viewers got better info about LGOG.

For those who didn't hear it, here is the URL for a story that ran on NPR Monday afternoon, about uniformed military officers appearing -- illegally -- on a promotional video for some Christian missionary wignuts who are gaining a lot of influence within the Pentagon (Wish I knew how to paste in a live link):

Gotta go. Thanks again for your "nervous laughter." At least Ferguson's viewers will realize that atheists don't go around scowling and saying "humbug."

Michael said...

I missed the Craig appearance but I'll pick it up on YouTube. There's usually a good assortment of clips from his show. Just a minor item from an item posted earlier by another admirer. Here is the correct link to the Pentagon story. The other one was truncated.

I love what you're doing. You are making a difference. There's little else we can ask of life.

Michael said...

Dang, that one truncated too. Just add 6610025 after storyID=.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Mr. Ferguson meant well with the dog comment, but I have to admit that it gives me a bit of cringe. It's a bit like looking at a phyllogenic tree and saying, "Wow! It's a miracle of guided evolution by the hands of a grand creator!" But I am a curmudgeon which is separate from my being an atheist.

I'm just so glad you're actually in the public eye, though I think a lot of the questions you're being asked about raising your daughter godless make me wish for a more rational world.

Somewhat Anonymous said...

On a side note...

Does Julia Sweeney have a "Bizarro" (Seinfeld reference) twin?

It seems that another popular TV comedienne is exploring faith through comedy. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond fame) just emceed a DVD titled, "Thou shalt laugh."


somewhat Anonymous said...

Here is the url again.

allison said...

You definitely are too hard on yourself. You really can't go wrong on these shows because your sincerity, intelligence, humility and humor come through no matter what you actually get the chance to say.

Also, it is very intereting to read the Patricia Heaton comment because I recently saw her in a comedy club in NYC. She was talking about how her mother will include two completely dissparate thoughts in one sentence as though they belong together. I remember thinking this is straight from "God Said Ha!".


Thranil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zakdegrassi said...

You're so sweet. :) You did great. As much as I love Richard Dawkins, he kinda comes across as a finger-wagger. You present your views in a much more charming way.

Wondering if your CD will be on sale elsewhere? Or only through your site?

Thranil said...

Julia, I thought you were great! If anyone wants to see the clip, it can be found here

Your humor, humility and zest for life came through very well in that short segment. Congratulations!

Michael said...

I just saw the Craig clip. Thanks to thranil for the link. Julia, you were fantastic. I'm on my way to get your CD right now. Downloaded "God said Ha" yesterday from iTunes. You are such a joy. I read you and the comments every morning with my coffee. It's a nice way to start the day.

ShellyD said...

I agree with Allison - you're too hard on yourself. I wrote the 1st comment before seeing the show, and after seeing it I went, "And she felt bad about that because...why?" Well done.

allison said...

by the way, julia, you'd be the perfect guest for Stephen Colbert! He has a particular interest in religion. Although he is a practicing Catholic he is also very smart and likes to question everything. On or off the show you two could have quite a conversation. The times I've seen the real Stephen Colbert, not palying the character on tv, he seems like a very thoughtful guy that you could have a very civil conversation with.

Sus in Spokane said...

Hi all

Interesting short in Newsweek Dec. 18


Sus in Spokane

Anonymous said...

you did a great job and great service for all of us "atheist's".
Thank you!

Paula Thomas said...


Just watched the clip, you were fine. Came over well I thought. Incidentally he has slight Irish or Scottish accent doesn't he?

I thought some of his questions were cheap shots like "or do you want to stay living in America?" Well if that ever gets impossible Europe is definitely an option :-). And the gibe about the parade would, I think, probably have been booed by an audience here in the UK.

Incidentally do you have any views on why the USA is so religious? Does it have to do with the fact that some of the large waves of immigrants from the Pilgrim Fathers were excaping religious persecution?


Ryan Blades said...

I just watched the clip, too, and I also think you did great, Julia. I've had the "How can you be so certain?" question posed to me in the past, and I completely choked, so you did far better than I could have, and made a lot of insightful comments in the process. I actually feel better equipped to handle this sort of query since coming across your blog, as well as people like Richard Dawkins and James Randi, and I plan to pick up your CD very soon. You're an inspiration.

Also, if some did put on a Atheist parade, I'd totally be there.


uk dan said...

Hi Julia

I loved the fact that you didnt let Craig get away with the simple suggestion that some people are just going through a phase of doubt . This is a very useful spin devise where an opponent can attempt to devalue your opinion by claiming to have shared it in the past but now have seen the error of their ways . Thus trying to both damage your position and offer theirs as a wiser choice that you will eventually come around to . The analogy I put to this is they agree that at one time they could see the emporer was naked ,as you now do, but they were then allowed to touch his hem and if your lucky you may reach this exhaulted position .

Craigs respect for you, I felt was apparent ,as was his understanding that this position could make you unpopular .

Finally A Thanks to thranil witout the link I would not have been able to see the clip .

Keep Well Dan

BEAJ said...

This is probably the best way to explain Atheism, at least from what I've seen.

Dawkins Teapot Atheist Video

petra said...

I stayed up to watch CF and think you did FINE! Craig does tend to ask unusual questions - which is nice when you are seeing Star-of-the-Moment-X talking about Movie-Y for the fourteenth time in six days. Still, in your case, when there was an obvious point to make, it made for a slightly off kilter interview.

You did a great job, Julia, of redirecting the conversation and deflecting some of the oddities of his questions and comments.

Was it your best talk show appearance? Probably not. Did you further the conversation about atheism? Of course. Did you give atheism a kind, human, non-threatening face? Most definitely. And for that, I thank you!

Ralph said...

A Believer friend (I'm too much of a coward to do more than hint at my lack of faith) sent me the following. In addition to being somewhat humorous, it also points up that most people are just "mouthing the words" to their religion. (I love the "chicken and rice" :-) So, FWIW:

"Children's Christmas Carols"

A teacher asked her students to write the words to their favorite Christmas Carols. She probably got fired for mentioning Christmas in school. Anyway here are some of the humorous lines she received:

Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly

We three kings of porridge and tar

On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me

Later on we'll perspire, as we dream by the fire.

He's makin a list, chicken and rice.

Noel. Noel, Barney's the king of Israel.

With the jelly toast proclaim

Olive, the other reindeer. (all of the other reindeer)

Frosty the
Snowman is a ferret elf, I say

Sleep in heavenly peas

In the meadow we can build a snowman, Then pretend that he is sparse and brown

You'll go down in Listerine

Oh, what fun it is to ride with one horse, soap and hay

O come, froggy faithful

The Exterminator said...

Well, much as I hate to say it, I disagree with all the commenters and agree with you -- you did NOT do very well with Craig Ferguson.

I did like your line about being an a-Santa Clausist and an a-Easter Bunnyist, but I thought you might have used that thought to go further.

For next time: Why not turn the questioner's questions around. Explain that you're not the odd one for NOT believing in something that can't be established under any system of rationality; the interviewer is the odd one. Ask him or her to explain why he/she DOES believe in god. It may not be your style to challenge pat answers, but you should not have allowed Craig to get away with that silly dog-in-the-pedestrian-lane thing.

You can do all this without becoming abrasive, which is not your style. Keep it light, but refuse to accept unfounded assumptions and pronouncements. I might have probed deeper about Craig's beliefs: why did he become an atheist in the first place, and why did he then "leave" atheism? What life experience, apart from that dog nonsense, made him decide that there was an entity in the sky looking out for him? When he faltered--which, his glibness aside, he most certainly would have--you could have used the pause as a segue: "Well, I'll tell you what experiences I've had that made me NOT believe."

In any case, your very appearance as an avowed atheist helps the "cause." If you influenced even one viewer to challenge the medieval beliefs that drive the world, you've done a small service to the humanity.

Linda said...

Julia, I thought you did well, especially after watching the clip just now, after seeing the show last night. The conversation moved so quickly it was hard to retain everything as I was fighting to stay awake at that late hour.

Craig Ferguson is very funny and smart and you held your own with him exceptionally well considering he is so quick! I just wish he had let you elaborate on some of your responses. You had to speak very fast in order to get your point across, but I was very impressed with how quick-witted you were. And getting the Carl Sagan purple dinosaur story in was good. Even better would have been Randi's quote about atheism being a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby. All in all you should be pleased with your success in spreading the word that it's okay not to believe in god.

Georgi said...

Fantastic job, Julia!

Although, I always find it rather sad that we are still having such debates, or even worse that thinking people should be on the defensive end. But if one has to be involved, I am glad that there are eloquent people like you doing it.

If I have to say something more constructive, I don't agree with some of, "The Exterminator" 's comments above. You are the one being interviewed so turning the questions on the interviewer is not a good strategy. You did a good job explaining yourself and I especially liked your complaint about how ridiculous it is that the majority of people in the states find atheism weird and you always have to explain yourself.


seaducer said...

Hi Julia,

I am sure you did fine. I didn't see the show but you represent your beliefs very well on this site.

My only advice would be to throw every argument back at a believer when they ask specific questions. What proof do you have that there is no God? Just reverse it. They have stock answers that are easily refuted.

Micheal's creation=creator argument is an easy one. Who created the creator out of what material, then who created THAT creator, ad nauseum. The idea is that at some point there was nothing, so why NEED there to be a creator first?

The more complicated question of abiogenesis? Point them to the Miller-Urey experiments.

And to be fair, this does not mean it HAD to happen that way, just that God is not required for organic material and RNA/DNA to develop on Earth.

If you can get them to see that there are godless possibilities, and that there is no eveidence FOR god, and that all of the stories that "prove" god from the Bible violate everything we can observe about the world we live in, you have something.

You can even go a little farther and point out how the miracles of Jesus were stolen almost verbatim from earlier religions, and how all the Holy days coincide with pagan holidays and, well, if they thought that much about their religion they would probably be in the same camp as the rest of us, so maybe this is all in vain...

Carl R. Sams said...

Dear Ms. Sweeney,

I, like many other of your readers, am anxiously waiting to see your interview on youtube. And I am sure that everyone means well with all the good points you can make, but personally, I lock up when I try to rummage through my mental roledex (remember those?) of points and quotes, so I say just relax, and say what you think. You posses Sagan's talent of gently prodding other people to truly think about the world, not how to refute you. I'd go with that :)

On a related point,as a scientist-in-training, I've always marveled that there is an anthropomorphic theory, weak or strong. Isn't that kind of like looking into the wrong end of the binoculars? You'd think that someone would notice that it really seems to swap cause and effect. The universie isn't finely tuned to produce us, we exist as we are, Terra exists as it is, ect because that is the only way things could turn out given the starting conditions. Even as a believer that one left me scratching my head. Oh well. I'm off to plan my solsitce sacrifice to revive Sol for another year. Here kitty, kitty, kitty.....:)

P.S. Post idea, something to assist
building rationalist communities, online and in our neighborhoods.

-Veritas Imprimis

Russell Barlow said...

I had no idea you had a new show. I enjoyed "God Said Ha" a lot. I was flipping through the stations and came across your interview. I WILL be buying your CD. So, you sold one!

Also, perhaps atheist is a strong word. Seeing as you do not know about the proof of god...perhaps agnostic is a better word??

I recently had to defend my stance on god to a friend and I had to look into it myself. I was raised in the deep south so you know how touchy they are. Here is an excerpt of the letter I wrote. Don't know why I am sharing this, but I am...I do not even know if you read these.

----It is so funny that you say something about Agnostic being on my profile. I
> JUST had this discussion with someone I work with and a good friend of mine.
> I am also reading Agnes of God which is all about faith and what not. I
> am, however, not sure why it puzzled you. True, I did grow up in the bible
> belt and a family that is pretty religious, but I do not share their views.
> I was going to put Atheist, but then that would not really be true. An
> Atheist, like Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a
> god. Their belief, obviously, that there is not god. I think it impossible
> to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which
> Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at
> least impossible at the present time.

In any case, I will be getting your CD.

Jul said...

I just wanted to chime in and say how very, very cool it is that you're making all these appearances to discuss atheism. We don't get shows like The View in Switzerland, so I haven't actually seen you on them, but I imagine it's a very good thing for America to be hearing right now. If you keep it up, I might even be willing to move back one day. :)

Coby said...

For what it is worth, from a "believer's" perspective, I think you did well. Had you arrogantly turned it into a "my brain is bigger than your brain" argument I would have been turned off and assumed you were simply motivated by your agenda and not by your love for humanity. I think you gave atheism what it needs to be heard by a Christian audience i.e. a sharp mind and a gentle spirit. People have to trust you before they will seriously consider your perspective. Your humility, wit, and authenticity make me and many others respect and trust you. In my opinion, this is the first step to creating a much needed dialog between creationists and atheists.

michelle said...

Julia, I saw you on the view. I appreciate your being out there having this dialog for the rest of us. It is so difficult. We just moved to a small farming community and the first thing people ask is what church do we belong to. When I say none I get "the look". The same one the guest host on the view gave you. I thought the Access Hollywood woman, sorry I forget her name, looked completely constipated after she asked if you were mad at God and you answered no. Awkward for you I'm sure but thank you.

Phil Plait, aka The Bad Astronomer said...

I'll add my voice to the chorus (hahaha! Get it! Haha!) and say you did fine. You were charming, and I suspect a few people will be surprised at how nice an evil atheist can be. I also think you were clearly intelligent and had given this some thought.

You did good.

james hammond said...

Phil! Doing some more star watching, are you? (hehe, get it? heeheehee).

When Craig said that you'd better not let the priests know that some of their parishioners didn't believe, I was hoping you'd say that some of the unbelievers are the priests.


Andrea said...

Wonderful job on this show. I know how it is when you have everything all worked out so perfectly in your mind, you think you have it all down, and then when you try to explain it, it just sounds so inadequate to represent the thoughts you have. But you did great! You actually come across as very thoughtful and charming and things did NOT come out as jumbled as you fear!

fun2bfree said...

I read that Newsweek piece and it is astonishing to me that someone as smart as Davies can try to pass off that codswallop about scientists proceeding "on the assumption that there is a coherent scheme to the universe to be uncovered" is an act of faith.

NOOO- it most certainly is is based on prior experience just like assuming the sun will rise is NOT an act of faith but a reasonable assumption based on prior observations...This is all different shades of the science-is-just-a-faith ploy. That it could come from such an erudite and usually reasoned writer and scientist should be frightening...with friends like him who needs fundies?

bethm said...

gI have enjoyed your shows and your blog, being a middle-aged, middle-class, lapsed catholic and mother- of-a-cancer-survivor with artfully arched eyebrows. I am just a little bit ahead of you in the motherhood game and have the following unsolicited advice.

10 Good Reasons Mulan Should Go to a Christian School

1. I am pretty sure that in LA you can find a good one that educates and respects Jews, Muslims, Christians and athiests. I found one in Texas for christsakes!

2. A religious education is a cultural education. When I was a young, rebellious Catholic who didn't see the value of religious education, my mother told me that I would never finish the Sunday Times crossword without a good grounding in religion. She had a point.

3. A religious education is vaccination against religious extremism and cults. With a solid education behind her, no one will be able to tell Mulan what God wants or what the Bible tells us to do. Even more importantly, I think it would make her hold out for wine rather than kool-aid.

4. FABULOUS christmas pageants! My first grade son with the big red bow under in neck in the choir? Priceless. My half Jewish daughter getting to be Mary? A triumph for jews and first grade doll-lovers everywhere.

5. I agree that it IS kind of creepy the way that religion is just whispered about in public schools. It is way to easy for these young, pliable minds to pick up the wrong message when something is hidden from them. I think it is better to get it out in the open. And whenever the school tries to tell the kids something I don't agree with I say "well, yes, that IS true from a protestant perspective. . ."

6. Latin.

7. Music! Singing every day. Learning all those hymns. It is a joy, even for the most untalented.

8. More likely to have PE every day.

9. If Mulan does not have a Christian education there will be a big gap between your world and hers. My mom's most moving plea was that she wanted me to be Catholic because she was, and she wanted us to share that. Didn't work, but I can at least understand what the hell she is talking about.

10. Let's face it. With an out-of-the-closet athiest mom, she is going to need all the factual ammo she can get. She can't grow up not knowing who John the Baptist was--the jesusfreaks will make mincemeat of her!

Becky2259 said...

I think you did great and you came off as human, which is good because everyone can identify with that. I did laugh out loud several times so I think it was also funny.

I liked the discussion about calling yourself an atheist because my husband and I discuss this all the time. I think I finally got to the point where I fell over the edge of atheism and just didn't give a crap if people thought I was the devil for being one. My husband says "oh no, don't tell anyone you are an atheist" So the "coming out of the closet idea was really quite descriptive for me.

I think you did really well.


Manqué said...

Julia, you were wonderful. After CF, I googled your name and watched the TED clip from "Letting Go." I'm buying two copies of the CD (but not until Thursday, so I don't have to pay for them until February, a necessity thanks to Christmas, irony of ironies!).

I would suggest that you're not an atheist, you're an agnostic (maybe there is a god, maybe there isn't) with just one degree of separation from atheist. Julia, it's so refreshing to listen to someone talk SENSE! Air America programming can be described as political skepticism. You are my Air America of religious skepticism.

I think we should start a new religion with you as our goddess, to be worshipped and adored and sacrificed to. (Excuse me for ending that proposition on a preposition.) Juliaism would be infinitely more attractive than scientology, and just think of the perks, not the least of which would be tax-free revenue, but also golden statues with you posed as Virgo (your astronomically true sign), bobble-head Julias, and The Book of Julaism bound in calve's leather and gold embossing and that skinny scarlet ribbon between to filmy gilt-edged pages, and the Hymns of Julia sung on October 10th every year, and presents at Juliamas, and eventually a Mel Gibson movie starring Dakota Fanning as You. Yeah, and pronouns referring to You always capitalized! Hey, if You can't beat 'em, compete with 'em!

Mary Winkler said...

Ms. Sweeney,
I was up late (dur) last night watching Craig Ferguson (bad idea during finals week), and your appearance was brilliant. With all the stuff that goes on that show (oh, such hilarity..but eneough about that), it was an oddly sobering moment (amid the worries)watching your discussion.

I, for one, enjoyed your appearance. I'm here (and bookmarking..eeeh :D) on account of it.

I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times, but it's really nice to sometimes see someone go through a similar journey to your own.

Rock on. Definately looking forward to getting your CD and hanging 'round the old bloggy blog blog.

Anonymous said...

as a "faithful" viewer of craig's show i just want to say i thought it was a lovely and thoughtful interview and i hope craig will have you back again soon for a longer go round. i have already emailed the show to suggest that. i think the serious interviews he does are often the most interesting and yours was too short.

much of craig's novel, "between the bridge and the river," explores the absurdities of our wildly divergent "organized" religions. i think you might be surprised by his perspective. craig too seems to be a work in progress.

it was lovely to see you looking well and happy. and thanks so much for not being madelyn murray ohare.


GaryG said...

Hi. I think it's great that an Atheist got to go on a national talk show and actually talk about their atheism. We need more people like you Julia to be public about their atheism. I also think Craig Ferguson is cool to let you on his show to talk about it. Actually this was the first time I watched The Craig Ferguson Show. Thanks. BTW, I loved you on SNL.

Barbara said...

I followed the clip from thranil, and thought you came across extremely open-minded, warm, and funny--three traits not usually associated with the word "atheist".

Thank you for your honesty... and bravery. You inspire me to read and think further about atheism. I found your essay "Letting Go of God" in an anthology my eighteen year old brother was reading. I flipped to the essay immediately, and was astounded at how your experiences resonated with my own. My brother then read the essay, and we went on to have a long, thoughtful conversation about our beliefs. He continues to be an active member in the church we were raised in, but after reading your essay, admitted to many of his doubts. I can't help but feel sad for his uncertainty. I thought his faith was strong, and was actually envious of his firm convictions. My brother is now on the same path that I am. In many ways, it is a lonely path.

I have often wished for a community of like-minded people.

Judy Cassada said...

Dear Julia,
You are an incredible person and entertainer and I'm sure you did a fabulous job on Craig. I admire you enormously. I see Craig nearly every night (NY feed in CA, so I can see at 9:35pm or wouldn't have a prayer (religious cliche!) of staying awake otherwise) ;-), but damn, I missed the show you were on! Hopefully I'll see the re-run.
Some quick notes, since it's bedtime. If I were to be totally honest (which most people aren't ready for despite professing to be "open-minded" and honoring religious freedom) I would say my atheism would be summed up this way: If there is a "God", "God" is an asshole. As I say, that's if I was being totally honest. Sad to say, the public seems not at all ready to hear all viewpoints, including mine. Tragically, religion seems to often be a way to rationalize NOT taking responsibility for making the world a better place, and taking responsibility for our actions, what's right and wrong. Lastly, I'm so proud of you, as a cancer survivor. My sister (52 yrs.) was diagnosed in Aug. '05 with something we'd never even heard of: Multiple Myeloma, a rare blood cancer of the bone marrow. Her first/only symptom was her kidneys failing (and still are, requiring dialysis). Three weeks after diagnosis she lost everything in Hurricane Katrina (Gulfport, Miss.). Why don't religious folks blame "God" for all this, vs. "Mother Nature?" In fact, I think we humans can take a large portion of the blame for both those "events" (Bay St. Louis, Miss. contamination by Dupont, lawsuit won by a fisherman Aug. '05) and global warming and destruction of a football field-worth of wetlands EACH DAY in the Gulf, exacerbating the severity of storms, etc. We CAN make the world a much, much, much better place, but it starts with promoting personal, group, national, international responsibility and involvement. My very best to you.

Veronica (the uruguayan) said...

Julia, I just finished seeing Ozu's "Late Spring", thanks so much for mentioning it a few posts ago. I'll take that 1949 film any day instead of "Star Wars".

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...


I just watched the show on Tivo. I thought you did fine. Your laughter didn't strike me as nervous laughter at all.

I wouldn't worry too much about the "how I could know for absolute certainty that there was not a God" question. That isn't the definition of what it means to be an atheist, any more than someone has to believe that they "know for absolute certainty" that there is a God in order to be a theist. Atheism is merely the belief that God does not exist. There is no contradiction between saying "I believe there is a 90% probability that God does not exist" and "I am an atheist," just as there is no contradiction between saying "I believe there is a 90% probability that God does exist" and "I am a theist."

Keep up the great work!

Jeff Lowder

toomanytribbles said...

is this ok to add?

julia on the late show with craig ferguson on youtube:

Laurence Boyce said...

Hi Julia. I've just caught the show, you are totally gorgeous. Here is my take on the question: "how we can be sure there is no God?" We can't, like you said, but it's not a particularly useful question. A far more pertinent question to ask is: "how can we be sure there is no God who makes the slightest difference to the way we should lead our lives?" This surely is the question that matters, and I think we can be certain that there is no such God.

Religious people love to cite the evidence, such as it is, provided by physicists to the effect that the universe appears to be fine tuned and so on. Then the next minute they're telling us what we can and can't do in bed - surely the mother of all non-sequiturs. We mustn't play into their hands by getting overly bogged down with the first question. We now know enough science, philosophy, and history to state with confidence that our decision making must be determined purely by the natural domain.

Is there a God? Who cares?

Juliano said...


Hi! I´m from Brazil and I am loving your work on talking about atheism. It´s excellent to have people like you with your sense of humor and inteligence. I heard your "Letting Go of God" audio and I watched your "Age of Reason" video on youtube. Very funny and interesting! Good jod!!! Keep going!!!

I would like to comment about something and exchange some ideas with you. Can I have your e-mail?

Anyway, one of the topics is about creationism. I read your letter to Michael where he says that he doens´t accept "macroevolution". Well, some days ago I thought about something I never had thought before.

If a person claims to have a life and continuous experience with God, the owner of the truth, and claims that this God guides him, answers his questions, clarify thing about the world, etc, etc, ... if a person says this, how can this person be a creationist??? Undertand what I mean? I had never thougth about this in this way, but it´s very significative and important. You know, since evolution is a fact proven by several fields of humam knowledge and suported by milions of independente evidences from all around the world, ... how can a person guided by the owner of the truth be so wrong about it and be a creationist?

It´s very strange, don´t you think? It suports even more the hipothesis of the non existence of God, in a very important way. Or, at least, the non-comunication of the supposed God.

I wrote a text about it, and a called it "Highly Commited Credibility". How can a person expect that we atheists believe that there is a God, if this person´s credibility is soo commited because of this stupidity of creationism?

Thanks for the attention!


bookboy said...

Saw you on CF. Never thought he was funny, just a lot of budding in and trying to get a laugh (Robin Williams). And that thing about the dog isn’t that funny ha ha. I’ve seen dogs sit at the dinner table or lounge on a couch, what the hell is he talking about. That’s why he believes in god? Christ he’s dumber then I thought. It was good to see you; I wish they could get over the Pat thing. But you knew what you were getting into. I know the book business. And how you have to compromise yourself at times. To get your product out in front of the public. You looked great-bright eyed.

ben turk said...

live link to above thing

remy said...

Good job. You're very brave.

Ferguson is a recovering alchoholic and seems to have returned to god through some program as the way many addicts do.

I saw the clip o toomanytribbless' blog.

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

Julia, I'm coming to this blog post as a huge Craig Ferguson fan (I have a google alert on the guy that linked me to your blog this AM) and just saw your LLS segment last night from Tivo.

You were great. I actually saved the show to rewatch your interview. You see, my parents are atheists. Well, mom says there may be something out there, to which I argue then that she's agnostic, which she denies. Then I ask her if she could be a little bit pregnant. Grrr. I really admire those who take a stand on their beliefs, even if it can feel uncomfortable at times.

As a shameless Craig plug, you may want to pick up his book, "Between the Bridge and the River." It's actually a damning of organized religion and an exploration of personal belief. (If you had only known going into the interview!)

Anyway, well done, Julia, I will try to track down the CD -- I think it would make a perfect Xmas gift for the folks this year! :) Cool blog, btw, even if I am a believer in a HP, 12-step kind of a way. ;-)

Chris Pierson said...


You did spectacularly well. I'm proud of you, so you don't have to be. You were extremely eloquent about atheism. You humanized it. And you made several points that ought to make people think. In particular: the point about how atheism's conflation with communism has made Americans fearful of it. Excellent point.

And while I tend to like Craig Ferguson and think he's funny, I was very disappointed in his apparent emotional investment in theism. The way he slammed your CD around the desk spoke volumes about how well he respected the ideas in it. He seemed agitated by the subject. But I do give him credit for permitting you to talk about your views and ending on a neutral note. He apparently gives his viewers credit for being able to handle complex argument.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia:

I stumbled onto this looking at a Richard Dawkins video on YouTube. I understand your reluctance to say you're an atheist. Saying you're an atheist to your religious neighbours is basically like telling them they are all wrong about their lifestyles. It's easier not to say anything definitive at all. But I'm very glad, and proud you are out there talking about this. I believe like Dawkins that religion is an ultimately destructive meme. I probably believe it more than he does. I find so many religious people that I know hold so many other contrary beliefs and practices that ultimately undo much of the good they'd like to accomplish.

Anyway: It was a tough interview, to be sure. Craig is a "nice guy" but he really went after you pretty hard. Nonetheless, you're attracting other atheists with this work, and that interview.
Keep up the great work. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future.

Anonymous said...

Julia,I'm sorry to say, I have never heard of u. I'm a little out of My personal belief is that we are a "bundle" of many "religions" put together. I like to study ALL religions, and take away a little bit from each one. I do not consider myself a "Christian", but I do believe that there was a Rabbi Jesus, and that,IMHO, not very many organized "christian" religions really know what this man was trying to teach. My most comfortable beliefs, so far are Kabbalah, and Buddhism. The Dali Lhama is a very wise man. Wouldn't u consider yourself more of an AGNOSTIC than an ATHEIST? I LIKE someone who isn't afraid to voice their beliefs, it's the one's who seem to harp on other people's beliefs that aren't the same as theirs that bug me. Why do we all HAVE to believe the same? Why, who says we do? Why would their be SO many different beliefs then if we all were supposed to believe the same? The world would be a pretty boring place if we all believed the same. I believe that we are here to learn. To learn from each other, to learn from Mother Earth and to share those learning's with each other. Thank you for your time.
"We must be the change we wish to see in the world" Mahatma Gandhi
Seek peace and love and we won't know hate and disrespect.

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