Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I have posted my updated performing schedule on my website. Tickets cannot yet be purchased for the Los Angeles shows and the Chicago shows. But I believe that by the beginning of next week that will be rectified. I do know that already the Spokane shows are selling well. Oh! And I am going to appear on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me – the NPR show, on April 12th in Chicago. That should be fun.

I have been thinking about something someone said to me this weekend. And that is, “Maybe very few people are capable of not believing in God.” And I was so arrested by that comment and I have been chewing on it for the last two days. Hmmm… maybe very few people are capable of not believing in God. I have to say; I think I agree at this point. But I hate that so much. It makes me feel elitist. I cringe at the thought, and I am automatically recoiling at that idea.

Except, I might… sorta… agree.

I said to this person who said this, “But what about Sweden or all those Scandinavian countries where hardly anyone believes in God.” And he said, “Well, yeah. But I guess what I mean is supernatural ideas too, or New Age-y ideas or basically a reluctance to look at the world squarely without divine influence. You have no idea what those people (the non-religious Scandinavians) believe besides not believing in God. Maybe they don’t believe in God but they believe in faeries, like they do in Iceland, or that the ‘universe’ ‘means’ for them to do this or that, or that when they put a gnome under their pillow it always rains. Maybe people are just superstitious, or religious. Maybe that’s what humans just are. ”

Then I said, “But I cannot come to that conclusion. To come to that conclusion means that I am the silent superior one and I have no hope for humanity. It puts me in the most arrogant position. I don’t want to feel this way about those people – about people in general!” And my friend said, “You don’t think the people who are religious or New Agey don’t look down on you? You don’t think they feel arrogantly towards you?”

And he is right.

Argh.

I think this came up because this weekend - with several friends - I watched “The Secret.” This is the movie that Oprah has been promoting on her show. Everywhere I drove last week, I saw ads on billboards for… The Secret. Basically the film takes the perfectly good ideas of “The Power Of Positive Thinking” but ads a lot of mumbo jumbo to it. Like giving the Universe a personality that wants “abundance” for us and “feels” the energy of our thoughts and puts a whole supernatural schpiritual schpin on the whole thing. It was so awful, it was so insufferable, it was so excruciating, I could barely watch any of it. If I had any energy I would go through the whole movie point by point. But I cannot. All I can say is, I thought Oprah was smarter than that. Not smart, mind you. But smarter.

I don’t know how we would have parodied this movie “The Secret” on Saturday Night Live because it is already a parody. One charlatan after another comes on and uses scientific jargon to “prove” that the universe is listening to your wishes and will fulfill them for you if only you ask. 90% of the examples of what someone might wish for are about material possessions, especially cars. A guy dreams of a big house (the picture of the big house was so cookie-cutter “mansion” ish, it was garish and fake looking) and lo and behold, he buys that house. Another man is tired of his debt and so he imagines himself getting checks in the mail instead of bill - and then he does! He gets checks in the mail! (No explanation of where they came from…) Worst of all, a woman who has ovarian cancer imagines herself healthy and poof! She is over her cancer! It’s just awful. It’s not only stupid and wrong, it’s dangerous. I was so depressed after watching it. And that’s when I had the discussion I recounted above. And I have been turning these ideas over in my mind ever since.

An acquaintance told me that she made her husband watch “The Secret” because she wanted him to be more positive about his career. I swear, if my spouse made me watch that movie and expect me to take it seriously, it would be a reason to break up. And then having that thought, I was flooded with memories of almost that exact same thing. Different boyfriends who would make me consider the most outlandish ideas and expect me to take them seriously – that Carlos Casteneda really was a shaman with supernatural powers and that giving up all personal power to a “higher source” was a good step in personal development. Oh! I would twist my mind up and back trying to find ways to still respect these guys. It was so hard. Now I wouldn’t have the patience for it at all.

So, this is what I’m mulling for tonight: I think it is too hard. I think it’s too hard for people to accept the random nature of life, and how vulnerable we are. All these ideas make people feel like they have some control over their lives, and that the universe cares about them. I mean, maybe life is too scary for most people to accept the reality of our vulnerability.

But what irks me is that people actually do have so much more control over their life than they realize! Movies like “The Secret” do damage two ways. On the one hand it tells you that life is not random and haphazard and that you can control the universe to make what you want to happen, happen. On the other hand, it discounts actual human determination and action to accomplish anything. Because all you have to do is sit back and let the “universe” hand you things.

Then my friend said, “What if religion is what allowed us to evolve? I mean, what if humans were able to beat out the Neanderthals because they were religious? What about religiosity in other species? It may turn out that ants are the most religious of all!”

Which had me aghast…. Again. Yeah… what if. What if.

129 comments:

nonlineargirl said...

I'm one of those few who don't believe. It scares me that the world is not organized, that there isn't something looking out for us, but it makes sense to me.

I used to think that people had to be taught to believe, but now I don't think so. I kind of agree with your friend that it is hard not to believe. Being in charge of one's own life is scary. It is easier to let go of all that control.

Proud to be an Atheist said...

First time commenter on here, big fan of yours.

When Oprah had the show about "The Secret" and her follow up show (because only a week after it aired, people were changed), I had a hard time watching it. This was one of her few shows I didn't care about whether or not I missed.

The stuff about what you put out there, you get in return, I don't buy it. There are so many friends I bent over backwards to help and be there for, and guess what, they are not in my life anymore and it isn't because I kicked 'em out either.

I give and give and only get stepped on, so I disagree. I agree with you that this is a dangerous message to put out there. And while they say they don't mean spirit in a godly way, yeah right. It sounded very preachy to me.

Rieux said...

I think it is too hard. I think it’s too hard for people to accept the random nature of life, and how vulnerable we are. All these ideas make people feel like they have some control over their lives, and that the universe cares about them. I mean, maybe life is too scary for most people to accept the reality of our vulnerability.

If you ask me, that's about right... for most people in our society.

But take heart! I think your friend is wrong about Sweden (and other comparably secular European countries); in my experience, those folks by and large treat "supernatural ideas ..., or New Age-y ideas or basically a reluctance to look at the world squarely without divine influence" in ways that skeptics like you and me can be pretty comfortable with. Things really aren't bad on that score in Europe--and I say that as a Swedish-American who's gone back to the Old Country repeatedly (plus studied as an exchange student in Germany, another largely secular place). The seculars who make up such a big chunk of Europe tend to look at the religious free-for-all over here and think we're nuts. (They're probably right.)

My conclusion is that these issues are intensely cultural. Most Americans can't handle the idea of life without their comfortable illusions because they (like you and I) were brought up to believe that their lives literally (and eternally) depended upon those illusions. I think the cross-cultural evidence shows that, without such indoctrination, human beings are entirely capable of dealing with the world of fact and value in responsible ways.

On the other hand, of course, religious memes have enormous market penetration at the moment, and they're terrific fighters that don't give up their hosts easily. But then, I don't have to tell you that!

Rieux said...

Er, P.S.: I'm a recent Letting Go of God CD customer.

Your play is magnificent, Julia. For my money, it's the best atheist testimonial I've ever encountered--and that's coming from a big fan of prominent nonbelievers like Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker and (sniff) Douglas Adams.

LGOG is thoroughly intelligent but still, of course, very funny. More importantly, you've managed to both stay true to your values (refusing to back down from your horror at nasty Bible messages, rejecting "psychologically true" and other rationalizations, etc.) and deliver a message that's full of sympathy and empathy. That's stunning; I don't know of any other nonbeliever who's been able to pull that off.

That play is a tremendous gift to all of us. I think you're entitled to a little arrogance--whether you'll take it or not. :-)

melazond said...

So basically it's another edition of "What the Bleep do We Know?"
I despised that film, especially because I had so many friends who were all ga ga over it. The part that was always mentioned? Messages from water: this very unscientific experiment that said that water can take on the energy of words printed on the container and it changes their shapes or something.
Before I even knew about how bogus that experiment was, I was already miffed because they show us these "beautiful" water crystals (ie frozen) and the symmetrical shape etc from the containers that said positive things and then pictures of "ugly" water crystals (melted, most likely) that weren't symmetrical and perfect and I thought "who are you to tell me that that weird melty thing that looks kind of like a dragon isn't just as neat as the perfectly shaped symmetrical crystals?"

Anyway.
I do think that it's hard to let go completely, that if nothing else people want the universe to be loving...
And I understand why they want it that way, but I don't see how they can follow through on that line of thinking.

GRETCHEN said...

Then my friend said, “What if religion is what allowed us to evolve? I mean, what if humans were able to beat out the Neanderthals because they were religious?

It's very possible, but we need to keep in mind that just because something evolved doesn't make it good. There are plenty of theories claiming that religion has evolved because it was helpful to us in some way in encouraging group strength in terms of exchange (see Robert Trivers or Joseph Bulbulia on costly signaling and the significance of supernatural agents as "invisible enforcers") or cohesiveness (see David Sloan Wilson's book Darwin's Cathedral). And then there's the theory pushed by Dan Dennett and other meme people that religion may have evolved not even because it increases our reproductive potential, but to benefit itself. His rejoinder to the question of why religion evolved is "Why did the common cold evolve? It's not because it is good for us." Breaking the Spell is not an argument that religion is necessarily like a virus, but that we should at least consider the possibility.

With the group strength and cohesion theories, the downside comes when you begin to talk about how religious groups engage other groups-- the same things that make them get along with each other make them more fervently opposed to outsiders and dissenters (kind of like patriotism can). Think of the Jews roaming around in the Old Testament conquering one people after another in the name of God...not such a rosy picture.

What about religiosity in other species? It may turn out that ants are the most religious of all!”

There's an article on this subject that you really need to read. It's by Jesse Bering, and it's called "Theistic Percepts in Other Species." Basically, his answer to whether chimpanzees-- chimps, not even to mention ants!-- can believe in supernatural agents is "No." This is (in a nutshell) because they lack the theory of mind capacity needed to conceive of invisible mental causation. They are, effectively, behaviorists who can only make judgments about what others can physically relate to or see, but not about what others think or know. They don't entertain hypothetical scenarios, and don't give any evidence of believing in life after death. It takes a certain kind of mind to be able to anthromorphize, let alone worship the object of it, and no other animal has it...which is not to say that we can't study the minds of chimps and other animals to find its precursor. There's a lot of research from primatology used in the cognitive science of religion.

Ants may be communists according to E.O. Wilson, but they sure can't be Christians.

Petra said...

...maybe very few people are capable of not believing in God.

I think that in many ways, this is very true. People hold onto God as a master of all things over which they believe they have no control. And while I believe there is no god controlling anything, I understand how scary it is to think that we are in complete control, because honestly we are not. We can be in control of our OWN actions, but not those of the nimnut in the car in the lane next to us.

What really amazes me is people asking for prayers at the most unusual times. I belong to a webgroup and one of the women asked for prayers that the test results from a biospy were negative. I didn't of course, the woman was going through a lot of emotions, but I really WANTED to ask her if she wanted me to pray that the results, of the test that was taken three days before, were negative, or accurate. Because, you know, if enough people pray, the words on the lab result sheet will actually change. *sigh*

P

j said...

Thank you Julia for writing this blog. I am so relieved to know that there are others who feel/believe as I do.

Susan S. said...

Oprah seems to believe that if she wants it.....that is what makes it happen, whatever IT is. I think she believes that randomness never happens, that everything happens "for a reason."

Sus

Mcglk said...

A few things.

Oprah is an interesting case. She’s someone who has had some disappointing encounters with faddish beliefs (most notably her wide-eyed buy-in on diet pills) only to be enlightened later on by common-sense approaches (exercise and diet, which was what eventually helped her get her very public weight issues under control), and yet, it seems that neither she nor her staff have learned anything about critical thought. Shortly after that whole thing shook out, for example, she had the reprehensible Bible Code guys on her show, and she was just as wide-eyed, accepting and non-analytical as she ever was. She’d completely squandered an opportunity to introduce her audience to thinking critically.

On the other hand, your friend might not be too far off, though it does present a chicken and egg problem. Her question (“What if religion is what allowed us to evolve?”) is something I find thought-provoking, in the sense that religion probably helped spark concepts that led to philosophy and logic, though one could argue that observation led to religion as a way to explain the universe as well. The chicken and egg problem: which came first—religion or philosophy? :)

I’m not, however, sure that I agree that few people are capable of believing in God. Certainly very few Believers want to consider any alternatives, but I think that’s a different problem entirely. Are they capable? Almost certainly. Will they entertain the notion? No. It’s more a matter of willfulness than capability, I’m afraid.

Humans are very, very good at imagining things. Imagination isn’t a bad thing. Heck, believing in wacky notions isn’t a bad thing. It’s only bad when those beliefs compel you to do harm to others, either by misinforming them about information they would find useful (“this sanctified sawdust will cure your cancer,” or “your child’s fits are caused by the devil,” that sort of thing) or by imposing your will upon others without their consent (“you can’t get married, you’re not X!”). It’s fine as long as it’s private, but when it begins affecting the lives of others, it’s not such a good thing.

Which is one of the reasons why I believe so firmly in the separation of church and state.

As far as The Secret goes, I think you’re right: by telling people that they can wish for things and have them magically come true does a grave disservice. On the other hand, most of the people that will buy into that already believe that to some degree or another, so I’m not sure if it’s actually doing any harm.

Pam said...

Scientists have suggested that we are genetically programmed to develop certain fears, such as for snakes and spiders, and presumably we evolved this way because fearing poisonous animals helped one to survive. See: http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20030730/fear-from-our-forefathers
If predisposition to certain fears is built into our genes, why not predisposition to supernatural belief?

naturalhigh said...

Well, I consider myself a very spiritual person but I will vomit up Oprah's wigs if I have to hear much more about the GD secret. Here was my post on it awhile back

http://naturalhigh.wordpress.com/2006/12/29/the-secret/

really, this "secret" has been packaged and resold so many times that it is unbelievable that people STILL latch onto it like it's going to transform their lives.

Siamang said...

I blogged about "The Secret"® on the Ebay Atheist blog on Tuesday. Read it here: http://off-the-map.org/atheist/2007/02/20/the-secret-prosperity-theologys-moral-problems/

I tell a story about how I used to believe in this kind of supernatural positive thinking until I discovered the immoral implications at its core: people who are homeless are suffering because they don't "magentize" prosperity. There's a very dark side to these beliefs, and I have personal experience with a prosperity theology church. Come visit our blog.

bookboy said...

To bad that little Iraq (that was raped by the American GI’s) girl did not have a copy of the Secret she could of wish for herself or even her family to have been not killed. But maybe she didn’t wish hard or sincere enough. Or maybe because she was a Muslim. You should see them coming into the bookstore eyes glazed looking for the Secret, mostly middle aged women. Getting something for nothing, my god how many times have we been shoveled this shit. And we just keep eating it up. Julia I have to say you are on the “Growing Tip” of human consciousness’. Tough place to be.

Courtney said...

My sister-in-law who is 19 and in her second year of college gave us all the Tao of Poo for Christmas because it so, totally changed her life. We dug a little deeper and come to find out it changed her boyfriend's life, and then hers, and now the rest of us are in line to be changed as well. Also, we need to watch all of Stanley Kubrick's films but most especially A Clockwork Orange. And I realized she had THAT boyfriend, the one many girls have, and that usually we dump that boy and hopefully that boy goes on to outgrow this phase.

Anyway, that's what the middle of your post reminded me of, when you wrote about a signficant other expecting you to take seriously The Secret.

Anonymous said...

Julia,

I'm inclined to spin your friends comment a bit differently, "Maybe very few people who are indoctrinated in a religious faith are capable of letting go of god because their life never affords them a painful enough catalyst to begin the process of rigorous search for the truth that exposes the fallacy of their childhood faith.”

Heck, maybe very few people are capable of concerning themselves with such incredibly mundane issues until we collectively solve the really pressing topics of the day like the paternity of Anna Nicole’s baby...

Just my $0.02

Anonymous said...

Julia ~~ I wonder if most people are just hard-wired for theism and some are not. I just never could make myself buy what the Christians were selling, even in my earliest memories of obediently waltzing off to the Methodist church most Sundays. I remember sitting through Sunday School and church from childhood in the '40s and '50s, and on through my marriage to a Christian until 1987, and just ticking off the illogical, irrational, absurd, contradictory points being made and wondering why I had to waste my time there! I'm just so thankful for the clear and bright minds of people like you, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and my first hero Bertrand Russell for allowing me to wander comfortably outside my narrow Midwest religio-cultural milieu. I just ordered "Letting Go Of God" and am looking forward to finding it the mail. My daughter works for a university and travels on their behalf frequently. I hope one of her destinations and one of your performances coincide some day.

Petra said...

I wonder if most people are just hard-wired for theism and some are not. I just never could make myself buy what the Christians were selling, even in my earliest memories of obediently waltzing off to the Methodist church most Sundays. I remember sitting through Sunday School and church from childhood in the '40s and '50s, and on through my marriage to a Christian until 1987, and just ticking off the illogical, irrational, absurd, contradictory points being made and wondering why I had to waste my time there!

Wow. I had forgotton about feeling that as a kid. I think I just figured everyone else MUST have felt the way I did, and MUST have seen through the absurdity of it all, but they were just sitting there because they HAD to, just like me.

Hard-wired for theism. Genetic reasons for clinging to a god. Interesting theory. My first reaction was, "so maybe it isn't my FAULT I am this way." Then a more clear thought, "so maybe it isn't THEIR fault THEY are that way!"

: ) P

Jeremy said...

Then my friend said, “What if religion is what allowed us to evolve? I mean, what if humans were able to beat out the Neanderthals because they were religious? What about religiosity in other species? It may turn out that ants are the most religious of all!”

I'm no authority on this, but in one of my anthropology courses, I read that Neanderthals (middle/late-Pleistocene) buried family members, leading some to believe that neanderthal actually had some belief in the afterlife, and therefore at least a *basic* religious sense. I'm wondering if anyone out there knows a little more about this than I do?

Thranil said...

Hi Julia,

Lately, I've been reading "The Reason Driven Life" (there was a great Foreword in it that was written by someone... I forget who :) ) as well as other works by Bob Price, and based on his writings I have begun looking at religion in the following way:

Religion is great for helping people initially break out of potentially negative life cycles (transcend them in a way), but I think the problem begins when the same people stop their growth and stay stuck in the rut of their religion.

This seems like a reasonable way to look at religion based on history as well since we can see the evolution of religion from simple tribal worship to the monolithic religions of today. That tells me that religion was evolving to better handle the problems of the people/society as the people and societies evolved/grew.

So I don't think that belief in a higher power is essentially a bad thing, but I do have a serious problem with the control mechanisms used by religion. To me there is intrinsic value in (as Bob Price puts it) sitting in awe of the universe and our very existence within it. I believe that this is how the initial tribal religions started after all: by staring at the sky and the world around and being in awe of it all. It seems to me that our modern religions have stripped away this sense of awe and amazement in favor of 'answers' that amount to nothing, and that is just one area where I think they have missed the mark.

I think this is why we are seeing a resurgence of tribal style religions and communities. Fortunately, there are clearly non-theistic movements (i.e. Humanism) that are showing an alternative to the new age and tribal worship movements, so it will be interesting to see how things go from here.

So, yeah, I guess I agree with the statement that religion helped us evolve. However, I think that we have evolved past needing religion and that it is now holding us back from continuing in our evolution. I also agree with the statement that there are a lot of people who can't embrace atheism, however, I only think that this is the case as long as people don't understand how non-theism allows one to truly experience the wonder, awe, and joy of experiencing life. The more that this message is put out there, the more that I hope people will discard their outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the... sorry... started 'channeling' Monty Python there.

JosephCameron said...

I think it's easy to not believe in god if you were raised in a fundamentlist religious family. it's a reactionary thought process. "mom and dad, who believed in god, were strict assholes and they forced church down my throat...therefore there is no god."
but this is a logical fallacy. when you narrow your options down to the dualistic viewpoint of religious/atheist, then you miss out on what true spirituality can offer.
thankfully i was able to transcend both religion and the following atheism, to come to my own form of spiritual awakening.
that is what is really hard to do...to speak out about and practice non-religious spirituality in a society that is highly religious in the grassroots culture and atheist in intelligentsia.

Sher said...

I disagree with much of what you say, but I am simply in awe of your creative talent and filled with respect for your strength of conviction and eloquence.

I feel anything but "arrogantly" towards you... however religious, New Agey or Secretie I may in fact be. And believe me, I am crazy New Agey, Secretie and religious. (I also watch Oprah while squishing ants, but I feel bad about it, so that means something, right?)

You're a wonderful talent and I will continue to read, watch and silently disagree.

Anonymous said...

Oprah is smart, but not THAT smart. Her god is money, money, money. Not that smart, really.....

Irishwoman

tiny robot said...

Oprah is all about "feeling good" and that's about it. She makes money by selling "happiness" on her show.

Sure, Oprah is a famous philanthropist and humanitarian; but the heart of her initiatives only focus on band-aiding the symptoms, not curing the root cause of various social and economic problems.

I try not to listen to sermons from The Church of Oprah. Too bad so many millions do.

Matt said...

OMG Julia, you are so right about "The Secret." It just saddened me that Oprah would fall for something like this. (Of course she fell for A Million Tiny Pieces or whatever as well.)

Brenda said...

"Then my friend said, “What if religion is what allowed us to evolve? I mean, what if humans were able to beat out the Neanderthals because they were religious? What about religiosity in other species? It may turn out that ants are the most religious of all!”

Interestingly, there's an article on this very subject in the most recent New York Times Magazine. Slate Magazine summarizes the article here.

I haven't read the article, (living in rural Wales, I can't exactly pop down to the corner store and pick one up) nevertheless, I can't help but think that if religion was necessary for human evolution, it follows that there should be some physical evidence that would support this theory. Where's the evidence to illustrate how and why non-belief in a deity led directly or indirectly to the demise of the non-believing segment of human society?

Anthropology isn't my area of expertise, just something I dabble in occasionally, and I've never come across anything that would support a belief that religion was necessary for human evolution. A human construct that shaped our cultural evolution, certainly, but necessary? I don't think so.

As for The Secret, I am waiting to see which one of my friends in the US calls to suggest that I see it immediately, as it will so totally change my life forever. I've decided the only appropriate response it to offer a trade. I'll see the film, if they'll listen to LGOG. The worst that will happen is A)they'll come away with a few things to ponder, and B) maybe stop thinking that non-belief is a "phase" I'm going through, and C) Julia will sell a few more cd's. Okay, I'll have to sit though a very silly film, but if I watch it at home, on dvd, I can mock it openly with my partner, which ought to be fun. So everyone wins.

Maria Alexander said...

Ah, Julia! Indeed, The Secret is a horror. I agree it's dangerous -- both psychologically and emotionally. Because, if you created those checks that came in the mail, did you create your child being hit by that car? Did you create your father's illness? Did you create every other tragedy? People can only keep it up until something terrible happens. It falls apart then. This irresponsible philosophy simply asks too much.

And like I was telling someone else the other day, is it really neurosurgery to get people to just practice gratitude and focus on the good things in life?

I agree also that people are deathly afraid of feeling out of control. Like, *painfully* fearful. That's why things like The Secret enjoy such popularity. But then, I've known atheists who also fear being out of control. Their denial of the supernatural is not so much an intellectual epiphany as a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting anything "unknowable" influencing them. So, it really affects a lot of people, regardless of their philosphy. And as we know, fear is a pretty powerful thing.

Elizabeth said...

The "If wishing could make it so" idea always reminds me of the scene in "Peter Pan" where Tinkerbell is dying and the audience of kids are asked to clap so she will live. If her light flickered, it meant that "somebody wasn't clapping hard enough." It's the psychological insecurity behind most proselytizing.

"The Secret" would have it, I guess, that if you aren't getting something you wish for, you aren't "clapping hard enough"?

Flimsy Sanity said...

I think religion originated because some people saw that others were superstitious and one could have an easy life being supported by the gullible. Herd instinct does the rest.

Cavemen probably buried their dead because they didn't want animals eating mama.

The business about being influenced by irrational boyfriends - I could really identify with that one. We all are gullible in different ways.

Petra said...

Elizabeth said: The "If wishing could make it so" idea always reminds me of the scene in "Peter Pan" where Tinkerbell is dying and the audience of kids are asked to clap so she will live. If her light flickered, it meant that "somebody wasn't clapping hard enough." It's the psychological insecurity behind most proselytizing.

"The Secret" would have it, I guess, that if you aren't getting something you wish for, you aren't "clapping hard enough"?


Yes! Oh yes. I had these same kind of thoughts the other day when, on a webgroup, I saw that someone had typed about how SAD they were for the families of the school children who were killed in the tornados in Alabama.

She had written that she and her son had heard a tornado and that they had fallen to their knees and prayed HARD that the lord would save them from peril. The tornado passed them over and they thanked the lord.

I guess those poor children just didn't pray hard enough.

*sigh*

: ) P

Jon said...

Awesome post Julia! I often ask myself why I find new age BS more troublesome that traditional Christian non-sense in America.

My conclusion is that one, Christianity/monotheism is an irrationality I know well. It's a theology that's relatively slow to evolve and the arguments are old and familiar. Second, new age believers actually try to pass themselves off as scientifically valid using arguments by people without an inkling of knowledge about the philosophy of science and well accepted scientific theories. Not to say that any scientific theory is set in stone but someone trained in science understands the mountain of information the new age believer is trying to say is wrong while not at all attempting explain how all the old information and data fits in to their new idea. It’s almost impossible to communicate the level at which they are overhauling the accepted model of scientific understanding in the given area. And also how their argument and evidence is most of time based on inaccurate facts, complete conjecture and emotional experience.

I’m almost helpless in preventing myself from getting angry as the discussion ensues. Which of course, doesn’t help the situation.

Paging Dr. Michael Shermer, STAT! =)

Cody said...

I am one of those irrational believers you folks talk about, but Oprah's new "Secret" troubles me greatly too.

That "Law of Attraction" implies a converse that is essentially a rationale for blaming the victims. It leaves no room for compassion, is very self-cetered and geared toward our overarching consumer paradigm. A cosmic "gimme gimme." Just what we need.

Most of all, it denies totally the value of sacrificing or embracing pain for the sake of others -- sacrificial love. Without my parents' sacrificial love I would not be here. Most of us would not be here. Humanity will go to its end pursuing individualism cloaked in positive thinking.

ShellyD said...

If you go to the website Salon, they have the most scathing article about The Secret. The writer ripped it to shreds. I love Salon, LOL.

Anonymous said...

I just read a very good long article in the New York Times Magazine from March 4. It attempts to explain how belief in God is basically a evolutionary side effect of being aware of thinking minds that act independently outside of our own heads. Like I am aware of the mind in your head. You need this awareness to survive. And that "God" sort of exists as a side effect of this, the way that a V-shape exists between two arches, the arches supporting the building, the V just appears in our imagination. Or a closet is such a convenient thing beneath a staircase. An unintended consequence, but convenient. And then the inability to accept death of the mind figures in big time. Similar to style of language, which has many variations that may vary according where you learned language, your style of god or gods may vary depending on your locality. It seems to me that the idea of no god is new. Or at least getting away with saying it, without being bludgeoned to death by the societal powers that be is new. And the bravery to risk the bludgeoning is rare. I haven't finished the article but it is very very good. It is about how evolutionary science explains faith in god by Robin Marantz Henig. It doesn't explain God, it explains belief in God.

Steve Riley said...

The harsh truth is that most people will never understand or question the nature of most things. It is an evolutionary trait. Human beings are pack animals. Pack animals can't all be leaders - pack animals needs most members to fall into hierarchies almost automatically to have some semblance of common goals. There is a sliding scale of people that will accept almost anything they are told that sounds easy and nice.

Religion, new age, "The Secret".... They all take advantage of weird loopholes of human nature. Most human beings would rather blindly believe in something they are told that seems simple and pat. It's up to those who know better to keep the world running properly and keep things simple for the people that insist on thinking that way.

It isn't arrogance you should be feeling, but responsibility... unfortunately. You will never be able to make 90% of people understand anything approaching truth - so that means that to some degree you have to humor them and help them avoid the pitfalls of their own limited worldviews.

John said...

I agree with Jon (somewhere back there) about being more troubled by the New Age stuff than the Christian junk. I think of Christianity in its most ridiculous form as being on the way out and what we are living through is its last gasp (though I fear the last gasp will be a matter of decades rather than years, if you factor in all the kids currently being brainwashed).

What troubles me about the New Age stuff is that, in my experience, it seems to be the province of intelligent, creative, liberal types. I find I have to overlook wacky New Age beliefs in people I like much more than any Christianity I encounter. I cannot begin to even count the number of people I know that are into reiki healing.

And so it angers me will someone like Oprah shills this nonsense, giving it some legitimacy in the eyes of someone - especially since New Ages beliefs are dangerous to science in the same way that Christianity seems to be.

Indeed, it's all another version of "God will provide" except God is you and your special powers.

Mary Ann said...

Ahhh Julia my love, secret schmecret. It's a shame there aren't more capable types in the world isn't it? Thanks for being so bold and brave and funny.

Anna said...

Hey! I'm a Spokanite myself. You actually visited my school, Cataldo Catholic, when I was in seventh grade, I think... so 2000-2001. It was great! Ironic, I don't know how Father Semple or Monsigner Pearson would have felt about your DVD... pretty close-minded guys, in my experience. Anyway, I really love your blog and am excited to see LGOG when you come to Spokane this month. Keep writing!

rosewood said...

New York Times magazine has a good story about the evolution of a belief in a god.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magazine/04evolution.t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

tina said...

Hi Julia,

I respect your point of view, and at the same time feel it necessary to point out that lack of belief in God or a higher power doesn't render a person belief-less. Since there's no way to either prove or disprove the matter, any very firm stance constitutes a chosen belief. Your faith has just changed clothes, I would posit.

It's worth thinking about. There's belief and there's belief. There's the arrogant sort where the believer thinks of himself as the knower - you can find this just as often in non-religious types/full-on atheists as with religious fundamentalists. Then there's the sort of belief where the believer admits, yes, it's impossible to know for sure, but I like this story, it makes life more bearable so I'm going with it. That's a stance for which I have a lot of respect - I appreciate the humility of that. I also appreciate its mirror - the "I don't know for sure but I doubt there's anything out there" stance.

Anyone on either side of the coin who doesn't admit the possibility that they might be wrong has some hubris going on, I think.

But I love it whenever anyone cares enough about the question to at least wrestle with it.

(I'm actually in the process of writing a solo show about this very question myself.)

Do you have any dates scheduled for Seattle?

Best,
Tina Rowley

Anonymous said...

Sure, curing cancer with only your thoughts is unlikely, but having a positive outlook while going through your treatment will certainly help you get better. Lots of studies demonstrate that.

I think The Secret takes things a bit too far in suggesting miracle cures and all, but the underlying message of being positive and visualizing your goals can be very helpful. Perhaps if the movie focused more on the part about taking action to achieve those goals, it might be a little more platable.

BC said...

First time commenter. I love your work!

I tell my kids: "The best things I ever bled, sweat and wept for have fallen into my lap."

Richard said...

The majority of the comments on "The Secret" sound like Julia is preaching to the choir. As Oprah does on her show.

I agree that the presentation of "The Secret" is off-putting. But the basic premise of this teaching is: you reap what you sew.

That's not so hard to believe, is it? That if you fill your life with negativity, fear, etc., you'll likely get more of it. And the opposite is also true.

A major problem with "The Secret" is that it doesn't emphasize that to get what you want you will have to work at it. Jack Canfield was certainly a testament to that.

He didn't just have money handed to him--he worked to get his book out there. Same with the guy who got the big house. It was a 5-year process.

But the point isn't how fast or slow--the point that your thinking is reflected in your life.

As for evidence, you need only look around and see that this is true.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster who said he/she respects people who can say "I can't prove it's true, but I like the story and it makes life more bearable." Isn't that really what any set of beliefs is about?

I understand why people need God or Allah, or whatever. No, they/we cannot handle the randomness of life. We need order. We need answers. And we need the rules of the game. We can play, if we just know the rules.

And I understand the need to believe in a being that rewards you at the end of life, because it's painful to believe all this -- all the pain we endure -- is for nothing. Let's face it -- most people don't leave a legacy of world-changing achievements. Most people are just people, going through their lives as best they can (as bad as that is sometimes), and they aren't special. But to believe that, at least at the end of it there's something better, well, that's comforting.

And I can say with all honesty that while I cannot prove it, I like believing there is something. I can't define "it," but having watched the light leave the eyes of someone I love, it's harder and more painful to believe that that's all there is.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! Exactly right. Belief systems (religions and superstitions-the same thing, it's just a numbers game)-close down the discussion. They are the simplest common denominator. Shame on people for being so limited and lazy. Oprah is a moron. A Goddess Moron.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I also meant to quote Anne Sexton:
"Need is not quite belief"

Anonymous said...

Ancient Romans believed that the sun was dragged across the sky by a large chariot. Catholics believe that the mother of God was a virgin earthling. Scientologists believe that man evolved from a giant clam after galactic warlords invaded out volcanoes.

Weak-minded people need to believe crazy shit. That will never ever change (the rest of us drink; that isn't likely to change either), and as long as there are willing buyers, snake oil will be sold.

I would, however, pose these three questions to the huckster who wrote 'The Secret': Anne Frank didn't imagine a better life? Are you saying she didn't wish hard enough? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

"I have been thinking about something someone said to me this weekend. And that is, “Maybe very few people are capable of not believing in God.” "

I know exactly how you feel. I've been a non-believer for most of my life. As I grew older, I went through the stage of thinking religious people are all idiots, to thinking they would all "snap out of it" if only I could explain it to them properly, to coming to the conclusion that humans, statistically, are believers.

In other words, it isn't that religion is, as Dawkins puts it, a "mental illness". It's that religious thinking, or a proclivity for religious thinking, is the normal human state of being. It's the skeptics -- the people who always just kinda never really believed any of that stuff -- who are, in a sense, the 'mentally ill'.

Most people see three colors -- red, green and blue. That's normal. Some people are color-blind, and can't see all three colors. But there is a condition called tetrachromacy --

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrachromacy

-- in which people (usually women) have a fourth color receptor (yellowish) in their eyes. To them, pure yellow looks different than a blended-red-and-green (which normally makes yellow to our eyes). People with tetrachromacy are abnormal -- but it could be argued that those 'freaks' are superior in ability to us normal people!

To me, it's the same thing with religion. It's depressing to consider, but well-supported if only anecdotally, that most people do NOT have the 'skeptic gene'.

When we 'reasonists' find one another, that feeling of "YEAH, ME TOO!" can be overwhelming. Thank you for your wonderful work.

- Clavis

Candice said...

Great post Julia! This is the first time I've read your blog; I will definitely be coming back.

I like that other readers have brought up the idea of a
"skeptic gene." I'm an atheist myself, and sometimes I look at all the believers around me (I live in the Bible Belt, too) and wonder how they can just ignore the beauty of the reality surrounding them. However, until we begin actually VALUING and teaching logic, respect for knowledge and curiosity, and healthy skepticism in our society. Wouldn't it be great if every kid took logic classes in elementary school? Think about the impact that alone could have on our culture!

Anyway, I'm afraid in this case it may be that nurture > nature. I'm glad we've got people like Julia out there to counter the Oprahs. :D

PS: Uh, isn't "The Secret" just another way of saying "Fake it 'till you make it"? How is THAT new or revolutionary? *sigh*

Vi Blanchard said...

Bless you woman for speaking the truth about "The Secret" out loud! This is what happens when Oprah and her Death Star marketing machine come up with a plan to sell wishful thinking. And I say this as a believer who accepts that life is life, fun and not so fun, begging responsibility and offering vulnerability, a wild ride to an unknown destination. Check out the Huffington Post and Nora Ephron's comments on George W. Bush's fantastical take on this very subject.

Candice said...

Uh oh, typo!

The corrected sentence reads, "However, until we begin actually VALUING and teaching logic, respect for knowledge and curiosity, and healthy skepticism in our society, the discovery of a medical explanation won't matter."

David Avallone said...

"I thought Oprah was smarter than that."

You may be underestimating Oprah's intelligence and overestimating her scruples. L. Ron Hubbard, anyone?

Oprah doesn't necessarily believe this drivel so much as she believes in the expansion of her empire. She has reached the upper limit of power that can be afforded you in the entertainment field. Only two fields offer more power: government and religion. This may be the first indication that she's chosen to go into the latter. Aimee Semple McYouGoGirl.

Karla with a K said...

The Secret is such a bunch of hoohaa. It makes me want to puke. Seriously. And the fact that Oprah Winfrey, of all people (a person who had to work very hard to escape the poverty and abuse of her home) would give credence to this crap. Does she really believe that if she had just sat back and thought happy thoughts about the future that she would have ended up where she is now?

And what about all of those in this world who suffer--are they just not thinking hard enough? I mean, jeez!

Anonymous said...

My first visit here!

Wow, I like your stuff Julia.

I thought I should apologize, it seems that in college it was actually ME who started the whole "Quantum memory = Universe Listening" meme -- I wish I could take it back, or at least explain it a little better. It has to do with particles or even viruses that find very specific "key holes" that they can attach to. Look at it this way; a billion molecules in a glass of water and how does that one viral molecule of Montezuma's revenge find that cell in your stomach? Dynamic Harmonics; "unlike cancels out like." So really, this quantum theory, I realized, posits the utility of evil, greed and good penmanship. Rather than positive thoughts allowing the universe to bring good things your way -- what it does is bring bad things your way. You are exposing your key hole to the universe, for the one person with that nasty, bad key that can take advantage of it, and open your locked box of inner sanity.

The Key vibrates and the Lock vibrates. Keys don't move towards Keys, because they are vibrating the same thing. Anyone who has tried some noise-cancelling headphones can tell you that opposite noises cancel out and absorb the original noise PLUS, about an extra $50 bucks out of your wallet.

The Secret behind the Secret, is to get as many people as you can to adopt the role of "broadcasting keyholes." Hence the 700 Club. Unlike a real country club, you get the expenses but without the parking space.

What "The Secret" is about is farming. That's right; you have to seed the fertile soil to grow a good crop. Thus, an evil nincompoop can get to absorb many intelligent and good minds or at least get them to buy an extended warrantee on their car. Pat Robertson got the low hanging fruit, and George Bush got the, um, Vulcans.

***

As long as I actually know the secrets to the Universe and stuff, I'd also like to point out that YES, the ability to become religious has to do with Human evolution. But it is a by-product of our conceptualization of invisible forces -- a bug if you will.

Look at computers for an equivalent; when we had punch cards, there were no computer viruses. Adding random access memory and storage, and the ability to execute code added to a machine (software), and all it took was someone without a girlfriend and one too many Jolt Colas, and a virus was created. Religion is a virus, that prays upon Humanity's Upgraded Awareness. It is perpetuated, because, heck, it is a sweet deal to control people.

Notice that the Holy Roman Empire killed just as many people as the previous Roman Empire -- only "they were all bad." Apparently, Religion is the Smart Bomb of human consciousness, that only gets bad guys. Judge, Jury, and executioner of rational thought.

Having allowed us to pull ourselves out of the muck and then to further accessorize the accomplishment with shoes -- perhaps we need to look towards evolution to realize that superstition may have served its purpose, and be about as useful as cows belching. We can have lactose-free milk can't we? Why not stupid-free thought? Or methane-free grass? All the spirituality with half the guilt of Catholicism -- oh wait, that's Methodist. OK, 100% Fat-head Free -- Oh wait, I'm a Unitarian. Yeah, well, as soon as someone can find a way to make a buck out of it, this "Rational Thought" thing could really take off. Until then, stay in the middle of the heard and pretend to "Moo" like the rest.

>> BigGiantHead >>

Anonymous said...

I like it a lot. You hit it on the head. But here's the deal. If those with The Secret, veiw it and pass it on, lets say to the neighbor to there right, and so on. Then on a predetermined day or even week. We, having The Secret focus on globle warming for an hour each day for 10 days, WOW, I'm sure now that I know what I know and that will be the end of it. Think now if that works Bush, and Chaney are next. Mike/thinks

Neddelux said...

Ahhh, the condensation and arrogance on display here is truly sad. Has anyone given any thought to the possibility that the ability to NOT believe in God is a symptom on one's inability to perceive of the supernatural? Billions of humans across the span of time have believed in a force greater that the natural world precisely because of some sort of contact/experience with the supernatural. Just like autism or some such other genetic disorder that affects a small portion of the species, it may be the case that those who cannot believe suffer from an ABNORMALITY.

Of course, most posting here about how much smarter and more special they are than the rest of us, would deny this possibility. It is so much easier for these folks to have faith in the uniqueness of their minds, rather than acknowledge a deficit in their makeup.

By the way, not believing in the supernatural does not equate to control over the self or the world. It simply contributes to loneness of the soul. And we are already far too alone.

As a believer, I do not feel better than you, but I weep for the loss of human experience that you choose to reject. I wish you peace, but I know there can be none for those who reject a piece of their humanity.

paul kibblesnbits said...

All these ideas make people feel like they have some control over their lives, and that the universe cares about them. I mean, maybe life is too scary for most people to accept the reality of our vulnerability.

Nailed it, Julia. The Secret is simply the latest variation on Me-Decade narcicissm retrofitted for the aughts. I remember reading an account in Harper's from the late 70's in which the reporters attended an est meeting where it was explained that anything that happeneed to a person, be it good or bad, was ultimately due to that person's mindset (or whatever the psychobabble term du jour was back then). When the writer (or writers) of the article approached the est "facilitator" and asked if we should have any sense of responsibility toward, say, a child wasting away from malnutrition in Biafra, the facilitator angrily responded, "It's not my responsibility if a child is determined to starve to death!"

As you eloquently note, the dank under-the-toadstool secret of The Secret is that it likewise encourages people to believe that misfortune befalls only those who fail to Think Positively enough. All you damn post-Katrina whiners, admit it: those leveees would have held if you'd really wanted them to.

As for the general human tropism toward belief, I am so grateful that I was raised by hardcore Christian fundamentalist parents. Their contempt for reason and logic---and, well, truth---was something I learned to fight against once I began growing what at least passed for a brain.

As a result, no matter what problems I've had in later life, I've at least been immuinized against any need to seek a Higher Power to help bail me out of the mess o' the moment. Our planet's a tiny fleck on the outer edge of a minor galaxy in a vast universe, and we should just be happy that the roll of the cosmic dice bought us a few chances for some occasional love and pleasure. Now if we could only learn to stop fucking up those chances because of our species' apparently incurable jones for general mayhem and/orJaysus/Allah/Whothefuckever.

Anonymous said...

Saw the "secret" people on Larry King and I laughed and laughed until Larry asked this guy about ... i dunno something about a kid getting kidnapped or something and did that kid bring that upon himself. The guy said, yeah. then I got mad. This "secret" is incredibly dangerous . It reminds
me of the so-called benign religions of Hinduism and Buddism. The concept of reincarnation sounds like it should make people want to act better so that they have a better life in the next incarnation, but the flipside is that it also means that people who are poor and sick must have done something bad in their last life to be poor and sick in this incarnation . It's a recipe for the status quo.
Also, I must say that the entire concept of "the supernatural" is absurd. By definition , nothing that happens in nature (i.e. the universe in which we live) can be supernatural. The supernatural only exists in the minds of humans.
Speaking again of the "secret" they engage in the same sorta pseudo-scientific thinking that has been the cornerstone of NewAge thinking for years; they take concepts from quantum physics and inflate them to macro level of reality and !poof! there's the supernatural again.
Having said that, the most simple "proof" if you will, is that the universe doesn't seem to 'need' a creator to exist. Whether or not a person worships anything , the sun will still rise , the seasons will still come, as will disease , drought, accidents, hatred , violence, and inevitable death.
It's much harder living in a world (much less a bible soaked country like America) where 90% of the people around you believe in "fairies" (which, when you get right down to it, is what every religion really says...be good and this fairy will make you live forever...be bad and this other fairy will punish you forever) than it is to live a atheistic life. Yes, the knowledge of death and vulnerability is disturbing, but much less disturbing than pretending to have some special "supernatural"(i.e. untestable) secret (if you will) knowledge of the existence of a creature which created and rules over everything.
The saddest thing to me is hearing full grown adults arguing about what god wants.
After watching Larry King, there were some religious guests on AC360 , they were all arguing that god wants this or that from human-kind...1 of the guys said god wants christians to preserve marriage for straight people and prevent abortion, the other said that god wants us to care for the planet . These men were in their 60's at least and here they are on national tv yelling at each other over the desires of a supposed omniscient being that they think created them. That is not the discourse of adults, it is the ranting of children who don't know the difference between reality and Disney cartoons. I learned to deal with the ennui that comes with self-consciousness, I still have no idea how to deal with a world of self-deluded "believers".

Like Ani Difranco says, god is just another story we tell.

Anonymous said...

I'm an absolute non-believer too but I don't really see what the problem is w/the Secret. It seemed to me to be basically positive thinking, not magical thinking. Visualizing clearly what you want in life (material and non-material) can be motivating to get you there someday, and acting grateful for what you already have in life will only make your days better. I do think if you're depressed and slogged in bullshit with a bad attitude every day, you'll only get more. If watching a DVD gives someone like that some kind of cosmic permission to see themselves being happy how can that be dangerous -- are you guys serious? If they still end up having a crappy life, at least they'll have a better outlook. I guess I didn't take it that seriously.

Jen Magnuson said...

I thought your post was really well-put, and I agreed with some of your insights. That said, I really liked the message in the book. Yes, parts of it made me cringe (the guy who visualized the feather...). But whether you believe in the Bible, Fairies, the tenents set forth in The Secret, or you have no belief system, other than you don't believe...isn't it all the same thing? Don't we all cling to something? Isn't that the crux?

ru said...

Some of the comments here made me laugh, one made me spew coffee on my screen through my nose, thanks for that seriously, I have so needed a good chuckle.

"From Anonymous: What "The Secret" is about is farming. That's right; you have to seed the fertile soil to grow a good crop. Thus, an evil nincompoop can get to absorb many intelligent and good minds or at least get them to buy an extended warrantee on their car. Pat Robertson got the low hanging fruit, and George Bush got the, um, Vulcans."

Vulcans, that just did it for me.

Now, I am not belittling anyones posts, no siree, I enjoyed the thought put into each and every one. Here is my 2 cents worth.

I grew up in a home where I was drug through many a church in my mother's search for meaning in her life, or the easiest handout, which ever. I have seen many a religion over the years and have found that they all want the same thing, the cash out of your pocket, for you to bring in more people (hence more cash out of pocket) that it is a social game of one upmanship, and that no one really believes what is being said, they are all there to be told what to do with their lives so they can get to the afterlife with as little fuss and muss as possible.

Personally, whatever gets your through your dark night of the soul, more power to you, but you always have to keep your eye on the ball and not accept all of it hook line and sinker, or else you wind up those silly people who voted the current regime into office as a bunch of yes men to a people who are so not worthy and definitely NOT living by what their bible says.

People need to remember that most religions came about by the fireside, as stories passed down as morality tales, like the Brother's Grimm, to keep the masses in line and make everyone place nicely with each other, beyond that, they don't serve much purpose, IMHO.

Julia, keep kicking it!

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Shephard said...

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking ants are catholic.
~S

C.A. Scott said...

"God" by any other name is still the same old stupid idea... I wrote a huge rant about the Universe as entity, about our extreme smallness in relation, and how being part of its hugeness makes us mighty, and all the stupids can get out of the concept is a new god to pray to... **sigh** Being part of the Universe doesn't mean it owes any one of us a damn thing -- Stephen Crane wrote a great poem saying something like that -- but rather endows us with the responsibility to do right by the Whole. Simple.

Wisewebwoman said...

Wonderful re-posts to a wonderful and provocative, thoughtful post from Julia. I wrote a poem about the young Catholic girl I was going to the First Fridays with my mother and I post it here. It was the first rattling of my inner religion WTF meter and pushed me onto the godless road. I'm so glad there are others like me out there!!!
-----------------------------------
A Bit of Mutton


My mother told me many things,
When breathing deeply of the morning air
As we walked together to First Friday Mass
So our souls would be saved at the last minute.
No matter what we did in between.

Our Lord had promised this, you see.
If we made nine of these First Fridays in a row.
And we did. I don’t remember the masses
I remember our walking and talking
And how we would breathe together.

She would swing her arms and look to the still
Early sky. Breathe, she said, breathe.
It’s good to get the early oxygen into the blood
And leave all the men in the house behind us.
It’s a change for us women to be alone together.


She believed and carried me on the wings
Of her belief in Our Lady first and Our Lord second.
Until the great man behind the red curtain
Told her it was a sin to eat meat on Friday
Even though she was expecting her last.

She was forty-three then, saying she was thirty-nine
And had an irresistible craving for the meat.
She was outraged she told me, that this
Young pup of a priest could tell an aging
Expecting woman her soul was damned.

Forever, she said to me, in spite of the
Nine First Fridays, for eating a piece of meat.
She would burn in hell for all eternity.
How could he know, this young pup,
Of varicose veins and a tired swollen body?

Life is a terrible mystery, girleen,
I don’t know what to make of it at all
I just can’t make sense of him telling me that,
Me old enough to be his mother, that I was
Now damned and going to hell for a bit of mutton?

I got up and walked out of that box so I did.
I did not want the penance or the forgiveness
For this great sin. I walked all the way out the door
And came straight home this past Saturday
And I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.

Brigid - August 1st, 2005

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

We have evolved the susceptibility to believe in God, it comes with our ability to create and modify. I am an Atheist and up until recently I caught myself doing superstitious behaviour. It is innate.
Probably due to the fact that during recent history (last 3000 years), believing was the glue that kept cultures together. Non believers were killed or thrown out and had less children if any, while believers had lots of kids (which means most of us alive today are products of a long line of people who were more susceptible to believe in myths and fairy tales).

Lonnie said...

I have been a fan of Julia's for years. But I am a believer. God has utterly changed my life. His presence is the first thing I experience every morning. I have witnessed miracles. Jesus has made my life so incredibly full. We love you Julia!!!!!!

Reynold in Pasadena said...

People love to have some grand idea to rally around, and to feel like they are part of something great. This usually involves religion, but ven when people manage to break free of supernatural ideas, they often just latch onto some other grand scheme, such as Maoism, or conservatism, etc. I think one of THE big recruiting tools of the Taliban is simply to whip up hatred of America.

Lonnie said...

I agree with the Taliban and hatred of America as a recruiting tool.

rini said...

Hey, Julia (and other atheists who posted here)

I didn't know you were a free thinker. I am happy every time I find someone sane.

It's like there's this horrible plague and we are the only ones who are spared. It is kinda isolating and lonely. Some employees at our office were talking about "The Secret." in glowing terms. I almost puked. I mean, how gullible do you have to be? (Btw did you know that the word "gullible is not in the dictionary?" ....ahem.)

I still haven't entirely "come out" as an atheist. It's so hard. When I say something against spiritual mumbo jumbo I get these weird looks............sad.

Anonymous said...

Dear Julia,
First I must say that I like your work and think you are pretty damn funny (though I got tired of Pat.) I am a fan.

I am not an atheist but I practice no religion. I grew up Catholic but have jettisoned that structure with other control mechanisms.

In regards to The Secret,,,I cannot stand the way it is packaged and marketed. But I have studied enough other systems and philosophies to be able to see the truth of what they are trying to say. I have many problems with the focus on wealth and the apparent lack of critical thinking on the Oprah show in regards to society. (Backed up by her apparent embrace of Bill O'Reilly) I look forward to reading atheist based conclusions and essays as I am very concerned about the spread of fascism via the many right-wing Christian fanatics in league with the powers of the hyper-capitalist state. I fully support and embrace the separation of church and state as I fear the storm and beating promised to the gay community of which I am a part.

But I am also concerned for the lack of awareness of the simple difference between church/religion and spirituality. In my world view spirituality includes the workings of quantum physics. Slowly, humans are going to learn various truths which have been hidden or brutally suppressed by the church and science, like the truth of how reality is created. The controllers of man know that the dream must be controlled. What I do enjoy is intelligent discussion about reality, which I do not see much of in atheist circles. Many atheists simply pick their stoop like the religionists. The Secret is poorly packaged in my opinion but I would suggest looking past what you do not like and consider just what the wisdom of the ancients might be. I am no new comer to this subject and not so naive as many might think.

This is a big subject and I wish you continued success. I assume you are not a closed minded thinker and I would be giddy to respond to a real life star if you have any questions or comments. like I said, I enjoy the atheists position because of what is happening with our crazy christian league....but that does not mean atheists are not capable of creating crazy too.

Can't we all just get along,
Mark (biggreenpea@hotmail.com)

Gregg said...

First time reading your blog. Someone who commented on Nora Ephron's latest at HuffingtonPost put in your URL in, and here I am. Good to read the lucid interval that your writing presents. Copernicus had it all right over 500 years ago but people are a little too nearsighted to pick out the forest.... He pointed out something like "wait a minute, boys, I'm thinking that the Earth is not", he repeats, "not, the center of the universe." The Pope was appropriately appalled. So were almost all of the good folks who "believed" in "God". Now......today, we all know that, yessirree, that ole Copernicus, he had it right. Yes, he did.

However, ole Copernicus's idea may be the actual fact that should also be used to point out that human beings..... you know those two legged animals that have to urinate, allow the carbon chains to pass through their GI tracts, bring in oxygen through their lungs, need to pass seeds so that eggs can be fertilized....just like all the other "animals" on this stone............that human "animals" don't have a chance in hell of understanding what the hell is going on in a space the size of what appears to be billions, read it, billions of light years in ?width ?height ?beam... do you see where I'm going with this................Please! God? What are they talking about? Big guy? Looks ?down ?up ?sideways....has our "best interest" in his ?mind ?heart ?electons.????!!....

Maybe.
How the hell am I supposed to know?
Point is..............nobody here can know any of that. Never ever. Unless, of course, it is possible for the keyboard I am using to suddenly turn into Ganesh, or Jesus, or Teddy Roosevelt, and get up from my table, take a stroll around this apartment, ask me if I have any cold ones in the fridge, comment on how much snow is in my back yard, size me up and then ask if I have had a cold lately or do I always have such a nasally voice.
Maybe.
But....................seriously, with all of my soul, and all of my internal senses that extend so far beyond the five that help me cross the street and not miss my mouth with my fork, I don't think so. This boy does not think so.
Amen.
No spell check. Good luck to any who got this far.

Anonymous said...

Hey there... I don't agree. They never said the universe is just going to "hand" you things. This was also a very big point made on the Oprah show, but Oprah herself.
You HAVE to apply some action to it, or it IS (like you said), a bunch of "mumbo jumbo"/"fairy dust."
Ask.. believe.. receive is getting yourself in the positive frame of mind to receive it.. but you must take steps towards that realization everyday. Living as if you already have it. Whatever "it" may be. Example, if you want to lose weight. Hit the gym or get outside and do something everyday. Live as if that's already your reality. That's the action part. You can't just sit back, eating chips and take out, and keep thinking "I am slim, healthy, and whole." That's not going to work.
I respect you and your views, Julia. But I had to correct that part of it. That was a very strong point I felt was left out of your post.
Lots of love,
Shyla

David Ehrenstein said...

Hi Julia!

Haven't seen you in a poon's age, and Bill and I simply must catch up with your new show. As for The Secret, it's just another version of Earth Ray Thought Force, which I'm sure you recall from Ruth Draper.

As for Oprah, she's Evil.

Not mistaken, not misguided, not misinformed - Evil.

I'm not kidding either.

Anonymous said...

First time reader; I, too, found this from the Huffington Post. I'm glad I came; I've really enjoyed the commentary. For what it's worth, I'd like to add my perspective. 1) I think religion has been utilized for primarily two reasons; to explain what was unexplainable (thunder, lightening, natural disasters, plant growth, etc) and to maintain order within a society/tribe. That being said, I agree with previous posters that we have theoretically evolved beyond our need for religious ideology but that takes a measure of responsibility and accountability that is not palatable. No longer could we project onto a formless/silent authoritative being but have to resolve the conditions we manifest/experience on our own. As an 'intelligent' species, we do not want to realize that our capacity to perpetuate evil (simply harming others) outweighs our capacity to be egalitarian. Yes, we are a pack animal in which each individual believes them-self to be unique. A paradox, perhaps. And although we are aware of another's consciousness (or mourn the lack there-of), we are only able to experience our own. The only threshold that we must overcome to be completely free of 'religion' is the knowledge of what is beyond death. From our first experience with death, we search for the ultimate answer of that final unknown.
2) As to "The Secret", I think it utilizes just (barely) enough common sense to draw people in; as to how one continues to discern its contents beyond that determines one's acceptance or rejection of the products premise. For example, bad things happen; but it is how the victim perceives it that perpetuates the negative or the positive of the consequences. There is also the ideology of self-fulfilling prophecy; we will (for the most part) bring into our lives that which we most desire. But in all honesty, it doesn't take a DVD and the benefit of someone else's bank account to reach these conclusions. My point is, why pay someone else to tell you the obvious? 3) As to atheism, I'm still out and searching for my own answers. Do I believe in a vengeful or micro-managerial god; no. But I can't reject an omniscient 'something' (energy, great spirit, etc) that incorporates all material substances. What I do enjoy, as so many others have more eloquently stated, is the wonder and awe of experiencing the present and enjoying others who are experiencing it with me in one realm or another.

im4mary

Sputnik57 said...

What you believe is irrelevant. God does not care if you believe in Her.

David Ehrenstein said...

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ehrenstein19mar19,0,5335087.story?coll=la-opinion-center

Anonymous said...

I think that a large part of our 'natural' superstitiousness is that fact that our 'worlds' really do revolve around each of us. What I mean is that each of us experiences the world from her/his vantage and really can't 'get into' anyone else. So, 'there must be some ultimate reason' for this or that devolves/evolves into 'there must be some ultimate reason for me'. On a complete other note: I love that you, Julia, are alive - you're such a bright spark of real in the murky world of unreal.

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anne said...

To offer a different perspective on the statement “Maybe very few people are capable of not believing in God.” I would argue that we are all capable of not believing in God. In fact, we are all created that way. The Bible makes it very clear that none of us believes in God of our own will. Romans 3:10-11 states that "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” It is only by God’s grace and mercy that he opens our hearts to belief in him. In John 6:44 Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." God’s desire is to draw us to him. He is constantly pursuing us. Revelations 3:20 says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” For those who do not believe in God, I believe you’re right where God created you to be. But don’t be surprised if he comes a knockin’.

Freestinker said...

Julia, I adore you. Thank you thank you thank you for puting a human face on atheism. Thank you for passionately believing in the world with all its wonders. I'm telling everyone I know about your CD. You're courageous and inspiring...and funny! I laughed, I cried, it's better than Pat! Oops, I mean Cats! ;-)

Guillermo said...

I see "The Secret" as a version of "See it, Be It" or a step-child of those sports commercials, "Be the ball."

All well and good, except one very important step:

1. See it.

2. Work at it, put out the effort, and maaaaaaaaaybe...

3. You'll achieve it.

But without that middle step, the odds ain't great.

Cyndy M said...

"The Secret" - great googly moogly, what utter rubbish. I couldn't agree with you more.

What really gets to me is the fact that it's my SMART, successful women friends who are sidling up to me and whispering about the profundity of this snake oil. It breaks my heart. And, of course, if you question the thousands of soft-science moments and utter b.s. peppered throughout the DVD, the friend will give you this pitying look that says "Oh, she just has such negativity that she'll never get it - see there, it's just proof that The Secret is right on the money!"

I suppose the victims of genocidal gang rapes in Bosnia just needed to think a happy thought or two. And the mistake made by the wounded soldiers returning from Iraq is that they focused too much on what they didn't have - y'know, things like body armor.

GRRRRRRrrrr - I'm getting riled up all over again!

I believe in the power of positive ACTION. Ones mental "energy" (I think that's what they called it) is helpful only in that it can provide motivation to take the actions that may increase the likelihood of you getting the end result you desire. But then again, you might not. Life happens.

Cyndy M, VA

Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Julia, I'm a fan of yours too. And I just found your blog via the Skeptics' circle so I'm a little late weighing in. Where God is concerned, I've been hovering for years in that place between belief and disbelief, but I definitely have the red ass for the New-Wage culture -- and most especially for "The Secret."

I've been ragging on "The Secret" for months now, via my own blog, and the Secret fans have been ragging right back. They tend to get very defensive, because the Secret/Law Of Attraction thing has become their religion. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say that they seem to be prepared to kill for their religion, they *are* prepared to hurl all kinds of abuse at those who criticize "The Secret" and the hustledorks behind it. They are perfect examples of the "sanctimonious narcissism" that Chris Locke describes on his Mystic Bourgeoisie blog.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Aquinas? The 5 proofs of God's existence? There is too much order in this universe to state that there is not an original source. The fact that you are searching and questioning shows that there is a finality, an end, a Creator. I love that God gives us the option to search and choose...faith is a gift.
By the way, I hate the Secret. :)

CThings said...

Oprah did not blindly buy into the Secret DVD, and if you think the Secret is about "wishing" things into existence, then you've really misunderstood it. You have to be able to distinguish the filter of cynicism through which you see things from the thing itself. The Secret simply says that you are in complete control of your life - it is NOT god or fate controlling what happens... your surroundings and the people and experiences in your life move towards you like a magnet, based on the energy you're sending out. If you're bringing in concepts of "blame" or "deserving" then you are not getting it, and you're applying a Judeo Christian concept to your own atheistic assessment of it. But Oprah has also maintained that the Secret DVD has flaws, that she does not believe you can tape a check to the ceiling and hope it into existance, and in fact when she received an email from someone who wanted to cure herself of cancer, Oprah demanded she come on the show to clarify. She then gently reminded the woman that creating your own reality and intention includes using your own intelligence and taking right action, and in her shoes, Oprah would be doing the spiritual work at the same time as she worked with the medical community on the cancer. I'm not some blind follower of Oprah or the Secret, although I have seen the Law of Attraction evidence itself time and time again in my life, and in my experience of life on this planet, I know it to be a law of the universe like gravity or cause and effect, regardless of whether or not people choose to believe it or not. Your saying "I don't believe in acupuncture" doesn't discredit the idea of it or my own experience of it. Having said that, I also thought LGOG was absolutely brilliant, both as a researched thesis and as a performance piece, and appreciate Julia's spiritual path because it so closely mirrored my own. After having seen the play in LA, I've also listened to the audiobook performance several times in the past month -- it's the mark of a great storyteller if you can entertain me over and over with the same story. I'm SO glad she's going to be filming it -- hope I can get into the audience for the taping.

Marcia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This whole 'look at me I'm an Irish Catholic now an atheist' has turned from curiosity to schtick. Enough already. Nothing spells the death of humor more than this kind of over-introspection.

tommyboy said...

Where is Julia? It is now over a month and nothing more. Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. Perhaps something coming soon?

DanielHansen said...

Scientists have shown that the Neanderthal had religeon. Guess their "God" wasn't to great either.

Shelly said...

Julia,
I have just joined your discussion forum however,I decided to write because of the comment you made about the "size of your celebrity " on your home page. :>)
I tend to think you have more fans than you realize my dear. :>)
Your an excellent comic, a fabulous writer and a lovely human being who has been , I think, incredibly brave and honest about her life and courageous enough to share it with all of us. It's appreciated and has given us, me.. much food for thought. So anyway,I think as another human on the planet ...that you are pretty terrific ....so go ahead and make your home site as "elaborate" as you like ....your celebrity is firmly planted :>)
Take good care of yourself now,
another gal in the world,
Shelly

ard1651 said...

Just saw "Letting Go of God" this past weekend in Spokane...interesting crowd, lots of older folks (family friends, maybe?) but very responsive. The Inland Northwest doesn't strike me as the most, um, receptive place to explore going goddless (sp?) but the gentle humor (and lots o' Mormon laughs) worked beautifully to get the point across.

As someone about the same age as Julia and with the same Catholic background (although the nuns in my school were of the "Sisters of Holy Sadism" nightmare variety), my slide away from god has generally followed the same path.

I've been struck by how many still-believers have told me that falling away is the easy path. It seems to me that faith--with all its answers and explanations, no matter how odd--is the easy way.

Doubt is a whole lot more work.

Anonymous said...

How can I digg this? I love hearing about The Secret.

Tracey R. said...

Hi Julia - I'm new to your blog (my husband found it) but I love this post - I did my own disparaging post about The Secret on my blog.

http://morethanaminivanmom.blogspot.com/
2007/02/theres-reason-it-should-be-secret.html

Elle M said...

I just heard you on Wait Wait Don't Tell me and ordered your CD. I can't wait to hear it.

I was raised Catholic (left for a while) and now have been reading the Bible for the first time (starting with The Old Testament)because I really want to know what The Bible is all about.

Just last week I was thinking that if I am going to believe in God and Jesus then does that set me up as right and everyone who believes in something else wrong?

That just can't be true. Thanks for giving me another thoughtful perspective on religion and/or lack there of.

ellen said...

Wow, I've found a home! Just heard you on NPR and didn't know who the hell you were - actually, I still don't but I love the way you think.
"There are no atheists in foxholes." I just crawled out of a breast cancer foxhole and guess what - I'm still an atheist.
I give credit for my early detection to myself. I thanked the surgeon, the nurses, and the radiologist for being good at what they do. I thanked my friends and family for being so supportive.
I bookmarked you, Julia, and look forward to reading more.

JonC said...

I just heard you on WaitWait (one of my favorite shows)... and I've ordered the CD/book. I'm very impressed with your thoughtful and modest discussion of your personal beliefs. I imagined that there existed reasonable people out there in the world somewhere (it *is* a big planet), but I never expected any of them to be in show business ;-)

Not sure if you read any of these (especially with there already being 96 other comments as of this writing...), but I wanted to point out something obvious - that might help.
We (humans) see patterns. It's hard-wired into us. We look into chaos and we find order. We see patterns woven through Nature - succesful structures exploited and used again and again. Its no wonder that when we look at our lives and those of our ancestors we see a hidden order - a pattern laying underneath the struggle. In science we label the patterns with terms from latin, in life we do the same: "Dei gratia"

- a beliver

Anonymous said...

I have pondered the concept of evolutionary "blinders" before. It was actually inspired by my step mother's question "do you think there's anything in the world that cannot be understood" (I was 15 at the time and already an atheist). I told her that I thought it was possible to understand anything, given enough time. I still believe this, and I believe anyone (well, almost anyone) can understand most anything given enough time.

Somewhat conversely, however, we only think about things which we are comfortable thinking about, so while we might have the capacity to understand everything, we will probably only understand that which we are forced to understand, or which we enjoy understanding.

So the question becomes, was I forced into thinking about the non-existence of god, or am I just one who enjoys thinking about the non-existence of god. I think it's that I was forced into it by lack of other avenues... I cannot fathom a god who is so self contradictory. Additionally, any god who intentionally (and it must be intentional) inflicts so much pain on the world surely would be an ugly being. It's only when this ugly being is removed from the equation that I can see beauty in this world and there is so much I am capable of seeing.

So I think about all the beauty some people miss, all the wonders we have discovered, all the wonderful patterns that emerge with knowledge, and it makes me hopeful, and sad.

Barb said...

I have listened to Letting Go Of God several times and I am fascinated by your observations. I am a Catholic who is currently struggling to make some sense of of my faith and beliefs. Most of my life, I was comfortable with my Church. I thought I was realistic about the heirarchy and the fact that women had not been given any important roles in the modern Church. My Irish Catholic mother always made it clear to me and my sister that the Church is run by humans, by men, who do not always make the correct decisions. She was quick to point out their mistakes-----with humor. But always, always prayed and helped us to know the importance of Faith and Belief in God. My dad was Jewish. He drove us to Mass every Sunday. We were never sure what religious beleifs my dad had because that was a subject that was never discussed. Even during my High School years in the 70s when there were so many positive changes in the Catholic Church and we were all encouraged to share our feeling s about everything--there were no attempts to evangalize my dad or his family.
After listening to Letting Go Of God, Ihave more questions. My real problems with the Church started after the Church basically denied any fault with the sexual assault cases and have still not taken enough responsibilty. I was sickened and appalled.. My faith and my church had gotten me through some very difficult times. When my husband died very suddenly, I mourned. I mourned for a very long time. I was left with 2 young boys to raise. My husband was the love of my life and I still miss him almost 9 years after his death.
But my faith in God got me through those horrible times--without anger. I did not want to continue without my husband--and raise my children always feeling angry or denied. I have seen what anger does to people. We all die. Some of us know when, some of us do not. Prayer , and lots of them, got us through.
So even now, when I am questioning the company called"The Church" I do not question the existence of God.

Robert Padbury said...

Hey Julia,

Writing this comment, in a way, is kinda like praying to God. I don't know if you'll read it, I hope you do, and i'm pretty sure you won't respond to it at all hehe.

I considered the idea that people might not be capable of not understanding, and I think I might have to disagree with you on it. Religion is such a complicated issue, and when you talk about religion, it's not just what a person believes, it's a form of self expression, it's a community, there's so much invested in it.

Some days it's really hard to be an atheist. You start reacting differently to things like "The Secret". I want to kick over the scientology stress tests, and punch the guy holding the "Jesus Christ Loves You" sign. Atheists have two options - be angry, or widthdraw.

I hope the efforts of people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and yourself, can help people like me deal with these frustrations, because sometimes it is really hard.

I have thought for a while that perhaps atheist were people who had perhaps had less stimulation in the frontal lobe (which you so eloqently mentioned). Richard Dawkins attempted to have the region stimulated by the same scientists, with no success.

Anyway, I hope that you will come (back?) to San Francisco. You're delightfully funny, talented and remarkable!

Space Diaper said...

"I think it’s too hard for people to accept the random nature of life, and how vulnerable we are. All these ideas make people feel like they have some control over their lives, and that the universe cares about them. I mean, maybe life is too scary for most people to accept the reality of our vulnerability."

Julia - thanks for the intriguing post and the fodder for thought.

I had a dream last night that God was floating somewhere between the earth and the sun, waiting to come and get me. I often have guilty thoughts like this, after having been raised Catholic and now eschewing all things religious.

Luckily, I happened upon your NPR appearance on Wait, Wait today and ... God had to be behind that irony, right?? :)

I remember being a little kid a realizing that someday I would die - and FREAKING OUT. As an adult, 25 years later, after losing both parents and religion, I am still FREAKING OUT. It is so hard to comprehend that there is nothing - that no one is watching and there are no consequences. I think it's doubly and triply hard for those of us raised in a religion that hammers about consequences all the time.

I am still learning to be at peace with no religion. Seems like you're further along in that process than I. I appreciate reading your thoughts - I've always been a fan, I think about you and Comet and the bathtub very fondly. Now my fandom grows!

Oh! And about The Secret - I had a friend wryly comment that with The Secret, you can dream of being a millionaire, minus $19.95 for the book. God bless Oprah!

http://www.spacediaperlive.com

Chad said...

To understand religion as a type of instinct is very different from understanding religion as a type of psychological crutch getting one to a point of "maturity" at which time religion can be abandoned. One is inescapable (religion as evolutionarily hardwired into the brain), while the other is apparently a moment on the progress toward a type of emotional and/or intellectual maturity ("bucking up" and realizing we are on our own in all this, that there is no meaning but that we create). Throughout these posts, no such distinction is made, though it seems both understandings are expressed.

Understanding religion as a type of evolutionary imperative, i.e. instinct, creates a complication. If the practice of religion, the belief in transcendence, the need to carry a lucky rabbit's foot, is (or was) all somehow evolutionarily advantageous, fine. Amusingly, as someone else also noted here, that makes atheists "sick", acting against that for which evolution has programmed us. Or could it mean that atheism is a product of some type of mutation? Or could it mean that the evolutionary imperative to religion has not been transcended or abandoned at all, but is somehow being fulfilled in a creative, new manner in atheists? I don't know. Interesting, though.

More interesting, I think, is this: The religious instinct is biologically rooted? If yes, then that which had been experienced in the past as knowledge- knowledge of divinity, knowledge of God's existence, knowledge of God's action manifested in the world (meaning, "I know God did x."), etc., isn't actually knowledge. It's programming. We are hardwired to think we know that which we don't know for some reason beneficial to our survival. If that is true, then how can one who claims to be free of this programming, that is, claims to be an atheist, know that they really are? Many "know" God is. But they don't really know, they are just operating according to their evolutionary programming. How do atheists "know" themselves to have transcended such evolutionary imperatives? What proof demostrates that atheists have "escaped" evolution so as to be able to think clearly in a way that those who are not atheists certainly cannot?

I hope this is at all intelligible. I should have stopped reading hours ago and went to bed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe so many people have a yearning to believe there's a God or a meaning to life because there really is...

We have hunger for food.
Thirst for water.

We have real biological needs that are met by a very real environment. Why couldn't that translate to spiritual needs that are met by a real spiritual environment?

Perhaps atheists are sort of spiritual anorexics... Not meant to insult. Just making a comparison and perhaps a feeble attempt at humor.

12stepfree said...

Julia...I love your show! I am actually going to see it again tonight. I first caught it approx. three years ago in LA (my home) and I went on quite the head trip from there on...actually, I started to really think for the first time in years. I was one of those new age-y freaks that would have loved The Secret...and thankfully now I can see what crap it is. I also had to turn my life upside down by leaving Alcoholics Anonymous which is also a bunch of God crap no matter how you slice it. It didn't matter that I wanted to be sober, what mattered was that I wanted to do it without them, their god and their occult programming. Supernatural higher power to stay sober rather than just admitting that I gave into my base impulses (like all humans have) as a self-centered out of control hedonist...not under the mysterious pull of a powerless disease that only god and a group of other addicts can save me from in return for a life time of questionless devotion. By the way, what are your thoughts about this 12 step movement that has become this prodigious monster that perpetuates alcoholism as a disease which only a divine intervention can cure and is so ostensibly helpful to the naive outsider/brainwashed member? Thanks for this blog. You are appreciated.

Rick. (West Hollywood, CA)

Petra said...

I listed to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" online and loved it, Julia. I was HOPING you would be a panel member, so I didn't get ENOUGH of you, but I still enjoyed it immensely. *g*

Dh listened to my "In the Family Way" CD and is now really excited to go with me to your show in LA.

It has been a couple of months since you posted to your blog. I know you are busy with all your shows and life in general, but your peeps miss you *bg*.

: ) P

Anonymous said...

http://media.whchurch.org/2007/2007-04-08_Boyd_The-Jesus-Legend_64kbps.mp3

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Julia, for exposing the Emperor's New Clothes. Upon first exposure to "The Secret", I *tried* to buy into it and, as a result, concluded that my failure to cure all evils of the world was *my* fault. Upon further exploration, it seemed that if I only prayed for the "manifestation" of a mansion and a yacht (does the Looney Toons "Millionare" come to mind - or am I simply dating my self?... Hey - someone's got to - har har!!)
that I could bring to be the material "abundance" that was just waiting for me to wake up and request. So - what about all those starving in India? Is is just a matter of them not "waking up" and "requesting" FOOD? I think not. Hell, as one who has tried numerous diets, I know that once one is deprived of food, all one requests, envisions, pleads for, attempts to manifet is... FOOD!! This is a very real and strong desire (all consuming if one is to be honest) and yet counter productive to the
overall goal. So, my
cellulite ridden thighs are proof that the SECRET does not work, despite the best of intentions and the worst prediction of value.

Jeanette Pollok said...

I'm also an atheist. Glad to see that I'm not alone!

Petra said...

I was front row center tonight (April 28th) and you were BRILLIANT, Julia. It was even more moving and thought provoking in person. The comedy was spot-on - just the right timing and pauses. You truly are a fabulous performer.

Thank you for making the evening wonderful.

: ) Petra

Anonymous said...

Julia, there is another theory about metaphysical belief in humans, that it is an evolved trait, necessary for the human race to have evolved and survived in earlier eras where anarchy and unknown danger surrounded primitive man. Without the ability through scientific discovery to understand natural phenomenon, or and reason to be compassionate (something that does not necessarily come naturally to all), we would have killed and possibly eaten each other into extinction. Those who were more predisposed (or, I might say, gullible) to the idea of a God, especially one who rewards good behavior sanctioned in the community would through evolution tend to dominate and reporduce.

But, like all inherited traits and genes, there are always some mutations - take, for example, the appx. 10% human tendancy to homosexuality. This is totally NATURAL, because they are born with this trait, even though it can not have evolved for continuation of the species. Natural genetic mutations are absolutely essential for evolution to exist - how else can new, sometimes superior traits be intriduced into the genepool.

The same can be said for Atheism, or the INABILITY to believe in any supernatural. Some of us just CANNOT believe, no matter how hard we try, even if we would LIKE to (and even if it would be safer in our culture to do so).

Unfortunately, some of these inherited traits and genetics have long become unecessary, and sometimes detrimental (like the appendix). We may be better off without an appendix now, and have no use for it, but we still have one. Some may say (ooh, a Fox news tactic) - and I agree - that in the long run, and especially now with our understanding of ethics, culture, the sciences and the natural world, that the human race would be better off without religion. But that does not mean that it is POSSIBLE for most people to NOT believe, and that this will ever happen.

My only worry is that we, as a species, may not survive this inherited trait (Joel Pelletier, http://www.joelp.com)

H.Vitae said...

Heard you on 'Wait Wait', will now have to read all your things! I too have moved away from most notions of god. It takes guts to proclaim that in this day and age, in this country under this admin! KUDOS to you! Glad you made an appearance and mentioned your shows. Can't wait to read your work!

Donita said...

Julia-

111 comments here so I'm not sure you'll see this one. On my blog the comments go to my e-mail so maybe it's the same here. Anyway...

I'm writing to apologize to you. I was the weeper in the front roww last night at the filming of your movie. If I distracted you and made it harder for you to perform then I am sooooo sorry! I wanted to leave the room but I know that would have been the worst thing to do.

My husband died 3 1/2 months ago. He was a big fan of yours. We had been to some of the Julia and Jill shows and at the last one we went to we bought your CD and you autographed it for him. He wasn't religious but he never considered himself an athiest. Towards the end of his life he was exploring that question. He LOVED Letting Go Of God and we listened to it together several times.

I really thought I'd be ok seeing your show. Being able to participate in the filming was something I was really looking forward to. Lucky me, I got a front row seat! Then you got to the part of the show where you were talking about giving up your belief in God also meant giving up belief in the afterlife. That once our loved ones are gone they're really gone. This is something I've also had to face. I haven't made the leap yet to delcare I'm an athiest but I'm close. So, to think, to KNOW that Jim has been cut from my life is pretty hard to take. (Duh!)

Anyway, at that point in the show the tears started to flow. FLOW! I couldn't stop! After it was all over I went to the restroom and looked in the mirror. My eyes looked like they had been bathed in lemon juice. So I know I must have looked like a total wreck sitting 4 feet in front of you. I know you're a total pro and you were focused on giving a good performance for ALL of your audience but you couldn't have missed the meltdown right in front.

I just wanted to let you know what was going on. I'm looking forward to seeing more Julia and Jill shows at the Largo. No crying, I promise!

MissMeliss said...

First time commenter. I hate the word "fan" - I appreciate your work.

I was raised by secular humanists - my mother is ex-Catholic, my stepfather's ethnically Jewish, but doesn't do religion. . .as such, I grew up without believing in god, and feeling alienated from all my friends. It is difficult to maintain non-belief - peer pressure and a craving for a sense of community affect you a lot.

As to The Secret - I refuse to read it. I'm all for positive thinking, but I'd rather just do something productive every day, no matter how small.

Dan Kelley said...

So long - no new post.

Where ya been?

hope all is well; all the best!

dan

Madison J. Gray said...

Hi Julia,

Just came across your blog. I've been a fan for years, and I think you're great.

Write on, sista!

Monica said...

I can't believe at my age I am commenting on a celebrity's blog but okay, here goes.

I've been a SNL fan of yours. I'm nowhere near NY or I'd definitely come to a Broadway show but oh well.

As for this post...I loved that comment that made you think. Those are my favorite kind. As for me, I have no doubts about God. When my older son went to Iraq, I had faith in God, not the White House. When I had a child battle cancer and another child fights asthma continually, I maintain faith in Him. When I finally held my younger son eighteen years ago four hours after a madman shot three police officers trying to secure his daycare center, killing one of them, I knew God had taken that officer home.
As I battle the VA over the things that my son went through, I turn to Him when I'm discouraged.
He's not a secret.

Great post.

Todd said...

In The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (with whom I'm sure you're now familiar) talks about the origin of religion and how (perhaps) our need for the emotion of love--to keep the family unit together long enough for our offspring to develop and grow and then subsequently survive--is deeply related to our emotion for a love of god(s). Not only, evolutionally speaking, did we need a sense of love to protect our young, but we also needed a sense of religion to feel protected ourselves.
(I hope all that makes sense).
The point is that, yes, perhaps there are people who can't help but believe in god(s). I try to keep this in mind when I argue with believers. It could very well be genetically predetermined, alas. I guess the more rational humans amongst us will have to have more children before such fairy tales are phased out.
I haven't seen your show yet, I'm looking forward to your next appearance in Atlanta.
Keep up the great work!

p.s. Would Pat have been an atheist?

casey said...

"I think it’s too hard for people to accept the random nature of life, and how vulnerable we are. All these ideas make people feel like they have some control over their lives, and that the universe cares about them. I mean, maybe life is too scary for most people to accept the reality of our vulnerability. "

this expresses some of the most beautifully stated wisdom i've encountered anywhere, and I think that attaining peace and impartial caring will be far more probable when these are more widely accepted viewpoints, and when we concede to the unknowns we feel so compelled to attribute reasons or purposes to and force into a predetermined (authorized) framework of knowledge & experience.

Alison said...

Hah--I made a whole podcast on "The Secret" on Mondo Diablo.

I think it's awful for a very simple reason: The Holocaust. Let the Secret people go to a survivor and tell them that we all draw tragedy to us, so it's our fault. Then let them see that actions have consequences: not wishes.

I think that atheism is not such an issue in those countries you mentioned (don't forget Quebec is really an nontheist province) because religion was bred out. If you have no religion plaguing you, you have no need for atheism, since it's a reaction to theism. No theism, no need to think about it.

Now, I don't know what they are still thinking about in Sweden, but I did a little search on google trends to see who was looking for the term "atheism." It's Fillippinos, and people who speak Tagalog. Also, those who have lost faith in government most are those who have big governments--Norwegians and Swedes are searching for anarchy. (No Chinese, since their internet is censored--but it would have been interesting.)

Not that the non-religious places are always the best in every way. It's not superstition I think we should worry about--I think it's suppression of individualism, like heavy statism and collectivism. That's why we atheists are not a movement I guess-'cause we have very different ideals!

Daniel R Hansen said...

Monica...

You say you "knew" that God had taken that officer home. You are aware that that is not true, I'm sure. You BELIEVE that. That's not the same thing. There is no proof, so it is not something that can be known. You believe it and wish it to be true, but there is no evidence.
It's enough that he was a great man who made an amazing sacrifice. It doesn't take away anything from him to be aware that he isn't sitting with some sky-god right now. If anything it makes his sacrifice even more noteable.

Again, you had "faith" in god when your son went to Iraq. Faith is believing in something without proof or evidence. If there WERE evidence, you wouldn't need faith.

Thank you for writing, and as a former Marine thanks for your families sacrifices.

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Hi, I too have issues about a God. I want to believe in something but not a God in the meaning the church puts out. I think there must be something after this life. Nature is to perfect. If we are energy then we must go on forever. I want to believe that in all of this wonder we call life it just does not stop in a mere few decades.

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