Thursday, December 17, 2009


Arden, in the backseat of the just-bought mini-van, as we drove from Los Angeles to Chicago, embarking a year ago today, Dec. 17, 2008.

A year ago Mulan and I, after watching a moving company depart with all of our possessions, joined Michael as we drove together from California to Illinois.  There was a huge storm which prevented us from taking the route we wished to take - through Santa Fe and instead we drove south, through Arizona and then Texas.  It took four days.  We had a dog in the car who wanted to kill, really truly kill and eat, the cat in the car.  We stopped at Motel 6s, we saw billboards in Texas that proclaimed that Obama was not born in the U.S., we watched Arden pee in ice for the first time.  It was an adventure.

We arrived here just before Christmas, slept in our new house all together on sleeping bags in the master bedroom, and wandered our neighborhood thinking, "What the hell did we just do?"

And what have I done this year?   Adjust, be a mom who's around a lot, do a few shows, write a pilot, and empty a bunch of boxes.  The house is still not totally organized - the basement is on it's way...  But I am much happier here and thrilled to be in this new family.  It really does feel like a family.  Mulan can barely remember life before Michael.  Last night we talked about the drive.  For Mulan, this was our biggest adventure of all.  She often refers to the drive and wants to do it again - with the cat and the dog. (That part was not so much fun for me.)

Anyway, as I have not taken a picture the last couple of days, I thought I'd throw up that one of Arden, a year ago, on his way to his own new adventure here.

What am I thinking about?  Well, I am very sad about the healthcare "overhaul."  I am very sad about Obama and I am wondering if he is really who I thought he was.  I read Robert Reich's and Glenn Greenwald's articles on Salon and I am just really so sad, and so disappointed, and I wish they would not vote for this deal and I like Howard Dean even more than I ever have and I hate Joe Leiberman, even though this demise is not all his doing.

(Last night I overheard Mulan telling Michael, "Mom was in the car driving and yelling, 'That Joe Leiberman!' and her fists were clenched.")

Anyway, let's change the subject.  What other things am I thinking about?

I am thinking about all the letters I have gotten from people and how much they mean to me. I want to write back everyone, and I hope to send at least a thank you.  I am trying to just be present and take it all in.

I am thinking about some of the questions that people have asked.  Some people worry about having meaning in a world without god in it.  I don't have the best answer for that yet (I am mulling on that one) but I remember once being at a convention with Daniel Dennett (such a hero of mine) and he said (Dennet is a philosopher and scientist at Tufts and has written several books, some of which really impacted me) and anyway, he was talking to someone else and he said, "People say to me, 'You're a philosopher, what is the meaning of life?' and I say, 'I don't know but I do know the secret to happiness.  Find some subject that you love and spend the rest of your life studying it from every angle you can.  That is the secret to happiness."

I've thought about that a lot.  I would add to it. I would say, find a subject or a skill and spend your life getting better at it, or understanding it better.  I think skills are really important and something that has been totally left out of the education system the way it's organized now.  I actually think that before kids read books like Catcher In The Rye, or Animal Farm, they should know how to do something tangible, a skill society needs, a skill that requires skill, a skill that can be used to earn money - and then after that they should tackle the bigger stuff.

I'm just musing.  I'm just thinking about it.

Also, I am afraid of religious people.  I mentioned this to my husband yesterday and he looked at me like, "Duh."   But really - before I did my show, the religious people I was exposed to were so benign - the twinkly eyed priest, the social activist nun, the devoted church group that does things for people in Chiapas at my aunt's church.  When I thought of religious people, I thought of people like Jimmy Carter or the Dali Lhama.  I thought of the kind persons likely to be out sweeping in front of the churches I would pass by with my dog while on a walk.

But now I get these letters from people, and...  I dunno.  I just want to GET AWAY.  I really am not predisposed to enjoy conflict. I wish I were.  I look at people like Rachel Maddow, for example.  She is so great - she loves the debate, she relishes the argument, she enjoys the banter and she is doing really good things in my opinion.  For example, the last months shows have focused a lot on this Evangelical Christian organization called "The Family" in D.C. and how they have enormous political power and how, through their influence and encouragement, the government of Uganda had a bill for a law before their government that would allow the killing of gay people.  Anyway, Rachel has lately been using her show to shed light on this atrocity and she has actually seemed to have done something to get this kind of law either stopped or disavowed.  Anyway, I wish I could be like that.  I wish I was glad to get these letters and I wish I wanted to spend a lot of time writing to people and arguing with them about their beliefs.

But....

But...

I just... oh god, those people... I just want to get away from them.  I want to pretend they do not exist.  That is my first impulse.  My next thought is, This person scares me.

When I talked this over with Michael, of course he said that even the examples of the kind-priest - he has never had any warm feelings about those people and  he has no interest in being around religious people of any type.  He thinks a religious person is someone who - well, it's as if they have a sign around their necks that says, "I have unreliable and faulty reasoning.  I lie to myself and I'm likely to lie to you too."  (This is my analogy, not his.)

Anyway, I used to be more benevolent, I guess. But now, all these letters I'm getting...  I dunno.  I think I am off the whole thing too.   And I'm actually not getting so many hate letters.  No - it's at least ten to one, affirmative to negative.

Of course, that doesn't mean I don't want to attend a nice candle-lit Christmas service this year.  HA. I am serious, I really do want to.

Also, I like getting suggestions from people in the letters and even criticism.  For example, I had one letter criticizing me for my quick dismissal of Buddhism in my show. I think they are right.  I think it's so much more complicated than I made it.  It's just that - even though I think Buddhism has some great insight into human psychology and human nature, and a good prescription for living with the inherent difficulties in life - it's not really a religion to me, I guess. I thought it was, once it wasn't, I moved on.

I would be Buddhist but I have found other strategies for living that are working really well for me.  I don't need it, I guess.  Or I'm incorporating the parts of it that are useful to me - mindfulness meditation, yoga - that sort of thing.

In any case, because of this letter, I purposefully took the image of Buddha off the DVD cover.  I also took every image off, but still - it was prompted by that letter.

Now I have also read a comment on the Amazon DVD page about how the show is not enough about how to live as a non-believer. It's 3/4 arguing back and forth about whether there is a god or not and then barely anything about how to live with this worldview.  I agree with that too! In fact, that letter is really firing me up to write a book about just that.

The point of all this is, I don't mind the critical letters. I just mind the religious crazies.  And that definition to me is getting broader and broader.  I wish I had more oomph for fighting them, but I just... don't.


70 comments:

Lauren.Furrer said...

Just saw your show the other day, and found it very entertaining. I can relate to a lot of what you talked about in my own religious journey. It's pretty cool that I can see a woman on TV, and then go to her blog and send her a message. Thank God for 2009. :) Although I'm not an athiest (still Catholic despite many behaviors to the contrary) I really liked listening to your story, especially the part where you talked about the right temporal lobe being stimulated and the feelings of spiritual awakenings. Though I just thought, "Oh! So that's where the soul is! In the right temporal lobe!" Good stuff.

Thanks for the great show.
Signed
-non scary religious person. :)

Miaow823 said...

I just adore you, and have ever since I saw "God said, HA!" about two years ago. Imagine my happiness when i saw that showtime was showing ANOTHER one (your latest one). I just love your style. =]

By the way, Chicago is amazing, I've been there once, and I wish I could live there. Hope you and your family are enjoying it.

robbinLA said...

.. your recent endeavor " Letting Go" gave me the courage to opened my deceased mother's bible. I carefully read every highlighted passage. She died when I was 30 too young for both of us.

Sadly.. her observances, in yellow and pink circled around Gods penance, insistence with redemption, and quite frankly eternal damnation otherwise.

It seems that thru the words.. she would never find peace. We are all lost under that code of ethics.
I had hoped it gave her peace at the end.
I fear it may have not.

Your recent wonderings helped with perspective and I admire your journey greatly.
Thank you Julia.

6p00d8341c84fa53ef said...

I just read Stephen Fry In America. At one point he is talking with a Morman man who is surprised that Fry is listening to what the Morman is saying with interest and no apparent animosity. Fry explained in the book that he did not go on to say to the Morman man [paraphrasing badly] 'your all-knowing old man in the sky is no weirder or crazier than any other religion's all-knowing old man in the sky.'

Petra said...

Julia, I don't think you really know how brave you are! I too, eschew conflict, sometimes to my detriment. It is because of this that I am as closeted as I am as an atheist. You've put your beliefs, or lack thereof, out there - and in doing so, comfort people like me. Thank you.

Just watch out for the extremists. Yikes, some of them are scary. That "Family" guy that was on Rachel Maddow's show...

: ) P

Carol said...

Don't for a minute question the value of what you have done in producing Letting Go of God. Atheism is not a popular stance. It's just the plain obvious truth. Tradition is fine and comforting but not when it intereferes with objectivity. "Christmas" was celebrated way before Christ's birth. It just had a different name. Think of how many religions there were before Christianity or Judaism that we know nothing about. You did an amazing analysis of how one comes to stop believing in god. You were able to describe the process from so many aspects, so naturally, so articulately (being such a lovely person helps). I just saw you on Showtime and am overwhelmed with delight and gratitude for your work. Aand you even opened my eyes on certain points-- I who have been a "naturalist" or I prefer philosophical Taoist (no god at all) for over 40 years now. Brava! I love you. You are my hero.

John T said...

Just caught your show, loved it. What a wonderful world this would be if everyone really believed in what they say. But sadly, they are still killing in the name of their God. If there was a God I'm sure he/she would say "Yep, you guys are doing it wrong."

"OK children who wants to meet Jesus?" the teacher asked her class. Everyone raised their hand except little Johnny. "Johnny don't you want to meet Jesus when you die?" Johnny replied "Oh yeah, when I die! "I thought you were getting a bus load up to go this morning."

Thanks for the laughs and your honesty.

John T

jonathan thymius said...

Why bother fighting. Do you really think you can convert them into a sexy Hollywood non-believer smartypants like yourself? Probably not. Hey, ignorance 'is' bliss.

Love ya!

BJSmeal said...

Dear Julia,

The scary folks are everywhere! Sometimes it scares the knickers right off my chubby behind when I think about all the crazy people running around making trouble in the name of one god or another. I completely understand from where your trepidation cometh. The saddest part, and perhaps the most menacing fact of all, is that each one of these folks thinks he/she is in the service of the only “real” god. That conviction seems to make them just a tad more dedicated and delusional than is good for the rest of the world. Debate is impossible with these people because the mind is already made up. You can’t shine light into a black hole, so it’s almost useless to try.

On the other hand…. I find living in the absence of GOD so much easier to navigate. So much of the anger I’ve felt throughout my life can be directly traced back to the struggle to “accept” God’s treatment of me; that is to say, his lack of divine intervention when I was abused in every possible way as a child…Or his insistence in blind obedience and his useless promise of an eternity in paradise when his rules were archaic at best, and filled with threats and bullying. (Not to mention, self-serving) Having been told that the almighty has a plan and I’m not to question it, regardless of the suffering this apparent plan causes, was simply more than my average IQ could process. My life has been difficult and although I’m not wasting away in the Kalahari Desert, I still have no reason to thank any god for the life he supposedly “gave” me. It just is more logical to see life for the scientific explanation of human existence than to go along believing in that biblical nonsense.

Once I removed the god thing from the equation I was able to understand that life, although difficult and fraught with the potential to be mistreated by some others I meet along the way, is the most wonderful thing; the very best thing. Living and loving and talking and learning and enjoying the beauty around me is something I have now, right now, and there’s more value in this life than could ever be promised in another. I don’t need a god to tell me how to treat others or to promise me that if I’m good he’ll take me into his arms after I’m dead. (Just saying that makes me laugh at how much I actually valued the idea of being in the arms of god one day.) Too many people are willing to sacrifice the joys of this life for the intangible and unrealistic promise of another. Personally, I think it keeps people focused on the wrong lifetime.

At any rate, what I mean to say is this; Living without god is a simple thing, really. Understand that life is precarious and exciting, as well as limited in years. Then accept responsibility for that life and trust that you will do something worthwhile with it. It’s the “worthwhile” part that differs, so learn something and find a way to teach it to someone else. Enjoy yourself and others. Value the wisdom you find along the way and take good care of your joints…knee and hip surgery suck! And last of all, it’s never a bad idea to become someone you can like.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

Best wishes,
BJSmeal

Anonymous said...

living right has not been a problem for me since i chose to live without religion....now i just wish to die well....perhaps the hardest thing to do....

Anonymous said...

Hi:
I was directed to your blog via Joel..yes, last I knew he was in Paris. I check his blog too, but it hasn't changed. He knows me as Lisa's mom...if you need further ID. ;-) He has my e-mail too.
I will order your book from Amazon.
I appreciate your political thoughts. I'd have been spewing nails along with you when Mulan saw your fist, as I do alone here on the central coast of CA.
I gave up on organized religion at 14. Life still moves along at a pleasant pace for this 71 year old broad sans any organized religion.

Schar

Robin said...

I totally understand your feelings. I am in conflict with my lifetime belief system, right now. I found your dialog very comforting.

Daily I am surrounded by the faithful. There is no way I could tell them what I am thinking. Sometimes I feel a little lost.

The sad part of my situation is that these people are all so angry at anyone who does not believe, or believes something other than what they do. They judge more than they know. I am having a hard time reconciling what they say and what they do.

keep speaking out. You are our voice. thank you!

Brenda said...

Have any of you ever heard of the The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? http://www.venganza.org/ The Gospels can be bought on Amazon too http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Flying-Spaghetti-Monster/dp/0812976568?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1180375352&sr=8-1

Read the description and user reviews. This is hilarious!!!! I love it.

Elizabeth Lawton said...

Julia- First, I think you're awesome! Seriously awesome. I loved "Letting Go of God", and now I refer people to watch it when they can't understand why I'm an atheist. (I'm an ex-Mormon. Yeah, the lobotomy didn't take :)

Your anger towards religious people, your desire for distance from them, is exactly what a lot of us feel when we get away from religion. But eventually, that irritation will subside. It won't die out completely, but you'll be able to tolerate them. It takes time to process it all. It's okay to be angry. But eventually you get past that, and you start to realize everyone's just doing the best they can with whatever they've got in life. That sounds like a giant simplification, I know. But ultimately, a lot of religious people do very good things in the world, as do a lot of atheists. Some people really are better off because religion is in their life. It's caused people to give up hard drugs, alcoholism, abusive relationships...Granted, some people can do that with no belief in a deity. But faith isn't always a bad thing.

Lanie Painie said...

I've recently realized similar fears of religious people, although I attend a Unitarian church now and again. Even they are not as accepting as they'd like to be but I guess we are each a work in progress.

At any rate, I find myself avoiding the religious people in my life so much that now I've "hidden" them on my facebook news feed and I have at least 3 recent blogs about how scary and annoying they can be. I just want to stay in my god-forsaken house in my god-forasken PJ's and eat my god-forsaken chocolate chip cookie dough sometimes!

Jody said...

I have watched Letting Go 4 times. You were made to do one woman monologues. I sit back and am mesmerized by your voice, your inflections, your humor, your insight. I'd love you to do more and more.
I'm embarrassed to say this, but will anyway.... as you do this heavy research and read philosophers, etc. (do you ever just read a trashy novel?) I fall back on the movie Oh, God. I remember the lines, where George Burns says: I gave you a world and everything in it. John Denver says, but we need help. George Burns says, That's why I gave you each other. To me, that was like being bone weary exhausted and laying down on this wonderfully soft featherbed and saying, "Oh this feels so good... so comfortable, so right. I can just stay here." Silly... I suppose.
I just find it hard to believe that all this - that we call life just happened. I believe the Big Bang theory, but what was the spark.... what started it all rolling? I guess I need that Higher Power thing.
What I don't get is organized religion. Although, I like the fellowship.
I have a family member who has worked AA successfully for years. And I am most envious of the support and fellowship they have. I almost wanted to pretend to be an alcoholic so I could join.

Oh, well, my two cents.

I enjoy your talent.
Jody W.

7K said...

I'm thinking the Obama I voted for is the Obama we now see: a negotiator that W wasn't. He's a peacemaker; and that isn't an easy road either, nor is it well-understood. It is indeed sad, though, that the expansion of Medicare or the public option seem to be going down in flames. We already have the system -- let's fix it. I think we're entering an insurance bubble that will wind up like the housing bubble. The next decade will meet with a health care debacle. But cheer up about Obama. He's the best thing to come along in politics ever.

I'm an atheist who became a "Christian" and suffered a lot at the hands of my religion. Religion is a problem -- all of them. But atheism can also become religious. However, I don't think atheism will displace God, no matter how popular post-modern rationalism may become. What I do see is that all "fundamentalism" is in trouble in the new age ahead. God and Jesus will survive; but people won't see them through the old fundamentalisms -- the old interpretational grids of the passing modern world.

Melanie said...

I understand about the scary religious people. I think that, once you take a public stand on any issue, people with extreme opposing views no longer see you as a person, but merely a physical manifestation of the issue that you've publicly represented.

And people motivated by their religious beliefs can truly be frightening. I assume that you've read Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven"? That story about the man who killed his brother's wife... !

Just keep your private address a secret. That and knowing that most people really are reasonable and non-confrontational will help you sleep at night.

Casey said...

I watched "Letting go of God" last night and said, "Oh My GOD!!! I am so there." Thank you for this. Full affirmation on my critical thinking skills. Then I read your blog and was thrilled to see that you are planning on writing a book. Can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,
I just digested some great info in a book by David Richo. Ex Catholic Priest. The book is " How to be an Adult" One chapter deals with the "Shadow" we all seem to have. The short version is that we tend to hate traits or beliefs of others that we hate in ouselves. In other words these scarry religious people that are trying to villify you are filled with serious doubt about god and they attack you so they don't have to deal with their own seriously supressed doubts. Amazing !

I remain in awe of your work

Richard Allen

Brenda said...

Julia, I can't wait to read your book when you finish it on living life after religion. It will be fun to see what you have learned and compare it to what I am learning now. I know one thing, I came out Atheist very angry and belligerent, even toward my fundamentalist family. I am calming down now and trying to decide whether I want to be a militant Atheist, an activist Atheist or a passive one. Most likely one of the latter two. Be smart with your security, but try to not live in fear. Always know in your heart that you have helped a lot of people with your words.

cathy said...

hey Julia, I want to say thank you for your show on showtime. I think the moment I stopped believing was some years ago when the man stole the little girl from the house while her parents were "swinging" with their friends in the garage, and he put her in his RV and drove away. He raped her over and over before killing her. I just couldn't allow that familiar excuse of God's that people hurt people with their free will anymore.
Then I started reading up on the Bible
and boom there I was an atheist. I went from not believing at 12 to good catholic to born again christian to atheist forty years later.
What you do is important. You are a funny funny woman. and by the way, what was Pat after all???
love, cathy

Laura said...

You might appreciate this. It's a (sweet and sentimental) Christmas song for nonbelievers. It's really lovely.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q

Brenda said...

People should know that if they do let go of God, the first thing they might feel is extreme anger. Be careful in coming out .... you are now part of the most hated group of people in this country, perhaps in the world. I'm also part of the second most hated group as well - gays and lesbians. I live in Topeka, KS with Fred Phelps practically in my back yard. I have no job, I have no Invisible Friend to whom I can give the credit or place the blame (or just simply talk to), I have no partner, my family has disowned me, my friends have abandoned me. I have only me. It is a terrifying time in my life. Others should know that it may be for them as well if they let go of God.

7K said...

Brenda, I also live in Topeka and Phelps is like the old joke: "I'm not prejudiced: I hate everybody equally." Phelps apparently never understood the thing said by Jesus,
"The harlots and adulterers will enter the kingdom of heaven before you (hyper-religionists)."

I didn't mean to put this response up on Julia's blog, but your URL wasn't working.

Hello! said...

I applaud your courage for "Letting Go of God". There are so many religious crazies that it takes a lot of guts to say anything that challanges their beliefs. You are a highly intelligent person who has done some intense research and thinking!I'm wondering if you read the book "The Reason For God" by Timothy Keller? I had a similar journey as yours, where I left the church over the incredible hypocricy, and the challanges presented by science. I'd love to hear your thoughs on the book if you get a chance to review it.

Anonymous said...

Really appreciated your show, as well as your other work. A loving sincerity shines through in all. As the son of a protestant minister, I was the one asking all the annoying questions about Christianity - how so many things don't add up.

At the same time, I believe religion has become a straw man. Rather than disagree with God we disagree with some image of God constructed by man. I'm sure that the visual and literary aids (heck, even the awe-inspiring sounds of a pipe organ) and all the fish-story-like exaggerations in compiled Scripture have worked well over the years to enlist hearts and minds to come together. But at the same time they have caused so much strife and division between rival ideologies or versions of ideologies. It's sad.

And I think their effectiveness, their awe has worn thin as we can much more easily deconstruct them, or witness other phenomena more inspiring out in the cosmos, or in a strand of DNA...

But I don't know. I'm a Baha'i today, which basically teaches the Oneness of all religion, and that science is a valuable tool to scour superstition from faith. Lots of other things that pretty much make sense to me.

Some day, when you're driving up through the north burbs of Chicago, around the Wilmette area, there's a building that looks like a big wedding cake (quite beautiful, actually) on the corner of Sheridan Road and Linden. I sincerely think you'd find it at least interesting to check out.

I'm sure you've found peace with where your journey has taken you. I'm around the same age as you, and will no doubt keep reading and learning and experiencing things that shape my outlook during my "second half". I wish you all the best and look forward to your book.

What We Need said...

I enjoyed reading some of the posts on your blog. I thought you might like a song my son and his college friend composed: "The Atheist Children's Song." It's funny, and sweet, and "probably true":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mEwMLRLjRY

Anonymous said...

I just saw "Letting Go" on Showtime. What an amazing journey! Mine was a shorter journey from Catholicism to Atheism, but I do believe you came to the right conclusion!

Cammie said...

Thank you. I have been so many different religions and cried at church cuz I just don't get it. Then to have people tell me that's too bad that you don't believe. Then I say to them I'm so sorry you need something to believe in. I have been wanting to say the things you have said in your show. I will help you any way to get you off your addiction of "God"

BethFL said...

Just saw your show-bravo!! I was amazed at how many experiences we have had in common-right down to trying to reconnect with the Catholic church through a Bible study class as an adult. (The priest stopped showing up and so did we).
Carl Sagan was my guiding light-what a loss for us naturalists when he died but what a legacy.
Loved the show-it takes great courage to be so public with your non-theism in our country right now.
Once you are settled in Chicago, may I suggest that you check out a Unitarian Universalist Church. When I REALLY started to look for the community and togetherness that I missed from growing up at St. Aloysius and with the Sisters of Notre Dame, I found the UU community. Actually, I believe I have been a UU most of my life and just didn't know it. No god required for membership :-)
Good luck to you in your journey and thanks for the show. I really enjoyed it

Anonymous said...

I accidentially came upon your show while channel surfing tonight, and was absolutely FASCINATED!! My journey so very closely resembles yours and it amazes me that you have put into words my experiences, my doubts, my quest, my feelings, my enlightenment. I started asking "inappropriate" questions of the nuns and my parents when I was in catholic school in the second grade in 1966 while in "training" (read "brainwashing") to be confirmed. When I tried to refuse my confirmation because I had unsatisfactorily unanswered questions -- you'da thought I crucified christ myself. Anyway, it took me until my really rebellious years arrived at 15 to absolutely refuse to have anything to do with the catholic church. It took me another decade or so to realize that I'm okay with that, and another decade to be able to say I'm a naturalist and it works wonderfully for me.

I've since raised my own daughters to use their own minds, to think critically, and to always question the man (or woman) behind the curtain -- and his motives. I've also tried not to overly influence them to my own way of thinking, but rather allowed them the freedom to have their own journey.

Thank you so much for sharing such a heartfelt, thoughtful, and insightful journey of your own.

vaporcloud said...

Such a wonderful story teller you are, Julia......even my cat, Bunnie Fou Fou....watched, enraptured by your presence of mind and clarity...better 'n Uncle Remus! I suggested your "performance" to a friend's son who has been struggling with letting go of his Catholic School brain-washing.........thanks for your enlightened mind.... I'm so grateful that my parents never even mentioned "GOD"....Whew!

Dorian Palumbo said...

Hi, Julia - you don't need to apologize for not being the kind of warrior that Rachel Maddow is - that's the reason there are Rachels and there are Julias - they are good at different things, and all humankind asks is that they do whatever it is they do often and with complete authenticity.

I don't use the word "atheist" to describe myself usually, because the word literally means anti-theo-ist, and in order to be anti- something I think you have to acknowledge that it exists first in order to be anti- it. I sometimes use agnostic because it's a bit closer to how I feel, but the ineffable mystery of human life seems bigger than that word, too.

I do know that the human mind is a powerful thing - except things found in nature, everything humans participate in first originates as a human thought, including other humans.

I do know this though - when I'm feeling adrift or off or stressed, if I say the words out loud "I need to remember I'm connected" it always works. What's the word for what I'm connected to? Words fail me, and I'm a writer so that's particularly annoying for me. No word good enough for the thing that connects every living thing to every other living thing on Earth. It's not some guy on a cloud or on a cross, because that's just dumb. It's something. It's bigger than a word.

I have been meaning to write you and tell you the story of how your description of losing your brother Mike helped me help my Dad when it was his time. You are a fantastic person, and I love you.

So you're a lover, not a fighter. Big deal. You're the kind of person fighters fight FOR so you're at least as important.

Peace, and Happy New Year

Dorian

Heather Feather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Feather said...

Julia,

After reading this blog entry I feel like it seems you are just exhausted by the celebrity aspect of your life, whether too much positive or too much negative- It seems like it's wearing you down.
It's Christmas time! Spend time with your family and relax. Holidays are usually naturally stressful for people, at least a little bit. Adding it to the already busy life of a successful and talented person such as yourself, plus the weight of stress of the average intelligent american (what with the economic crisis and healthcare concern, and war, etc.), it can really become too overwhelming all at once. My advice, (not that you asked me...) is: Don't worry about blogs and books, answering letters, having the proper response for questions, fan feedback and other obligations, just take a breather and relax. Enjoy life for a few and get back into the swing of your work life after new year.

You know the saying about how if you find something you love to do, you never work a day in your life? You obviously love your work (as do your fans, of course!) But please don't let it become a chore and/or a stress to you. I hope you have a fantastic holiday break with your friends and family, and take a minute to truly relax and enjoy your time for yourself , and just live.

Sincerely,
Heather Feather

Ken said...

You have always been one of my favorites from SNL. I watched your play on Showtime last night and now you are my favorite of all time. Your work is brilliant. You tell your story in such a heart-warming way I had to write and say thank you.

Thank you for writing, directing and acting in this play. Your work was enjoyed and greatly appreciated.

***** Rating

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Froggymama said...

Julia, I saw your show a few years ago in LA and loved it.

I'm struggling with my own belief/faith and always come back to the part of your show where you realize that without a God, the conversation in your head, every thought, and inner moment wasn't shared. It just was. And that thought- that concept is harder than actually letting go of a religion or god for me. Because it means the end to a conversation. The thought that those prayers were not only unanswered, but never listened to is tough to accept. And so brave of you to face that. I am not so brave. I can't let go of all those jabberwocky prayers.

The time I prayed for a Malibu Barbie for my fifth birthday, or for my Grandmother to make it through surgery, the prayers for safety flying cross country and driving - up in the air or speeding down the freeway without the safety of divine intervention? The prayer for my daughter's health, when I begged God to let her weight loss be anything, anything but Cystic Fibrosis. And then the call from the doctor the next day with that exact news...the one thing I prayed against. As hard as it is for me to accept these silent conversations, these late night confessions, moments where I am most vulnerable, to believe that there is someone there...even someone who chooses not to answer or even listen, that big man in the sky who at the very least hears what goes on in my grey matter is something I can't seem to let go of. Those prayers that go unanswered or even igonored still seem better than the prayers that are never heard. Maybe I'm too much of a Pollyanna to believe that life is a monologue rather than dialogue. I don't know. I don't have a clue what I believe except that we are all connected. Maybe God is the space between us -that place where you end and I begin and our prayers and every thought is bouncing around eternally until it finds a home in someone's heart, where it's taken in and given a home. I just want to, need to believe that those prayers are not just floating somewhere. It's just too personal for those thoughts not to have a home.

-Froggymama

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for your courageous, intelligent, heartfelt and very funny show. I relate to most all of it and have shared a similar journey of questioning from the entertaining of the absurdity of the bible, the quest for meaning in the east, in the new age/quantum world, to the personal experiences of a comforting and "friendly" personal God (aka Fred).

I have yet to make the leap you have made to a completely non-theist view however as I am still haunted by certain experiences I have trouble reconciling. In addition to the soothing satisfaction of my temporal lobe feelings of warmth and love that are hard to dismiss, I have also had to restle with the idea of destiny or fate. I again, was never a believer in such things. I was raised outside of any belief system as a Unitarian Universalist. The idea that there was a pre-written plan for me seemed ridiculous. Yet, in my path I came across certain people I will call "psychics" for lack of a better term. Despite my supreme skepticism, they have accurately predicted events in my life that came to fruition that they would have no way of knowing. They were things when revealed to me in fact I thought were ridiculous predictions. I hate to say this but they were right. How do I explain that someone I have never known can view my future with such accuracy without their being some sort of plan? I still don't have any answers and do not subscribe to anything other than being agnostic I suppose. Yet the questions I have continue to haunt me.

In response to these questions I tend to fall back on the belief that children are closer to truth than adults at times. One of my earliest religious thoughts I can recall was that life is clearly a mystery that we are not meant to solve. Further, I feel a deep sense of gratitude and priviledge in being able to experience the mystery. I am not sure what I want to say to you but to continue to be open to your journey. It's a wonderful ride with few answers but fantastic questions isn't it?

Wishing you well in your new home and on your continued journey.

Thanks again for everything.

p.s. Should there be a "Fred" (which I find hard to believe) I believe a large portion of my prayers would be dedicated to him/her/it saving us from his followers!

ATL-Apostate said...

Julia - I love what you're doing. You seem so open and honest. I watched your DVD for the first time last night. Simply amazing. You hear this all the time, but I could really see myself in most of what you talked about.

Thank you for being you!

Casees M. said...

Julia, what an amazing woman you are! I am only 20, but I, too, have become an atheist. I stopped believing in organized religion when I was in the 10th grade (and learned about how religion started and when the first writing systems were implemented), and only recently decided to "let go of God." For a while, I said "I do NOT believe in organized religion, but I do believe in God." But then, slowly, I found that I really had no reason. It's comforting, I suppose, but that's about it.

I have watched "Letting Go of God" twice now and still have it saved on my DVR for future viewing!

I had a question: Do you tell Mulan there is a Santa? My husband and I are struggling about what to tell our daughter, but as atheists, we really don't think it would be right to lie to her (or try to get her to behave...we see Santa as another sort of "God"). Just wanted your two cents :)

Nonnie's said...

Love your work. Watched Letting Go of God. I too was raised Catholic, but have let go of religion long ago. That performance resonated with me. My whole family are church going Catholics. I no longer take communion because I feel it would be hypocritical of me. Yet at every family funeral, wedding, etc....all that training still wells up the guilt. I personally don't go anymore, but I still wonder about the possibility of God. Keep on making us all think. Can't wait for your next show.

DM said...

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you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

TimmyB (Not the religious Timmy) said...

Merry Christmas! Watch out for bearded dudes who are in a hurry tonight.

texas realtor said...

Wonerful show which shows that Atheist are not all a bunch of grumpy, nasty people! I really felt your compassion and honesty!
I admire Christopher Hitchens but he can be a little "sharp" in his dealings with people.

Isn't it great to love your children, friends, etc. simply because YOU chose to do so and not because someone is holding the threat of Hell as punishment if you don't? The same goes for helping others.

Most people don't really believe in God. Look at how they live. They are simply afraid to admit that the end of their life on this earth might really be the end. I actually find relief in knowing that any good I do is done without trying to get brownie points for the afterlife. Any wrong I do is of my own will and not because of some Devil.

Thank you for your courage to not only accept the truth but tell others. Believe me there are thousand of "Christians" who saw you show and said to themselves, "YES!" while outwardly being critical because they would be afraid to do otherwise. No one wants to tell the king has has no clothes.

May the force be with you.

crone51 said...

I am a lapsed Unitarian Universalist. I believe that may as lapsed as a person can be. Even UUs, who allow Atheist and Pagans and well *anybody* in have become too religious for me.

Finally saw Letting Go Of God last night on the telly. It is wonderful and touching and very life affirming. You made me happy. I started questioning the Christianity I was brought up with when I started questioning the existence of Santa Claus but eventually attended UU Fellowships because I loved the community, the singing, the coffee and cookies after the service , the good works done and all that groovy stuff. UUism has become more "spiritual" as of late and I just can't go there. The older I get the more rational I become. Ah well- isn't it supposed to be the reverse? Aren't I supposed to get more religious as my life comes to an end? I always did things backwards!
Best wishes to you and your beautiful daughter and thanks to you for your wonderful work over the years.
Best,
Ruth Genne, Swamps Of Jersey

Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Sweeney,

Have watched "Letting areGo of God" twice now. Wow (in a good way)!

Free will (and freedom of speech) so rock. Thank God (and the First Ammendment).

Keep up the good work, and may you always have plenty of "oomph" and to spare ("oomph," that's like "the Force," right?)


Kind regards,

Phil

PatricktheRogue said...

re: "Some people worry about having meaning in a world without god in it."
I am reminded of the quote from Viktor Frankl, the holocaust survivor who wrote Man's Search for Meaning, where he said, "It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly."
He, of course, was a believer in God of a sort, but did not relegate his philosophy to believers only.
This attitude, that we must answer the question of the meaning of our lives, and not ask it, mirrors Ayn Rand's injunction that one should create one's own purpose for living. (I am sure Frankl would be horrified that I included him with Rand in such a way.)
-PatricktheRogue

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Anonymous said...

yes indeed you give others the courage they need to make the jump and they possibly become happier people as a result.

I have decided the same thing. To just not have those people in my life that raise my ire (when possible) and I'm just happier as a result of it. Particularly those people who are really confrontational, but even on a smaller scale. I'm just happier without having them in my life. totally.

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Rechelle said...

Hey Julia! OMG I am commenting on Julia Sweeney's BLOG!
I agree with you on scary religious people. I only became an atheist a few months ago after 41 years of being a devoted christian, and now the world seems filled with scary religious people. I live in a small town and I write a blog and well... pretty much everyone knows I have rather um... strong feelings about the non-existence of god. I was an elder and a Sunday School teacher and directed plays and a children's choir. So my departure based on losing my faith has resulted in letters and emails and personal visits from people. They seem to think that 'something has happened' to me. Or that I am 'mentally ill' or 'depressed'. I'm not though! I just stopped believing in god!

I wouldn't mind having the religious folks back in my life if they could accept the new faithless me and not view me as someone who is suffering from an illness. But right now I would just prefer that they stay the hell away from me.

Anyway - I have been a huge fan of yours ever since 'God Said Ha!' I think it was one of the things that gave me the strength to really start examining my own faith. The way you were so irreverent with your own faith gave me courage. I always think about the line - 'buy a pack of cigarettes and read the Pope's new book". It still makes me laugh to think about it.

JamesCraven said...

*voicing a veterinarian* Who's a good doggie patient? Yes you are, yes you are... That "Doppelganger" appearance on Back at the Barnyard was fun!

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Anonymous said...

Julia I just watched LETTING GO OF GOD for the third time today 8-27-10 on Showtime. I really enjoyed the part about the Mormons, as I lived in Salt Lake City from 1992 to 1999. I had to get the HELL OUT OF THERE. Anyway, I understand what you are going through, as I have been struggling with the GOD/NO GOD thing for years. I tend to believe in life after death because of some things that have happened-ghost/spirit- type that I cannot explain other than recently deceased relatives visiting(especially from my 31 year daughter that passed 2-9-10.) Some of these witnessed by my wife. I used to not be able to imagine nothingness or no conciousness until I had surgery for a broken face. Long story short, I empathize with your dilemma, LOVE your work and wish U and your family all the happiness U can squeeze out of this depressing world in which we all live. P.S. What "brand" is your BEAUTIFUL DOG Arden? Love to you and yours. Michael (not your husband)

Anonymous said...

Uh huh. So then how do you explain that "dog" is "God" spelled backwards?

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Joeffrey said...

Nice i can't tell that I'm religious but i really like your show and its praising..now i realize that i must be afraid of God before i did everything that went into my mind but after i watched your show...wow...it changed me a lot..but the only thing that still lives me and did not leave me is this head lice...and i really2x annoyed with them is there any head lice treatment you know...

but thank you so much for the good and praising show...thank you...

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Thank you for writing your blog again. I have gone through a similar journey of awakening and it is nice to hear your stories and see your book list. I love your DVDs on going through cancer and coming to terms with religion. Keep it coming!

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