Thursday, November 02, 2006

I woke up in the middle of the night, over each of the last two nights, and shuddered that I had written a blog entry that ranted about Mulan’s spelling requirements and then, misspelled Arachnid myself. This is why I should not be writing a blog. But yet, I still am! So nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.

School. Yes. Schools. How to teach. How to learn. Yesterday I had moved into the “Acceptance” stage of my relationship with Mulan’s school. It’s our local public school. It’s public. It gets crazy high scores on it’s tests. There’s so much to love. But then, as I help Mulan with homework (we tried a new system where we sat at school and worked for an hour right in the school yard) I was just flooded again with how much I hated school. And how school just inoculated me against learning for so long. And all the mindless repetition and the purposeless convoluted questions. If I had my druthers, Mulan would be in gymnastics school for hours each day and then for one hour a day she would learn math and reading and science and that would be it. This kid really just wants to turn cartwheels and do somersaults and flip herself around bars.

Today is Mulan’s seventh birthday and I start my show – Letting Go of God - with a description of my seventh birthday. Wow. We are in the realm of her own memory of childhood now. Last night Mulan said, “Now I’ve reached the Age Of Reason and I’m capable of committing all sins against God and man.’ She was paraphrasing the line in my show that my own dad says to me on my own seventh birthday. And then she said, “And I don’t even know what that means!” And I laughed and said, “Nobody really knows what that means.”

And speaking of inoculating people against the very thing they are trying to connect to – a few days ago I read on (my personal homepage) an interview with Camille Paglia where she says that, although she is an atheist, she has respect for religion because it’s the way most people connect with the Universe. And at first I thought I might agree with her. But then, as I’ve turned that over in my head the last few days, I think what religion actually does is the opposite. It prevents people from connecting or experiencing themselves in or with the universe. It placates their natural wonder with easy answers that are not only dead wrong but infantilizes them. And, I think, even prevents them from experiencing the world in the most human way, with the knowledge that we have won – won at hard cost, which shows us more accurately who we are and how teeny and vulnerable and fantastically lucky we are. My cat, Val, cannot possibly know that she is a mammal and all the amazing ways that mammals have come up with, or rather – evolved into – on this planet. There is great joy in understanding even that little thing. She cannot. And I can. And anyone, any human, can too - who is willing to look into it. And yet we, as a society, have chosen to lie to our children – in my mind, keep them animals of a different sort – keep them blind and looking only a few feet away instead of seeing even a little bit bigger picture.

I loved that one of my blog readers reminded me of that Seneca quote:

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. __-Lucius Annaeus Seneca,_(4BC – AD65)

I guess the thing for me is, I WANT to be one of the common people. (I shudder with a creepy feeling of elite-y-ness even using that word, but I am taking this from Seneca…) I don’t like that I am set apart or even seen as elitist (or... wise?) for having my views about religion. I think that’s possibly what many of my family and friends – especially from Spokane – think. And I am such a good “common person.” I don’t want to be different, I really don’t. And yet, it seems that I had to choose between, on one hand, my mind and on the other hand, my desire to not stand out and blend in and enjoy the culture that I was raised in. How frustrating. Truthfully, I really do want to move back to Spokane and send Mulan to St. Augustine’s. And I just may still.

Even though I know I am just in love with a memory of how it was, how it appears to me now. I am sure that this ideolized version of Spokane that I have in my head, is in reality filled with its own plusses and minuses. My yearning for Spokane is probably just a simple yearning for a lost childhood or nostalgia dressed up as a real choice, when in fact it isn’t.

O Seneca, you are so right. Religion is so useful for rulers, isn’t it? Gawd, how can those people on the religious right, who think that their leaders – the ones they helped elect – care a wit about them? They do not. It’s so transparent. And in the meantime, this same group of rulers – while pandering to their little causes (without really doing much about them) sends their children off to war to die. And still, they accept it! It’s like we are living in a pre-enlightenment world – the kings and the royalty aligning themselves The Church, and thereby with the peasants – then sending the peasants off to die, all so that the same system can be maintained. If Voltaire were alive today he would never stop throwing up. (To paraphrase Max Von Sydow in “Hannah and Her Sisters” talking about Jesus. Actually I’m not paraphrasing it, I’m mangling it -- )

I wish more than anything that the conservative religious electorate just knew that they are joining so many just like them in history -- that their alignments are just the same as it's been for eons -- religion, royalty, rulers, and those with the least opportunity for any advancement -- dancing this creepy dance. It's like the snotty head cheerleader hooking up with the ugliest girl at school because it makes her look so good and plus, she can boss her around, and yet the sad pathetic one feels so... lucky! Cause she thinks she's almost like... the head cheerleader!

I think it’s time for me to retire and become a grumbling lady barking at people outside the grocery store.

Well, I think, I THINK the new webpage is going up today and the 500 list are getting his or her notices, which – will unfortunately be only a day before anyone else. OH, I so didn’t want it to happen this way. We are hung up on only one small thing – and that is – I am offering (that’s so funny to say “offering” – it reminds me of an over-eager salesperson at the same time that it reminds me of the bread and wine at Mass – the “offering” - wait, it might be the money collected that's called the offering -- oh jeez, that is really creepy...) that if you buy five Cds you get one free. And that makes the shipping calculations wonky and we have to fix it. Oh dear, time to make some calls.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Mulan!

My son turned eight yesterday - it is a great time of year to have a birthday.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Mulan!

I was born on christmas, so I have a decent memory of many of my earlier birthdays. I think my seventh was when my parents gave me a pillow as a birthday present.

Anonymous said...

Julia, I'm very glad to see the Seneca quote! It's so true, isn't it? Especially now, centuries later.

My wife and I both feel the same way about hating to stand out. Sometimes we wish we could just lobotomize ourselves and *accept* god and get it over with. It would be so much easier.

I completely agree with you about religion interfering with accepting the universe. The debate we've had many times with believers is that, once they say "it's in the bible" any meaningful conversation is over. You cannot have an intelligent debate with someone who would rather deny reality than admit that maybe some things in the bible aren't to be taken literally.

So many times throughout history, religion has persecuted science and followers of reason and rational thought because questions are the enemy of religion. Anything that might make one question the validity of a biblical event might be the straw the tears down the entire belief system. And so, rather than accommodate a non-literal, interpretive examination of the bible, they just say, "well reality is wrong."

People at work asked why I was SO insanely interested in the Intelligent Design trial in Dover, PA last year. It was because it was the perfect illustration of how the believers will force their faith on everyone who won't fight back. Because, according to the literal interpretation of the bible, evolution can't be true, it MUST be doubted, and they have to make sure that everyone KNOWS they have to doubt it. -sigh-

Our son is in first grade as well, a few months younger than Mulan. We're having the same issues you are with the school work and useless lessons. It's a public charter school, and it's better than the regular public school, but we're still going to have to fight to get him the education he needs.

Best of luck on your CD, and happy birthday to Mulan!

Anonymous said...


Probably not much consolation but the former senator Bill Bradley once said in a debate, "The problem with public education in America is private education in America." Took some balls to say that; I'm sure it cost him votes, but I think he's right. As a society, we need to make public education work.

Your voice on the subject of religion has a fantastic signal-to-noise ratio. Thank you.

Happy Birthday Mulan.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Mulan!

I moved to the U.S. with my family so that my brother & I could experience the U.S. High School system that my Dad remembered so fondly being a foreign exchange student in the U.S.

The nostalgia of his high school days with my step mother were soon replaced by the harsh reality of the shape of the public school system as it is now. :p

That being said, as long as we're quoting - "Life is a smorgasbord; just don't buy Mulan any darn long pants."

There, Mame nicely mangled for you.

Looking forward to the CD - for me, and a friend I took to go see your show. It'll be a great surprise gift. ^_^

Anonymous said...

hi Julia,
Stick with homework! My kids are now 18 and 20. I wish I had taught them early on to sit down and work on a daily basis even if they weren't in the mood, even if they weren't particularly interested. My kids are having to develop that self-discipline themselves as college students. Kids who have this ability ingrained in them have an easier time accomplsihing their goals later. And I do mean THEIR goals, not a teacher's. It is a tool that they can take through life. It is rewarding to work hard!

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought I was meant to be one of the first 500, and I guess I am. Just bought the CD from the web site, order 131. Seems to be working.

I'm really looking forward to hearing the whole show after hearing the brief version on This American Life. I have two comments, however.

First, the price is a bit high, at $19.95. Add $4.95 shipping, and you've spent almost $25. That's not nothing for most of us. I think it's worth it, but some who might get more from the CD than I will (as I'm already a member of the "choir"), might balk at that price.

Second, from the audio clips on line, of the CD, I was a bit disappointed. I think I like the TAL version better, with the music placed, and the lack of audience laughing. I think the audio quality was better as well. This could simply be an issue with the online streaming of the web site (I hope). In any case, I think it's a brilliant show, and I'm glad Julia decided to do it. I hope millions listen. I hope it opens their eyes.

Thanks again, Julia.

David said...

"An infinite time has run its course before my birth; what was I throughout all that time? Metaphysically, the answer might perhaps be: I was always I; that is, all who during that time said I, were in fact I." -- Arthur Schopenhauer

Brian said...


I just recently upgraded my FireFox web browser to the new version and it has built in Spell-Check now. So when you type your blog it underlines the words in red like MSWord does. It's not perfect, but it makes it easier to catch lots of mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about religion preventing people from connecting with the universe are so right on and reminded me of a book by the naturalist John Burroughs called Accepting the Universe, which was actually about his coming to terms with his inability to accept the existence of a personal God. That and another one he wrote, The Light of Day, which is one of the most trenchant and beautifully written critiques of organized religion I've read, seem to have been mostly forgotten. While I'm recommending books, here are a couple more favorites: A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White (a hefty two-volume work by Cornell's first president) and History of the Conflict between Religion and Science by John W. Draper, M.D.
Oh, and Happy Birthday, Mulan!

Anonymous said...

Here's one for you.

I was raised Episcopalian, husband Baptist. Church or religious education wasn't something we thought important for our children.

3 kids, no religious upbringing, youngest has become a pentacostal! Go figure. He apparently felt something was missing in his life and followed his wife into the church. I wish he had decided to try therapy first! It is very hard to talk to him anymore because he knows that I think he has been brainwashed.

As for your feelings about Spokane, we just moved here last year. Love it but you are probably right about your idealizing it. I sometimes feel the same way about the town I grew up in but having been back there a few years ago I know that it is nothing like what I left when I was 18.

I'd be happy to try to fill you in on goings on in Spokane although I'm sort of a hermit. Only thing we do is go to the symphony concerts, but they are wonderful.

susan in spokane

Anonymous said...

"I know I am just in love with a memory of how [Spokane] was, how it appears to me now."

In all likelihood, this is completely true. I am a firm believer that, in most cases, the memory tricks us - allows us to forget the bad and hold on to the good. This is one reason, I think, that so many people believe high school was a glorious time in their lives [grin].

However, if Spokane is beckoning to you, Julia, I think that you should bid its call, in a temporary way. Rent a house up there, move in as if it is for good and see if it holds the same draw as your memories tell you it does. Take the mystery out of your history. Send Mulan to St. Augustine's, settle into Washintonian domesticity and you will soon discover if it is as wonderful as you remember.

Chances are, you'll miss what you have right now, which is not a bad thing. Schools change; neighborhoods develop; people grow.

Thomas Wolfe (and later Jon Bon Jovi) said, "You can't go home again." While physically and literally, one can, I think emotionally, it is very difficult to recapture what one left there.

On a completely different tact, I ordered my CD! Yay! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

283 is my order number. I remember when I was working out in Boulder Co. for IBM for about a year was depressed. Two kids under school age and a thrid on the way. I missed Minnesota, I was so homesick. We quit our jobs (My now Ex wife) packed up and move back, way back to a farm house, wood stove, no phone, no hot water. We both had saved enough to not have to work for a year. I raised chickens for the eggs to sell and she the garden. Did time ever slow down, we stoped waring watches. I don,t know where Im going with this other than to say, I wonder sometimes what I would be like now if I didn,t do that then. How would I be different or not and why? Im stand in wonder in how much of me is in my past, sorry for go on.

Sheldon said...

Okay, I can't concentrate on ANYTHING in your latest post because I'm am just so overjoyed at the news I say today about Rev. Ted Haggard (who many will remember as the creepy guy who argued with Richard Dawkins in his documentary "The Root of All Evil") resigning as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. It seems that Mr Haggard has been paying a 49-year old male "escort" to have sex with him just about every month for several years now! How's that for "divine retribution"?

Considering how overtly homophobic the guy is, it's not surprising to me that he's a closeted gay man. They DO tend to be the most vehemently hateful toward gays, after all. I hope Richard Dawkins is having a glass of wine to celebrate the downfall of this dangerous moron...I would, but I'm sure Dawkins is taking the high ground like the good man he is.

I just can't stop smiling, though!

Sheldon said...

I really can't believe Julia hasn't banned a certain idiot from posting on her blog yet.

He's been posting offensive things about me (and gay people in general) for some time now, and thinks he's funny.

Anonymous said...

I love what I've heard of your stuff. I am a big fan of the scientific method, and cringe when I hear those who pretend to know how "quantum theory" and "Eastern Metaphysics" prove the existence of the universal turtle, or whatever.

Humor will change a lot more people than text books.

I don't consider myself an atheist. I'd say I'm a Buddhist. Specifically a Street Buddhist -

It's the Buddhism that we make up as we go along. And the Buddha is behind our eyes, so any text, or precedence, is a guide only, the right mind is who we are, under everything else. My make-believe Zen master is Tem Noon (

I am very immersed in the physics of it all, at the moment. Between the Wikipedia explaining all the Hilbert space details, and walks through solutions to Einstein's equations, I've learned a lot in the last few months. Have you tried the MIT OpenCourseware videos? They are really amazing. I did a science degree at RPI (Rensselaer Poly Tech) and was on my way to a minor in Physics (majore in Comp Sci) when I lost it, in Quantum Mechanics I. Now I wish I hadn't been so lazy (25 years ago)

The important thing is that I so think you are doing a great thing, taking people through the spiritual journey, and including the scientific principle.

Is there a way to buy the CD in a record store? in NYC?

Thanks for doing what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

I just found this site. A very nice physics "knowledge web"

Anonymous said...


When I listened to your interview on Fresh Air last week, I thought that you might want to read "View from the Center of the Universe." Some brief reviews are here:

The book has some of the best science writing I've come across. Written by two cosmologists who can understand what the most recent discoveries of the nature of the universe really mean to us, as human beings. A spiritual book, for scientists.

Joe said...

I myself could not survive without spell checker and computerized editing. I don't know how I survived even a few years of correcto-tape!

Anonymous said...

I especially enjoyed reading the following snippet:

"I wish more than anything that the conservative religious electorate just knew that they are joining so many just like them in history -- that their alignments are just the same as it's been for eons -- religion, royalty, rulers, and those with the least opportunity for any advancement..."

I've felt the same way about the segment of the population that consistently votes for politicians with agreeable shared values, but I could've never articulated the phenomenon like you did.

Anonymous said...

Julia, this is a bit offtopic, but your new website doesn't render correctly on my computer. I think I must not have all the fonts installed that you used. Here's a screenshot:

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should talk. Maybe we can help each other.
I skipped church this morning after hearing your NPR interview.
(My main reason to go is to see my 3 grand kids, and they are away camping.)
I am writing books, in my rare spare time, that are the culmination of my 50 years since becoming an intelligent and inquiring “Christian”.
I am now a consulting data/business analyst, kept horrendously busy by my own success at being the best at what I do; thus leaving little to no time for finishing my projects, one of which you would probably find most fascinating – “New Age Christian Fundamentalism” – in which I lay out a rock solid, almost mathematical, analysis that shows that what the Bible truly says, is the same as what “New Agers” and even True Logic say: “God is Love, and religion is the devil.” (I over simplify here for brevity’s sake.)
(I too write run-on sentences. )
Back to topic, “Help! Save me from God!”. My one dream, on which I have all but given up, is to escape God consciousness for the Nihilistic bliss of the eternal, infinitesimal Life. I have essentially given up on this because of the impossibility of finding someone who is truly wanting to know the “TRUTH”, but has a significantly different current paradigm than my own, and can fearlessly and competently discuss and analyze objectively (meaning, aware of one’s own religion) the core foundations of our current beliefs. To me, there can be nothing more wonderful that correcting something wrong in my core beliefs; to be able to say “where once I was blind, now I can see.”
The problem I have is that all those I can find who are “Christians”, are as intimidated by my knowledge and assertions as are those who are “Scientists”, leaving me with no hope of challenging discussions. It seems no one really cares to risk finding a flaw in their own dogma. I suspect that all those, like myself, who are capable of analyzing and understanding the complexities of life, are probably bound up, like myself, by the huge inertia of applying their capabilities for profit, (that profit being mostly of their employers, since such a person would not be driven towards wealth, but Truth.)
Then I hear you on the radio, and think that, just maybe there is hope, that others who have grown up and experienced a life of massive amounts of being flogged by partial truths and constantly bombarded by outright deceptions, might yet retain a genuine hunger for Truth, despite having had their eyes gouged out, their ears ripped off, their hands cripple and maimed by many brutal lies. (Again I get carried away.) Maybe you, maybe some like me who heard you, and find your blog, hoping to find some light.
Note: I have never posted any reply on any site, before this (It’s kind of sad that I won’t be able to say that again – like loosing one’s virginity- I’m now questioning if I’ll actually post this.) Not that I have not been tempted; I’ve regularly sampled the philosophical and religious “thread” discussion sites since 1986, and seen that everyone wants only to rant or ratify their current beliefs, or find and flock with fellows of the same feather. It’s no different today, except that shouting down of those who differ, has now been found to be the only “logical” (effective) way to make one’s point.
But now, I’m inspired to go work on my project, and hope maybe one or two persons will want to engage in “real” thought exchanges.
How about you, Julia? Do you want to get real? Or are you just making money on the popular tsunami of Christianity bashing?
I’ll skip church again next week and check to see if anyone dares to admit, as I do, that they might have doubts, and truly need and want careful, logical answers and explanations for specific, nagging questions about life and “God” that they just can’t escape.
I don’t have time (yet) for real “blogging” of my own, but could attach and send, anyone who asks, specific chapters or flyers, I’ve previously written about many subjects, which could share some of my findings, and possibly prime the pump of a new well of ideas for you.
peace, (yes, I was a long haired hippie in the 60s)
Noah Duh (my publishing pen name - e.g. “Noah Duh’s Answers For Everything” out in 2007)

Sheldon said...

I have to tell you, Julia, that I've been "guilting" my partner into waiting on me throughout my weekend flu by using my favorite "It's Pat!" line: FEEL SORRIER FOR ME!

It gets a chuckle every time. : )