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Letting Go Of God


Here is an excerpt from Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go Of God" part of the "This American Life: In Defence of Godlessness" program on WBEZ
Program Date 06/03/05

Julia's faith began to crack after reading Biblical passages like the one pictured here, of Abraham about to cut the throat of his beloved son, Isaac.


I really enjoyed this. I think you'll find it will be a half an hour well spent.
Please note: Julia Sweeney now has a discussion forum here
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Update: Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" is now available for purchase. It is a two disc set that includes a 102 page book with the entire dialogue of her show. Go to juliasweeney.com to purchase or for more information update click continue reading for Julia's response to the deluge of responses to the program

Julia Sweeney
June 05, 2005
Thank you so much for your e-mails

Note: this is written hastily as my daughter tugs at my shirt sleeve and I don't know how to use spell check, so keep this in mind.

I really wasn't prepared for the This American Life show to have such a big impact. I have so much to say back to each and every one of you who has written. I almost hesitate to write this because I don't want anyone NOT to write to me. I read each and every one and today has been such a grand day. I wish I could respond to everyone tonight but I can't!

Many people said they knew I was going to get a lot of e-mails from people who were appalled and angry. This is true. But I would say those e-mails represent a very small minority. I also thought that is what would happen. But, for the recond, what I have found out today is that there are lots and lots and lots of people out there who feel just like I do, have gone through the same things I have. What an amazing thing! I got e-mails from people from all over the United States, I mean all over the place. And I am soooo appreciative. Thank you so much.

But really, this isn't so much about me. What thrills me is that I am finding that there are so many of us who have gone through the same experience or are going through the same experience. I mean, in some ways, because of Bush, he has pushed this whole issue to the forefront, for good or bad, you just can't dismiss your views on religion anymore as being a small matter.

And of course, not everyone has jettisoned God the way I have. And I have so much to say in return.

But I will say this here: many people wrote to say that they didn't think I should have gone from rejecting the Bible to giving up on God. The truth is that I didn't do that. It was a long long journey with many other variations on God and if you could see the whole show, you would see that it wasn't just straight from not-Catholic to non-believer. (my show is two hours and fifteen minutes long and the This American Life excerpt was less than thirty minutes) It took years to explore everything and I hung on until I realized that the only God I could believe in was made up of hydrogen and helium. And then...anyway. I am so re-inspired to write the book and get the CD out and the film done. Really, everyone who has written, thank you soooo much.

Also, YES, my newsletter sign up asks for birthdates and the person's gender and that is really wrong. I don't know how I allowed that. It was a suggestion by the person who designed my website and I'm going to change that immediately. Don't feel you have to put that information in. I have never even looked at that stuff and I won't.

And also, for the Christians who wrote about what those passages mean in the Bible. Yes, I know that the passages I site have all kinds of theories and complicated layers of meaning. I know the theories. I know the ways that people explain those passages. I looked into it. But now, it doesn't really matter because when I, after a long learning curve, really understood how the Bible was put together, which stories were kept and which weren't, what political situations were in place and what was useful to emphasise and so forth, then the Bible became a really interesting historical religious document to me -- inspiring but not sacred. Very much the work of ancient man and not the inspired word of God. So, you see, telling me all about the meanings behind those stories is sort of beside the point at this point.

I am in Hawaii right now, and I am so lucky to be here. My mother is with me and she just had a knee replacement surgery six weeks ago and my daughter is here too and it's a little like having two kids to look after while I'm on a work retreat. Not that I'm complaining, believe me I am not. But my time to resond to e-mail is limited. I will try to, I really will. Because people have the most amazing stories. Everyone's story of how they woke up and saw through the workings of their religion and their faith is interesting, even if they don't give it up in the end.

Also, I got many letters from priests and pastors who told me that they too, don't believe anymore, but what can they do? They are in a profession and they have been at it a long time. This is so heartbreaking to me.

Soooo... no spell check and I'm not even going to read this over, but I felt I had to put something up on the site.

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Comments

Thanks so much for recording this segment, Norm. I was about to do the same, but as usual, you've saved me the trouble of saving the most salient clips of the day.

Julia's story echos my own so closely it's creepy and beautiful. And I love the way she tells it.

I was running some errands this afternoon when I turned on the radio and the Julia Sweeny segment was just beginning. I didn't know it was Julia having not heard what had gone before, and I didn't know today's show was on the defence of Godlessness and half expected her to return to the dark side by the time the program was over. When she finished all I could say was wow, that was beautifully done.

Whoops. Your file doesn't seem to play all the way to the end of her segment. Maybe a tech prob on my end...

It amazes me how universal that clip is. It resonates with practically everyone. How can a christian go throught their life and not think those things. Why doesn't everyone realize this sooner is my only question. I think I realised god wasn't there at nine.

Yeah, I concur with the above persons. Thanks for posting that-- I just looked at the WBEZ website and you can buy it for $13. I want to play it for all my believer friends.

Thanks so much for capturing this. I also heard it -- it was honest and fair-minded. Simply brilliant!

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That is a beautifully done segment. A lot of work and hours of soul searching went into it. I'm left wondering how offended the glazy eyed evangelical christians would be if you asked them if they have ever read the bible outside of the 'happy happy joy joy' passage that comes recommended from the pulpit. I tried to read the bible from cover to cover and that really broke my faith because I keeped wondering 'what is all this yada yada when what God really is to man is a mystical connection to the distiction between man and the rest of the life on this planet.' I can't suuport any group who bases their strength on how exclusive they are. I love you all for making it to here.

Enjoyed this very much. I read a small book once written by a rabbi - he seems to think the stories in the bible are meant to tell us something about us and how to live instead of anything about a god. Since Julia mentions the story of Abraham and Isaac, I will share what that rabbi wrote on that story. He read an account by a physician who wrote that he thought the story had a different message than 'prove to me you will give up that which you most cherish for me'. Apparently, in that age, children with disabilities were euthanized at some point and the doc believed that Isaac was a person with a disability - perhaps Downs syndrome/cognitive impairment - as he was born to older parents, did not seem to understand the consequences of his actions, was the only man in the bible whose parents worry about getting him married off - so this doc read into the Abraham/Isaac story that it was actually God stopping Abraham from killing Isaac, when that was what society expected. It was perhaps God's way of saying that no, this life of even someone with a disability has value.

Not that I absolutely believe it, but I like that interpretation, after all it is not like our options are the Christian interpretation or no god at all. I think about tribes that did not live in fear and still created a god for beauty and celebration. Very different from the Big 3's interpretation, of course.

I wish I could say that I am SO offended by this article, I mean I should, I mean I should be screaming and yelling and throwing my hands in the air. Oh don't think that I agree with it, I mean I don't.

I still don't understand, and I would really, really, really, would like too. I want to understand why so many have issues with the church. I am being honest here, I am as truthful as they come. I mean there are days that I question my faith, but I don't set my agenda on trying to discredit it.

I try to understand it. I try to make it political, like the Republican against the Democrat, I mean it is our duty as a free American to discredit the other campaign. To make the other as useless as liquid paper is, in the day of computer technology.

I promise, I will not preach, I promise to not take an offering, I promise to not make you fill out a membership card and know the secret handshake. Just tell me! I want to learn.

You can download the entire program at audible.com for 3.95

thank you julia for putting words to my thoughts and feelings. a beautiful, brilliant piece.

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Some folks like to believe, some folks like to know. Some folks (myself for instance) grew up hearing the bible (and believing) from a pew, and when they reach an age where everything is opened to their reasoning, the bible starts sounding silly. Julia mentions lots of the stories where you would have to be nuts to go along with the lesson at face value.

I lost my faith in god about the same time as I stopped believing in Santa. Maybe it was just the shock of finding out or realizing that this awsome thing, about which my elders told me, were lies. All ya have to do to realize that is to stay awake on xmas eve.

Why do people go to such great lengths to get you to believe their favorite legend/falshood? Who is even to say that christian preachers and church administrators and their staff really believe this stuff? I mean I am sure my parents wanted me to believe the things they told me but sometimes they lied, santa is a lie, and IMHO so is god.

If god really exists and is really all powerfull, and if he wants us to know him, then all he would have to do is make an appearance and show us that beyond all doubt he is what he says he is. Church folks often tell me that god requires faith in him, no proof can be offered because god wants us to believe in, rather than know him.

Well for me I have too much trouble believing things that arent possible to know or reason out. Who is to say its not just a huge ancient chain letter? It has lots of the markings of such a scheme. Maybe its really just a multi level marketing scheme, lots of money is made, and the worlds problems never seem to grow smaller, so what is all this prayer money doing for us? Maybe its all just an extortion bit, "ya know, god wants you to give us 10% or some bad stuff could happen. YOu have a nice family and a nice home...be a pity if something happened to it..." I am just thankfull the church does not yet have inforcers to make us pay up. Well maybe they do now....

For me its just too many instances where it looks like bullshit, and damn few where it looks to be true. Kind of like the current presidential administration.

C.

This piece was intense. I had long decided that I was agnostic; that my western world, which existed in a Christian context, could not be so. To take the step into atheism was impossible for me. It is frightening to cast yourself on such a powerful wind, and to just say 'this is it,' and step off that ledge and know that when your eyes truly close, all things stop, is the most intense and frightening thing in all the world. I don't think I can take the step yet but I feel my air running out on the matter, and when it does, perhaps I will truly appreciate every day like it will be the last day I'm alive

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The bible has some beautiful phrases. Phrases.. And that's the terribly sad thing.

Even more sad is the fact that many of these right wing christians actually READ the thousands and thousands of other chapters - and didn't mind.

And that's downright scary.

haha, I like the music. I heard some Napolean Dynamite and Donnie Darko stuff. :)

I LOVED this piece, and yet am still a devouted Christian. How? Julia is an incredible artist, and so far I have loved everything she has done. Over 15 years ago I went through basically the identical thing she speaks of. The Judeo-Christian concept of God simply crumbled away in my mind. But unlike her, for some reason, I did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are two main reasons why I did not reject the Divine completely:

1) I was able to see that the Bible was an evolving history of Man's relationship with God, particularly the Old Testament. I also knew that Christ spoke in Aramaic, a language packed full of metaphor and imagery, a language that translates very poorly into English. Thus, one needs to look at the ACTIONS of Christ more than his words, afterall, a picture is worth 1000 words. Actions do not lie.

2) I meditated. This changed my life because virtually every time I meditated I was able to connect with unconditional Love. This was a feeling that could literally sweep through my mind and body, and in least one instance brought physical healing to me. It's fruitless to try and explain the feeling, just that it is life changing stuff. The best stuff I've ever experienced.

Now, if there is no God, then meditation should simply give one merely a neutral feeling, or perhaps one of peace.....so where does this predominant feeling of being loved unconditionally come from? God. So, I still believe in Christ. He makes great sense to me. I still believe in God, just a far greater one than the Bible portrays. DONT THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER. Julia had it right at the beginning of her piece. She said she FELT that God loved her. She should have trusted that, for that was the truth. It's when one devolves into the endless questioning about a book written by over 60 ancient men over a span of thousands of years, that their confusion can suck away their faith. When people do this it proves to me they never actually had faith in God to start with. Their faith was in a book ABOUT God. So if you shake the Book you shake their faith.
Julia here confirms that the Judeo-Christian version of God is badly cracked... but so what? Does that prove there is no God at all?

So kudos to Julia for doing a service to us all, she's making us think and confirms what many of us have thought but were afraid to ask....but she falls short by leaving it there on the floor. But you can pick it up with your heart. Your heart knows there is the Divine.

Get hooked to God directly through meditation and prayer, and the endless questions get replaced by peace and unconditional love....love that changes your own life and lives directly around you.

Regarding the Bible, simply eat the meat and spit out the bones. Same is true for any holy scripture. If you want to keep your faith, and make it stronger and alive, punch in 'Christian meditation' on Google. Check it out.

I was never raised to believe in one specific religion, nor was I sheltered from them. My parents supported my curiosity in every religion but never told me which one was "right." As a result, I am still an agnostic. The one thing did raise me to believe, in the very core of my being, was that the Beatles were better than the Stones. I'm not making fun - I think if you're taught something at such a young age, it really stays with you, it becomes as fundamental a knowledge as speaking or walking.

I wonder, when or even if, it is appropriate to try and convince your devout friends otherwise? No one tries to convert me, which I am thankful for, so I never try to convert them. But when someone decides that prayer is more affective than medicine, I start to worry. How do you intervene? I think it would be awful to send someone down this path of doubt. Even though I think it is the most wonderful, empowering feeling to believe in yourself.

Thanks for that. Fantastic. Sweeney has a unique way to talk about such an emotional subject in way that (hopefully) doesn't send fundamentalists into a fit. Her journey and mine have been quite different, yet we ended up in the same place. I think if more people cared more about people, and less about God, we'd all be better off.

Wow, that was great, thanks!!!

I don't know why, but I feel compelled to comment on this. I listened to it out of compulsion, and it was very thought provoking. I can't say that I agree with much of it, but I did listen to it with an open mind. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I do believe that he was a real man, and I do believe that he lived a perfect life and died for our sins, and that he also rose again from the dead 3 days later.
Please know that not all Christians are as dumb as some would lead you to believe. Granted, there are some who are less intelligent than others, but that can be said about any group of people. Intelligence does not equal salvation. There are many many Christians who have devoted their lives to the study and understanding of the things in the Bible (yes, even the enigmatic passages alluded to by Sweeney). A belief in the Bible does not mean a disregard for all logic. It also does not require a "blind faith". It does, however, require that we recognize that just because we don't understand things doesn't mean that it isn't how they are. I don't understand why the Earth is round. Does that mean that it isn't? No. Sweeney makes the point that she doesn't understand why the God of the Bible is how He is. Does that mean that He isn't? Not necessarily. I don't understand Sweeney's jump from the idea that the God of the Bible is not true, to the idea that God is not true at all (though I believe that both statements are false). I hope Sweeney finds Truth eventually. She seems very intelligent and very well spoken. I am sorry to hear of the way her priests handled her valid inquiries. That shouldn't happen, and those in positions of authority in the church should be prepared to answer such questions.
Anyway, thanks for reading this. Sorry about any spelling errors. :-)

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ohara - what book is that from? That sounds really interesting.

It is from "How Good Do We Have to Be?" from Harold S. Kushner. He also wrote "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." I did not like that one so much, but the 'how good' book I liked quite a bit. He even contemplates the Adam and Eve story and sees it as our evolving from a relatively uncomplicated animal world to our complicated human consciousness.

Sorry to put the titles in quotes - can't find underline capability in here. But they are books, not chapters, that I mention above.

Diverse crowd in here today. Ya know some people probably NEED to believe in a god. Some justify their "I'm better than you because I'm right...blah, blah, blah" BS with it. But for many I'm sure the thought of being all alone is so devestating. Not to mention the horror of the thought of your love ones passing and their existance ending. We want God to be this loving caring parent that will make it ok "Someday, Somehow" but if not now at least when we die. Well maybe God is out there and maybe not???

My personal bent on religion follows a more eastren/tribal path. Yin/Yang - reincarnation - god/ancestors/etc not neccessarily being involved in every detail. I was raised Catholic and the universe is simply not as black and white as the picture painted by the church. How can you look at the complexity and not question these institutions. Patmos, don't try to politicize it. Immerse yourself in questions, seek your answers... Beware and be aware of lies. Once you've spent a long time with a liar they jump out at you but for those who lack the experience... meditation can be helpful. Ultimately, only you can decide what you believe... but of course if you don't... someone out there will be happy to try and make that decision for you - Evil bastards

God or no god I think science will someday prove the universe is all connected and the forces keeping us from coming into balance or flying apart are divine.

Just so you realize...If everything were in balance the universe would stop ;) and as for the flying apart stuff - that's bad :0

Good luck walking the agnostic front. It's a beautiful place - and the best part is you get to think for yourself.

I loved it but I can't help wonder if Jesus really cursed a fig tree for nothing. Are you sure he just wasn't having a bad day?

Just becasue the Bible is BS does not mean that there is no God. The Jewish/Christian/Islamic traditions are only one path. They may have got it wrong...

The point is, nobody knows for sure. Be nice to people and don't feel guilty about that extra piece of cake.

absolutely floored. how truly terrifying to contemplate the end of one's existence. there is something out there...you have to find it for yourself...i need to get back on my meditation schedule. peace.

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"Unshakable faith is only that which can face reason face to face in every Humankind epoch." Allan Kardec

Better path is that of the reasoning than of the blind faith.

Regards,

Interesting set of comments thus far. I'm impressed that so many appear unwilling to "let go." So uncomfortable with the idea. It's been some time since I came to the realization that the god of Christianity is nothing more than another construct in the social reality of the western world, possessing all the reality that can be mustered for such ontologically subjective entities. That realization is a good one for me. Liberating: I get to worry about a purer form of ethics, and not the Christian version (although the latter is certainly a worry). I can still be spiritual, but it's in a much less focused way. I don't feel particularly threatened by "the end of my existence." I am thankful for the life I have. It is enough, and wanting more now seems selfish to me. Letting go is a good thing.

For a logical look at the mormon religion and Christianity check out the book Swords at Sunset by Michael Bradley. I found it to be a great book. His Website is at http://www.michaelbradley.info/

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One ought to be careful not to generalize as a 'Christian God' what is really a 'Catholic God' or a 'Evangelical God'. Even though these form the majority they don't represent all Christians.

This is brilliant! She does a great job of showing what the bible is really about -and not just the horrors of the Old Testament, but the New Testament and Jesus, too.

patmos -- i think it's because what's in the bible (as julia points out a bit) is truly horrible and indefensible. And if people believe in the god of that bible than they have to - by definition - defend everything in it. Like when god tells moses to have all the mideonites slaughtered -- all of them -- and then to have Moses' people take all the virgin women as their own. That's god talking. It's not a morality any society should live by. Not to mention the fact that it's not based on reality, serves no good, and it's just not true - since there is no god. I would recommend listening to Bob Avakian's talks on religion. He goes into the bible in even more detail and with even more scathing exposure (it's a political speech, so it needs to do that - so i'm not saying that to criticize julia at all).. and what's also cool is he talks about a morality and liberation that's not based on god. it's at http://bobavakian.net -- it might answer more why people give up on religion and what atheists like myself find so horrific and reprehensible in the "good" book.

Osage, let me just say I appreciate your thought. I really want to understand where people are at in their lives. I use to be this one that thought (never said it) that if you were not where I was at, you were "wrong". Thanks again!! :)

Whoa. Just whoa.

Nice job, Julia.

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I've listened to the Julia Sweeney piece over and over and I get goose bumps. It's fantastic. More people should share their journey to reason, truth and just common sense. Julia, Thank You. Norm, Thank You.....

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Thank you, Norm, and especially thank you, Julia. This is by far the most moving piece I've ever heard. It put words to everything that I've been wrestling with all of my life...

I, too, was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school and the whole thing, and have found it impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that I don't have an all-abiding faith, which I was taught that I must. The all-abiding faith that we are told, these days, that we must to be proper human beings and (somehow) proper Americans.

Julia's words are simply amazing, and simply the truth. I've walked the same path, woried the same worries, and tried the same things in a futile attempt to find a way to beieve-- I wanted to, I just can't.

Now, I know that I am not alone, and that it is proper, and normal, and OK. That it IS possible to be strongly ethical without Fear of, and faith in God. WOW.

My words are failing me. Sorry.

I am in awe as I listen a second time.

Most sincerely yours,

Tony B.

THANK YOU!! I heard this at the time it aired and had been telling people all over how great it was. now I can send the link. it is really worth the half hour.

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Just becasue the Bible is BS does not mean that there is no God. The Jewish/Christian/Islamic traditions are only one path. They may have got it wrong...

The point is, nobody knows for sure. Be nice to people and don't feel guilty about that extra piece of cake.

Posted by: Meditate on June 5, 2005 11:54 PM
As Plato realized, to say that God did it is not to explain anything, but simply to offer an excuse for not having an explanation. Can Science Prove that God Does Not Exist?

if you like that article, also read this:

Does Morality Require God?

I also came from a Catholic upbringing, went to catholic school and catechism. Once I was old enough to explore other religions I found that some of the teachings from the bible (old testament in particular) were stolen from Mesopotamian folklore. "Gods of Eden" is a good book to look at to see examples of this. This among other things set me on the path to being agnostic. Hearing this story from Julia is just one more peg in the coffin of christianity for me. Parallels between organized religion and Neoconservatism are interesting too. The need to fit in, be led, and follow blindly.

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Along with everyone else, thank you so much for recording Julia's piece. Kudos should go out too for npr, though they probably need more than mere gestures. Your site and the forum you host is so very refreshing. I'm going to toddle off now and try to read my English copy of the Qur'an through Julia's eyes....

One comment. Well, two.

Sweeney is a very talented woman. All the best to her.

Judging from some comments on this board (and, somewhat, from Sweeney's piece), there are those who think that believers do not know wonder and joy, do not live life to the fullest because they are "waiting" for the afterlife, prefer to be led around by the nose, cannot think for themselves, cannot live in the now, etc., etc.

Pity. But if people do think that way about us, it's our own fault.

I'd like to meet these clergy who've lost their faith, BTW. I come from a family with clergy, all of whom know other clergy, and believe me, they are all pain-in-the-neck devout. I'd like to meet one that wasn't. Life would be quieter.

Well, I lied: three things, not two.

Holding on to God for "comfort" as one poster stated.

I'm here to tell you, drugs are a better choice. You want comfort, you want opiate, go for the real thing. (Though chocolate might work.)

Lots of lonely times for us all, whether we believe or not. God doesn't take all the pain away. The best Christians I've known to live with pain and do it well. They also know how to live, period. And they're usually out there kicking ass -- the nun who gave her life for the rainforests and its peoples comes to mind.

Mary, You respond as though you personally have been attacked and I am very confused by your last comment. "I'm here to tell you, drugs are a better choice. You want comfort, you want opiate, go for the real thing." Many Christians do live in pain but some find their comfort in God. There is nothing wrong with that (in my opinion) God or no God. The difference between God and opiates is you can believe in God or not and still be essentially the same person. Opiates change you forever and eat up your morallity conscience and semblance of self. I'd go with the chocolate :)

Life is hard - if you believe in God and that helps you get through the day - Great.

As for some people being led around by the nose - well some religious followers are... Many are not. However, there are enough people out there willing to not want to deal with the day to day crap... that don't want to have to make all the decisions themselves ... to keep several cults going - some of them rather twisted.

So there are those who have questioned their faith and their faith has stood that test. It makes them stronger people. They not only know how to live but they know themselves. But there are lots of people (as evident by the previous posts) who are questioning their faith and are finding that they can not reconcile who they are with the church.

There is nothing wrong with that. For some it may end up being a moment of doubt and for others a lifelong transforamtion. Either way they should question and find out what they belive. Belief is a huge part of who we are. The result does not mean that they as people will love any less or be any less moral.

It is when we lie to ourselves and the rest of the world to hold up some ideal that is not part of our being that causes the most trouble. So again I say question, learn and try and enjoy the journey.

"The point is, nobody knows for sure. Be nice to people and don't feel guilty about that extra piece of cake." Right on - Peace

There will always be reasons NOT to believe. God is not stupid. People don't concern themselves with those that don't believe what they say. Why should God? In the end, God wins.

That was a nice post, blue sky. No, I haven't been personally attacked. It's just that I've visited a number of forums where religion is discussed, and the traits I listed seem to come up again and again. I just think it's a shame they have that view of us (believers). We're judgemental puritans, obediently walking along with our eyes cast downward, waiting for the rapture to come. I can only assume that it is our own fault, for letting that view prevail.

My dad was a devout Christian, much more devout than I will ever be. Near the end of his life, he said, "I sure will miss this world. I've had such a great time." And he did. He loved to eat, loved sex (shudder), loved his family, loved to tell jokes, loved laughter, loved animals, loved everything. He showed me, by example, how to revel in life, in the glory of creation itself.

As for my other comment, that was an attempt at humor that didn't come across well. I've heard the "religion is the opiate of the people" argument, all of us have, and it ain't no opiate. Pain is a part of life just as joy is, and mature adults, whether they believe or not, come to understand that.

BTW, I'd pick chocolate over opiates any day.

There are a certain amount of people who are going to lash out and treat religious folk with disdain. After all, they are reacting to years of having something shoved down their throat that, at the very least, has left a bad taste in their mouth. Keep in mind. You are witnessing a rough spot in their road. The danger there is they themselves may become the monster they lived with all those years in deciding they are right, there is no other way and closing their ears off.

What if there is no God? That would mean there is no eventual paridise, no rescue. If we want paridise we will have to make it here on earth ourselves, amongst ourselves with our fellow human beings. I know - Tall order.

God or no? Shouldn't we be striving for that anyway? The only way I see humanity making it and not self destructing is through communication and tolerance (where appropriate.) But you can't even get to the point of tolerance if you don't understand the other point of view. The point...

There are too many people out there (religious and otherwise) whose opinions are "My way or the highway." So regardless of where you are in life keep yourself open to the conversation. It is one more form learning.

Mary, Your Dad sounds really cool, like my grandma, who was also Catholic. I'm positive that any one of the people that posted would get along with them regardless of religion because they weren't the type to shove their beliefs on other people. They knew about the stuff that was REALLY important. They were also intellegent, fun and they lit up a room with their presence. They worked hard and sucked it up when things got rough. I want to see more people be like that. But for that to happen you gotta be solid at your core. I think I'm rambling - my appologies - Gnight.

blue sky, mary -- concerning tolerance, understanding, etc., consider the essay at http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=644838, an excerpt of which is pasted below. The "divider and not a uniter" has been succeeding quite well over the past four years. Indeed, I confess that I find myself increasingly intolerant of the religious right (and by extension, of religion in general).

In God we Trust: America's rising religious zealotry Andrew Buncombe in Washington 07 June 2005

Some snapshots of religious zeal in the US: there are churches in Texas where 20,000 worshippers pray every Sunday; Alabama's most senior judge was dismissed for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his court; the re-election of George Bush ­ returned with the support of thousands of evangelicals lured to the polls by local laws banning homosexual marriage.

Such images leave little doubt about the importance of religion in a country where more than 40 per cent of the population say they regularly attend church. But a survey has underlined the huge gulf between the US and other industrialised countries on the influence of religion in everyday life.

Despite the separation of church and state being enshrined in the US constitution, more than 40 per cent of US citizens said religious leaders should use their influence to try to sway policy-makers. In France, by contrast, 85 per cent of people said they opposed such "activism" by the clergy.

(more at http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=644838)

Yep, the number and zeal of the postings here demonstrates nicely how irrational and prejudicial the left is.

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awesome!

if you really interested in how badly the bible is written check out these links

http://www.geocities.com/closetatheist/dminconsistencies.htm http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/

My problem is trying to discuss the obvious problems in the Bible with christians.

"You follow a book written by men, put together for political purposes. This book has so many obvious contradictions that it is insane. Yet you say you take the book for absolute truth because "drumroll please" THE BOOK TELLS YOU TO BELIEVE IT!"

religion is the opiate of the masses

I am a firm believer in live and let live - I believe that is why we have free will, unfortunately religious zealots of all walks attempt to influence people - the problem with Evangelicals is, they seem to ignore "free will" when dealing with another's belief structure.

As far as this statement "Yep, the number and zeal of the postings here demonstrates nicely how irrational and prejudicial the left is." by anon...

I really do not see much in the way of irrational, maybe prejudicial, but labeling something that doesn't agree with you "irrational" when it clearly isn't or it is something you can't grasp - is a way to "demonstrate" the closed minded tactic for dealing with it.

  1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent.

  2. If God were omnipotent, then God could create a stone so heavy that God could not lift it.

  3. If God could create such a stone, then God's powers would be limited (i.e., God could not lift the stone).

  4. Given (3), God would not be omnipotent, since there would be something for which God lacks the power.

  5. If God could not create the stone, then God's powers would be limited.

  6. Given (5), then God would not be omnipotent.

  7. Therefore, God cannot be omnipotent.

  8. Therefore, God cannot exist.

Anon,

I would not be so absolute - know one really knows who or what "God" is. We as a species would be arrogant in believing that we are just some science experiment that got lucky and survived.

Just know that I am not one who advocates organized religion, dogmatic beliefs are not healthy when they are twisted the way they are in many of them today.

Just my .02

You just proved that an intellegent god can not exist in the physical realm (you cant judge the powers of some god using human terms, atleast for the god you are describing). We already know this.

The chains of time and space are broken in pure emptiness!

Anon - The zelots are discouraging. But how much of America is REALLY committed to those ideals. The evengelicals have put themselves in vouge. It will not last forever. The pendulum is already starting to swing the other way. So keep the lines of communication open. The hard core evangelicals of any religion will not listen or change but... they are not truely the majority. Closing the lines of communication is a destructive easy path that feeds into the twitsted evangelical fantasy of us against them. Don't help them in their work.

They have the advantage of their willingness to lie and to take any measure neccessary to achive the desired result. THAT is probably the most dangerous piece of their stratagy. The fact that researchers have sold out is undermining the ability of the common populace to make an informed decision. The other problem of course being that a lot of the general public lets fear propoganda make the choice for them.

That is why it is so important to seek the truth and then share it in such a way that you are being informative and not accusing or confrontational. I know many people who still support Bush only because they don't want to admit they were wrong - because earlier they were so right. If you approach them with confrontation they will hold that position like a dog with a bone. If, however, you can find a way to let them be wrong without rubbing their nose in it (perhaps deserved but not very sporting) you may find that they will come around.

From the talk "around the water cooler" I would have to say the tide is turning. Go ahead and give it a nudge :)

I take back my earlier argument...

Read this please:

http://www.suite101.com/discussion.cfm/6778/85466

Loved the show on NPR, and had to come look for it, since I missed some of it. I laughed a lot through it, since it sounded like me as i was growing up. I got in trouble and called a troublemaker, because I needed answers, but was told to have Faith.

Over the years I found the catholic church Change many things that didn't work for me, or make sense, and the more they changed, the more that I felt that I knew better. Learning how and why certain beliefs or rules were adopted, it just made me think more and more, that religions were rediculous, and invented by Man. I Need Truth, NOT some fairy tale that some Man made up, and maybe ones on LSD. Friends have told me that I wouldn't be saved, and I keep thinking. if I Couldn't Think, I Might follow some wacko religion, but then That would mean that I am Wacked, or scared, or stupid, or get headaches if they have to think.

I looked into many religions and the eastern ones were the most interesting, but what i settled on was Pantheism, which believes that all matter and energy are what others call god, and the physical laws just make it All work. A friend who studied religions told me I was a pantheist. I was on a list for it, and as soon as the people started to want to make it the way They needed a belief to be. A church, songs, services. I saw Man's hand coming in, and knew it was going to be Down hill from there, but man NEEDS these things, to feel they belong to something, instead of just experiencing living, and all the wonders. Never had as religous experience, as looking at and experiencing nature. God didn't create a church building, the stained glass, and all the paintings and fixtures. That's what Man Thinks there should be.

Its just hard being a Christian nowdays. Treated by the left as being idiots and the right just screws it up. I understand the thinking, but I just cannot see any sense in the cult of "me" that everybody seems to follow. If there is no God, there is no sense in this world or no morals. Don't tell me people are inheritily good. They are not and that includes me.

This is told wonderfully, and it's about time someone comes out and expresses this stuff. I always felt like I was the only one who thought this way. After reading the bible myself, I would ask people (mainly those who told me I was going to hell because I didn't attend church)why they thought the bible had such morals, and was so wonderful. They would look at me like I was the devil. So I would ask them about some of the stories in the bible. The parts on raping, disrespect, unloyalty and so on. They would all have different excuses for that or deny those stories were even in the bible. Now let me say this, these people are the ones to claim they read the bible thousands of times, and they don't even know what I'm talking about??? Well I'm sure everyone has had similar conversations, so I won't go on and on on this. Anyway this is great!

Its just hard being a Christian nowdays. Treated by the left as being idiots and the right just screws it up. I understand the thinking, but I just cannot see any sense in the cult of "me" that everybody seems to follow. If there is no God, there is no sense in this world or no morals. Don't tell me people are inheritily good. They are not and that includes me.

The view that God creates the moral law is often called the "Divine Command Theory of Ethics." Let's take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. If the Divine Command Theory were true, then the Ten Commandments could have gone something like this: "Thou shalt kill everyone you dislike. Thou shalt rape every woman you desire. Thou shalt steal everything you covet. Thou shalt torture innocent children in your spare time. ..." The reason that this is possible is that killing, raping, stealing, and torturing were not wrong before God made them so. Since God is free to establish whatever set of moral principles he chooses, he could just as well have chosen this set as any other.

Many would consider this a reductio ad absurdum of the Divine Command Theory, for it is absurd to think that such wanton killing, raping, stealing, and torturing could be morally permissible. Moreover, to believe that God could have commanded these things is to destroy whatever grounds one might have for praising or worshiping him. To avoid the charge of absurdity, a Divine Command theorist might try to deny that the situation described above is possible. He might argue, for example, that God would never condone such killing, raping, stealing, and torturing, for God is all-good. But to make such a claim is to render the theory vacuous. The Divine Command Theory is a theory of the nature of morality. As such, it tells us what makes something good by offering a definition of morality. But if goodness is a defining attribute of God, then God cannot be used to define goodness, for, in that case, the definition would be circular - the concept being defined would be doing the defining - and such a definition would be uninformative. If being all-good is an essential property of God, then all the Divine Command Theory tells us is that good actions would be willed by a supremely good being. While this is certainly true, it is unenlightening. For it does not tell us what makes something good and hence does not increase our understanding of the nature of morality.

A Divine Command theorist might try to avoid this circularity by denying that goodness is a defining attribute of God. But this would take him from the frying pan into the fire, for if goodness is not an essential property of God, then there is no guarantee that what he wills will be good. Even if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, it does not follow that he is all-good, for, as the story of Satan is supposed to teach us, one can be powerful and intelligent without being good. Thus the Divine Command Theory faces a dilemma: if goodness is a defining attribute of God, the theory is circular, but if it is not a defining attribute, the theory is false. In either case, the Divine Command Theory cannot be considered a viable theory of morality.

[T]he threat of divine punishment cannot impose a moral obligation, for might does not make right. Threats extort; they do not create a moral duty. Thus, if our only reason for obeying God is the fear of punishment if we do not, then, from a moral point of view, God has no more claim to our allegiance than Hitler or Stalin.

Click here

That arguement has been made, but it fights the whole free will thing. If we are granted free will, choices would need to be available. Also in your point the universe came before God. Listen we can debate this and make logic fit no matter what. For example, I have notice every person has something they worship , a "god". Sometimes its money, themselves, science, whatever. Why is this? Also like any human at any time, we tend to think we know the big picture. Yet we cannot explain where morals come from. Its amazing to me how any people can look at the universe and come to the conclusion that it revolves around them. And don't tell me you don't. Any person that really truely thinks we are nothing but a chance of an godless universe with a limited time before we stop functioning would be committing sucide. There would be no point at all. I understand almost any other faith, better that the idea of no god.

As far as the Bible, the old testment is Jewish history as well as the old testment. No one seems to keep that in mind, not the godless ones or the nut cases on the right. I have read the passages mentioned and I do see how it fits into the big picture of my faith. I have read it. I also have question of the logic of the idea of no god. It puts too much faith in the human race, or the individual. I cannot see that at all.

By the way how many of you were raised Catholic?

whoa whoa... please don't assume that nobody else in the world can handle the thought of a godless and pointless universe. i, for one, have completely come to terms with this fact. the peace of mind comes from embracing contradictions such as living in a cold, incidental and inherently meaningless and finite existence, while embracing the personal reality that you are alive and living your life so you may as well find the things within that short time that will make you feel happy and like you've lived a full life. also, doing this reinforces personal morality, and kindness and good will for it's own sake, outside the eyes of "god". and although i agree that atheists (as well as theists) commonly hold certain ideals, etc. in high regard I think it's pretty ridiculous to say they have made them their god. people should spend less time worrying about god and more time worrying about their fellow man.

Jeff, nicely said, to which let me add one of my favorite Nietzsche quotes.

"There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings." --Nietzsche"

Also like any human at any time, we tend to think we know the big picture. Yet we cannot explain where morals come from.

the claim that since there is no proof that something is true, then it must be false is completely absurd. for example, if someone were to argue: "Bigfoot must exist because no one has been able to prove that he doesn't." the problem with that kind of thinking is that it takes a lack of evidence for one thing to be good evidence for another. A lack of evidence, however, proves nothing. In logic, as in life, you can't get something for nothing.

Its amazing to me how any people can look at the universe and come to the conclusion that it revolves around them. And don't tell me you don't.

i don't understand how you automatically think that because certain people do not believe in a god, that they automatically are self-centered and believe the universe revolves around them.

Any person that really truely thinks we are nothing but a chance of an godless universe with a limited time before we stop functioning would be committing sucide.

if people knew they had a 'limited time' as you say, then they'd be cherishing their life, not committing suicide.

There would be no point at all.

No point to life? Because there is no god then there is no point in living and experiencing the joys and wonders of the universe?

I understand almost any other faith, better that the idea of no god.

if it keeps you from falling apart, then i say stick with it ;)

This is a little long, but it's a quote from a really good article about someone who went from Pentecostal to atheist. It makes the point, which so many comments in here are speaking to, that it became necessary not just to understand that there is no god ... but to understand why the world DOES work. How humans got to the world we live in, why it's set up this way, who benefits. The link to the whole article is below:

http://rwor.org/a/1237/losingreligion.htm

"...It wasn't just the fact that this god had not come through for us despite our arduous prayers, fasting for weeks at a time and attending church services nearly every day of the week. No, it wasn't just that. It was the fact that I saw what the belief in this god had been doing to my mother, our lives. Looking objectively at it all, I saw that we weren't being delivered of anything, only being delivered in to distress because of the decisions we made and actions we took that were consistent with what we were taught in the bible, in church. My mother is only one instance amongst many others within my extended family as a whole in which this grounding within religion has incurred continuous and consistent distraught, in relationships and in material conditions. She, my family, and so many more under this shroud of "waiting for God's blessing" while amidst unrelenting despair provided me with more than enough reasons to lose my religion.

But even though I had all the reasons to completely let go of what was now to me an obsolete ideology, letting go completely would not be possible until I could find another mode of understanding and engaging reality, a mode that was consistent with the way things really were. So for a while I was in conflict. Daily I saw, and experienced myself, the manifold oppressions and common plight that plague so many people. Within me, a sharp passion developed to change this, not simply for myself, but for all oppressed. Yet I began to realize more and more how utilizing the doctrine of Christianity would be counterproductive to this task. I couldn't simply appease the people by telling them that they're living this life in all this misery to live another "more perfect" life. I couldn't any longer tell people that invisible incubus forces were responsible for their tragedies; and I certainly could not tell the people that they all suffer individually and commonly because "it's god's will." I needed an ideology that didn't legitimize, pacify or mystify the oppression of people and the many causes therein.

It was around my sophomore year in college that I ran into some real truth. It was in a class; the teacher made Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones by Bob Avakian a required reading text. Reading this text was truly a turning point for me. Up until then, I hadn't fully explored the Biblical discourse and Christianity panoramically in relation to its political and social ramifications. For a long while I'd always thought of the bible and religion in general as apolitical, or something detached from "lowly mortal affairs." But reading Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones inspired me to do something that religion in general denounces, think critically. So I expanded my research; I delved deeper into Marxism, and perused the bible further for myself to deconstruct all of the paradigms it had for so long instilled into me and so many others.

I finally came to the result that the bible in all its nearly infinite ambiguity, as well as all ideologies that use the bible directly and indirectly as a basis, taught nothing but powerlessness and unquestioned obedience or acceptance. How could I use this as an ideological weapon for resistance and emancipation for the suffering masses of people? It just wouldn't work. However, Marxism was just the opposite; instead of the powerlessness of the individual, there was the strength of the masses; instead of subjugation of invisible beings (and the rulers that this or these beings had divinely put in place over the people), there was resistance for the cause of the people in control of their own destinies. Marxism wasn't just a doctrine of absolute and unchanging truth, but conversely, an ideology that embraced contradiction, change, question and critical application.

All together, I needed a methodology to change the world, not simply some "feel good" dogma to rationalize the depth of my suffering and that of so many others. So when I hear all the bullshit propaganda about "getting your life right with god", I think of how "right" the lives of the financially and emotionally struggling masses are with god; I think about how "right" my mother's life has been with god, and I think of how "right" the lives of the slaves in America were with god."

I was moved to imagine God by an insightful young woman on the radio.

Imagine God, a very old god. Then imagine a god even much older than that and infinitely wiser. And with each progressive step backwards, with each older God being more understanding and tolerant of the faults of the lesser gods, since imperfection is the nature of the lesser gods.

Imagine God, a god of vast knowledge. Then imagine a god of even deeper understanding of physics, math, biology and sociology. Then imagine an even more insightful, creative and meticulous god. A God plan, such that only with the extreme use of our intelligence and reasoning this God slowly unveils the infinite complexity of the physical world.

Imagine a God, of astronomical size, quantum speed and boundless energy. Then imagine a more powerful god that spent its existence making galaxies, playing with black holes and neutron stars over stretches of billions of years. This God of the universe hangs pretty spherical worlds on the night sky as if we where hanging Christmas bulbs on a tree. Does this God love and cherish each world as much as the others? Did this infinite God create so many billions of worlds to have but one favorite?

Then:

I cannot imagine how the son of an infinite God could be so fraught with pettiness. How could such a divine individual visit Earth and speak of no better morality than that which was conceived by the Greeks and Eastern religions hundreds of years earlier? How could the son of God, imbued with infinite wisdom be frustrated by a fig tree?

Isn't it about time for a new religion?

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Is there any plans for a tour? Where can I get a tape or transcript of the entire trilogy. An awesome piece of work!!

Brilliant. Thanks for posting that, and Julia, thank you so much for sharing your journey. Mine in many ways parallels yours.

While I agree with your conclusions re. god, and your disgust at discovering what the Bible says, I think that it is also important to give our ancestors credit for the beauty they created both in the Bible itself and the many cultures that biblical culture fostered. The big mistake has been our degree of trust in those kindly, well-intentioned people in authority over us (the priests of so many traditions) that has allowed them to dictate to us our most important values. It scares the hell out of us initially to make those choices ourselves. But nothing has made me feel more alive, or better, than beginning to do this.

Again, Julia, thank you for raising your voice with respect to this contentious issue, and for doing with both wit and sincerity. You will be heard by many (my kids for example, who range in age from 23 to 10 years of age) who would ignore most other voices on this topic.

Best regards,

bob mccue Calgary, Canada

A friend fwd me the npr link yesterday, and i listened, and i loved it, and i hated it, and im so confused. Everything, she said I have felt and argued. untill the point where we "just die". I dont want to believe that. I dont want it to be true. I mean, what is life like without faith in something as grand as a higher power. I know how transparent I must seem. I almost wish I had never heard this, and I'm compelled to play it over and over. Is G_D trying to tell me something? Something is trying to.

Jerry Jr, I understand your journey, the journey that we are all on. I’m glad that you are beginning to let go of the Biblical God concepts. For most of us, they don’t stand up to reason or scrutiny yet they are deeply rooted in most of Americans. I would say to you that no one has “The Answers”. Each one of us are going to have a different relationship with our own inner (soul, spirit, heart, truth what ever you want to call it) and the mysteries of life. I like to think of the life path as a mountain, you may choose one path to the top, I may choose a different path, a peaceful Christian will go up one side of the mountain, a Muslim up the other side and so on…If we live our life in accordance with our own individuals thoughts based on our own life observations than, I believe, we will all come out on top of the mountain. As long as your path is a peaceful one, I believe, no path is superior to any other, you just have to choose your own. And that, coming from an Atheist is my view. I don’t know what will happen at the end. The Bible Thumpers are banking on your need for answering this question now! Allow yourself to let it come to you from within. Reincarnation, a spiritual journey of some kind (I do have a vision of this journey but it is a personal story) but the point is, I guess to enjoy the journey and at the end, I’m sure you will cross that bridge when you get there! Peace, good luck.

I heard this passage from julia's show and must say it was what i needed to push me to become a full atheist from being agnostic. When i hear the bible it just seems like such a fairy tale world and made up. I believe this of all religons. It just seems like such a hard concept to grasp. And these stories in the bible all happened so long ago how come we never see anything like that again. jesus is supposed to be coming for us but for how long has he been supposed to come? If there is a god why would he allow for such vicious crimes to go on and allow the things that go on in our world. Free will you will say and i know but it just makes no sense. If he created us why with so many problems. Why create us to hate and kill and be vicious? It just makes no sense. God, all loving, merciful allowing children to get beat and raped and parents to murder their families and innocent people to be killed in bombings and our innocent people. to die in war.The corrupt leaders in the world today. I believe that religion is just comfort for people. Of course you think about death and it scares you so you want confort. No one wants to be a body in the ground. to die and thats it. we want to know that there is more out there, life really doesn't end, so we choose a religon. We have these rules to follow that keep us in line. I must say religion wasn't a bad idea because it worked but it's just crazy. Think about hell, honestly. If your a sinner your going to a place where you never stop burning and you are tortured for eternity. Thats scary, who would want that. But in reality how realistic does that even seem? It's just become pure madness to me.

[...] Everything, she said I have felt and argued. untill the point where we "just die". I dont want to believe that. I dont want it to be true. [...]
[...] Of course you think about death and it scares you so you want confort. No one wants to be a body in the ground. to die and thats it. we want to know that there is more out there, life really doesn't end, so we choose a religon. [...]

It would seem that the desire to believe that one's life continues after death is an even stronger primal urge than the desire to believe in a Creator. (As protohumans gradually developed increasing levels of consciousness and awareness of self, what occupied their minds more, their impending mortality or wonderment at how the universe came to be?) I can think of two world religions (Buddhism and Confucianism) that are essentially atheistic yet promise some semblance of an afterlife. In the case of Buddhism, it is a cycle of rebirths/reincarnations and eventual nirvana. In the case of Confucianism, it is to be venerated as an ancestral spirit (ancestor worship). On the other hand, I can't think of a single theistic religion that does not offer some promise of an afterlife but instead says that you "just die". Can anyone?

Lara : Judaism

Ricky, You'll be interested in the correspondence from someone in the WBC.

http://www.goodasyou.org/

It's laden with horribly vicious terms meant to incite a reaction...but we laugh it off.

OH MY GOD! Is that really Margie Phelps!

Thank God, I made a special place on my website for Phelps.

check it out if interested - http://www.rickybones.com/pissed.php#phelps

Alison, I had thought that the no-afterlife viewpoint was largely limited to secular Jews. Among practicing Jews, what is the partition coefficient between the no-afterlife viewpoint and the afterlife viewpoint? Isn't the view that there is an afterlife the predominant one among practicing Jews?

A further point. Natural selection should favor those species with a strong instinct for self-preservation. Could the need to believe in an afterlife by a sentient species be a manifestation of the drive to survive taken to an illogical and perverse extreme? It would be ironic if the very evolutionary pressures that resulted in the ascendance of humans and human society, and in our instinct for self-preservation, drove us to those religions promising immortality, and resulting, in some cases, in a rejection of the idea of evolution.

The small voice that Julia heard telling her that there is no God was Satan.

Susie, I think I hear the tooth fairy calling you.

Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity, makes a great deal of sense of tenets of the Christian faith many understand to be non-sensical. I commend it to believers and non-believers alike.

yes yes all you cool cats talking bout God and no God and the bible as mythology and so forth. wonderful man wonderful. but the real oppressors are the power mad men who run organized religion and thereby spoil any chance of good coming from belief. my dad was a pastor and I saw all the power games and soial control mechanisms and understood it to be fraudulent and false before I was ten. but even many years later and 20 years since his death, I have had many experiencial revelatory encounters with God which made me a believer again, though one with a vigilant willingness to question and challenge and certainly never one to submit to other men or groupthink. I don't think organized religion can ever work because the organizing principle requires the concentration of power in one or a few men who ALWAYS use it to subvert the followers and implant themselves in the faith of the members. it is axiomatic. it cannot be avoided. we are never meant to be followers. the contradictions, inconsistencies and strange stories in the bible reflect a historical culture and also perhaps the admission of how messy and mistake riden life always is when God and man are trying to arrive at some way to work with each other. Some passages of the bible are a roadmap and others are case histories and scenes of crime and accident and exist more as a warning and example. As a believer I am awe struck and horrified at the terrible range of possibillities that free will grants man. God made man like himself and so if we are ever to arrive at a good place together, we would need to know what that horrible potential entails. It has resulted in much evil, but also much good. Morality and the choice to love is made by individuals, but I also know and feel a power and love beyond myself which is a real force that can be known. It can all get rather confusing since good arguments exist on both side of the debate. atheism and agnosticism is a belief too. Like the old Rush song, you may choose not to choose but you have already made a choice. Just leave out a little room for doubt in this new set of beliefs too. Like woody allen used to say, let's not get too hasty, what if one day they find something up there. God just might poke his face around a corner some day and then won't you be embarassed!

I feel that once people realize that the people who have taken it upon themselves to try to program us into their beliefs are in it for one thing (money) than it will be easier for them to make up their own minds about the existance of God. Read what is available, think about it, decide for yourself like Julia has done.

The small voice that Julia heard telling her that there is no God was Satan. Posted by: susie on June 15, 2005 04:44 PM Susie, I think I hear the tooth fairy calling you. Posted by: anon on June 17, 2005 05:02 PM

Hey, come on - if you've had any experience with devout Christians, you KNEW that most of them were thinking the SAME thing - that the voice was "Satan."

The wonder is that it took so long for one of them to get on here and say it.

I just hope that Julia Sweeney doesn't need to hire a bodyguard once the crazy violent religious people get wind of this - the religious in the US are not used to an atheist being given a chance to speak so freely in a public forum - it will surely drive some of them right over the edge.

A previous poster asked how many of the previous comments were from lapsed Catholics. That question wasn't answered, but I think I understand their line of thought.

Some of the discussion seems to lump together all "believers," "organized religion," or even talks of a monolithic "Church". There are 15 generic uses of the "church" without qualifiers, from thoughts rambling on "the church" to "church people". What church are you speaking of? The Church of W? My YMCA down the block? The Church of Elvis in Portland, Oregon? The Friends Meeting House in Poughkeepsie? And how different is this from teeth-gnashing zealots who lump "non-believers" or "heathens" in the hell-bound purple handbag?

A devout Methodist and a passionate atheist who both care deeply about a moral or spiritual issue like civil rights may have more in common than people in their own "camp". As far as stereotyping all "believers" - between deists, polytheists, and monotheists alone, there are worlds of differences - let alone between different sects with different drives, or individual people.

It's especially galling when those who have left one religion, or joined a new one, generalize about other people's experiences with faith in "their own image" instead of being enlightened by the actual diversity of experience. I.e. I had a bad experience with the Pentecostal church, therefore I'm qualified to generalize about ALL Christians, including Quakers, Mormons, Gnostics, Christian Scientists and others who have substantially different belief systems. Or, I realized my faith in God arose from an immature set of beliefs, therefore everyone who still believes is immature, because OF course they arrived at their belief by making the exact same conclusions I did.

That was not the point of Julia Sweeney's work, was it? She was talking about a very individual, very personal journey.

I disagree wholeheartedly with what many Evangelical Christians believe, and I do not believe any ONE faith (or school of thought - including science) should control our planet's destiny. But being respectful (instead of stereotyping all Christians as "crazy" or all believers as being "incapable of letting go") would go a long way. Methinks it's not only the zealots who need to check out http://www.religioustolerance.org, and actually learn about the diversity of belief systems.

I admire Julia Sweeney for her thoughtful and sensitive work. But there are many different paths to understanding our spiritual nature; for many of us it's not an either/or issue - either there's a strict God exactly like that in the Bible (or Koran or what have you), or there's no God at all. There are even people who simply don't think or concern themselves with an afterlife, or a lack thereof.

I study Unitarian Universalism, a creedless faith that focuses on our interconnectedness, whatever we believe. Many of us still find value in the Bible and Torah, although we do not accept it as literal. Most UUers welcome spiritual and religious insight from other traditions - including that of atheists and agnostics.

I realize some people come to atheism because of the pain they've encountered from their previous religion, or from zealots in their families. But it shouldn't blind you to the beauty, diversity and ideas that exist both in religious ideals and people of faith.

Oh, and as for those "crazy" monolithic Christians, maybe this might shed some light on how diverse their beliefs actually are:

http://www.ucc.org/news/r012405.htm

So sad that Julis is no longer bloging because she fears for her life with all death e-mails. How sad from just speaking you mind

Oh, I regret that I came so late to this discussion! The piece is wonderful.

The major concerns of the comments seem to fall into two categories: morality and mortality. These are the two issues that are raised over and over again when the prospect of living without religion is raised. We might label them the social issue and the personal issue.

For those people who say that we have no idea how morality can arise without religion, I recommend a book: The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker. (The subtitle is “The Modern Denial of Human Nature.”) In fact, morality arises in social animals quite naturally and can be explained by evolutionary psychology, as Pinker makes clear.

For those people struggling with the prospect of mortality, both their own and that of their loved ones, I have great sympathy. I cannot begin to say enough here. I must, immodestly I fear, refer you to an essay I wrote on the topic. It is available at http://funygroup.org. (FUNY stands for Freethinkers of Upstate New York.) Click on articles, then click on “The Gift of a Wise Man,” which is at the top of the list of web articles.

I wrote this essay on dealing with mortality in the wake of my father’s death in 2000. I hope it will be of aid to those who are suffering now.

Hi, well, where to start. Well my name is dan. im 15 and im a christian. you may have so built up resentments against alota christians because of the judgementalness that goes on[i think i made that word up]. But i just want to give a word of input. i mean personaly, i dont believe that "if your not saved you die and go to hell", which Lord knows, we all hear alot. ive read those passages that supposidly state that, but i dont see that. i just wanna tell you not to give up on Jesus because hes so wonderful and loving. and i was offended hearin " i know the Bible is BS but...". i mean i havnt heard a word of BS in it. I think its the people that make it what everyone "thinks" is the Bible, but isnt. whats the Bible about? Love. everything pertains to love. even the commandments. They all lead to the one thing that God wants us to have the most, love. So, i just wanted to give you that, i actualy have proof in the Bible that people will misread what the read[meaning that you should read it for what it means to you and not the person next to you]. just read the last part in Luke8:10- "they see what i do, but they dont realy see; they hear what i say, but they dont understand". And that is right after tellin his diciples that they are givin the privelage of knowing the secrets of the kingdon of heaven etc. etc. and that people wont always understand God's word. so i mean, just think about it, dont build a wall around yourself, be open. lol i hate when people at church say, it sounds narrow minded because it is... and then say we should follow after Jesus. when in fact Jesus was one of the most open minded people of his time. so i mean, give him another chance, just be open about the fact that maybe the Bible isnt BS, but the people that are so... nevermind dont get me started. my grandpa always used to say, "church would be great if theyd just get rid of all those damn people" haha. i love that. well peace out. Much love. email me somtime, djescalade990@hotmail.com

Just picked up Sam Karris's book "The End of Faith" Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. A must read for anyone who really wants to get to the nuts and bolts of the problem. And as I see it the problem is the re-rise of fundamentalism (the literal reading of the Canon's) in any faith. How are we to reason with a person who starts out with. " But I know the truth, and if only you could see it you would be free." And I don't want Him/Her to belive what I belive. Because we'd be right back where we started. And this whole Idea of Moderation, tolerating the irrationality of those who live by the letter of the texts. Where else would we let this stand. My Mother in law is dying right now across the street of Cancer. Would I rather have a Dr. there treating her pain or someone instead, saying a prayer for the pain to go away. Think of this- All humanity is in a life boat. And all the people of a faith is represented by one person. And all thoes faiths are represented in the boat. And someone ask "Which way shall we row?" And each of the representives consult their holy text. And each comes up with answer. But they are all different. Now what happens? Would a Christian follow a course set by a Muslim from his Holy book. A course that he says will take us all to shore, and free us from this boat on the sea. What do you think Julia?

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