Julia Sweeney

Julia Sweeney has a new play, “Letting Go of God”, and describes her path to atheism. It’s different than mine—she was drawn to religion by mystical feelings, and rejected it on intellectual grounds after inspecting it up close, while I’ve never found any appeal in the mystical or supernatural—so she’s much more sympathetic than I am.

“The world is modernizing so quickly, people want to latch on to things that seem familiar,” she mused. “Religion identifies people, roots them in a tradition bigger than themselves, reminds them to be compassionate. I get that.”

I don’t see the reminder to be compassionate in religion at all.


  1. #1 Sastra
    May 6, 2006

    I’ve seen Julia Sweeney’s play about 5 times now — 4 times while “in progress” at various skeptic/humanist conventions, and once in final form at the theater in LA. It’s excellent. High recommend. She’s honest, thoughtful, and funny. She also gives credit to what’s positive about religion, while recognizing — and pointing out — that religion doesn’t necessarily have a special lock on those good things anyway.

    The play’s not just for infidels. On the contrary, Julia says that church groups regularly attend: Catholics in particular seem to enjoy and admire the story of her “search,” despite the fact that it ended up taking her away from the Church. They appreciate her sincerity; she took religion seriously. That’s respect, and they return it.

    When I saw her performance at the theater about a year ago it had been specially reserved for people from the Atheist Alliance convention. For the first time her regular show had an audience which was entirely nontheistic. I asked her later if she noted any differences in audience response. She said yes, we sometimes laughed at different places.

    For example, at one point, she bluntly truncates the mainstream beliefs of Christianity into a quick 60 second run-down, as if one were learning about it for the first time. Normally, there is a surprised intake of breath and a huge laugh, as a largely Christian audience suddenly hears what their beliefs would sound like to an outsider.

    The atheists already knew. No laugh there.

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