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Julia Sweeney - Letting Go of God excerpt
#1
This is a half hour excerpt from Julia Sweeney's one woman show about how she stopped believing in God. I found it interesting to hear some of the experiences that lead her to that point.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qso1pRiRByI
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#2
Remember when she was Pat? I couldn't tell if that was a man or a woman. Sometimes you'd think Pat was a man but then Pat would do something that made you believe Pat was a woman. That was good clean fun.
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#3
Ms. Sweeney got an awful lot of grief for this when it was originally broadcast. Apparently she received enough anonymously flung hostility that she shut down her web page.

I believe it.
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#4
Maybe. I've never had the impression that religiously angry people have any doubts. Quite the opposite, their beliefs seems absolute to me.
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#5
Quote:

Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun

Maybe. I've never had the impression that religiously angry people have any doubts. Quite the opposite, their beliefs seems absolute to me.

I think it all depends on how "angry" that is. If all you have to do is offer up a rational "But what about..." counter-point to a religious person to get them completely riled up, it's obvious (to me, anyway) that they're not secure enough in what they believe to offer up a rational response. If the only response you can give to that is anger it's obvious you haven't thought a lot of things out.

It's kind of like those men who get absolutley beligerent when faced with even the notion of homosexuality and have to take every opportunity to reinforce their heterosexuality. It's because they're not secure enough in it.
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#6
Quote:

Originally Posted by JGButler

It's kind of like those men who get absolutley beligerent when faced with even the notion of homosexuality and have to take every opportunity to reinforce their heterosexuality. It's because they're not secure enough in it.

I don't buy this argument. I think those people could be very secure in their sexuality. I just think they can't or won't understand a sexuality other than their own. It may be easier to consider these people "gays in waiting" but I don't think that's really true. I think it's a lack of understanding and no reference point to operate from.

It doesn't make their position any more justified, but to come at them with "Oh, you really want to be gay but can't admit it" just stirs them up even more. Homophobia is just like bigotry in that way. I don't see racists as wanting to be another race.

Anyway, sorry to divert.
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#7
Quote:

Originally Posted by Nordling

I don't buy this argument. I think those people could be very secure in their sexuality. I just think they can't or won't understand a sexuality other than their own. It may be easier to consider these people "gays in waiting" but I don't think that's really true. I think it's a lack of understanding and no reference point to operate from.

It doesn't make their position any more justified, but to come at them with "Oh, you really want to be gay but can't admit it" just stirs them up even more. Homophobia is just like bigotry in that way. I don't see racists as wanting to be another race.

Anyway, sorry to divert.

While I can see where you'd read that (honestly, not being facetious), that's not what I meant. Even though that IS sometimes the case I was referring to a lot of guys who really wonder about themselves. The guy who won't tell his buddy "Hey man that's a nice shirt" because he's afraid it might mean he's gay and didn't know it.

But you make a good point about the racist thing though.
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#8
Quote:

Originally Posted by JGButler

I think it all depends on how "angry" that is. If all you have to do is offer up a rational "But what about..." counter-point to a religious person to get them completely riled up, it's obvious (to me, anyway) that they're not secure enough in what they believe to offer up a rational response. If the only response you can give to that is anger it's obvious you haven't thought a lot of things out.

Their response doesn't have to be rational for them to believe it utterly, though. Faith and rationality do not go hand in hand.

Do you see doubt in these eyes? Rationality?



One might say that these people can't justify their beliefs rationally and so they get angry out of frustration, but that doesn't mean they don't hold those beliefs to be the absolute truth.
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#9
Quote:

Originally Posted by Nordling

I don't buy this argument. I think those people could be very secure in their sexuality. I just think they can't or won't understand a sexuality other than their own. It may be easier to consider these people "gays in waiting" but I don't think that's really true. I think it's a lack of understanding and no reference point to operate from.

I think there are a lot of people who just won't even try to understand, but I don't think that saying someone is insecure and threatened by homosexuality necessarily always has to mean that you think they're really gay, maybe it just means that they're, well, insecure and threatened by homosexuality. That does also have to do with a lack of understanding on their part I guess.
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#10
I'm actually really enjoying this thing. She's got a very soothing voice.
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#11
Quote:

Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun

One might say that these people can't justify their beliefs rationally and so they get angry out of frustration, but that doesn't mean they don't hold those beliefs to be the absolute truth.

and that is why those people are refered to as crazy.
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#12
After listening to that, it seems like Sweeney's problem isn't with God, but with Christian theology.
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#13
Well, she was a Christian. That means she already didn't believe in all the other gods. Once she stopped believing in the Christian version, that was it.
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#14
Exactly. Without getting into a whole "tree falls in the forest" tangent, can the Christian God exist independently of Christian theology?
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#15
No, but if you stop putting faith in Christain theology, why are you still hooked into the notion of a Christain God?
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#16
Once you've seen one clown behind the bigtop smoking a joint and peeing in the bushes, it's a good bet you'll look at them all differently.
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#17
Sure, if you can't differentiate between clowns and comedians.
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#18
I just had a listen and that was actually really, really great. I never would have thought that "Pat" could do or say anything that would interest me.

Her story about her struggle w/ her faith and others like it always make me feel relieved that I wasn't brought up in the church or even baptised, I don't need that kind of internal conflict in my life.
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#19
Another fundamentalist Christian atheist! Even in their atheism, Americans tend to be fundies.
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#20
There's no such thing. There is no dogma to adhere to, no myths to take literally.
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#21
Why do we care about Ms. Sweeney's views on religion again?
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#22
Quote:

Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun

There's no such thing. There is no dogma to adhere to, no myths to take literally.

Yes there is, her understanding of religion comes from a US centric and US Christian fundamentalist perspective. It's doesn't matter if she believes it or not, that's how it comes off. It's a cultural thing I guess.
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#23
Quote:

Originally Posted by CapitanAmerica

Yes there is, her understanding of religion comes from a US centric and US Christian fundamentalist perspective. It's doesn't matter if she believes it or not, that's how it comes off. It's a cultural thing I guess.

I think I agree with what you're getting at. The kneejerk opposition to God in this and other predominantly Christian countries is usually restricted to arguments specifically against the Christian fundy literalist conception of things.

It's not quite a strawman argument, since there are obviously many Christian fundies who DO believe intensely crazy shit, but it veers close to one, at least in evaluating religion as a whole. It's only taking into account one position on spirituality (one in which goodwill and philosophical rigor takes a backseat to mythology taken as fact and absurd "rules"Wink, and it's a position that runs the most counter to rational thought - indeed, it's its own worst enemy in that regard, as it's a spiritual view that misguidedly attempts to conform to science and reason - , so it's pretty easily squashed.
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#24
Most? Most arguments favouring atheism don't address dogma at all, they address the irrationality of believing in something that is neither apparent nor implied.

Quote:

It's only taking into account one position on spirituality (one in which goodwill and philosophical rigor takes a backseat to mythology taken as fact and absurd "rules"Wink

Of course it does. Atheism addresses the existence of a deity, not altruism or philosophical rigor. I don't think altruism or philosophical (logical) rigor are spiritual matters in any case. They're social and intellectual matters.
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#25
What I simply mean is that some US atheist (at lest the ones I have talked to about this) sound like not only US Protestants, but more like fundamentalist Christians in their objections to Christianity.

I find it ironic, but it kinda makes sense, this type of understanding of religion is embedded in the culture of this country. I just find it interesting that you can barely escape it, even if you just don't believe in God.
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#26
It's not surprising, though. In another time and place they'd probably be arguing that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, human sacrifice or no sacrifice. And they'd still be right.
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#27
Quote:

Originally Posted by Seabass Inna Bun

Most? Most arguments favouring atheism don't address dogma at all, they address the irrationality of believing in something that is neither apparent nor implied.

Most good arguments favoring atheism do that. But, in my experience, most arguments favoring atheism usually take potshots at literalist dogma in the process. I say that's dirty pool, as it denigrates the beliefs of non-literalists by implied association. Not all believers are idiots, and not all atheists are enlightened.

Quote:

Of course it does. Atheism addresses the existence of a deity, not altruism or philosophical rigor. I don't think altruism or philosophical (logical) rigor are spiritual matters in any case. They're social and intellectual matters.

That parenthetical "logic" in there is a huge jump to make on behalf of "philosophy." Logic or rationalism is but one sort of philosophy. In fact, when I hear someone categorize his philosophy as "logical," I tend to think of how Ayn Rand's style of Objectivism is often practiced; one can rationalize virtually anything - after all, if I'm a logical person, everything I do must be logical, right? Religion came before logic as we know it, and it serves different needs.

And, while I believe that altruism ultimately derives from something other than the spiritual, it's hard to deny that altruism was first expressed and codified in a meaningful way through religion in most societies.
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#28
Quote:

Originally Posted by DaveB

Most good arguments favoring atheism do that. But, in my experience, most arguments favoring atheism usually take potshots at literalist dogma in the process. I say that's dirty pool, as it denigrates the beliefs of non-literalists by implied association.

I gather there are many Christian faiths that aren't fundamentalist. Do their arguments against fundamentalism denigrate the beliefs of non-fundamentalists, i.e., their own followers?

Quote:

Not all believers are idiots, and not all atheists are enlightened.

I don't know about the enlightened part. I don't consider myself enlightened, I consider the arguments against god to be as much a product of enlightenment as the statement 'gravity goes down'.

As for idiocy, that's a tough one. Every believer has a point at which they abandon reason and say "I believe because I want to." For some it's the centerpiece of their lives. For others it's an assumption that resides in the backs of their heads and stays there. I don't consider that idiotic, just foolish.

Quote:

That parenthetical "logic" in there is a huge jump to make on behalf of "philosophy." Logic or rationalism is but one sort of philosophy.

All philosophies are self-rationalizing. And they all defend themselves with logic. It may be well be flawed logic.

Quote:

In fact, when I hear someone categorize his philosophy as "logical," I tend to think of how Ayn Rand's style of Objectivism is often practiced; one can rationalize virtually anything - after all, if I'm a logical person, everything I do must be logical, right?

No, that's poor reasoning. I think it's called tautology, I'm not sure.

When I think of logic and philosophy (not that I do so to any great degree) I think of the Greek philosophers, not that creepy Rand woman.

Quote:

Religion came before logic as we know it

I don't know about that. I expect people understood things like "If I cut myself on this rock I can probably cut other things with it too" before they even had language with which to express that thought.

Quote:

And, while I believe that altruism ultimately derives from something other than the spiritual, it's hard to deny that altruism was first expressed and codified in a meaningful way through religion in most societies.

Maybe, but this doesn't address the validity of religious belief one way or the other. A lot of good art and architecture came out of modern religion too, but . . . so what?
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#29
Quote:

Originally Posted by Matt Goldberg

After listening to that, it seems like Sweeney's problem isn't with God, but with Christian theology.

Judging just by the excerpt it would seem like that, but I think she goes into thoughts about other religions in the actual show.

Here's a quote from a recent interview she did:

Quote:

"I had this terrible breakup at 38, eight years ago. I went into a spiraling downward depression from which I didn't think I could ever recover. I had this religious experience—I felt like someone was in the room. A couple of Mormon missionaries asked me, "Do you believe that God loves you with all his heart?" I did feel that God loved me, but I didn't know if I actually believed it. They inspired me to rejoin the Catholic Church. I joined a Bible study class and just went crazy learning about all the underpinnings of how the Bible is put together. And that led me to this big thing where I had to let go of Christianity, and then I decided I was a Buddhist. I tried to visit all the places the Buddha was, and then I investigated and felt like it was just as much crap as Christianity. And then I decided God was nature. I loved Deepak Chopra so much that I took a class on quantum mechanics. And realized he was full of shit, too. Yeah, I could say God is nature, but that's not a God that cares about me. Nature doesn't care about the individual."

http://www.seattleweekly.com/arts/0618/sweeney.php
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#30
Again, it seems like Sweeney's problem isn't with God, but with theology. Who says God can't exist without a belief system attached?
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#31
Lots of people.

Ms. Sweeney seems to be looking for answers and finding those that religions offer to be lacking. And to someone looking for answers, what good is a generic god with no religious tenets attached? And what's the difference between such a god and one you just decide exists? How can you tell the difference?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Julia Sweeney

I loved Deepak Chopra so much that I took a class on quantum mechanics. And realized he was full of shit, too.

Interesting. I must look into this Deepak Chopra fraudster; I'd like to know how he's raping concepts from quantum mechanics in order to rip people off.
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#32
I'll try to answer using your other question as an example:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Matt Goldberg

No, but if you stop putting faith in Christain theology, why are you still hooked into the notion of a Christain God?

Theology is an attempt to define God, and thereby define existence, so if you adhere to a specific theology (Christian) all you're doing is defining God using various theologian's ideas about him. Any attempt to break away from the theology, is immediately redefining God for yourself. This happens all the time, and is why there are so many goddamn churches out there. It's all just a bunch of people who put their ideals into God to make the idea of Him work for them.

If Julia Sweeney has a problem with the way that Christians define God (done through their theolgy), and is going to reject it, any part of it, then her idea of God has just become Julia Sweeney's God, and at that point she can really do whatever she wants with it. Like the idea of a God that loves gays? Done. Think God would allow all religions into heaven? Voila. Read a sci-fi book about phaetons lately which sounds like something God would be mixed up in? Hey, look at that, God's a space monster from Planet Hubbard. Amazing.

edited to add: while this was sitting around behind a few other screens, Seabass answered the question in basically the same way.
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#33
Also, if you decide that God without religious tenets exists, but you still believe in God, you're essentially saying one of two things. Either you know what God is and understand existence in its entirety, or the more likely: that God is unknowable, and it's outside of our capabilities to understand who or what he is. Once you say that, you can't honestly say that you believe in God, you have to leave him undefined, and then you go about your days in a weird existentialist funk.
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#34
why would you need to be in an existentialist funk? That's assuming that that person is automatically very uncomfortable with the unknown, which is not always the case. I don't claim to have a grip on the whole god situation and am pretty comfortable with that, since there are plenty of things that I and the rest of humanity don't know. That's part of life. I'll tell you what else I'm comfortable with, the fact that I'm not lying to myself about it like some kind of cheesy bullshit artist. I might as well do heroin all day and start dressing like Flavor Flav once I start going that route.
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#35
You're right, and I wasn't actually saying that. It was late, I was drunk, and I was trying to wrap up the post.
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