Stephen Speicher

Letting Go Of God

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For some time friends have been recommending Julia Sweeney' s monologue, "Letting Go Of God," and today I finally got to see it. If you live around Los Angeles or New York City, do not walk but run and get tickets for this marvelous show. Sweeney left me emotionally drained, from joyful laughter to sympathetic tears, and everything in between.

The monologue is about one woman's journey from religious indoctrination as a child to casting off the shackles of faith as an independent adult human being. The journey dwells along the route, each step showing more and more of an intelligent and passionate woman seeking the truth. From the bible of a devout Catholic upbringing, to the quantum consciousness of Deepak Chopra, each is seen as a step to be discarded along the way of facing the facts of reality.

Julia Sweeney demonstrates great wit and a mind capable of piercing to the core, always revealing independent thinking. From reading and analyzing various bibles herself, to taking a course on quantum mechanics, Sweeney shows in a delightful manner her search for the truth, always keeping her sense of humanity in mind. When the show was over I stood up and applauded, a grin on my face and a few tears streaming from my eyes. I wanted to hug her.

Here is a pointer to Julia Sweeney's website. The remaining dates for her appearances at the Groundlings in Los Angeles are December 11 and 18, and January 8 and 15. At the Ars Nova Theater in New York, November 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 25,26.

There is a CD and a book forthcoming, but do miss seeing this terrific live show!

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I too have seen her show and highly recommend it. It is hard to remember when I have laughed so hard. I too was raised in a Catholic family and Julia managed to "hit the nail on the head" several times. We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles (5.5 hours) and it was totally worth the trip. Were it not for the distance involved I would have seen it again for sure. :)

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I'm glad I finally saw this. Wow! To add to what Stephen wrote: ditto.

What most stood out to me: the rationality of her thinking -- the unyielding desire to understand, to make sense of the world and religion; the emotional power she brings to the performance; the terrific sense of humor (in terms of subject, style, and delivery); and her overall sincerity. She has a passion for this whole subject, and comes across as a very sincere intellectual explorer.

Kudos across the board.

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The monologue is about one woman's journey from religious indoctrination as a child to casting off the shackles of faith as an independent adult human being. The journey dwells along the route, each step showing more and more of an intelligent and passionate woman seeking the truth. From the bible of a devout Catholic upbringing, to the quantum consciousness of Deepak Chopra, each is seen as a step to be discarded along the way of facing the facts of reality.

It sounds quite good.

I'm wondering though, in which direction does she point her audience after the abandonment of (or escape from) religion? Does she leave the implied question of "If not religion, than what?" unanswered? I can't imagine she ends the show by saying, "Now go read Ayn Rand for the right answers," or you would have mentioned it. :)

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I'm wondering though, in which direction does she point her audience after the abandonment of (or escape from) religion? 

She points them to reality. :)

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Wow, because of such praise, my Objectivist friend and I will definitely try to attend this show in NYC during the Thanksgiving break. If anyone else will be in New York during the Thanksgiving weekend, we can all go together. Based on Stephen's post, that means the November 25th or 26th showing.

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I'm wondering though, in which direction does she point her audience after the abandonment of (or escape from) religion?  Does she leave the implied question of "If not religion, than what?" unanswered?  I can't imagine she ends the show by saying, "Now go read Ayn Rand for the right answers," or you would have mentioned it.  :)

Ayn Rand developed an explicit and fully integrated philosophy unique in history, but there are many decent, intelligent, and reasonable people in the world who follow reason even though it may not lead them to Objectivism. However, to the degree that Julia Sweeney followed a process which led her, as Betsy has noted, to reality, to that degree she found the same answer as Objectivism. If there is one explicit intellectual point to be gleaned from the monologue, it is reason, not faith, that guides us to the truth, and to the beauty of Nature and the glory that is Mankind.

p.s. A slight spoiler, perhaps.

Sweeney made an observation I had not considered before. To call oneself an "atheist" is, in one sense, to define oneself in reference to religion. An a-theist is not a theist. Instead she chooses to refer to herself as a naturalist, which then makes religionists a-naturalists. I thought that was a very interesting observation.

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Wow, because of such praise, my Objectivist friend and I will definitely try to attend this show in NYC during the Thanksgiving break. If anyone else will be in New York during the Thanksgiving weekend, we can all go together. Based on Stephen's post, that means the November 25th or 26th showing.

I'm glad you are interested in going, and I think you will enjoy her monologue very much. However, it is a good idea to get tickets in advance, and to double check the play dates with the theater.

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Ayn Rand developed an explicit and fully integrated philosophy unique in history, but there are many decent, intelligent, and reasonable people in the world who follow reason even though it may not lead them to Objectivism. However, to the degree that Julia Sweeney followed a process which led her, as Betsy has noted, to reality, to that degree she found the same answer as Objectivism.

I agree.

Thanks for the response.

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Sweeney made an observation I had not considered before. To call oneself an "atheist" is, in one sense, to define oneself in reference to religion. An a-theist is not a theist. Instead she chooses to refer to herself as a naturalist, which then makes religionists a-naturalists. I thought that was a very interesting observation.

The term "atheist" negates a negative (religion); it doesn't say what one is actually for. An atheist could also be a pragmatist or nihilist, for instance. But to identify oneself as a naturalist is a strong positive: one is for the natural world. (And she didn't mean a modern environmentalist type of "naturalist" -- i.e., one who placed nature above man -- but fundamentally, one who is for reality.)

I like the term. One could also use "realist," though that has a different connotation; and "objective realist" is a bit wordy; how about, say, "objectivist?" :)

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I too saw the monologue last night--here in NYC. (There were more than 10 Objectivists in the sold-out venue.) I wrote to Ms. Sweeney (who I admired from SNL) and told her my favorite line was the 'naturalist' one.

I asked if she was influenced by Rand (I don't really expect an answer, but perhaps she might address it in her Blog) and said that the only term, towards the end, that indicated she might be, was a positive reference to Objective Reality.

The rest of the performances are sold out here in NYC.

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I wish she would come to Seattle. I think she would find fertile grounds here.

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I saw the show on closing night in New York and I totally agree with the praise here. I was moved and so impressed by her first-handedness, courage in presenting this monologue to the public, and respect for reality and rational, evidence-based thinking.

Regarding Joss's post, I don't see why she wouldn't take the show to Seattle as she is from Spokane and I believe she spent time in Seattle. But I know she is writing a book version, and that a CD and a movie version are in the works.

Regarding the post by "Rush2112", I, too, wrote her an email with my admiration of the show, and she replied to me with thanks. I also suggested she read Ayn Rand if she hadn't already, and that several Objectivists had highly praised her show. She replied that she had not read AR, and had reservations that AR was too "right wingy", but she owns "Atlas Shrugged" and other books by AR, and that she would take them with her to read on a cruise she is about to take with her family. I replied that whether she agreed or not, she is welcome to write me with her thoughts.

On her blog she mentions environmental concerns and links to articles from an environmentalist perspective, and there are hints that she tends to agree with liberal views in other areas.

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In my email I suggested (with a bit of humor) that Julia Sweeney send the book version or CD of the show to world leaders like the Pope and the leadership of the GOP.

Well, now she has decided that she is on a mission. In her latest blog, she writes that she is quitting as a writer for Desperate Housewives to devote 2006 to the book, movie and a large scale New York run of Letting Go of God.

And she lists the books she's taking with her on her cruise. The second one she lists is:

" 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand' by Leonard Peikoff. It’s terrible and astonishing that I have not read any Ayn Rand. I think I was put off by her maniacal (it seems to me – in my ignorance) free market solutions to all problems. But I am ready to give her a try and so many people have come to my show and mentioned her – it’s really a sin that I haven’t read her yet." From Julia Sweeney's blog at

http://juliasweeney.blogspot.com/

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On her blog she mentions environmental concerns and links to articles from an environmentalist perspective, and there are hints that she tends to agree with liberal views in other areas.

Whatever her political views are, the heroic sense-of-life that comes through in her blog posts makes them irrelevant. A an excitement like the one she shows reminds me that the world really is a good place to be. I'm anxiously awaiting the CD.

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Whatever her political views are, the heroic sense-of-life that comes through in her blog posts makes them irrelevant. A an excitement like the one she shows reminds me that the world really is a good place to be. I'm anxiously awaiting the CD.

If one reads further down on her blog you will find many instances of her political views. She is not for a free market, at least not now. Unless she makes fundamental changes, I do not think she will like Ayn Rand's political ideas. This is not to say that she cannot change her fundamentals.

She also has evolution wrong in which she thinks that humans survived as a species because we care for each other and work so well together, wrong. The fundamental that drives evolution is the gene. It continuously adapts to get ahead of other genes. If it works at all with another gene it is only because it facilitates its own being, or because it is being manipulated by another gene.

With all that said, I have not as of yet seen the show. But, I think from what I have read that I would enjoy it.

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I have observed that a lot of the problems in todays world are rooted in epistemology. Even if it does take her a very long time to warm upto the politics, it is still a very good thing to have more advocates for using reason to identify and deal with reality. :)

If we are going to change this world, we have to fight on the battle grounds of epistemology first, before we tackle ethics and then politics or else it is like a castle with no proper foundation. It will collapse the first moment someone says "I feel you are wrong".

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I have observed that a lot of the problems in todays world are rooted in epistemology. Even if it does take her a very long time to warm upto the politics, it is still a very good thing to have more advocates for using reason to identify and deal with reality. :)

If we are going to change this world, we have to fight on the battle grounds of epistemology first, before we tackle ethics and then politics or else it is like a castle with no proper foundation. It will collapse the first moment someone says "I feel you are wrong".

I agree that the more advocates of reason the better. But, I think that ones epistemology stems from their metaphysics. One's understanding of the nature of reality will set the other parts of philosophy including epistemology. Her understanding of nature and evolution, is still incorrect. So until she sees man's nature fully correct, which is part of metaphysics, I do not think she will change her thinking. She will not come to the conclusion that a government is formed to protect individual rights, not to regulate all man's actions, (especially businessmen).

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While her views on evolution are wrong, I don't see how evolution is a part of metaphysics. Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality itself. What sort of existance do we live in? Relationship of our mind to reality and so on. Evolution doesn't factor into those questions.

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In my email I suggested (with a bit of humor) that Julia Sweeney send the book version or CD of the show to world leaders like the Pope and the leadership of the GOP.

Well, now she has decided that she is on a mission. In her latest blog, she writes that she is quitting as a writer for Desperate Housewives to devote 2006 to the book, movie and a large scale New York run of Letting Go of God.

And she lists the books she's taking with her on her cruise. The second one she lists is:

" 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand' by Leonard Peikoff. It’s terrible and astonishing that I have not read any Ayn Rand. I think I was put off by her maniacal (it seems to me – in my ignorance) free market solutions to all problems. But I am ready to give her a try and so many people have come to my show and mentioned her – it’s really a sin that I haven’t read her yet." From Julia Sweeney's blog at

http://juliasweeney.blogspot.com/

I want to personally thank you and all the others who have suggested to Julia Sweeney that she read Ayn Rand. All your words have clearly made an impression on her, one which she intends to act upon.

I would not worry much about her current political views. Politics is a derivative part of one's philosophy, and with the good grounding in metaphysics and epistemology she has evinced, along with her wonderful sense of life, these can lead to the complete ethics, from which then comes politics.

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While her views on evolution are wrong, I don't see how evolution is a part of metaphysics. Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality itself. What sort of existance do we live in? Relationship of our mind to reality and so on. Evolution doesn't factor into those questions.

To understand metaphysics is to understand that which pertains to reality. Also to understand the nature of things in reality. To know the nature things in reality including the evolution of man. If she chooses to think that we evolutionized as an altruist species she has chosen an improper nature of man. Which means she has misunderstood evolution or more fundamentally chosen an improper metaphysics.

I do agree with Stephen's statement that a proper ethics and politics is derived from a good grounding in metaphysics and epistemology.

Although I must say that I hardly ever see this happen. From my own experience in dealing with hundreds of clients over the years, they almost never make the shift. They compartmentalize their knowledge and do not integrate themselves. I have had many clients that are religious (some very religious), and they state that they agree with evolution, but that has nothing to do with our "spiritual side". I have also had many secular clients that do not want to face reality and believe that our genes have evolutionized as selfish entities, (although not consciously).

Lastly, I would love to see her grasp Objectivism and begin to apply it to her life. I also think it would be great for someone with her popularity to take advantage of it and speak well of Objectivism. As of yet though I have not seen one "actor" or "star" do this, that is make a change of their core fundamentals. I am happily awaiting the day and I hope it is soon. :)

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And she lists the books she's taking with her on her cruise. The second one she lists is:

" 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand' by Leonard Peikoff. It’s terrible and astonishing that I have not read any Ayn Rand. I think I was put off by her maniacal (it seems to me – in my ignorance) free market solutions to all problems. But I am ready to give her a try and so many people have come to my show and mentioned her – it’s really a sin that I haven’t read her yet." From Julia Sweeney's blog at

http://juliasweeney.blogspot.com/

woo hoo!!!!

You'll know Oism is winning... when public celebrities -apologize- for not reading AR!!!!!!!!!!! WOW! I just love it.

This is happening more and more. It used to be you would get a wall of hatred. Now the haters seem pretty subdued, I haven't met one in a long time. Instead you get people who are at least so so or "tolerant" of Oism.

In this respect, imho, "tolerance" is all we need... since the right ideas win out in any conflict...

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As of yet though I have not seen one "actor" or "star" do this, that is make a change of their core fundamentals.  I am happily awaiting the day and I hope it is soon.  :)

Ray, I trust you have seen some of Betsy's great stories on athletes, etc who like AR?

I think getting a "conversion" story is very unlikely. It would be too easily seen as proselytizing or worse.

But I don't think it's necessary.

Already I like the trend, where some people are using some of her ideas without citation, as if they are SOP in the culture.

That's non-academics, of course.

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Whether or not she ever becomes an Objectivist won't change the fact that she's created a wonderful show. If she studies Ayn Rand further and comes to agree with her ideas, to whatever extent, then that would be icing on the cake.

But I wouldn't let the fact that she, like nearly everyone, personally holds some mixed premises or unresolved philosophical contradictions detract from enjoying her work. From one perspective, her personal philosophy is her business, and what she's sharing with the world is her professional work. What matters for the audience is the latter.

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