Letting Go of God
The nation appears to be greatly moved by the election of our first African American President. I eagerly await the election of the first open atheist to the highest office in the land, or at least the public consensus that religious practice or lack thereof is someone's own business, and by no means indicates competence as an executive. It appears that I will have a long wait.
Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God may strike multitudes as scandalous, a possibility that never occurred to me. This monologue is a good-natured observation of the obvious to those from a background of skepticism (one family member used to declaim “All ministers are leeches on our society!” at holiday tables—we still like fancy meals, presents, and a day to go see a movie). The performance is delightfully droll and self-deprecating as Julia describes her spiritual quest, a trajectory launched by the visit of two Mormon missionaries. “She's so likable!” a fellow viewer piped up.
The six-section piece proceeds from 'Genesis' to the arrival of a child. The first recollections are of childhood Catholicism, her seven year-old's conception of moral responsibility as a “permanent record.” After the visit from the Mormons, she enrolls in Bible study, and discovers that the sacred text is riddled with inconsistencies and cruelty. The psychedelic visions of Revelations include locusts with human heads. Experts ranging from the study-group leader Father Tom to British theologian Karen Armstrong advocate that she read with the “eyes of faith” or understand the Bible as “psychologically true.” Sweeney suggests that Homer and The Iliad are also “psychologically true.” As she later explains to her visualization of a disappearing non-deity, she takes the entire issue of its existence far too seriously to suspend her reason.
Afterwards, I visited the “Belief-O-Matic” at beliefnet.com. The site states: “Warning: Belief-O-Matic assumes no legal liability for the ultimate fate of your soul.” I determined that I qualify as a Secular Humanist, followed by Unitarian Universalist. I don't necessarily advocate Humanism: it's just a matter of working with what you've got. Regarding the second, one of the most astute individuals I know, the Scholar, observed:
“There's no good reason to be a Unitarian.” “Have the courage of your lack of convictions.” “Exactly.”
If you are a non-believer, this piece is wry vindication. If you practice a religion, you will receive a calm and thought-provoking introduction to other possibilities. If you waiver in agnosticism, you will be entertained. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. Trust us. Watch it with eyes of faith.