Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Julia Sweeney

Evan's very interesting series of epic battles concluded with a TKO of Nietzsche by Kierkegaard, which may or may not be a sound decision; but I had to take issue with the implication that there might be nothing to prevent non-theists from running around murdering people etc. etc. I was reminded of Julia Sweeney's one-woman stage show "Letting Go of God," in which she describes the moment at which her emerging intellectual rejection of the Catholicism she'd been raised on collided with her lifetime emotional habit of faith.

And plus, if I lead my life according to my own deeply held moral principles, what difference did it make if I believed in God? Why would God care if I "believed" in him?
But then I thought, "But I don't know how to not believe in God. I don't know how you do it. How do you get up, how do you get through the day?"
I thought, "Okay, calm down. Let's just try on the not-believing-in-God glasses for a moment, just for a second. Just put on the no-God glasses and take a quick look around and then immediately throw them off. So I put them on and I looked around.
I'm embarrassed to report that I initially felt dizzy. I actually had the thought, "Well, how does the Earth stay up in the sky? You mean, we're just hurtling through space? That's so vulnerable!" I wanted to run out and catch the earth as it fell out of space into my hands.
And then I thought, "Oh yeah, gravity and angular momentum is gonna keep us revolving around the sun for probably a really long time." Then I thought, "What's going to stop me from just, rushing out and murdering people?" And I had to walk myself through it, why are we ethical? Well, because we have to be. We're social animals. We're extremely complex social animals. We evolved a moral sense, like an aversion to wanton murder, in order for communities to exist. Because communities help us survive better in much bigger numbers. And eventually we codified these internal evolved ethics inside of us into laws against things like wanton murder. So... I guess that's why I won't be rushing out and murdering people!
And then suddenly I felt like I'd cheated on God somehow and I went into the house and prayed and asked God, "To please, help me have faith!" But already it felt slightly silly, and vacant and I felt like I was talking to myself.
I thought. "Okay, I'll just not believe in God for one hour a day and see how it goes." So, the next day, I tried it again.
Then I thought, "Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  What about those people who are like... unjustifiably jailed somewhere horrible, and they are like... in solitary confinement and all they do is pray... this means that I... like, I think they're praying to nobody? Is that possible?" And then I thought, "We gotta do something to get those people outta jail!"
Because no one else is looking out for them but us, no God is hearing their pleas. And I guess that goes for really poor people too or really oppressed people, who I had this vague notion; they had God to comfort them. And an even vaguer idea, that God had orchestrated their lot, for some unknowable grand design.
I wandered around in a daze thinking, "No one is minding the store!" And I wondered how traffic worked, like how we weren't just in chaos all the time. And slowly, I began to see the world completely differently. I had to rethink what I thought about everything. It's like I had to go change the wallpaper of my mind.

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