Including this performance, I have now seen Julia Sweeney give this talk four times, and have loved it each time. I have also had the pleasure of talking to Julia on numerous occasions over the past year or so. If you can get to any performance of hers, do it. Her website gives dates and times of upcoming shows, mostly in the Los Angeles area.
|How To Recognize Julia Sweeney From A Long Way Off|
(OK, so why is this picture from all the way in the back of the room? Because Julia banished me to there. At least she didn't make me wait in the hall as she had threatened.)
Letting Go of God is Julia's story of her journey from belief to becoming a skeptic and gradually losing her faith in God. Each step along the way is driven by Julia's desire to explore and test her current convictions. Study of the Bible led her away from the naive faith of her childhood. Further study and a desire for greater meaning led her away from the Church entirely. Observation of the authentic practices and beliefs of Buddhism pushed her from that tradition. Venturing out to see nature, red in tooth and claw, eliminated the God of Nature. All of this story is told with charm and wit that had people doubled over laughing helplessly in the back. The version at the conference was only about half the length of the full performance, so there is still much more to the story.
Highlights for me from this version were the comment that Jesus sounded like he needed an antidepressant, the ever-popular Blue-footed Booby Babies (you had to be there), Julia's "Happy Molecules" from Depak Chopra, and putting on the "No God" glasses (to try out an atheist perspective for an hour a day).
Julia's talk contrasted with those of the other speakers at the conference by being a deeply personal story. The parallel at TAM 1 was Dan Garvin's talk about his emergence from Scientology. With all of the presentations about battles, issues, and organizations, I think that it's important to include some personal reflections.
I admit that I am completely biased on this, but I have objective evidence in the form of a rousing standing ovation on my side when I say that Julia's talk was the hit of a thoroughly excellent conference.