When I first came out as atheist, several people responded with a recommendation of Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go Of God.” Well, I finally got around to looking it up, and I found the audio of it on YouTube. Oh. My. God.
It is incredible. And that’s just the audio! Now I’m going to have to buy the actual performance, because wow. She’s like the Catholic version of me in so many ways. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it:
“But wait a minute, God requires faith, and faith does not require evidence, right? But then, the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit that my faith really was based on evidence–the evidence of how I felt when I prayed, the evidence of everyone believing in God, almost everyone I’d ever met from the time I was a kid. The evidence of what I had been taught by people that I trusted and admired, and people who ultimately had authority over me. So my faith in God really was based on evidence. Well then, how could I not examine that evidence?”
“I was dating a guy at the time who was a big believer in intelligent design…. Well, one morning, my intelligent designer boyfriend were waking up… and then we gazed into each others’ eyes, deeper than ever before. *sigh* ‘It’s the human eye, you know,’ he said. ‘That’s the proof there must have been a designer. You can’t have half an eye; half an eye is no good at all. Either you have an eye so that you can see, or you don’t. How could you possibly evolve an eye?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘that’s probably true….’ So, I began to read about eyes. I learned more than I ever dreamed about eyes. Turns out, from an evolutionary perspective, the eye is perfectly explainable. What began as a patch of skin more sensitive to light than other skin offers some advantage; those that have it live, those that don’t do not. Turns out half an eye is pretty valuable–about half as valuable. If an intelligent designer had designed our eyes, he would not get such a good grade, because he put the blood vessels and nerves that carry visual information to our brain on top of our retina. Imagine–that is like putting all of the wiring for a video camera on top of the lens. And where our blood vessels and nerves go through our retina and into our brain, it causes us to have this blind spot that we compensate for by basically hallucinating, which is bad. Bad, bad, bad. Not a good design for an eye. And it doesn’t really have to be that way. Octopus and squid, they evolved their eyes separately from us, and they don’t have those annoying features…. Intelligent design gets everything backwards. It’s like saying our hands are miraculous because they fit so perfectly into our gloves. Look at that–four fingers and a thumb! Now that can’t have been an accident!”
“At one time [God] seemed so all-powerful and all-knowing and all-protective, but now he just seemed a little stinky. And I could just see him sitting on his suitcases near the front door of my house, and I went to him and I said, ‘I’m sorry, God. It’s not you. It’s me. It’s just, I don’t think you exist. Look at it this way: it’s really because I take you so seriously that I can’t bring myself to believe in you. I mean, if it’s any consolation, it’s sort of a sign of respect.’”
Now, do yourself a favor and watch it or listen to it yourself. It’s totally worth it. Also, if you bookmark the YouTube video, you can actually find the chapter divisions in the description, so you can watch it bit by bit if you can’t watch it all at once. You’re welcome.