The woman in the picture is Julia Sweeney. You probably know her from her character Pat on Saturday Night Live a few years back. She’s an actress, comedian, writer, and blogger. She’s also an intellectual, a voracious reader, and she has an appetite for learning and knowledge that is both refreshing and delightful.
Best of all, she’s a skeptic, a critical thinker. A lot of us have stories about how we used to believe in all sorts of crap (for me: UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, ESP) and how we eventually figured out it was, well, crap.
But Julia’s story is different. Born and raised a Catholic, she found herself disillusioned with her religion after being visited by a pair of Mormon boys a few years back. This started what can only be described as a spiritual quest. Along the way she stumbled on science and rationality, and it was there she found her answers.
I know a lot of people in this country would dismiss this as an empty and cold result, but of course readers of this blog know how truly wondrous science and reality are. Julia’s story to find this for herself is incredibly moving and beautiful. And now you can hear it for yourself! She created a one-woman show called "Letting Go of God", and it’s now available on CD. I just finished listening to it the other day, and even though I’ve heard earlier versions of it, her story still had me totally sucked in. It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s sad, it’s delightful.
In this two-CD set, the second disc is where, to me, she really shines. In my experience, when most people discover critical and skeptical thinking, it takes time to be able to apply it to all aspects of their lives. Julia, however, made sweeping changes in her thoughts, realigning what she thought she knew with what she realized really was true. That section of the monologue is so good — and so important — I wish everyone on the planet could listen to it.
I want to stress another point: so many skeptics are strident, and dismissive of "the other side" (not that I ever would be of course). But Julia’s story is wonderfully open, honest, and warm. It’s an amazingly well-done and well-crafted tale, and it’s earning very well-deserved accolades.
I’ve known Julia for years, though we met after she had already gone through this major worldview shift. In fact, it was because of it we met: I was giving a talk in LA at the Center for Inquiry West, and she is a member. She has a deep love of astronomy, and we hit it off. She’s been a regular guest at James Randi’s The Amaz!ng Meeting, where she has wowed the audience with her talks (including an earlier version of "Letting Go of God"), and I always look forward to seeing her there. She is such a sweetie! And her insatiable thirst for knowing is like a fresh gust of air in a world where so many are content to be told what’s right and wrong. Everyone at Randi’s meetings adores her, and she’s earned it.
I know I have no right to be, but still, I’m damn proud of her. Good on ya, Julia.
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- Thinking Aloof - » Julia Sweeney | December 27, 2006