Audio Book Review: "Letting Go of God" by Julia Sweeney

I saw this CD set at a book store a while back for over $20. It caught my eye, but didn't seem like it would be worth the price. But when I saw it for way cheaper on iTunes, I decided to give it a go.

Sweeney's background is typical is some ways. She was given a very strong religious upbringing. Although she sees the hypocrisy behind the rules of her faith as a child, she still believes in god. This illustrates the mental pounding her parents gave her, in an effort to "instill values."

But as she gets older, things begin to happen. For starters, she's comedian. Comedians typically see the world from a hard, factual place, and have the talent of extracting humor from the inner darkness of life, humanity, and anything they encounter. On top of keen observation, they also develop a quick wit, an essential to survival as a comedian.

Sweeney embarks on a quest to find the truth about god. I won't be repeating any of the sections verbatim. Essentially, in conversations with people around her, god comes up in the topic. This prompts her to question things. As an example, someone mentions the "miracle of the eyeball." I mean, who else but god could make such a great creation? This conversation pushes her to read up on the eyeball, how it works, and how it is designed. She sees a variety of design flaws. If it were actually created by a masterful creator, he gets a grade of C- at best.

Her wit also comes into play, when someone compliments the beauty of her adopted daughter. "Oh, how beautiful she is. She's proof that there is a god." Without blinking, Sweeney responds, "So if my daughter were ugly, it would prove there is NO god?"

The audio book is not just a series of comedy routines or one-liners. It also illustrates her struggles. Logic begins to take hold, and god becomes more and more irrelevant and pointless. She thinks that maybe she can still keep god in her life and be intelligent, but maybe he can stay in the yard. Maybe she'll just live ONE day without god and see what happens. Her struggle is a drama to behold, as it clearly illustrates the all-consuming power of indoctrination (brain-washing).

This aspect of the audio book was particularly compelling to me, as I consider myself to be an "easy Atheist." That is, I didn't have to rebel against a church, or reverse the effects of brain-washing. I was allowed to go about my own merry way and choose my own path. Sweeney effectively conveys her struggles, and discusses overcoming this brain-washing. She does it without the help of a psychiatric or mental health professional, which is most impressive.

There is a saying that "nobody is an Atheist when their airplane is about to crash." The idea is that any powerful and life-threatening event will draw a person back to their comfort zone. This zone involves religion for the believers, even those who mildly believe with no real practice. But when cancer strikes her family, she is able to work through it without using god as a crutch.

Julia Sweeney is, without a doubt, one of the most relevant and under-rated Atheists of our time. She brings about the argument against the concept of god in a way that is non-violent, not threatening, and logical enough to understand without a Ph.D. While this may be available in book form, I recommend the audio book, which Sweeney reads herself. You get to hear HER story, the pain, conflict, annoyance, fear, and joy in her voice.

I highly recommend this audio book, not only for anyone who has doubts or who is going through a similar struggle, but I also recommend it as a listen for the established Atheist, as it provides a unique view into the mind of someone who was raised to be a believer. The transformation is most profound, and the process provides valuable information on effective approaches to take when discussing the nature of belief.

After all, it's not as simple as a banana in the hand.

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