Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Letting Go Of God

by Rob - July 25th, 2007.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

In April 2007, The Ottawa Citizen — the largest circulation newspaper in Canada’s capital city — published a commissioned op-ed piece by me, which I called “A Bright Idea for Atheists.” In that piece, I took to task some of the people who are currently trying to overcome the problems religions causes in our world: the fight, I said, was noble, but the sneering techniques being used by Richard Dawkins and others were counterproductive, and would change few minds.

(Now, I in fact love Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, and have given it as gifts, and in The Globe and Mail: Canada’s National Newspaper, I named it the most important book of 2006 — but I’m not blind to its flaws, which are mostly not of content but tone.)

My piece in The Citizen was occasioned by the grand opening of the Centre for Inquiry, Ontario, at which I had been a featured speaker, and concluded, “If the Centre can really bring a new voice (one that’s polite and charming) and a Canadian voice (one that’s self-effacing and inclusive) to the Modern Skeptical Movement, then it might actually do some good.”

Well, some atheists reacted negatively to my piece, and several said I was setting an impossible standard because one couldn’t talk to religious people without becoming sneering and arrogant, since, well, atheists are right, right, right, and any idiot should be able to see that.

I had some ideas of my own in the op-ed piece about how to better approach the issue, but I didn’t have a widely available work to hold up as a better choice than The God Delusion to give to believers that might actually change their minds — that might actually lead a few more folk to embrace reason instead of superstition.

But now I’ve found that work: the one-woman stage show Letting Go Of God, by Julia Sweeney, perhaps best known as the androgynous “It’s Pat!” from Saturday Night Live.

Ms. Sweeney’s monologue — which is now available on CD and from, — is everything I’d asked for: polite, charming, self-effacing, and inclusive. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny, hugely intelligent, and brilliantly delivered.

Letting Go Of God covers all the bases: the journey from childhood religious indoctrination to freethinking adulthood, the contradictions in the Bible, the silliness of New Age thinking as a substitute for reason, the prejudice against atheists, and, most of all, shows that you can be a good, kind, loving person without God (indeed, it’s hard not to be totally in love with Sweeney by the end). It never sneers, never uses condescension, and never once tells anyone else what to think — it trust that the members of the audience can find their own way.

A tour de force; I recommend it highly and wholeheartedly. Get a copy for yourself, and buy others to give to friends.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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