I'm watching it on Showtime cable TV as we speak. Sweeney talked about being visited by some fresh-faced Mormon missionaries. She was stunned by how stupid their lead story was: a tale about Jesus visiting America on his way up to Heaven, about Joseph Smith learning of this visitation when he dug up golden tablets conveniently buried in his neighborhood, how Smith conveniently found a magic rock that allowed him alone to decode the writings on the tablets, which for some reason were in ancient Egyptian. Etc.
Like most things in life, the story of Mormonism is explained most incisively by South Park. The half-hour episode All About the Mormons is available in full on several sites, including MySpace. If you haven't seen it, do so immediately.
Yes, reasonable men cannot deny that the story is stupid. Sweeney feels like telling the Mormon kids, "Even Scientologists know they shouldn't start out with stories about Xenu the alien volcano master!" But later, she realizes that she can hardly feel superior, as her own Catholic faith, if viewed through fresh ears, would sound equally preposterous.
I'm less than 1/3 through the show, but based on the title, I assume she's on a path towards some sort of Atheism. I love Atheists, at least the ones who challenge the dominant mindset in a clever way, like Sweeney and Richard Dawkins.
It's not that simple a matter for me, though. For some odd reason, the question of God is strong in my mind at this time of year. I blogged two Decembers ago about being asked, at a Christmas party, if I believed in God. At that time, I wrote
I ended up saying something like this: There are times when I get this sense that all of existence is already in perfect balance, harmony, and resolution. These experiences come only now and then, but they're strong enough to color my life at other times. I sense that there's truth in the perspective of perfect balance, whether or not I'm seeing it at the moment.I'll add now: lots of the time in ordinary life, I most definitely don't see a universe of perfect harmony. My thoughts are on the frustrations and difficulties and suffering of life, at least as much as the average Joe. It's also true that during the rare times I do see that perfect balance, it's a wider perspective. That is, from that elevated(?) viewpoint, I can see how the ordinary perception of imbalance is itself part of the whole. The balanced viewpoint encompasses its opposite, in a way the imbalanced viewpoint doesn't.
That was as honestly as I could communicate it. Though I rarely talk about "God," I realized that someone who says, "God is all-powerful and perfect, and He's taking care of everything," is pointing to a perspective that's not so different from what I had expressed.
It's like camping in the wilderness, and marvelling at the trees and such. I know that something made the sun, the moon, and the stars, and it sure doesn't seem like that something is understandable by my ordinary mind. Some people would say the Source is randomness. To my mind, calling something random means precisely, "I don't know anything about it." I heartily agree with that sentiment, but I submit that calling the origin of existence randomness fails to explain anything at all.
When I gaze at a clear night sky long enough, I start to feel like I'm in no position to quibble with whatever made all that, as if I could do a better job. (I think the Book of Job reaches a similar conclusion. The Lord, in so many words, tells our hero, "Can you make a universe, buddy? Come back when you can make a universe, and then maybe you can question My actions.")
Anyway... particularly after some discussion about belief and doubt in the comments section of a recent post... I'm at the moment again attracted by that question. When I recall a viewpoint of perfect, complete balance, even in the midst of life's sufferings... is my mindset all that different from someone who believes that God is all-powerful, and takes care of everything? I don't even know if it matters, but that's my question of the moment.
Follow up... the day after posting this, I found a video of Sweeny discussing LGoG, in an audience Q&A from the time of the filming:
Even better... is Sweeney's speech to the Freedom From Religion Foundation a couple years ago. An audio download and transcript is available on the Friendly Atheist blog. She talks about ten things she's learned since the monologue, living as an atheist.