This afternoon I started flipping through my FM dial and stopped on a neglected favorite, NPR. This American Life (TAL) was on, and Ira Glass was introducing a segment on Julia Sweeney (former SNL cast member), who apparently was featured on the most talked about TAL episode in the program’s history. There were so many letters and phone calls made about the show that he replayed parts of her monologue this afternoon.
After just a few minutes, it was easy to see why she aroused such controversy.
Julia Sweeney was raised in a traditional Catholic home and considered herself very much a religious believer. Throughout Julia’s life, she had learned from the church about the Holy Bible, but had never actually sat down and read the book on her own. Eventually she found the time, and was dismayed by what she found. Or as Ira put it, “Girl loves God, Girl reads Bible, Girl is not so sure anymore how she feels about God.”
You can listen to the entire TAL episode, entitled “Godless America,” here (Julia’s segment begins halfway through).
Below I’ve transcribed some of her commentary:
I knew the bible had nutty stories, but I guess I thought they’d be wedged in amongst an ocean of inspiration and history. But instead the stories just got darker and more convoluted. Like when God asks Abraham to murder his son Isaac. As a kid, we were taught to admire it. I caught my breath reading it — we were taught to admire it?! What kind of sadistic test of loyalty is that? To ask someone to kill his or her own child? And, isn’t the proper answer, “NO?! I will not kill my child?! …Or any child?!”
At the next class, Father Tom reminded us that “Isaac represents what matters to Abraham most, and that’s what God asks us to give up for him.” I said, “But protecting and loving and caring for the welfare of your child is such a deep, ethical, loving instinct, and act. So… What if what matters to you most is your own loving behavior? Should we be willing to give up our ethics for God?” And he said, “No! It’s what matters to you most that isn’t your ethics, because your ethics is your love and faith in God.” That confused me, but I decided to just let it go.
But then I found that Abraham wasn’t the only person willing to murder his own child for God. They’re all over the place in the Bible! For example, in the Book of Judges, a guy named Jeptha tells God that if God helps him win this battle, he will kill the first person to greet him when he comes home… Who turns out to be his daughter… Who he sets on fire.
Some people argue that without the Bible, morality would be relative and wishy-washy. But in the Bible, morality is relative and wishy-washy. In fact, it sure seems like our modern morality is much more loving and humane than the Bible’s morality.
I’d love to hear what some of the more Jewy-Jewlicious folks have to say about morality vs. the Bible. And Muffti. Who’s a cynical atheist.