I got to see a little bit of the panel focused on the often-difficult journey out of religion and faith, and even in that little bit I heard a staggeringly vast spectrum of experiences.
Of note to me, we had Maryam Namazie’s recounting of Iranian liberals, involved in the revolution, who were later executed for their lack of belief in God. And Mark White of the Spin Doctors spoke about how he got angry blowback from fans after they find out about his atheism, but that his modicum of celebrity has somehow cushioned his religious family who might otherwise might have been more upset about his lack of faith.
Julia Sweeney’s experience was actually something I think that almost anyone could relate to, religious or nonreligious. She talked about how her conversations with God, where she’d look to him for guidance, and imagine him behaving as a kind of therapist saying, “I know, it’s so hard, Julia.” But it later dawned on her, “That was me! That was me comforting myself.”
To me, that was not just about how we can deceive ourselves with magical thinking, but also that we have power within ourselves to be our own comfort, that we can look within ourselves to find guidance. That’s something that I bet anyone would do well to remember.