Film star Frances Farmer (1913-1970) was a senior at West Seattle High School in April 1931 when she gained her first taste of national notoriety, with this award-winning essay, titled “God Dies.” The essay won first place and a prize of $100 in a contest sponsored by The Scholastic, a magazine for high school students. It also generated considerable outrage, especially from local ministers.
Here is her essay, as published in The Scholastic on May 2, 1931.
No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” It wasn’t a murder. I think God just died of old age. And when I realized that he wasn’t any more, it didn’t shock me. It seemed natural and right.
Maybe it was because I was never properly impressed with a religion. I went to Sunday school and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn’t believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.
Religion was too vague. God was different. He was something real, something I could feel. But there were only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie between cool, clean sheets at night after I’d had a bath, after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger nails and teeth. Then I could lie quite still in the dark with my face to the window with the trees in it, and talk to God. “I am clean, now. I’ve never been as clean. I’ll never be cleaner.” And somehow, it was God. I wasn’t sure that it was … just something cool and dark and clean.
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
me.” —from Raw with Love, by Charles Bukowski (via wine-loving-vagabond)