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Kurt Vonnegut led me to God.

So what does an East Coast based, WWII serving, self-professed liberal, confirmed agnostic writer have to do with a kid raised in the Midwest who ends up being a pastor? In a lot of ways, everything.

Jr Kurt Vonnegut_256x256

The first of Vonnegut’s writings that I remember was a commencement speech that he gave at Cornell University. One of those awful “Parade” like Sunday newspaper supplements had included it in their annual “graduation” issue.  And I thought that it was one of the funniest things that I had ever read. The speech was included in a compilation entitled  Palm Sunday. And every speech, and short story, and article in the book was better than the one before it. And a big part of me felt like I had found someone who was speaking in my voice, because I wasn’t ready to yet.

Vonnegut was fiercely intelligent, outraged by world that he saw around him, funnier than you, and desperate to believe that there was some sort of better way to live, that people could somehow rise above what they were currently accepting about and expecting from the world around them.

After Palm Sunday, I found a copy of Slaughterhouse Five. And the things that had only been hinted at in the short writings came into hi-def. Wildly pissed off at the capacity of people to destroy other people (in the way that only people who have lived through carnage like the firebombing of Dresden could be) offended by the trite answers and platitudes offered as justification, and offended and amused by his own limitations…this was the most “human” writing that I had ever read. I was hooked.

I have read everything that the man wrote. Earlier this year I picked up my copy of Slaughterhouse Five again and re-read it for the umpteenth time. And it was more powerful than the first time that I read it.

What author, artist, or musician would people be surprised to see in your list of influences? Why?

When Kurt Vonnegut died, I felt the same as when Johnny Cash died. Sad, but exhilarated by the gift he left. And deeply moved by his influence. So do yourself a favor, and discover this amazing writer for yourself.

Here’s some places to start:







About Bill Todd

Bill Todd is a spiritual director and speaker living in Franklin TN. He is patiently loved by Jody Todd, and their children Kaleigh, Hannah, and Liam.


6 thoughts on “Kurt Vonnegut led me to God.

  1. hmmm….this is a tough one….

    In terms of influencers I probably need more 🙂

    I often find influence in blogs and web writers like Pete Wilson (local I know), Angie Smith (blessed to call her a good friend) Seth Godin, and random writers I run across doing amazing things.
    Musicians I really admire and look at as inspirational are Steven Curtis Chapman, Todd Smith (Selah), and Lionel Cartwright (Lionel inspires me because of how he can get up in front of all of us every week and do what he does with the passion he does it with)…I have others but I cannot think of them right now.
    As for authors my hands-down most inspiring is Dave Ramsey. Simply because of what he did for my family and millions of others.

    A way longer answer than you probably wanted but hey…you asked!

    Posted by Joseph | October 12, 2009, 11:14 am
  2. Who influence me? Bill Todd. Oh, and my close and personal friend (from about a 1 minute interaction at a conference), Henry Cloud due to Changes that Heal – and Karen Laughter for walking me through that difficult book.

    BTW – I’m home for week and it’s flippin’ cold here! Talking snow flurries. Give your soul mate a birthday hug from me Thursday.

    Posted by Debbie Waggoner | October 12, 2009, 3:27 pm
  3. What a wonderful tribute you gave to a truly gifted and witty writer. My first Vonnegut novel I read was “Cat’s Cradle” and I was instantly hooked. He has the same sort of sardonic wit that I can relate to but is missed by those without a careful eye. I find myself writing with a similar biting wit of Vonnegut and also Mark Twain but sometimes I drift into the romantic melancholy of Hemingway. I am mostly inspired by brilliant minds and tend to gravitate toward the philosophical types. I am an agnostic closer to atheism than to theism and the Bible has been the protagonist to my lack of faith. Hope you won’t hold it against me but I appreciate your post on Vonnegut just the same.

    Posted by WiseGuyEddie | October 12, 2009, 10:42 pm
    • WiseGuyEddie, thanks for rolling through and leaving a comment. You’ve inspired me to go through the bookshelves in the basement and find my copy of Cat’s Cradle. I was going to re-read Galapagos, but now it can wait.


      Posted by redbackpack | October 12, 2009, 10:49 pm

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