In the days and weeks before my novel hit shelves, I ran into several people who were uncomfortable with its subject matter. It was implied several times that I'd be pushing an atheist agenda. Well, much like Democrats in the Senate, we atheists and agnostics can't seem to get our act together enough to have an agenda. The truth is, we don't care what you believe or don't believe, as long as you leave us and our public institutions out of it. We don't want you adding pure wishful thinking to our science curricula. We don't want to pay lip service to that Book you haven't read from cover to cover in our courtrooms. And, while it's a trivial point, we don't understand why you insist on paying tribute to an (at best) unproven Deity on our legal tender.
Okay, look. I know you're not crazy when I say things like that. But let's face it, most Christians haven't read their Bible cover to cover. They don't know what's in it. They memorize the inoffensive verses they like, but ignore verses like Exodus 12:29 (God slaughters innocent children) or 2 Peter 3:5 (God made the Earth out of water). And well they should! But they also shouldn't get torqued out of shape when I, a former Jehovah's Witness, know their book better than they do. I do not believe the Bible is infallible. I do not believe the Bible was written by anyone with superhuman comprehension of history, science, or mathematics. I do not believe YHWH aka Elohim is an accurate representation of God, if indeed such a force or Person exists. I do not believe the Bible is a perfect moral guide. It has its moments, of course, but it also believes God once demanded the sacrifice of innocent animals. Moreover, it believes God kills children in order to punish the sins of their parents, including the slaughter of firstborn Egyptians. It believes God is jealous, but also that jealousy is a sin (Galatians 5:19, 20), but also that God is morally perfect. It believes God is incapable of error, but also that God managed to create few perfect things; otherwise, Adam and Eve could not have sinned against God, and entropy just plain wouldn't happen. It believes it's possible for only one family on Earth to be worthy of salvation from a global flood--but really, not even that whole family. (You should read what Noah's children got up to.) It believes in a deluge for which not one scrap of geological evidence exists, only a few thousand years later. It believes humans were formed out of clay when in fact we're made of carbon, not silicon. I could go on and on. The Bible is clearly mythological, and its God is by extension a fictional character who was written inconsistently over centuries of Biblical retelling and compilation.
BUT! If you want to believe otherwise, go right ahead. Honesty is part of my so-called agenda, but changing your mind is not. I have "come out" as an agnostic here, in defiance of constant objection, because I think every agnostic or atheist voice in the public sphere makes it easier for reasoning young people to say what they really think and, if necessary, to step away from such domineering Christian religions as the one in which I was raised. That's not to say I think everyone should quit going to church. My girlfriend's family, for example, attends a Christian church that does quite a bit of good in the world. Perhaps you do, too. If so, my "agenda" doesn't seek to drag you away from an institution you love. It does hope to reduce Christians' ability to formulate American law on the basis of Bible quotes, usually taken out of context, or the contradictory moral codes contained therein.
My agenda, such as it is, is to remind Christians what Christ did and said, how he lived, whom he loved, and--every bit as important!--the kinds of people he shunned. Yes, Jesus did avoid certain people's company, notwithstanding his acceptance of sinners and tax collectors. Jesus avoided people who commercialized religious faith. He mocked those who quoted the Torah to chastise others while hypocritically ignoring their own malfeasance. He tried to lead Jews away from the Law of Moses toward kindness and humility before the illimitable. He opened his arms and heart to people outside his own gender, ethnicity, religion, and code of sexual conduct. He had more love than our own mundane hearts have thus far contained, and while few to none of us are able to duplicate his behavior, we should all aspire to emulate it.
My agenda, such as it is, was to write Lightfall--and any other book I might write from now on--by accessing my better nature, the most noble point of view I can muster. I never write perfect people, because I write what I know and I never met a perfect human. Even Jesus couldn't transform all of Judea or the Roman Empire. I'll never try to teach you morality; I'm no more qualified to write a universal moral code than you are. But I tried, and I'll continue to try, to remind readers of that purest place inside themselves, and to encourage them to put it in motion. I also hope to keep you entertained, if only for a few days while reading my books, or a few minutes while you visit this blog. It makes me feel good to tell stories worth telling.
From Monty Python's Meaning of Life:
"LADY PRESENTER: Well, that's the end of the film. Now, here's the meaning of life. (Thank you, Brigitte.) Mhm. Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, is the only way these days to get the jaded, video-sated public off their f---ing arses and back in the sodding cinema. Family entertainment, bollocks! What they want is filth: people doing things to each other with chainsaws during Tupperware parties, babysitters being stabbed with knitting needles by gay presidential candidates, vigilante groups strangling chickens, armed bands of theatre critics exterminating mutant goats...Where's the fun in pictures? Oh, well, there we are. Here's the theme music. Good night."
I couldn't have said it better myself.