Friday, October 4, 2013
There is an old story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. May be," said the farmer. You get the idea. The old farmer was a classic skeptic. And since Monday, October 13 is International Skeptics day (actually, the site also lists January 13th, October 13th, and the first Friday of the year as skeptics day). I suspect that a skeptic created this day. And, he or she did so by first creating doubt about the date to celebrate this special day. Like the old farmer I am a skeptic, I believe that any belief system which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition. I count organized religion among superstitions institutions. My skepticism carries over into my novels and I tend to infuse a good dose of skepticism into my characters, especially when it comes to religion. Take John Wye, who appears in Church of the Path of Least Resistance, Bullfish and Heavenly Pleasure. In “Church” he comes to the aid of his old college chum Mike Compari, he himself a lapsed catholic, and together they travel to Yahweh, Arkansas to save a kid from a religious cult. Along the way they encounter a Christian hit man, attend a book burning and enlist the help of a group of civil war reenactors to blow up the cult compound. As the story unfolds the reader finds out that the cult was part of a federal program to franchise religion and use the income to balance the government. Ok, so I’m a skeptic about government also. John Wye returns in Bullfish where at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas he meets Eve Savage, physics doctoral student on spring break. Eve creates a wormhole and sends a proctologist from Washington D.C. back in time to swap places with Jesus Christ. Jesus attends a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar while his double is booked to speak at the ‘last supper’. In the end Atlantis is sent back in time to become the original Lost Continent and Jesus ends up as a carpenter in Tarsus, where he dresses up in a red suit every year on is birthday and delivers toys to the neighborhood children. John makes his final appearance in Heavenly Pleasure (soon to be released), where he becomes the chronicler of the final battle between good and evil. Eve also appears in this novel and this time creates a device that modifies brain waves to create orgasmic bliss. The side of evil is represented by a mega-church preacher, the devil, an attorney and a young snake handler from West Virginia. On the side of good is Bengali stripper, a fallen angel, god disguised as an ice cream truck driver and two life partners that operate a Christian porn store where their hottest selling item is the ‘Come to Jesus Vibrator’. Alright, there is a thin line between skeptic and heretic and I may have crossed it. In 2012 Montezuma’s Revenge, I show my skepticism of the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar by bringing back Montezuma II who had been frozen under a lake in Utah for 500 years. Meanwhile an incompetent, and constantly stoned, U.S. president wages war against a capitalist Martian colony in a red planet-blue planet philosophical conflict. Turns out I wasn’t that far off. In my novel Homemade Sin, I show my skepticism of the healthcare industry. While Stinky a sociopathic, telepathic cat tries to raise feline zombie army for world domination, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, War, played by big insurance, Famine, played by agri-business, Pestilence, played by the pharmaceutical industry and Death, played by the medical profession plot to subvert the American healthcare system. Turns out I wasn’t far off on this one either. I even have a novel in progress that features a telepathic pickled infant in a mason jar found among the bulrushes in the James River, (sounds very old testament, doesn’t it?) who has a knock down drag out fight with a clump of kudzu contorted into the shape of a crucifixion (sounds a little new testament, right?) which culminates with the holy pickled infant bringing down the seven plagues of Egypt on a truck stop parking lot. As you can tell I do like to give organized religion a good, old fashioned wedgie. Sacred cows do make the best cheeseburgers. And I serve those burgers with large portions of humor. As Oscar Wilde, another skeptic, once said, “when you tell people the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you.” Do I sometimes go too far in poking fun of the doggedly certain? Maybe.