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Your religion is false.

When my (now) editor telephoned me, suggesting this topic for a book, my first reaction was that it seemed a bit ambitious. Why not, I asked her, start with a less-sweeping thesis, like “Zoroastrianism is Probably Not The One True Faith,” or “A Few Minor Points the Rabbis Got Wrong,” or “At the Center of the Catholic Church Lies a Murderous Conspiracy That Only Tom Hanks Can Uncover and Defeat”?

Someone named Dan Brown, she informed me, had already written on my Zoroastrianism idea, and Simon and Schuster (Jews both) would never allow such an overtly anti-Rabbinic book to be published. In addition, she continued, the publishing world was currently enthralled by what she called “The New Atheism,” a concerted push by Communists (though she never explicitly identified them as such) and creators of vampire-themed young-adult detective novels (like Nancy Drew Blood) to purge the bestseller lists of religious mainstays like The Bible, Chicken Soup for the Zoroastrian’s Soul, and Awaken the Giant Within, in order to make room for a new generation of heathen authors. A book like Your Religion Is False could be “publishing gold,” she concluded, and could help her eradicate some of her payday-loan debt.

But why me, I objected? After all, I was kicked out of bartending school for plagiarism (my “Manhattan” tasted too similar to Woody Allen’s to be coincidence, the dean decided), and I had been forced to put my Broadway adaptation of Revenge of the Nerds on indefinite hiatus once I realized I couldn’t figure out the right melody for the song “That’s My Pi,” and the one time I worked up the courage to post one of my Snape-on-Dumbledore slashfic stories (“The Chamber of Secrets We’re Not Supposed to Tell Grown-ups About”) to the internet, it was deemed both derivative and insufficiently erotic by the other members of the “mug holes” online community.

Here my sweet editor was nothing but encouraging. She’d chosen me, she said, on the basis of a series of letters I’d written to the local paper, complaining about their weekly syndicated column “Ask Reverend Bill,” whose eponymous author regularly exhorted the few of us who read all the way through to page L22 to accept Jesus Christ as our savior. “This is valuable news-space,” I suggested in a representative letter, “that could be more profitably used for Japanese number puzzles, or to give movie actors a forum in which to advise us on the optimal play of card games, or for the world’s smartest woman (assuming we can identify and locate her and that she speaks English) to answer questions about mathematics and how best to live our lives.” Every week another column explaining the supposed virtues and peeves of the reverend’s triune man-god, every week a new letter to the paper, eventually transcribed to the web and indexed by Google and subsequently located by my editor. (I did not think to ask which search terms she had used, though now I wish I had.)

Nonetheless, I’d never written a book before. She had an answer for this, too: “Do you think Richard Dawkins ever wrote anything before The God Delusion? Christopher Hitchens before God is Not Great?” As these were posed as questions (which I was unable to answer on account of my unfamiliarity with either man), her response was not technically a lie, and this technical non-lie provided me much of the motivation I needed to finish this project, at which point I visited a library and found that both men had in fact written several books, strangely all about the crimes of the Clinton family: No One Left to Lie To, The Mysterious Life and Death of Vince Foster, and I’m Not Saying the Clintons are Criminals But I’m Not Saying They’re Not, among others. So I called up my editor and asked her whether I should travel back in time and write a book in this genre to pre-establish my credentials (I had the title “Chelsea’s White Slavery Ring” all picked out); however, she started to lecture me on laws of thermodynamics and faster-than-light travel and the grandfather paradox, and eventually I hung up the phone and went back down to my underground bunker, where I stacked gold ingots and checked sacks of wheat for grain weevils and waited for the royalty checks to start arriving.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To write about your religion, I needed to learn about your religion. And so I began my research. I underwent the training to join the Corpo della Gendarmeria, the police force of the Vatican, during which I routinely tricked my superiors into visiting a leather bar in Rome, made unnervingly-realistic sound effects with my mouth, and attempted to seduce fellow cadet Kim Cattrall. I scoured the papers of the world for offensive cartoons and delivered death threats to their cartoonists (ironically, this led to a prolonged correspondence and eventual friendship with Brad Anderson, creator of Marmaduke). I visited several psychics, who predicted (individually) that I would someday find love with an actress several years my senior, that I would never find love, and that the greatest love of all was already inside of me. I learned and practiced the basics of schechita, Kosher ritual slaughter, until a kind man from animal control (whom my kind neighbors had thoughtfully invited) came into my backyard mid-bloodletting and asked in the politest possible way (certainly without threatening me with jail time) that I stop.

I read the entire Mission Earth dekalogy, the Left Behind series, the Ender’s Game trilogy, and the Kama Sutra. I watched Yentl, Pulp Fiction, The Craft, several episodes of “Highway to Heaven,” and the entire third season of “Charles in Charge.” I purchased and studied a fan-compiled, questionably-legal videocassette of WWF Classics: Best of the Iron Sheikh. I skipped several Sundays of “Breakfast with the Beatles,” months of “Classic Rock Block Party Weekends,” and many mornings of Rush Limbaugh so that I could listen to religious programs like “Father Kresta’s Daily Pro-Life Harangue” and “WAHY: Your Station For Ululation” and “Michael Medved Applies Naggy Conservative Judaism to Movies and Politics.” I practiced vegetarianism (and occasionally veganism) for several hours every morning and several hours again each night. I ate cases and cases of fortune cookies and analyzed every prediction within for truth and relevance, both with and without “in bed” appended. I observed thousands of circumcisions, some in person and many more over the internet. I prayed as fervently as I knew how: “Please, god, make Jeter strike out!” “Please, god, let Jeter drop this popup and also, if it’s not too much to ask, can you suspend the laws of nature so that the infield fly rule doesn’t apply?” “Please, god, give Jeter herpes!”

And while none of these prayers came true (except maybe for the herpes, which I have no easy way of checking), I like to think that these explorations gave me key insights into your religion, and that you and I are brothers (or sisters) in our faith. Which is why I feel a mild sadness (counterbalanced by a giddy excitement) over informing you that your religion is false.

However, it may make you feel better to know that, in order to avoid being accused of false advertising by your differently-religious neighbor who might also pick up this book (that’s right, I know all about your differently-religious neighbor and how he goes through your books), I have devoted large sections of the book to explaining why every other religion besides yours is false, which presumably is something you fervently believe already and are eager for me to justify. With such common cause, I can only assume that you are as excited as I am about proceeding.


3 Responses to “Preface”

  1. [...] My affection for Pharyngula has led me to other godforsaken corners of the intertubes. There is, for example, No Jesus, No Peas, which I read religiously–no pun intended–because, in fact, I want no truck with either Jesus or peas. And then, also, there is Your Religion Is False, which is so, so funny. [...]

  2. [...] Be sure to check out Joel’s book:  ‘Your Religion Is False’ [...]