The savage sun, the busy ant. Stupendous oak, a young green plant. Gargantuan El Capitan A ghost of smoke, a baby’s hand. Fossilised tooth from ancient shark. Trilobite from Cambrian spark. Laptop keyboard on which I type. Sweet aroma of mangoes ripe. These things are all of atoms made. Obey the laws of physics played Out at small scales we cannot see. Atoms are you, atoms are me. Atoms are love, atoms are death. Atoms write songs. Atoms are breath. Only they are reality. All else is mere plurality. Story created by the brain. Its primitive way to explain Why things happen and who we are. A convenient story arc That tells us we are in control. And thrusts us down into a hole Of ego, identity, soul. The cause of all our pain and grief. Preventing permanent relief. Atoms are ocean, wind and sand And the baby’s head in my hand. You and me and everybody Are nothing more, nothing to see. There is no magic that controls Our thoughts, decisions and impulse To laugh and cry, and dance and sing To love and hate, or work or bring To life a play or write a verse. Atoms wrote this and much, much worse. So when life throws you for a curve Teach your brain to simply observe That atoms are what’s happening And everything else that you see Faces and names and pain and grief Are like characters on TV Who seem so real to you and me Yet understand that all they are Is dots on a screen, from afar. Our brain sees patterns and it tries To make them things we recognise. Do we lose sleep when someone dies On TV? Or do we know That TV people are just glow- Ing lights that are not really real? So too it is with you and me. Don’t believe the image we see. Remember what is at the core. And don’t ask me what it is for. Atoms emerged from the Big Bang. Elemental forces that sang Out when the universe was young. And ever since then, they have sung The song of all that is to be. The song of you, the song of me. That’s what they do – they sing their song. And all of us just sing along. We are the atoms that do sing The song of simply everything.
I got home last night to find one of the walls of our house covered in paper hearts. At first I thought Fox had done it. Awwww. Then I inspected more closely. Nope. Not Fox. Not Chrissy. Instead it was some unknown Mormon ladies – and the hearts were intended for Chrissy. She dropped out of the church 20+ years ago, but, like the mafia or Hotel California, you can check out of the Mormon church any time you like, but you can never leave. They recently found out where she lives (we’re still not sure how). A couple of months ago, pre-covid, a couple of middle-aged white men knocked at our front door one afternoon. I opened it and they asked if Christine lived here. Now just imagine that for a second. A couple of unknown men knock on your door and ask for your wife by name. What’s your immediate conclusion? I asked where they were from and quickly established they weren’t from the CIA (whew), but from the LDS. At that time, Chrissy asked them respectfully to please not contact her again as she has no intention of re-joining the church. But then, last night, some of their fellow church members decided to walk onto our property, while we were not at home, and plaster messages over our wall. If it was up to me, I’d march down to their local church and ask to speak to the women who did it. Then I’d ask them how they would like it if I snuck into their yard and posted stickers all over their house saying “Joseph Smith was a polygamist who had sex with a 14 year old girl because God told him to!” Or “Rent Marketing The Messiah Today For Only $4.99 (USD) – marketingthemessiah.com/watch“. Chrissy is much nicer than me, though, so that probably won’t happen. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Mormons. I think they are fascinating. I’d love to make a documentary about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and their 14 year old wives. But I have to wonder what they hope to achieve by sneaking into people’s yards and pulling these kinds of… stunts. It’s wrong on many levels and I’m sure they wouldn’t like the “favour” returned. So take a note from Jesus’ book and DO UNTO OTHERS. Or, as I always put it on our podcasts – Don’t Be A… Stunt.
My first documentary film, Marketing The Messiah, will be screening in selected cinemas in Australia and the USA in March 2020.
It’s a secular history film about early Christianity. I interviewed twelve scholars and asked them to explain how a fringe Jewish sect from the backwaters of Judaea ended up taking over the Roman Empire.
Who wrote the New Testament?
When was it written?
In what order?
How did the message of the New Testament change over the course of the writing of it?
And how did the early Christians convince Romans to worship a dead Jew?
It might seem strange to make a film about this because most Christians probably think they already know the answers – and most atheists don’t give a shit.
But what I’ve found over the years is that most Christians are actually incredibly ignorant about the foundations of their religion. Moreover, most of them don’t want to know. There’s an attitude many of them have that suggests history doesn’t matter – only faith. Which is fine, I guess, but strikes me as rather silly. You’d think that anyone who decides to devote a chunk of their life to a philosophy would want to understand where it came from.
The atheists, on the other hand, tend to dismiss Christian history because they aren’t interested in religion. But I need to point out that Christian history is the history of Western Civilizations from around 400 CE onwards. As I often say – Julius Caesar and Alexander The Great were both worshipped as gods and you’re interested in their history – how is this any different?
The film, however, isn’t an attack on faith or a theological debate. I’m not interested in those topics (for now). This is just about the history of the early church. And to make sure it isn’t biased, I made sure that half of the scholars are Christians and half are atheists. As you’ll see when you watch the film, they all agree on the fundamental questions posed above about the writing, authorship and timing of the New Testament. That’s mainstream scholarship – even though most Christians will probably be shocked by what they hear.
You can find screening information here and learn more about how to set up your own screening here. You can watch the trailer here and more clips from the film here. Yes it will eventually be available for streaming, but not until later in the year.
Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about free will for the first time, they will usually end up saying something like this: “But I experience the world as if I have free will.”
They are, of course, wrong. They experience the world exactly the same as someone who doesn’t believe in free will (like, for example, me).
We both experience the same thing. What is different is the way we interpret what we experience.
Here’s a good analogy.
One thousand years ago, if you asked most people about the relationship between the Earth and the Sun, they would have told you that it was obvious: the Sun revolves around the Earth. If you tried to tell them that, in fact, the opposite was true, they would have laughed in your face.
“But I experience the Sun revolving around the Earth! It’s obvious that the Earth isn’t moving because we can’t feel it moving. We don’t experience it moving. But we look up into the sky and we can experience the Sun moving around the Earth. You dumbass.”
Of course, what they were actually experiencing was the Earth revolving around the Sun. They had the exact same experience as Copernicus when he published “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” in 1543. What was different was how they interpreted that experience.
So it is with free will. We all experience the same thing. We walk around, decisions are made; actions are taken.
The difference is that some of us interpret those things as “the laws of physics”. And some of us interpret those things as “free will”. Same experience – incorrect interpretation.
The same is true with our relationship to the universe. Most people imagine themselves as being somehow separate from the rest of the world – in it but not of it, independent from it. Again – same experience, incorrect interpretation.
There is only the universe. It’s just one thing. One construct. We are not in the universe – we are the universe.
The atoms that you’re made of are the universe. The universe isn’t some kind of blank canvas that you’ve been painted on. The universe is both the canvas and the paint. The universe is the sum total of all of the matter and the energy and the anti-matter and everything else. It cannot be divided into universe and non-universe.
Most of the atoms that make up your body today were something else 20 years ago. And they will be something else 20 years from now. They continue. The universe continues. You are those atoms. There is nothing else.
You can only be the universe. Nothing else makes sense.