Mustard Seed Epiphany

September 29, 2020

Start small…


“I had an epiphany.” Far from spontaneous, you are looking forward to discussing it with her.

“Do tell,” she replies. “I’m all about the epiphanies.” Mia peers at you from behind a large coffee mug. The image would make a good shrink Emoji.

“Do you know the biblical story regarding the mustard seed?

Mia nods. “It’s an allegory. Something about inauspicious beginnings.”

You snap your fingers. “That’s the one. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed… I take it to mean great things can come from the tiniest of starts, like faith in God.”

“Are you born again?” Mia asks, feigning surprise. She knows you too well.

Her sarcasm does not deter you. “I believe we all plant mustard seeds knowingly or unknowingly. Acts of kindness. Helping others. Practicing these principles in all our affairs.”

“Okay…” Mia purses her lips. “But I’m not sure that constitutes an epiphany?”

“Hear me out. Most people think being of service means action. Something one does. Like giving money to charity. Meeting another alcoholic at Starbucks.” You pause. “But what if it also meant something you don’t do?”

“Like not drinking?”

“Exactly. But that’s only the beginning.” You polish off the last of your Red Bull, which explains your exuberance, part of it, anyway. “Not taking sides. Not criticizing. Not trying to be right all the time. Listening instead of talking. Not being that guy anymore.”

Mia nods. “I’ve noticed the difference,” she says. “Your anger has abated considerably since we first met.” She leans toward you. “I’ve told you this before.”

“But I didn’t really believe you. I’m suspicious of my own progress.”

Mia sighs. “You don’t accept praise well.”

“Never have.” Which is odd, given how much I’ve always sought it out. But I’m learning. Instead of deflecting a compliment by saying something sarcastic I’ve learned to say thank you. That’s my point. My epiphany. By not reacting I’m, in essence, acting. Does that make any sense?”

“Doing nothing is underrated,” Mia says. “Especially given the reactive culture we live in today.”

You roll your eyes. “It seems like everybody offends everybody. Trolling. Protesting.  Where does it end?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t.”

“Well, it will with me.” You throw your hands into the air. “Let the world trample all over itself. I’m done.”

“Hallelujah!” Mia exclaims.


Not just a TV show…

In my last post I made an argument for the idea that God exists using emotionally rational arguments aka copywriting. No psychic mumbo-jumbo. No beatific platitudes. No doctrine. I didn’t apply one single faith-based point in my brief argument. When I’m done, I wrote, you may still not believe in a higher power but you will be closer to Him, Her or It than you were before. I did this not to be a missionary but rather to make a case for my skills as a copywriter. In addition to being deeply interested in this topic, I’m currently excited to be looking for a new job and I figured this would be a good, if unusual, way to augment my credentials. While some people debated my arguments (unsuccessfully in my opinion) the tactic seemed to generate buzz as well as looks at my portfolio. Thank you!

For part two, I’m going to flip my position and attempt to dissuade you in the existence of a divine entity. Generally agnostic myself, it seems only fair I give the opposing view equal time.

To begin, I’ll employ a version of the same argument I used to make a case for the existence of God; namely that no proof exists on way or the other. Belief in God is, was and always will be faith-based. Therefore, all things considered, there is a 50% chance that God exists and an equal chance that He doesn’t. Maybe the shinier half is the contrary one? Atheists make an excellent point when they say God has never made a case for himself – that he had to be invented by people. The only reason, non-believers argue, that they have to refute God at all is because human beings brought him up in the first place.


Ask yourself: Why is it that different cultures have different ideas of God? The answer is because they each made up their own. There can only be one creation. That there are many wildly different stories prove that God is just that: a story.

Humans are the only creatures on earth aware of their mortality. In addition, we have plenty of time to think about it.  We grow fearful, haunted by our own inevitable demise. To mitigate this fear, we create mythologies that make sense of our time on earth. So we can tell our children, indeed ourselves, that we exist for a reason. That we are special. That, unlike beetles and slugs, we have souls. This is all quite romantic. And patently false.

Most believers insist that God “doesn’t make mistakes.” So, what do you call us? Our depravities and frailties are too numerous to name. As I write this, CNN is grimly broadcasting the details of yet another heinous act of terror, in Paris (ironically in the name of religion.) Human beings are hopelessly defective, particularly if you apply a God given moral standard. On the other hand, if you take God out of the equation, we are just creatures –apex predators- skirmishing for territory and resources.

God narratives keep society from reeling into chaos by asserting morality. God stories placate the elderly and young, dispelling the fear of death as being a cold, dark and one-dimensional ending. God is the story we tell ourselves to keep from going insane.

There. A compelling case for the lack of God and I didn’t even have to use the most commonly used argument, which is evolution. Evolution is real and can be proved six ways to Sunday. Even the smarter faithful have had to modify their God stories to accommodate it, naming God an Intelligent Designer. Well, I have always valued designers.

He rises, inspiring us all

Today is Good Friday. Our agency is closed but there are numerous people in working on a new business pitch for Monday. And so I am here. But, in honor of the day, and Easter and Passover for that matter, I do want to say something about God. Don’t click away heathens. I will be brief.

I absolutely believe in a power greater than myself. We’d be in big trouble if the world revolved around me or, frankly, anyone. There’s divine madness here. I’m certain of that.

I’m not Catholic but the Resurrection myth appeals to me on many levels. Being reborn (presumably into something better) is the ultimate aspiration. As we move through life, accumulating the good and the bad, making many mistakes, collecting resentments, winning and losing, and on and on, the idea of shaking up the Etch-a-Sketch becomes irresistible. Oh, to have a clean slate! Christ promises as much if we turn our body and soul over to him. But even if we can’t go there, the pragmatic idea of refreshing oneself remains relevant and powerful. To me, anyway.

Even my passion for horror stories, particularly zombies and vampires, are tied to a fascination with resurrection. After all, are not the undead resurrected themselves? Though terrifying, is not their appetite for human flesh a lot like sacrament? For obvious reasons, these unsavory creatures are linked with Satan. Not because they’re scary but because there is no redemptive quality in feasting on others merely to exist.

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry redemption is a key part of every main character’s journey. In reality, I hope it is a part of mine, too!

Another aspect of the book, perhaps blasphemous to some, is the notion that all religions are but ad campaigns for God. In the story, God decides the next campaign should come from the experts. Therefore, She (yes, She) sends an angel to Earth to find an ad agency! As you might imagine, all hell breaks loose.

For those of you not celebrating a religious holiday this weekend, there’s always the Easter Bunny. But go easy on the chocolates. Bikini season is just around the corner!

The Happy Soul Industry on Amazon

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“Why is goodness so gosh-darned boring?”

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry God decides to hire an advertising agency to market Heaven. Frustrated by how few converts organized religion is bringing in, She (that’s right, She) reasons a modern advertising agency might capture the imaginations of young people better than current theological tropes. If the bible (and similar texts) serves as advertising copy for goodness then, God observes correctly, few are bothering to read it, let alone be motivated. Nobody reads body copy anyway, right?

One of the things that prompted me to write the book was the poignancy of God’s dilemma: that no one is paying much attention to goodness. A big question then is how come goodness is so darn boring?

It’s easy to fault ancient rhetoric. After all what’s more archaic than scripture? By definition it’s old. In the age of instant gratification and Twitter how can old-fashioned goodness possibly compete? It can’t and never could.

The Devil has always been a better showman than God. Even now, popular culture is rife with evil characters, from Twilight’s sexy vampires to legions of vapid, self-serving reality stars wallowing in their own depravity. Even the good guys need a dark side in order for us to identify with them. House is a doctor but he’s self-centered to the extreme and a drug addict! Indeed, the Seven Deadly Sins are pretty much standard fare these days. Lord knows we play fast and loose with them in Advertising. “We make you want what you don’t need,” reads the header to my blog. That’s envy, gluttony, lust, greed, pride and sloth. We’re only missing Wrath!

But why are God and Heaven uninteresting to us? How come they can’t compete with evil’s myriad titillations? Why does goodness come off the bus sleeping?

Already my kids dislike church. They were bored from day one. Is this the best way to ignite their tiny, vulnerable flames of spirituality -via hot air? Must religion be dull, uninviting and, er, preachy?

I suppose snake handlers bring excitement to their message. Certain Baptist groups rattle the rafters with hymns of joy. I love that Bono sings about God versus getting laid. But by and large mainstream religion is duller than a bag of hammers. When it is exciting it is usually violent. Sister Mary is going to thrash you! You’re gonna burn in Hell! Yikes. My children’s illustrated copy of the Old Testament manages to be both dull and terrifying. So much is wrong with this picture…

The average person is neither beast nor saint. If on balance, we are neutral then it stands to reason we can be motivated in either direction. So why has evil always been seductive and goodness not?

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Mother Mary or the St. Pauli Girl?

I ripped a blurb out from the Chicago Tribune this morning. (Yes, I still read the morning paper. Interfacing with a computer cannot replace coffee and the sports section… yet.) The story was about a slew of billboards going up in London (alas, none to show), produced by a group of well-moneyed atheists who, according to the Trib, “object to the favorable treatment given to religion in British society.” Some 30 buses will carry the slogan:

There’s probably no God.
Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

As many of you know, I’ve got a novel out about God and advertising: The Happy Soul Industry. In it, God finds an advertising agency to market Heaven. The campaign they come up with features this headline:

These days everybody’s skipping prayer.
So, how’s everybody doing?

You can imagine my amusement, then, at the non-believer’s advertisement. Same tone but a very different message! My line suggests the world is fretting and could really benefit from communion with God. The other suggests that there is no God and just get on with it.

Interesting use of the word “probably” as opposed to “definitely.” Does that make them agnostic? Regardless, unequivocally denying God’s existence would only infuriate the many to get a chuckle from the few.

What I don’t like is the “stop worrying” declarative. Constructive worrying is not a bad thing. It leads to positive change. And Lord knows, we have PLENTY to worry about, in the UK as well as here. “Don’t worry, be happy” is not so much atheistic as it is ignorant.

One has to place the now-famous “God Speaks” campaign into this discussion. For many years, a Southern congregation has underwritten countless messages beseeching people to heed God. Especially provocative about this campaign is that it maintains God as the copywriter! I know for a fact He isn’t, but the conceit does provide the work with a unique and powerful voice.

Like a lot of sensible people, my religious views evolved over time. As a boy, I was ignorant of God. He was merely a concept. As a young man I was an atheist. Not only did I believe in the power of “Self” (Ayn Rand being a huge influence), I also bought into the dismissal of religion as opiate for the masses. When you’re 22 you feel immortal -what need have you of God? By the time I got into my thirties, I questioned everything. At 40, I understood the need for a power greater than myself. I could no longer fill the hole in my soul by intellectual or hedonistic means, which had been my previous defaults.

Apparently, a lot of people can live without a higher power, hence the campaign from Britain. Like it or not, the message will get noticed. To what aim, I’ve no idea. I am fascinated (and amused) by God’s infiltration into popular culture. After all, I wrote a book about it! He (or She) is EVERYWHERE. Including, even now, in advertising.

Me before God, or rather an ad about a book about God. (best price on Amazon)