Me Versus Me
I’m the author of twelve books, articles, essays, poetry, and screenwriting.
I’ve written, produced, and directed two feature-length movies.
I’ve blogged, commented, Facebooked, texted and tweeted, starting in small print publications, later in computer network chats and bulletin boards, and still later when the World Wide Web took over channeling messages.
These days, contrary to the predictions of science fiction, full voice and live video two-way communications are widely available yet paradoxically more people than ever communicate in short-burst texts like the old telegrams.
My point is I’ve been communicating to audiences small and wide for my entire professional life, going back to the early 1970’s, and there’s a well-preserved record of my opinions.
I’ve been on both sides of several major issues, depending on the time.
I’ve been pro-war and anti-war, depending on whether I was writing as an advocate of individual natural rights or writing as a pragmatic utilitarian analyst.
I’ve written on both sides of whether voters rather than courts should determine the legal status of same-sex marriage and whether voters or courts should even get to define the word “marriage” by putting the word in a legal speech code — in a society that invades private contracts by licensing marriage in the first place.
I’ve written that animals don’t have human rights then argued that animals which reach certain behavioral and cognitive thresholds should be considered for legal rights currently afforded only the human species.
I’ve written on the rights of “law abiding” gun owners then turned around and argued for the right to keep and bear arms of law-breakers.
And, most profoundly, I am an atheist who because of personal experiences has been convinced of the existence of God.
I wrote my first novel, Alongside Night (Crown, 1979), when I was a young atheist. I adapted that novel into a motion picture later in life when I was a believer in God. Both tell virtually the same story.
My second novel, The Rainbow Cadenza (Simon & Schuster, 1983), features dialogue debating the existence of gods and goddesses versus the atheistic view held by the novel’s author. Yet certain of those pro-theistic arguments I wrote for my characters were still in my head when personal experiences challenged my atheism.
My third novel, Escape from Heaven (Pulpless.Com, 2002), was written after I’d had what I already considered personal proof that God existed. Yet the novel is written with a viewpoint narrator who like the writer begins telling his story as an atheist. Unlike my first two novels published by major New York publishing houses my third novel was published by an independent press I, myself, own, that had already published books by two dozen other authors. As opposed to the tens or hundreds of thousands who read my first two novels, and the millions who watched on CBS prime time the Twilight Zone episode I scripted, only hundreds have read my third novel, which is my favorite of the three.
I’ve written several non-fiction books on topics ranging from the criminology of guns to the criminology of the O.J. Simpson trials, some of them read widely.
My latest book is The Heartmost Desire comprising two books published chapter by chapter on my blogs. Part 1 of this book is “Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto” and consists of chapters arguing specific cases where individual liberty is a precondition of human happiness. Part 2 is “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith” and gives the details of my personal journey from atheist to believer — like the title says, without religion, scripture, or faith.
I’m the same rationalist skeptic that I was when I was an atheist. Yet The Heartmost Desire is usually read as its original two books, not one, with readers commonly reading only one of them and ignoring the other.
I’m writing this essay, now, to say it’s one book, and it’s not one of those cases where I’m arguing with an older version of myself. Both books in this volume were written by the guy who believes in God, even though both parts are written from the viewpoint of the same rationalist skeptic I was when I was an atheist.
The Heartmost Desire has been called a religious, mystical, or New Age book. For marketing reasons I’ve consented to those labels.
But if you ask me which shelf in the remaining bookstores and libraries I’d want The Heartmost Desire on I’d want it shelved next to Richard Dawkins’ books. The Heartmost Desire is a work of philosophical examinations intended for hardbitten open minds yet who are willing to pay attention, also, to the longings of their heart.
As Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling said, Submitted for your approval:
Note later in the day and added to the next day: Before Brad Linaweaver interviewed me for what became I Met God in The Heartmost Desire I did a number of appearances discussing my experiences and analysis of them with the late Jack Landman on his radio program, CyberCity. The audio of interviews are online for free listening linked from here but if you’re interested in the technical specifics of how as an atheist I overcame my skepticism about the existence of God — getting past Occam’s Razor and natural cosmolology — it’s here. Also my talk at the Karl Hess Club on September 15, 2003 “Why Ayn Rand and George H. Smith Never Disproved the Existence of God” and as I said both at the beginning of my talk and repeated to Jack Landman, please take note that I never said that they even tried. — JNS