Bill Maher finishes his monologue to deafening applause. Smiling, he motions for the audience to calm down.
“My first guest tonight is a mathematician and has been everything from a private equities trader to a used car salesman…”
Laughter from the audience.
“No really. He’s also the author of a best-seller and now head of a non-religious religion, a secular humanist theology based on Christ’s teachings. Please welcome, Isaiah Hoffman.”
Isaiah walks onto stage in a flowing white robe edged with gold trim. His long, blonde hair bounces around his shoulders, contrasting with his close-cropped beard and mustache. He is tall, slender, and athletic.
“I’m not sure if I’m addressing Isaiah or Christ at his second coming.”
Laughter from the audience.
“You like the getup?” Isaiah responds with a broad smile. They sit opposite each other on the stage.
“Let’s just say, you look like a prophet to me.”
“You’re referring to my book title.”
Bill holds up a book and the camera zooms in on it. He reads the title.
“Holy Shit! : Teachings of a Reluctant Prophet. Maybe not so reluctant?”
“That was my publisher’s idea. I hate the subtitle. I wanted to go with just Holy Shit!. I think that says it all.”
“And then some.” Mild laughter. “So, you’ve started a cult that’s not one, that espouses the teachings of Christ but not of Christianity, and also prophesies the collapse of society but is not a doomsday cult. Please explain.”
“Sure. Christ was a man like you and me. He said some profound things that got written down and put into what we call the New Testament. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will show mercy’, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone’, and ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?’ Now that’s some pretty heavy shit.”
“But you don’t believe he is the Messiah or the Son of God.”
“No, because there is no God. But there was a Jesus Christ and we would all do better living by his wisdom.”
“But one of the themes of your book is ‘Don’t listen to anything anyone has ever told you about religion, climate change or how to lead your life. And most especially don’t listen to anything I’m telling you in this book.’ ”
“Yeah, in a nutshell.”
“Can I point out, worst marketing strategy ever.”
Loud laughter from audience.
“Yeah, my publisher is not so happy about that message, hence the subtitle.” More laughter. Isaiah looks directly into the camera. “Think for yourself, people. Don’t listen to me or anyone else telling you what is right and wrong. Read. Learn. Think critically!” He smiles. “And don’t buy this book. It’s shit.”
More laughter from the audience.
“And it says it right in the title,” Bill chimes in to continuing laughter. “And I guess I don’t have to harp on your losing market strategy. How are you selling any books?”
“I guess people like the message, but I don’t care about that. Sales are my publisher’s problem.”
“Well, they’re not going to be too happy about this interview, I’ll tell you.” More laughter. Bill pauses and takes on a more serious tone. “So, let’s talk about this collapse of society stuff.”
“Yeah, The Collapse is not too hard to follow. It revolves around food.” Isaiah holds up one finger. “One, we all need to eat every single day. Two, if we don’t eat for a day or two, things like collecting a paycheck seem pretty fuckin’ unimportant even if you work at a nuclear power plant, a drinking water pumping station or your city’s police or fire department. Three, most of the food we eat ultimately grows in the ground watered by rain. Even that Quarter Pounder with cheese started out as corn growing in some farmer’s field in Iowa. Four, climate change is already causing disruptions to weather patterns that bring that rain to the grain belt of America. No more rain, no more food. It can’t get much simpler than that.”
“But how about irrigation?” Bill asks.
“Yeah, the only question is whether we drain the aquifers before the electric grid goes down. Either way, no salvation there.”
“Don’t the pumps run on diesel fuel?”
“And how does the diesel get from being crude oil in Saudi Arabia to a water pump in Texas without a functioning electric grid? “
“Wow, pretty depressing stuff. So, why should we believe you?”
“Haven’t you been paying attention, Bill? Don’t! Don’t believe me! Go read the studies for yourselves. Everything you need to know is out there. No one is hiding it, just denying the implications. Think people! Stop being sheep led to the slaughter. It’s time to take action.”
“But what can we do? What can anyone do at this point to stop climate change?”
“Not a fuckin’ thing, Bill. Not a fuckin’ thing.”
“Learn how to grow your own food before it’s too late.”
“And that’s what you are doing?”
“Yeah, me and, so far, about a hundred others.”
“Well, I prefer to call it our new society.”
“But like a cult, you require new recruits to sell everything and donate their money to you.”
“Not me directly, to the organization.”
“Which is registered as a religious nonprofit.”
“Yep. Until the federal government collapses, we still have to play by their rules.”
“And pay no taxes.”
“I didn’t make the rules.” Isaiah smiles broadly. “And everyone who joins believes as I do that our society is on the verge of collapse, so dis-investing in it makes perfect sense.”
“You know that is why your critics brand you a cult.”
“Bill, I don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks about what we are doing. Besides, they’re all going to die.”
“OK, that’s one way to deal with your critics.” Sprinkling of laughter from the audience. “Isn’t your cult exclusive? And the compound you’re building in the desert of New Mexico, isn’t it surrounded by threatening signs telling people to keep out.”
“Well, you know, Bill, there are some crazies out there,” Isaiah says to more laughter from the audience. “And we’re not exclusive, just choosy. I don’t let anyone join. Our members have to contribute in some fashion to the collective. We are, after all, preparing for the collapse of society as we know it. That means no more trips to the grocery store, no electricity from the grid, no gasoline for your gas-guzzling SUV. So, we are growing our own food, making our own clothes, raising livestock, and generating our own electricity.”
“Sounds like a lot of work.” Laughter from the audience.
“Only what we need to survive The Collapse.” Isaiah looks into the camera again. “What are you doing? It’s coming, people! Stop deluding yourselves that it’s not going to be that bad.”
“Wow, thanks for the uplifting message.” Nervous laughter. “Well, this thing should continue to fly off the shelves.” Bill holds up the book to more laughter.
“Don’t listen to me! Think for yourselves!” Isaiah shouts into the camera.
“Holy Shit! : Teachings of a Reluctant Prophet in bookstores today,” Bill reads from the book cover.
“Don’t buy it! It’s shit!” Isaiah yells into the camera.
“OK, still the worst marketing strategy ever. Isaiah Hoffman, everyone.”
Praise for The Gardens of Eden
5 stars - The Gardens of Eden surprised to the last page
Reviewed Oct 21, 2020
Great characters, fascinating story, and a twist I didn't see coming. A real page turner. Chris Lemme makes environmental catastrophe and one possible solution exciting. Loved it!
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