Dec 16, 2003

Why do they remember faces in the rain?
Peter Manseau, a co-editor of Killing the Buddha and co-author of KILLING THE BUDDHA: A Heretic's Bible, responded to my recent blog about reservations about their book. He gave me permission to post his letter and my response:

Hi Daniel. Thanks for your recent blog of Killing the Buddha and our forthcoming book, A Heretic's Bible. Here are some responses to your questions/reservations about it: 

1) Yes, we take religion seriously. The book tells true stories of people making sense of their lives -- often this involves a little strangeness (because life is often a little strange), but true stories are always more complicated than that. We had no interest in merely presenting a spiritual freakshow, and I don't think you'll find one in the book. Some might, but then some consider all religious people to be freaks. For them, I hope the book will help them see faith another way.  

2) I'm curious what you think we got wrong about Death of God Theology (and how could we get it so wrong when we mention it so briefly?). I've always thought of our overall project as related to some of the ideas of the d-o-g types; I've thought of KtB moreover as a furthering of a useful way of the thinking that wasn't able to overcome its Christian context. If we've got it all wrong, I might need to rethink some things...

In any event, thanks again. And great blog, by the way. Keep up the good work.
best,
Peter Manseau
Killing the Buddha 


Dear Peter,
Thanks for your concern and thoughtful response. I look forward to reading and reviewing your book as soon as my college-budget can afford it.

I am no stranger to religious strangeness. My father was a drug dealer before being converted by a street preacher and a beat cop with the help of a woman who had thought she was a frog. I grew up on this story and stories like it. A large part of my childhood was spent with horse-farming back-to-the-land sorta-Mennonites in Texas who spoke in tongues. So my uncomfortableness with the interview and the reviews’ is that uncomfortableness you get when you realize people aren’t getting past the strangeness to understand what you think you’re doing. I haven’t found this to be true at KtB, a site I enjoy a lot, and think I probably agree with you about the tone of the book.

The Death of God Theology is only mentioned briefly, but what you said briefly surprised me and didn’t sound right. You say “Traveling through America for a year we discovered that reports of God's demise have been greatly exaggerated.” You then go on to talk about the plethora of faith(s) in American, yet the Death of God wasn’t/isn’t about atheism but about the absence of God and dealing with a God who isn’t obvious, who isn’t certain. What surprised me here was the attitude of disregarding Death of God Theology as if it is ridiculous, and not to be taken seriously. Perhaps that’s the way it’s looked at generally, but I’ve found some of it to be useful and insightful. Death of God Theology is on my short list of things to explore, where it sounded like you guys treat it as an obviously stupid and disregardable idea. Thus the reservation. Perhaps, of course, this was just a flippant remark made in an interview.

These weren’t meant as accusations though. Just reservations I look forward to having dealt with by what I expect to be a great book.

Thanks again, and keep up the good work.
Daniel Silliman