I have posted real-life confessions in the past on this blog. Actually, several times. But you’d be surprised. I’m not some serial confessor in real life — I don’t just start admitting to things in face-to-face situations — but when I’m typing this stuff just comes out. Something is wrong with me.
So because this is the official release week for O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling, I figured that I should celebrate with another round of confessions (mostly) related to the contents of the book.
Here they are:
1. Some people have spoken or written about OMOLF as if, finally, I had written a real book. Oh. Thanks. I’m not sure how to take this backhanded whatever-it-is, because let me tell you: the Pocket Guides were WAY harder to write and research than this one. I get a little defensive.
2. In some ways, OMOLF feels like my first real book.
3. In certain other ways, OMOLF sounds like a dirty acronym.
4. In chapter 5 (“Reverse Bricklaying”), I tell a story that only three people in the world knew about. Literally. And one of them is my wife. That’s the most vulnerable I’ve felt in print. Even more vulnerable than the start of the book when I admit that, on some days, I’m not sure I believe in God.
5. I love footnotes, because I think they have the potential to insert a lot of humor into the book without getting in the way of the content or narrative flow. My favorite footnote is #11 in chapter 2. The one about the preferred spelling of Occam’s Razor. If my arms were long enough, I would still be patting myself on the back for that one.
6. How to tell if you’re a history/theology nerd: you are unreasonably proud of a joke you made about Occam’s Razor. For crying out loud.
7. In the 8th grade, I once killed a hobo on a dare.
8. Chapter 6 is titled “Insanity at 900 Feet.” This is in reference to an illustration that opens the chapter. It’s related to a thrill ride atop the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, and introduces some thoughts about context and doubt. But in the first draft, the chapter was titled “Ravaging the Fetal Pig” and opened with a completely different story about when I had to dissect a fetal pig in biology class. It’s a horrible little anecdote, and a couple of my early readers told me that the story wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t adding anything to the chapter, and it was mostly kind of disgusting. I realized that I probably wanted to tell that story simply because I liked the phrase “Ravaging the Fetal Pig” and thought it would make a provocative chapter title. So I wedged it into my book outline. How dumb. After a lot of deliberation, I scrapped the pig metaphor completely, replaced it with the Insanity one, and retitled the chapter. This was a very good decision.
9. No, I won’t tell you the fetal pig story.
10. Number 7 is a lie, just in case my friends in law enforcement are reading this.
11. Number 7 is also a theft, but one made in honor of my friend Shuey.
12. On p. 83, in a jokey footnote, I connected atheists with Satanists in a thoughtless and unfortunate way. This was a poor decision, and friendly atheist (and OMOLF endorser) Hemant Mehta called me on it. He’s right. Not a good joke, and definitely a regrettable juxtaposition. I should show more respect to atheists than that, and I am totally serious.
13. There are religious people who will think I’m an idiot for the apology I just made in #12 because who cares if atheists get offended anyway? You know what? I care. I confess to having a bad attitude about the kinds of religious people who would say that.
14. When I talk to other writers about how to use blogs and social media to build an audience, I always tell them that they can’t only use it to promote themselves and their books all the time. They have to balance it out with thoughtful content and meaningful interaction and generosity toward others. Without this balance, it’s like being the guy at the cocktail party who wont stop talking about himself or his business, and no one wants to hang around that guy any longer than necessary. Yet in the weeks surrounding a book release — like these last few days — I feel like a total hypocrite, because I am recklessly ignoring my own rules and shilling all the live long day for my own book. I’m one of those sketchy kids selling magazines door-to-door so they can win a trip. Quit bothering me, kid.
15. It didn’t occur to me until the second draft of the book that my middle name, Thomas, was the same name as the Bible’s most famous doubter. Duh. My brother reminded me, so I worked it into the first chapter. How did I miss that?
16. My editor and I both worried that the long section on Zoroastrianism (and its relationship to the Christian doctrine of hell) that ends chapter 6 was too theologically and historically dense and might be a turn-off to casual readers. But we couldn’t figure out a way to get through that stuff more succinctly. So we just left it in. I’m glad we did — all that “evolution of hell” stuff remains a major stumbling block for my faith — but I still worry about how much real estate it takes up in the book.
17. I was weirdly enthused that I found a way in OMOLF to mention Mictlantecuhtli, the skeletal ruler of the Aztec underworld (p. 145). I love his name. In fact, I may try to insert his name into all my books from now on, like how Alfred Hitchcock made a winking cameo appearance in most of his films. Only instead of inserting myself into the narrative, I’ll insert a blood-spattered death deity who wears a necklace made out of human eyeballs.
18. I have no right to compare myself to Alfred Hitchcock. Forgive me.
Now it’s your turn. Confess your own sins, failures, and annoying hang-ups in the comments. I’ll randomly select one commenter to receive a free copy of O Me of Little Faith.