A Novel About a Young Celebrity Who Becomes an Outspoken Atheist

What would happen if a young Justin-Bieber-like superstar was also an outspoken atheist? That’s the combination we find in Julian Monk, the main character in Marcus Herzig‘s novel And a Child Will Lead Them. Monk’s celebrity gives him plenty of opportunities to speak out against faith and superstition, but it also rattles his bandmates, who have to deal with the backlash.

In the exclusive excerpt below, Monk appears on Bill O’Reilly‘s show and goes head-to-head with the Bloviator-in-Chief:

For the final leg of his American tour, Julian was invited to appear on The O’Reilly Factor on the fair and balanced Fox News channel. The interview was off to a rocky start.

“Why are you such a pain in the ass?” Bill O’Reilly asked.

“I don’t know, Bill,” Julian said. “Why are you?”

That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the interview.

“Look,” O’Reilly said, “I realize you’re young and full of hormones, and you need to be a little rebel and all that nonsense, but I think you don’t realize what’s going to happen to you and all those nonbelievers out there in the end.”

“And what’s that?”

“You and your kind will end up in hell.”

“So you believe in hell?” Julian asked. “A literal hell?”

“Yes I do.”

“And you think nonbelievers deserve to go there?”

“That is not what I said,” O’Reilly said.

“You said you believe in a literal hell, and that we will go there. Who’s going to send us there? God?”

“No,” O’Reilly said. “Not God. You are sending yourself there by not accepting Jesus Christ as your Saviour.”

“I accept Jesus Christ as a great philosopher and as a role model in many ways. Is that not enough?”

“No, it’s not. It’s not enough to just sit there and say, ‘Yeah, you know, that Jesus guy was a cool dude and I like what he said’. That is not enough. You have to accept Jesus as your personal Saviour.”

“And what is he supposed to save me from?” Julian asked.

“He is going to save you from eternal damnation. He gave his life for your sins.” “That was very nice of him and all, but he didn’t really need to do that because I’m really not that much of a sinner.”

“Are you aware of the concept of original sin?” O’Reilly asked.

“Our album is called Original Sin,” Julian said. “So yes, I’m familiar with the concept.”

“Yes, your album. I’ve listened to it.”

“Have you really?”

“Yes, I just told you so.”

“Well,” Julian said, “if you listened to it then you should know that I’m aware of the concept of original sin.”

“It was a rhetorical question. I’m running a show here, all right? Now if you’d just shut up for a moment so I can get to the point.”

“Go ahead.”

“Original sin means that we are all sinners from birth, and that we need to accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Do you understand that?”

“What I do understand,” Julian said, “is that if you believe in original sin, you have a terrible and appalling idea of man. You think that humans are inherently evil, and one must wonder where that dreadful belief originally came from. I think it originated from a deep-rooted feeling of guilt that the Bronze Age peasants who wrote the Bible felt needed to be alleviated.”

“And what, in your opinion, were they feeling guilty about?”

“They were feeling guilty about themselves, and about the poor state of the world that they had created. They needed to find an excuse for all the violence, greed, bigotry and hypocrisy that seemed to be a part of our nature, and, not least, for the way they treated women. So some brilliant mind came up with the concept of original sin which not only seemed to explain the dark side of human nature; it also, very conveniently, gave them an excuse to treat women the way they did, because in the end — or I should say in the beginning, really — it was all Eve’s fault. The first woman tempted the first man, and suddenly we were all doomed. We were thrown out of Eden and forced to live a life of misery. Now if you look at the third chapter of Genesis as an allegory of the dawn of the human race, I think when we ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was not only not a mistake; it was the only right thing to do. It was a step forward — not back — and it was inevitable.

“Paradise, as it’s described in Genesis, is a state of ignorance. It’s a place where we didn’t have to worry about anything because we didn’t know anything. It’s a place where we didn’t have to take responsibility for our actions, because we let only our instincts guide us. And it’s a place where we were oblivious to the fact that one day we all have to die.

“This is what we have ‘lost’ when Adam and Eve ate from the tree. You call it the fall of man? I call it the rise of man, his emancipation from a state of blissful ignorance to a state of painful wisdom. That is no reason to feel guilty. It’s a reason to be proud. It should make us all want to advance even more, rather than go back. Those who mourn this paradise lost don’t realize that it was not an eviction. It was an escape, and if you want to go back to paradise, what you really want is to give up all our achievements that set us apart from the other animals. Because you are scared of the responsibility that comes with knowledge; you are scared of the fact that there is no divine creator who loves you, who looks after you, and who has a plan for you; you are scared of the fact that in the grand scheme of things your life is completely insignificant.”

O’Reilly raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “Look, son,” he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m not scared, because I know that Jesus will save me.”

And a Child Will Lead Them is now available on Amazon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rain

    “I accept Jesus Christ as a great philosopher and as a role model in many ways. Is that not enough?”

    Probably a better motivational speaker than an actual philosopher, what with the incredibly lame non-sequiturs and whatnot.

    • invivoMark

      Assuming, of course, that a historical Jesus actually existed.

      And that any quotes that are attributed to him were actually said by him.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        He kept coming out with the great quotes. He gave his “throw the first stone” speech hundreds of years after his death.

        • Art_Vandelay

          And the one about doing unto others like 500 years before he was born!

      • Rain

        Yeah fair point. I don’t see demons jumping out of people and then flying into a herd of livestock as a viable scenario lol.

    • Rain

      All they have to do is read John 14 and realize what udder BS it is. And this has been going on for how many millennia now? Humans are a funny species lol.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    That’s great speech at the end but there is no way in hell Bill O’Reilly would let a guest he disagreed with go on that long.

    • # zbowman

      Yeah, he’d get maybe five words. It’s a nice thing to read, but Billo gets people on there to talk shit at them, not to have a conversation.

    • Nate Frein

      It could be, like, an example of this kid’s charisma…even Ace Hole’reilly shuts up when he talks.

      Yeah, not buying it.

    • JA

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

  • momtarkle

    For other members of The Slow Group, the O’Reilly interview (and Julian Monk) is fictional. Fooled me, at first.

    • Itarion

      Don’t worry. I was fooled too… Right up until the long speech. Ah, interruptions.

  • Art_Vandelay

    This kid is awesome and that O’Reilly impersonation is spot-on but “fiction” is an understatement for what this is. There’s no way a kid could talk like that without his popularity plummeting towards insignificance. Maybe someday, but we’re not even close.

    Edit: Of course not having read the book yet, maybe that happens.

    • b33bl3br0x

      that O’Reilly impersonation is spot-on

      I disagree. There’s no way O’Reilly lets a guest who disagrees with him talk for that long without interruption.

      EDIT: f&*&(* Matt Eggler beat me to it.

      • Mario Strada

        Me and you both.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    I’d consider it a bad thing for a celebrity like Bieber to make atheism popular. I want atheism to be understood and accepted as a legitimate position. I don’t want it to be trendy or cool.

  • Paula M Marshall

    A little too eloquent for a young man? That guy is as smart as 3 JBs.

  • Ron

    Bill: “You are sending yourself there by not accepting Jesus Christ as your Saviour.”

    “And what is he supposed to save me from?” Julian asked.

    • Art_Vandelay

      I love that so hard.

    • Greg G.

      Is there a Jesus and Chong version?

    • Dan Robinson

      Sounds just like a protection racket.

  • DaughterNumberThree

    Too bad no one will pick it up to read because of the horrible cover.

    • Art_Vandelay

      What’s wrong with the cover?

      • katarn

        Font, Art, borders, background…everything.

        • Mario Strada

          And then some. A plain white cover with the title would have been better.

          • Anna

            Especially the font. Without that, it could almost pass for the cover of a regular graphic novel.

      • DaughterNumberThree

        How to begin. Amateurish artwork. Very busy background. Type not readable against the busy background (the little white outline on the letters is a tip-off that they knew it wasn’t readable). Artwork full of odd tangents and details that confuse the viewer, such as the dark shadow between his left shoulder and hand, and the curved shadow above that, which mimics the shape of the microphone at the right edge. (Extra points if you realized that was a microphone at first. I didn’t. Thought the horizontal black line was a fence or something.) Oh, and — unappealing-looking character.

        Look at the covers of professionally published books. Do any of them look like this in any way? No. This one belongs on http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/

        • Art_Vandelay

          Okay. I’m not much of a graphic design critic but you sound like you know what you’re talking about. I’ll give it to you. I also don’t really get the clouded sky background on the top and bottom borders.

          • DaughterNumberThree

            That too.

        • Anna

          Definitely. If you know about book covers, a self-published title is easy to spot! Books by religious publishers are also quite easy to pick out from the crowd.

        • katarn

          Thought he was holding a quarter staff.

        • Alierias

          I thought it was a horsewhip — it’s a really cheesy manga takeoff, and manga is soaked in S&M…

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      Don’t be ridiculous. No one judges a book by its cover.

    • Anna

      Pretty much no one will read it, anyway. It’s self-published.

  • kpax2012

    That cover is horrid.

    • Mario Strada

      Sadly, I agree

  • Heidi McClure

    I’ve always found it interesting that Eve got knowledge for humanity and Judeo-Christians call it Original Sin. And yet the ancient Greeks called Prometheus a hero for doing more or less the same thing.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      But then, to the Greeks, the gods were to be appeased rather than praised, though seemingly the Jews did so for the same attributed actions.

    • Anat

      No, only the Christians call it Original Sin. Jews do not believe in that concept. The story is simply known as the tale of the Garden of Eden.

  • Mario Strada

    Obviously fiction. No Way O’Reilly would let him talk that long at the end of the excerpt.
    I would just as soon believe that O’Reilly would conclude the interview with a “You know Son? I think you are right” than he would let someone he disagreed with talk that long.

  • Greg G.

    Believers go in, unbelievers go out. Never a miscommunication.

    • allein

      You can’t explain that…

  • A3Kr0n

    O’Reilly let him say all that without butting in? No video? I don’t believe it. At least Bill admitted he didn’t know what Marcus was talking about.

  • JET

    Looks a bit heavy-handed from the excerpt. Thanks, but I’ll just re-read His Dark Materials again.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Just curious, but I thought that legally you can’t use the likeness of a living person when writing a novel or you get sued. I guess I could be wrong about it.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I have never heard anyone describe “the fall” of man quite that way. It was actually pretty good.